Travel Like A Local: Huntsville, Alabama

Travel Like A Local: Huntsville, Alabama



Words by Janet & Victor Burlingame

As you approach the outskirts of Huntsville, a towering 363-foot Saturn V rocket comes into view, the unofficial mascot of this space-steeped city. Cradled by the Tennessee River to the south and bordered by the Appalachian foothills to the east, it’s a fusion of cultural contradictions, of Southern history and space-age technology. Huntsville’s unique culture has been shaped as much by locals as by the ever-growing population of tech and defense industry transplants. It’s also on the fast track to becoming the largest city in the state, which means a blossoming quality of lifeeverything from entertainment to infrastructure has leveled up, making it the prime time to visit.

It’s not nicknamed the Rocket City for nothing. Home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the city has marinated in space culture for more than 60 years. You’ll find rocket-themed breweries, galactic murals, a crazy-smart workforce, and more space-themed events than you can shake a lightsaber at. At the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, you can nerd out to the artifacts and high-tech trappings of human spaceflight under the shadow of the rockets that put the first man on the moon.

From farmer’s markets to food truck rallies, downtown is a great starting point for a weekend getaway. At its heart is Big Spring International Park, a sweeping greenspace with canals, cherry blossom trees, and an iconic red Japanese bridge. The park is bordered by the Huntsville Museum of Art and the Von Braun Center, home of the Huntsville Havoc hockey team, and the brand new Mars Music Hall. A short climb up from the park puts you on the historic square, where you can find local bites, boutiques, and brews.

Widen your scope to visit the burgeoning west side historic neighborhood of Lowe Mill, anchored by the mill itself, now repurposed to house hundreds of artist studios, shops, and galleries. And in a similar vein, nearby Campus 805 is a former middle school bookended by two of Huntsville’s largest breweries and classrooms converted into local businesses.

So if you need a little space (cough cough) on your next getaway, head to the Rocket City.

Places to Eat / Drink:

  • Domaine South - An upscale place where you can dress casual. It started as a wine shop, then added charcuterie, and now has an excellent full brunch, lunch, and dinner menu. The food is amazing, they have a great wine selection, and it perfectly walks the line between casual and fine dining. 
  • Gold Sprint - Best coffee shop in the world! Fantastic coffee drinks, alcohol service, and a great vibe make this the ideal place to chill with friends.
  • Bandito Burrito Co - Local landmark celebrating its 30th year. All the punk kids in the 90's worked there, and it hasn't changed much since. The place is definitely diveythe employees have "character," the food is great, and the beer is cheap. The owner, Oscar Gutierrez, is sort of an icon. 
  • The Lost Highway Lounge - The LHL is a Madmen-style cocktail lounge that's part of Yellowhammer Brewing. It has an excellent well-rounded beer menu, distills its own spirits, and is also home to Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza. 
  • Big Ed’s Pizza - An iconic pizzeria that's been in Huntsville since the 60s, it's in a cool rockabilly inspired building, has a good beer selection, and is conveniently located close to Five Points and downtown.
  • Green Bus Brewing - Located downtown, Green Bus is one of the smaller breweries in town, and that's what makes it great. It's a very cozy and welcoming brewery with great beer and friendly staff. It's downtown and part of the entertainment district, which means you can get your beer to-go and walk around downtown to explore.
  • Purveyor - Upscale dining in downtown Huntsville offering whiskey flights and a great brunch.
  • The Poppy - A British style pub located on the downtown square, the Poppy has an excellent beer and cocktail selection, a great outdoor patio, and you can grab a to-go beer to explore downtown Huntsville.
  • Mason Dixon Bakery - A gluten-free bakery and bistro with excellent breakfast, brunch, and lunch offerings.



Things to Do:

  • Monte Sano State Park - A hiker’s and mountain biker’s dream with close to 40 miles of trails suitable for all ages and abilities. The Park boasts cabins to rent, an amphitheater, a playground, scenic overlooks, a campground with both primitive and RV sites, a Japanese Garden, and a disc golf course. The park is only minutes away from downtown and connects to the Land Trust of North Alabama trails where you can hike to iconic Three Caves.
  • U.S. Space & Rocket Center - Pretty much what everyone knows Huntsville for, and with good reason.
  • Big Spring International Park - This large park with a lake in the middle of downtown Huntsville is a great place for a family stroll with several food and drink options nearby.
  • Huntsville Havoc Hockey Games - Typically running from November to April, Huntsville Havoc games are fun for the whole family.
  • Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment - The largest privately owned arts facility in the U.S., Lowe Mill is a shining star for Huntsville that happens to be home to several must-visit Huntsville businesses, such as Vertical House Records; nationally recognized plant-based Chef Will the Palate; local herbalist Remedy; and hundreds of other artists.
  • Campus 805 - a repurposed middle school that houses several local family-friendly breweries, axe throwing, a tattoo shop, sushi, and a salon just to name a few.
  • Mars Music Hall - Excellent new music venue located in the Von Braun Center in the middle of downtown.


Places to Stay: 

  • AC Hotel - One of Huntsville's newest hotels, the AC is conveniently located in the middle of downtown. It features a top-notch cocktail bar with locally renowned bartender Ben Kennamer and a large outdoor patio that overlooks Big Spring International Park.
  • The Westin Huntsville - Conveniently located at the Bridge Street Town Centre, close to Redstone Arsenal and the airport.