Photography by White Rabbit Studios.
WHY MAKE HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA, your destination for an art-centric getaway? Known as “Rocket City” for its contribution to the space program, Huntsville is the perfect combination of right and left brain, and the winner of the Scouted Cities Contest’s Artistic City category. As The Scout Guide Huntsville editor and owner Dawn Pumpelly explains, Huntsville’s arts history is closely intertwined with their growth in the more scientific fields. “When Huntsville saw an influx of German immigrants who came to build our rocket industry in the 1950s and 60s, we also saw a genuine appreciation and a love of the arts,” Dawn says. “From the symphony to the ballet to the children’s theater, we see their philosophy of art and science going hand-in-hand and creating ripples to today.”
Decades later, Huntsville continues to flourish as an artistic city with a deep appreciation for and support of the arts. According to Dawn, you can experience 20-30 art events in any given week. And the city continues to invest in thoughtful growth in the arts; in fact, Huntsville hired the nation’s first-ever Music Officer, who is charged with deepening the city’s connection to the region’s music scene.
Ready to plan your arts-themed weekend getaway? Here, Dawn shares the sights to take in, important dates, and of course where to eat, stay, and shop when in Huntsville, Alabama.
*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.
WHERE TO STAY OR LIVE // Dawn recommends one hotel and one apartment complex that have made supporting and showcasing the arts a top priority. As an added bonus, a love of the arts goes hand-in-hand with an uber chic vibe at these locations.
106 Jefferson (106 Jefferson Street South). 106 Jeff is located in the heart of downtown and nestled amongst our secret art trail. Featuring some fine art works in the lobby and throughout, it is sure to delight art lovers. My favorite? The rooftop bar, Baker and Able, is named for the monkeys who were the first astronauts, a nod to Huntsville’s history. I love the artistic wallpaper and the kitschy monkey artwork!
The Avenue (201 Jefferson Street). The Avenue and its sister property, Belk Hudson Lofts, are apartments that were developed by a local couple with a great love of the arts. While they developed these properties around a vision for urban, loft-style living, they also invested in filling the properties with an impressive art collection. The Avenue in particular is marked outside by a two-story sculpture by Birmingham artist Chris Fennell called “Light Tree.” The lobby and community spaces are filled with colorful, fun, vibrant works.
Mural by Jhani. Photography by White Rabbit Studios.
MUST-SEE ART SIGHTS // The diversity of arts is immense in Huntsville, ranging from traditional museums and performance spaces to the secret art trail, sure to thrill every member in your party.
Huntsville Museum of Art (300 Church Street S). Comprising 14 sprawling galleries, this is the perfect sized museum for a visit, as it is not overwhelming but features beautiful and impressive works. The rotating exhibits are always interesting and accessible, making this the perfect museum to return to again and again.
Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment (2211 Seminole Drive SW). Located in an early 20th century textile mill, Lowe Mill is the nation’s largest privately owned art space in the country. Founded by Jim Hudson, a biotech researcher who also founded HudsonAlpha and Huntsville’s biotech research institute, The Mill is the perfect connection to Huntsville’s past, present, and future, and hosts more than 150 studios for over 200 artists. Visit Wednesday to Saturday and you are encouraged to meet the artists while they work in their studios. Visitors will find disciplines in every area of visual art, from drawing and painting to textiles, jewelry, pottery, and more. While here, guests can indulge in the culinary arts with options like crepes, specialty sandwiches, vegetarian fare, popsicles, and pizza, as well coffee, tea, kombucha, and whiskey. Lowe Mill A&E is also host to a variety of entertainment options, from kid-friendly events like Concerts on the Dock, to adult-focused activities and date night options like swing dance, couples workshops, and comedy shows.
Burritt on the Mountain (3101 Burritt Drive SE). A historic mansion and park overlooking Huntsville, Burritt on the Mountain is home to the Burritt Folk School, where participants are encouraged to join in fun and exciting classes to learn a traditional craft or art. From blacksmithing to paper twilling and jewelry making, the folk school encourages hands-on exploration. Classes require advanced registration.
Huntsville Symphony Orchestra (700 Monroe Street). HSO offers a season that features two to three performances per month. From its “jeans and classics” events featuring popular music performed by the orchestra to free family concerts to the classical series, HSO truly makes symphony music accessible, approachable, and educational for the community.
SPACES Sculpture Trail (Corner of Clinton and Holmes). Featuring 27 artists from over 18 states, this urban trail features sculpture and murals all over the Huntsville metro area. Visitors can download the SPACES HSV app and follow along to see art throughout the community.
Downtown Huntsville Secret Art Trail. Downtown Huntsville Inc. encourages visitors to look a little deeper and seek out works nestled in our city. Take the map and grab the kiddos…it’s a fun game to see if they can find the art hidden within!
Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theatre and Academy (3312 Long Avenue SW). This theater and academy provides access to the arts for children through its productions, after-school activities and camps, and school programs. Whether as an audience member at a show or learning first hand from the academy team, children have a blast.
Huntsville Ballet (800 Regal Drive SW). The Huntsville Ballet delights the community with a season of productions featuring professional dancers at the highest level in ballets that range from the family-favorite The Nutcracker to classics like Romeo & Juliet to cutting-edge choreography in the Unplugged series. Through the ballet school, they actively educate the community about the art of ballet and use dance to teach a variety of subjects.
Broadway Theater League (700 Monroe Street SW). The BTL season brings Broadway-quality musical theater to Huntsville in a way that you don’t experience in NYC. The shows somehow feel more accessible and artistic in the easy comfort of the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall at the Von Braun Center in Downtown Huntsville.
Little Green Store and Gallery (820 Monte Sano Boulevard SE). A fun little shop and gallery perched on top of Montesano mountain, just a five-minute drive from downtown Huntsville, that features everything from fine wall art to sculpture and glass, gifts, jewelry, and unexpected items. Monthly on the first Friday, Little Green Store welcomes the public to a gallery opening for a different artist’s work. This is always a lively event with refreshments and access to the artist.
Gallery 1:11 (2011 Galatin Street SW). This cozy little gallery features a unique offering of works that are sure to delight. Occasional special events like classes, art therapy sessions, and intimate music nights are also offered.
H.C.Blake Art and History Center (2007 N. Memorial Parkway, Suite O). The Blake Center is home to two working artist studios, Sara Beth Fair and Carole Forêt, who create, sell, and teach. Additionally, the Blake Center is home to the Huntsville Revisited Museum, a local history museum that houses a collection of Huntsville memorabilia curated by William Hampton.
ARTISTIC EVENTS // Essential to planning your trip to Huntsville, Dawn shares the key events that make the town such an artistic hub.
Panoply Arts Festival (700 Monroe Street SW). A weekend arts festival celebrating art, music, and more in Big Spring Park. The festival is slated for April 29-May 1, 2022.
Round Top Folk Festival (3101 Burritt Drive SE). A weekend festival bringing traditional art and music together, located at Burritt on the Mountain in the historic park and grounds. The festival is traditionally held the first weekend in November.
Concerts in the Park (500 Church Street SW). A series that features free concerts in downtown Huntsville’s Big Spring Park. Bring your chair and a picnic Monday evenings from June to August.
Concerts on the Dock (2211 Seminole Drive SW). This concert series offered by Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment showcases local, regional, and national acts. Check their website for upcoming concerts and sounds you simply would not experience anywhere else in town.
Twickenham Fest (8959 Fennell Road). Traditionally held in the fall, the Twickenham Fest brings fine nationally known chamber music musicians to diverse audiences and venues.
Monte Sano Art Festival (Monte Sano State Park). A weekend festival of local and regional artists in Montesano State Park. The dates for 2022 are September 10-11.
WINE AND DINE // Man cannot live on art alone. From a middle school-turned-speakeasy to an inspired wine bar, these are Dawn’s favorite spots to grab a bite or unwind with a cocktail.
Phat Sammys (104 Jefferson Street). This Asian fusion tiki bar and restaurant has the most unique and playful menu. The restaurant also features a spectacular mural.
Campus 805 (2620 Clinton Avenue West). Once a middle school in the Huntsville City Schools system, Campus 805 has been converted into a brewery and entertainment venue. The cafeteria is now an event venue, the lockers can still be found in the hallway, and the teachers’ lounge is a hidden speakeasy. It’s everything you dreamed would happen to your middle school one day! From food to beer to coffee to ballroom dancing, Campus 805 offers something for everyone, including some spectacular artwork and murals; it is home to one of Dawn’s favorites by John Jahni Moore called “In Consideration of This Space That Connects Us.”
Restaurants at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment (2211 Seminole Drive SW). As the largest privately-owned arts space in the country, Lowe Mill offers a vibrant and growing food scene, with everything from vegan comfort food at The Veggie to artisan chocolates at Pizzelle’s Confections. Dawn recommends dropping by Pizzelles for her favorite salted caramel “Sexy Back” truffle or “Bill Effing Murray” chocolate bar.
Domaine South (103 NorthSide Square). A cozy little wine bar and restaurant in Downtown Huntsville that features the artwork and photography of several local artists. And when Domaine South moves into their new location overlooking Big Spring Park East in fall of 2021, the walls will be filled with charcoal drawings created by artist Hazel Sikorski, who also serves as Domaine’s Wine Director.
Church Street Wine Shoppe (102 Gates Avenue). In its beautiful new location in the historic Robinson Humphrey house, Church Street Wine Shoppe owners Stephanie and Matt Mell have dedicated the front two rooms to arguably two of the most influential local artists. The bar to the right features wine-inspired art by local fine artist Carole Forêt, including a huge, to-die-for piece that hangs above the fireplace. Across the entry to the left is a warm dining space featuring various works by another local artist, Leslie Lockhart.
LOOKING AHEAD // Huntsville is on the cusp of welcoming a new music and arts pillar to its community: The Huntsville Amphitheater (Midcity, Huntsville). Slated to open in 2022, the amphitheater will be an 8,000-capacity venue offering arts, music, and cultural programming. From an arts venue to the adjacent food village, the Huntsville Amphitheater is sure to be a level-up in quality of life for arts-loving Huntsvillians!