City Cheat Sheet: A Guide to Huntsville, Alabama

Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. Photography by Ashley Vaughn of White Rabbit Studios.

WHY SHOULD ONE VISIT THE EXCITING “ROCKET CITY” of Huntsville, Alabama? The Scout Guide Huntsville editor Dawn Pumpelly can name a few reasons. This growing city with small town heart is home to people who are unfailingly welcoming and committed to making their town a wonderful place to live, so the locals you meet out and about will make eye contact and always say “hello.” Along with the friendly citizens comes a spirit of volunteerism, with many families, community leaders, business people, scientists, engineers, and folks in the military giving their time and money to causes close to their hearts that benefit the whole community. The arts are also thriving in this city that owes its livelihood to rockets, technology, and the military, with a vibrant scene bustling with museums, galleries, festivals, and so much more. Finally, Huntsville’s burgeoning food, shopping, and entertainment scene is constantly on the rise, with many new and exciting places to eat, drink, shop, and more opening all the time.

Ready to plan your next getaway (or staycation) to Huntsville? Read on for Dawn’s favorite local finds and activities for taking in her city.

*Please note that due to COVID-19 some of these businesses might be closed or have specific guidelines in place. We recommend calling ahead and/or visiting their websites for the latest information on their status, offerings, etc. 

WHEN TO GO // While Huntsville is lovely year-round, Dawn’s favorite seasons are spring and fall because they are the most temperate, allowing locals and visitors alike to explore the area comfortably. Prime foliage season usually sets in at the end of October, resulting in stunning vistas on the mountains and coves surrounding the area.

WHERE TO STAY // 106 Jefferson (106 Jefferson Street N). Opened in the summer of 2021, this luxury hotel in the heart of downtown features a rooftop bar and fine dining restaurant.

The Westin Huntsville (6800 Governors West NW). This reliable hotel is located very close to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and to an open-air mall with restaurants, major retailers, and a carousel.

The AC Hotel Downtown (435 Williams Avenue SW). In the heart of downtown Huntsville, this modern hotel is adjacent to Big Spring International Park (200 Church Street) and many shops and restaurants.

WHAT TO DO // Lowe Mill (2211 Seminole Drive). At the largest privately owned art space in the country, you can walk through 150 studio spaces, chat with artisans, visit seven specialty concept eateries, and purchase items that you can’t live without. Be sure to stop by Vertical House Records, Pizzelle’s Confections, and The Veggie.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center (One Tranquility Base). Since the space industry is actually what put Huntsville on the map, the USSRC showcases the history of the industry and the city. With its engaging and fun exhibits, including the Intuitive Planetarium, an 8K Digital Planetarium, the Digital Dome Experience, and the Space Shot Simulator, this destination is a blast for the entire family.

Space Camp (One Tranquility Base). This is a particularly unique experience for families as the entire clan can shack up in the camp’s famous pod-like habitats. During camp, you will launch on a simulated mission to the International Space Station, train like astronauts, and build your own rocket.

The Land Trust of North Alabama. Huntsville’s access to hiking, trekking, mountain biking, and caving is almost unparalleled. Between the elevation changes, active trail maintenance, and variety of terrain levels, our city offers something for everyone who wants to connect with nature.

Burritt on the Mountain (3101 Burritt Drive SE). Burritt on the Mountain is an open-air museum in Huntsville, Alabama. The museum grounds are on Round Top Mountain, a plateau connected to Monte Sano Mountain, where there are activities for families, special events, field trips, and more. Burritt offers the best view of the city and a spectacular sunset from its cantilevered deck called The View. On Wednesday evenings from April through October, the public is welcome to enjoy the evening at no admission cost with a cash bar and snacks.

Bullet and Barrel (3252 Leeman Ferry Road SW). This five-star indoor shooting and training facility offers a premium experience, and for those who are not shooting enthusiasts, it also offers upscale boutique shopping for both men’s and women’s apparel.

Touronimo. From walking tours to candle making in local, craft beer cans to whiskey pairing, founder Jenny Askins and her team offer unique experiences and exclusive tours to immerse locals and visitors in the best of local Huntsville.

Huntsville Botanical Garden (4747 Bob Wallace Avenue SW). The Garden features 112-acres of diverse ecosystem where children and adults can explore, learn and discover the beauty of plants and is home to a Huntsville holiday tradition, Galaxy of Lights.

WHERE TO SHOP // The Garage (114 Clinton Avenue E). There is something for everyone at The Garage. It’s home to women’s shop Elitaire Boutique, gentlemen’s store Roosevelt & Co., home goods and gift shop Caley Paige, coffee and snack shop Honest Coffee Roasters, and raw bar Seasalt. You can spend an afternoon there, and then pop across the street to meet Ron at In Bloom for flowers and gifts.

Brooks and Collier (813 Meridian Street), Golden Griffin (104 Longwood Drive SE), Victoria’s Interiors (604 Andrew Jackson Way NE), and The Chameleon Fabrics and Interiors (2407 Memorial Pkwy SW #9). All within a few miles of each other, these stores offer all the home interiors items you could possibly want.

Carriage House (115 Johnston Street, SE # 101, Decatur), Personal Couture (102 Longwood Drive SE), and Monkees (933 Bob Wallace Avenue SW #213). Huntsville is home to several independently owned women’s boutiques. Whether you are shopping for a dressy affair or are in search of casual, comfortable attire, our local boutiques offer a lovely variety of options.

WHERE TO EAT// Canadian Bakin Bagels, Bread & Carbs (501 Church Street NW, Suite A). The perfect spot for a tasty breakfast sandwich on house-baked bread and bagels. Pro tip: take a few soft pretzels home for later.

The Veggie (Historic Lowe Mill, 2211 Seminole Drive, Railroad Room 5) This vegan, quick service cafe has been brought to life by chef Adyre, an engineer turned vegan chef, and features food that both vegans and non-vegans crave. The crab(less) cakes are a must-try.

Phat Sammies (104 Jefferson Street S) From the inventive mind of Chef Jeremy, this ever-changing and slightly wacky menu offers an escape from the everyday. You cannot go wrong with the tiki cocktails and anything on the specials menu.

Tom Brown’s Restaurant (8141 Highway 72 W, Suite A, Madison). Chef Tom and his wife Ashley brought Madison its best steak and seafood restaurant in 2020 and will soon be opening a second location in South Huntsville.

Domaine South (103 NorthSide Square). Perfect for an intimate lunch or dinner experience, Domaine South offers fantastic wine, chef-prepared sandwiches, entrees, charcuterie boards, and desserts. Be sure to call ahead for a reservation.

Purveyor (201 Jefferson Street N). The place to go for a drink—and stay for supper. With its inventive cocktail menu and cozy interior, the restaurant has a unique ambience. The A-5 Wagyu hot stone prepared tableside never disappoints.

WHERE TO DRINK // DARK.SIDE Coffee (2007 Memorial Parkway NW) A perfect spot to meet friends and unwind, grab a snack, and a quick bite on the north side.

Catacomb  (100 Jefferson Street N) When you know, you know. Catacomb is an underground speakeasy in the heart of downtown. Bartender Matt Ortega makes finding this little gem worthwhile. When you get to the address, look for the red antique call box to inquire about entrance.

Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail. Maybe it’s something about Huntsville’s connection to German heritage or the sheer number of engineers in the community, but the city has become a Craft Beer Capital of the South. Follow the craft beer trail, and you’ll visit ten craft breweries and four craft beer stores within just a few miles. Consider arranging transportation with the pedal-powered trolley Rocket City Rover.

LOCAL PRO TIP // Huntsville is Alabama’s oldest incorporated city and much of its history remains in the heart of downtown in a neighborhood called Twickenham. If visiting Huntsville for the first time, be sure to take 30 minutes to walk through Twickenham, Alabama’s largest antebellum district, and admire the beautifully manicured yards and architecture.

For additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Huntsville, follow The Scout Guide Huntsville on Instagram and visit The Scout Guide Huntsville