Huntsville, the Rocket City, is one of those “right place, right time” cities. As WWII came to a close, the United States government understood that German scientists would be displaced. They recruited rocketry experts like Dr. Wernher von Braun to Houston to research missile and rocket research. As the US space program expanded, many of these German experts relocated to Huntsville to further their research. The face of Huntsville changed forever.
European culture came in, too. The Huntsville Symphony Orchestra was established in 1954. Von Braun brought rocket science collaborations to the University of Alabama at Huntsville. He inspired Space Camp, a weeklong camp that allows campers to experience life as an astronaut. Von Braun also inspired the US Space and Rocket Center, which takes guests through the history of the space program in the United States.
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From the 1950s to today, Huntsville is a great place to visit. With great parks, incredible dining options, shopping, the space program and the good sense to hold on to its history, Huntsville is a budget-friendly destination the whole family can enjoy.
US Space and Rocket Center
The US Space and Rocket Center features more than 1,500 exhibit pieces that share milestone moments in US space program history. At the museum entrance, guests can purchase tickets to the museum and/or the IMAX theater. This building features traveling exhibits, the MARS climbing wall (hours vary), a MARS simulator (hours vary) and the MARS Grill dining area.
The main attraction begins as you walk out the back doors of the main building into Rocket Park.
This outdoor exhibit area, easily seen from the highway, has a kids play area and picnic areas for families. Good luck getting kids to settle down, though, once they see Rocket Park. Imagine, real life, honest-to-goodness rockets on display! Kids and adults alike will be mesmerized by the size of these rockets. The Lunar Crater recreates the large crater on the moon which helps guests understand the size of the moon.
A neat thing about Rocket Park is it keeps evolving as new pieces are added.
Saturn V Hall
This hall is the heart of all the US Space and Rocket Center stands for. As you walk into the Exhibit Hall, you’ll be overwhelmed by the enormity of the authentic Saturn V Rocket on display. Designated a National Historic Landmark and one of only three in the world, the Rocket is displayed by section. Museum guests learn each section’s role as they tour the museum. Other exhibits tell the story of the space program, its past, present and future.
Besides the Saturn V Rocket itself, we really enjoyed seeing the “computer” that made the rocket work and sitting in the Apollo 16 Capsule (it’s really small). At the Mobile Quarantine Facility, we were stunned to learn that the early astronauts had to be quarantined in case they brought disease home from the moon.
Ellie peeks in the quarantine area to see how the astronauts entertained themselves.
As a mom and travel writer, I was happy to see the Kidspace Play Area. This colorful area offers safe, creative play for the littlest museum guests. I could see the “ginormity” of the building overwhelming little ones, and this thoughtful, kid-size area provides a great break.
Adorable, kid-sized play area for little ones
Know before you go
The US Space and Rocket Center is huge. Plan to visit for at least 4 hours, though you could easily spend a whole day here. Most exhibits are geared for kids in grades 3 or greater, understandably. This is one of those rare places, though, that I think could hold a younger child’s attention. Many hands-on exhibits and displays of authentic “space stuff” have that cool factor kids will love.
The Saturn V Hall is quite cavernous and sound travels. Some exhibits, like the rocket launch sequence, are loud. Kids sensitive to noise might get overwhelmed.
Just a “little” computer to run the rocket!
Strollers and Wheelchairs are available for FREE at the ticket counter. You just have to leave a drivers’s license with them to check one out. NICE!
Check online for current ticket prices and available discounts (ID required for discounts).
Guided tours of the Saturn V Hall are offered daily and are included with your admission.
The German influence: Hidden in Plain Sight
Planning your visit (hours, ticket prices, directions): US Space & Rocket Center
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Christy Maurer says
Wow, 4 hours! That place IS huge! I totally did not know that they had to be quarantined either. I could handle that…play Scrabble and eat snacks…that is right up my alley.
Karen Dawkins says
There’s just so much to take in. It’s great! It doesn’t feel like 4 hours!