When Nathan first introduced us to his girlfriend, our only common ground was Huntsville, Alabama. She grew up nearby, and I’d visited a couple of times. So, that first weekend together, I gushed about how much I love Huntsville. She looked at me, bewildered. We obviously did not agree.
Fast forward a few years.
Erin is now Nathan’s wife. And, she also agrees that Huntsville is awesome! (She might even think I’m pretty good at finding all the fun things to do in Huntsville.)
Family fun in Huntsville
I’ve written about Huntsville many times before, so I won’t go into all those details. Just click these links to read about them. But, be sure to come back here — because I’ve found even more fun things to do in Huntsville! LOTS more!
Of course, places like the US Space and Rocket Center make sense. Huntsville’s history and development is closely tied to NASA and the US space program. But, there’s so much more to do in Huntsville.
Like Erin, I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty cool place to visit. Incidentally, it’s also my NUMBER ONE pick for family vacation destinations that are not the beach or a theme park!
If that endorsement alone did not convince you to visit Huntsville, maybe this will.
10 more fun things to do in Huntsville, AL
Huntsville is home to some of the smartest people in the United States. Seriously, people here really are rocket scientists. And if they’re not rocket scientists, they know one or two! When you put a bunch of really smart people together, they make some really wise choices — like the Land Trust of North Alabama — ensuring there are lots of fun things to do in Huntsville to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.
The Land Trust preserves farms and natural areas in the Huntsville area to enhance the quality of life for its people (and creatures). Nature preserves include the 1,100+ acre Monte Sano Nature Preserve, 843+ acres at Wade Mountain Nature Preserve and 971 acres at Blevins Gap Nature Preserve. Combined, the preserves provide more than 65 miles of free public trails to explore, some easier than others.
On my hike, I learned how to identify spider wort (and other plants), listened for bird calls (but didn’t figure them out — birding needs practice) and learned the history of the region. I enjoyed hiking with local experts whose enthusiasm for the area is infectious.
Volunteers lead hikes throughout the year for those who want to learn more about the area. Other events, such as kayaking on the Flint River are available (fees for some events). If you prefer to take your own hike, here’s a guide to the current trail maps.
2. Campus 805, 2620 Clinton Ave. W
After one visit, you’ll be clamoring to go back to school!
Campus 805’s name comes from its legacy — as a school in the 35805 zip code! When school bell rang its last in 2009, the campus stood empty for years.
In 2014, a private development company purchased the school building and campus to create an entertainment district for the neighborhood. The first tenants were Straight to Ale Brewing and Yellowhammer Brewing. From there, the project grew and Campus 805 has become exactly what was intended — an entertainment district for local families (and awesome out of towners like me — and you!).
Don’t the let brewery tenants keep you from bringing the kids. Kids are welcome, too. And with all the events on campus, you’ll never hear complaints of “I’m bored.”
Some highlights, though I recommend everything, include:
- A visit to Straight to Ale, where it’s okay to drink beer in gym class! (As long as you’re 21),
- Ronnie Raygun’s Pinball — you know. Pinball!
- The Speakeasy. I’d tell you more about it, but then… well… you know. Anyway, the door to the speakeasy is hidden. Find it if you can! (A speakeasy? In Huntsville! YES!)
- And the Fringe Hair Salon, where fun is part of the plan! (They do a great job on hair — this was their contribution to our 80’s night event!)
3. Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, 2211 Seminole Drive
While Erin hadn’t heard about the speakeasy (until I told her), she’s been telling me about Lowe Mill for a couple of years.
Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment is the largest privately owned arts facility in the United States housed in a historic cotton factory. Lowe Mill has 148 working art studios, six art galleries, in addition to theater and performance venues. Visit Lowe Mill to see artists at work. Studio spaces line the hallways and visitors can talk to the artists, shop and learn about the art.
Besides the art studios, Lowe Mill also hosts concerts on the dock, one of the best entertainment values in Northern Alabama! The concerts are FREE! This family friendly concert series is offered on Fridays in spring and fall. Bring lawn chairs, picnics and even Fido (on a leash) for great entertainment “under the water tower.”
4. Three Caves Park
If free concerts under the stars aren’t cool enough for you, then you should consider a concert at Three Caves Park. This — literally — is the coolest place in Huntsville!
Three Caves Park (which is more than a concert venue) was once a limestone quarry. Once the quarry was abandoned (too expensive), locals would explore the caves. When it became too dangerous (rocks falling from the ceiling) for people to hike the caves, the Land Trust of North Alabama needed to find a new purpose for this unique area.
And it doesn’t get much more unique than music concerts in a quarry with natural air conditioning — featuring Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza performers! Tickets are limited and sell out early, so plan ahead.
If you aren’t able to attend a concert, hike the Three Caves Trail to get a bird’s eye view of the caves.
5. A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard, 108 Cleveland Ave. NW
Dubbed “Downtown Huntsville’s backyard,” this eclectic gathering place is a great place to listen to live music, relax over drinks or enjoy a fun family dinner (here’s the menu).
The Lumberyard was once just that — a collection of rundown buildings used in the lumber industry. Step through the front door and you’ll find a restaurant (open Tuesday through Sunday), several bars, four stages and outdoor space too. Meander through the place to find the 1924 train car in the central courtyard — a great backdrop for private events and fun photos.
What you won’t notice here might be the most important element — the acoustics! Somehow, the sound engineers designed this seemingly open space so that noise does NOT carry from one area to the next. (Now you’ll notice — and be amazed like me!)
The venue is smoke-free and family friendly, so bring the kids, sit back and relax in Huntsville’s backyard.
6. Guided Walking Tours (Twickenham District, Ghost Tours and more), Downtown.
Many cities offer walking tours so I wasn’t really excited to take the Twickenham Historic District tour of Huntsville. The city’s not all that big — there can’t be much to say about the place. Right? WRONG!
Many of the homes in Huntsville pre-date the Civil War, so the architecture is stunning. Isn’t it curious that the city survived destruction from the invading north? (Find out why on the tour!) You’ll also learn the Hallelujah story and giggle (I did anyway) when you find out who designed the university president’s stately home.
Self-guided tours are available year round and guided tours are available at certain times. Click here to learn more.
7. Huntsville Museum of Art (at Big Springs International Park), Downtown.
The Huntsville Museum of Art is located in the heart of Huntsville, right next to Big Spring International Park. Tour the museum in the morning, then enjoy a picnic lunch in the park for a spectacular day.
The museum has a permanent collection of more than 3,000 pieces. It also hosts a number of traveling exhibitions each year. The museum shop also sells local art, jewelry and handmade items for unique souvenirs you’re sure to treasure.
One thing I really like about this museum is that it’s “big enough” to wander for hours if you want to, but “small enough” that kids won’t be overwhelmed.
8. Weeden House Museum and Garden, 300 Gates Avenue
Built in 1819, the Weeden House Museum and Garden is now a 19th century house museum. Visitors travel back in time to learn the home’s rich history — including its occupation by northern officers during the Civil War.
When you visit, look at the portraits hanging in the blue room on the first floor. They’re simply astounding and challenge you to rethink stereotypes.
Public Tours are offered Wednesday to Saturday from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children (5-12). Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot.
9. Von Braun Center, 700 Monroe Street
Also located in the heart of Downtown Huntsville along Big Spring International Park, the Von Braun Center is vital to the city. Besides serving as the city’s convention center, the Von Braun Center is also home to the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, the Huntsville community chorus, Broadway style shows, sporting events and other indoor events.
Beyond that, the Von Braun Center also hosts a number of family friendly festivals. My personal favorite is the Family Fun Festival and Expo, which is held each June. The festival is FREE (except for food) encouraging families to live, laugh and learn — together! Two other cornerstone events are the Von Brewski Beer Festival and the Heads ‘n Tails Crawfish Boil (with kid friendly activities)!
10. The Biergarten at the US Space & Rocket Center
I truly love Huntsville, so it seems unfair to pick a favorite activity, but…
…if I was forced to, I’d choose the Biergarten at the US Space & Rocket Center.
What’s not to love about dining on authentic German cuisine while listening to German music and sitting below the Saturn V Spaceship? I mean, really? Who can argue with that?!
— Karen Dawkins (@karen_dawkins) May 6, 2017
Seriously, I got to enjoy this when I was in Huntsville this May and it was the highlight of my trip! I may or may not have been a bit giddy about the whole thing — and that’s without the German beer!
The Biergarten event is hosted Thursdays from 4:30-7:30 p.m. March through October. A portion of the food sales will be donated each week to local non-profits.
And there you have it, ten more reasons to love Huntsville. And I haven’t even gotten to the restaurants, the malls or the antiques!
If you’re looking for someplace new to take the family on vacation, I really hope you’ll consider Huntsville. People might look at you strange (like the looks I get), but once you go, you’ll know what I do: rocket scientists know how to have fun!
I visited Huntsville in May, 2017 for the TBEX conference. Admission to some attractions was included. All opinions are my own. Learn more about Huntsville at their tourism site or use the hashtag #ihearthsv to see what they’re up to on social media. You can also read what other travel writers have to say about Huntsville here.