A Weekend Guide to Huntsville, Alabama
When I visited Huntsville, Alabama on a recent road trip, I very quickly realized I would have to come back and make Huntsville a full weekend destination. The historic North Alabama city has so much to offer; from food to art to science, Huntsville has no shortage of exciting adventures. While it is certainly possible to see some of Huntsville in a single day, I would recommend making an entire weekend out of your visit to the city. Even then, you still won’t have time to do everything! To help make the most of your trip, here is my weekend guide and recommendations for the best 3-day Huntsville itinerary based on my personal experiences.
WEEKEND GUIDE: The best 3-Day Huntsville itinerary
Founded in 1805, Huntsville is nicknamed the Rocket City due to the city’s crucial role in the development of space technology and exploration. In addition to being a destination for all things space, including the famous U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville is unique in that the city’s architecture is a blend of preserved Antebellum homes spared during the civil war, old manufacturing mills, and contemporary buildings reflecting the city’s continued expansion and growth in popularity.
Getting to Huntsville
Since I currently live in Nashville, getting to Huntsville was very easy for me! I drove to Huntsville in just under 2 hours from Nashville. I crossed the border from Tennessee into Alabama, arriving late morning with plenty of time to enjoy the day.
Huntsville is a 3.5-hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia, and a 2-hour drive from Birmingham, Alabama. Huntsville also has its own airport, the Huntsville International Airport (HSV).
WEEKEND GUIDE TO HUNTSVILLE: Day 1
The weather was absolutely beautiful on my first day in Huntsville. With sun and temperatures nearing 80 degrees, I headed straight for Big Spring International Park to spend time outdoors.
Big Spring International Park is located in the heart of downtown Huntsville, weaving 12.5 acres of green space and water through the center of the city. An iconic red Japanese bridge crosses over a manmade lagoon filled with large fish and ducks. I walked through the park, taking in the sights of the city and feeling grateful to be traveling again.
Adjacent to Big Spring International Park is the Huntsville Museum of Art, another must-visit in Huntsville if you enjoy art. You can check out the current exhibitions here.
For lunch, I was craving a sandwich to enjoy outside. The last time I was in Huntsville, I dined at Dallas Mill Deli for lunch, which was fantastic. As much as I wanted to go back, I pushed myself to try something new this time around. Cozy Cow came up highly ranked on my Google recommendations. It was conveniently located next to the park with an open patio for outside dining.
Also, if you do go to Cozy Cow, try the jalapeno cheddar bread with your sandwich. I decided to try it upon hearing it was Cozy Cow’s most popular bread choice. The bread provided a subtle kick that perfected my “Cowlifornia Club.”
In the afternoon, I checked out all the fun things to do in downtown Huntsville such as learning about the city’s rich history and exploring local shops.
FUN THINGS TO DO IN downtown huntsville
Twickenham Historic District: This historic district is Alabama’s largest Antebellum district, featuring over 65 homes from pre-Civil War. An architect’s dream, walk the beautiful tree-lined streets and admire the styles ranging from Gothic and Greek Revival to Federal and Queen Anne. Most of the homes also have signs outside displaying the year it was built, helping you identify its history.
Weeden House Museum: Located in the Twickenham Historic District, the Weeden House Museum is a great opportunity to step inside a historic home. You can learn about its earlier residents, including Federal officers who dwelled there during the Federal occupation of Huntsville during the Civil War.
Harrison Brothers Hardware: Established in 1894, Harrison Brothers Hardware prides itself on providing shoppers with an experience that preserves history, tradition, and customer service. In addition to original fixtures still present throughout the store, you can find local gifts, home goods, and more.
Railroad Station Antiques & Rivenbark & Roper Antiques: It feels like you are heading back in time when you step into these two antique stores. It was obvious that the quality of antiques was exceptional and I really enjoyed exploring the beautiful collections.
The Moon Bakeshop: A family-owned small-batch bakery, The Moon Bakeshop is another worthy stop while in downtown Huntsville. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to grab a seat on the patio outside; a perfect spot to enjoy your Southern-influenced, European-inspired indulgence.
Checking in: Huntsville Marriott at the Space & Rocket Center
After a busy afternoon downtown, I checked into the Huntsville Marriott at the Space & Rocket Center. If you are visiting Huntsville for the weekend and are planning to check out the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, I highly recommend staying at this hotel. Not only is the Marriott directly next door to the Space & Rocket Center, but the hotel also has all the amenities you could want. You can enjoy spectacular views of rockets, including the Saturn V rocket which took man to the moon.
Some of the hotel amenities include a fitness center and pool, a gorgeous bar and lounge area, a high-quality on-site restaurant, and sparkling clean rooms with lots of natural light. I learned that the hotel was recently renovated in November 2020. That said, it is clear that a lot of thought and consideration went into creating an unparalleled guest experience. Throughout my weekend stay, I was so impressed by the attentive customer service, as well. Maybe it is a Southern thing, but I could not help but notice the staff were all just so nice!
Booking tip: If you have the chance to book a Rocket view guest room, it is worth the upgrade because the windows facing the Saturn V rocket also face the sunset. There is no better way to end a great day in Huntsville than admiring the sun setting behind NASA rockets. You won’t find that kind of view anywhere else in the world!
Where to EAT DINNER IN HUNTSVILLE
For dinner, downtown Huntsville offers a wide variety of well-regarded restaurants, including Cotton Row, Purveyor, and Sam & Greg’s Pizzeria/Gelateria. Alternatively, you can head over to Campus No. 805, which I loved. Only a short 5-minute drive from the Huntsville Marriott, Campus No. 805 offers a welcome mix of breweries, restaurants, and retail spaces.
You can view the campus directory here; some highlights of Campus No. 805 include:
- Hops N Guac (Mexican)
- Earth and Stone (woodfired craft pizza)
- Straight to Ale (brewery)
- Yellowhammer Brewing (brewery)
- Pints and Pixels (bar/arcade)
WEEKEND GUIDE TO HUNTSVILLE: DAY 2
On the second day of my weekend trip to Huntsville, Alabama, I visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, which was out of this world (pun intended). Undeniably, the Space & Rocket Center was a highlight of my weekend. Since I was staying at the Huntsville Marriott, I was able to easily walk over to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center when it opened at 10am.
I spent nearly four hours learning all about the United States’ journey to space (separate blog post about this coming soon!). It is truly amazing what engineers, scientists, and astronauts have accomplished and the incredible possibilities for the future in space.
Afterward, I went to grab lunch at Stovehouse. Stovehouse is a converted warehouse now home to several restaurants and bars, plus an outdoor patio.
Ultimately, I decided to have chicken tacos from Taqueria El Cazador, which did not disappoint.
Post-lunch, I drove to Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment. Lowe Mill is a three-story former textile mill converted into 152 working artist studios and 7 galleries. Make sure to stop by Piper & Leaf Tea Co. for locally blended artisan tea.
The Camp, located near the Huntsville Marriott, is the ideal place to conclude the day with dinner and drinks. The Camp is a vibrant outdoor space with food trucks, a full bar, and a live band. You can also go earlier in the day to get coffee from The Greenroom at the Camp.
WEEKEND GUIDE TO HUNTSVILLE: DAY 3
On Day 3, I recommend first enjoying a classic Sunday breakfast at Southern Chop at the Huntsville Marriott. You can order prepared items from the menu or create your own plate at the well-stocked breakfast buffet.
After breakfast and coffee, head to the Huntsville Botanical Garden, which opens at 11am on Sundays. I visited the Garden late Day 2 due to cloudy weather predicted for Sunday. Unfortunately, that meant I only had 90 minutes to explore before the park would close at 5pm. I would suggest taking your time and going Day 3 so that you can see everything. Be sure to check out the Purdy Butterfly House, Damson Aquatic Garden, and Holmes Trillium Garden. There are beautiful nature trails, too!
After exploring the Huntsville Botanical Garden, stop by Gold Sprint for another coffee pick-me-up before driving home.
WEEKEND GUIDE FINAL THOUGHTS: Next Time In HUntsville
I had the best weekend exploring Huntsville and look forward to returning again in the future; there is still so much left to do, too! Next time, I hope to:
- Visit the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum
- Hike the free public trails maintained by the Land Trust of North Alabama
- Dine in a 1924 railcar at A.M. Booth’s Lumberyard (closed to individual reservations right now due to COVID)
- Tour the nearby Cathedral Caverns State Park
I would also love to try Domaine South, located downtown. I’m a huge fan of wine bars and cheese boards, and the reviews for Domaine South are quite complimentary.
I will be checking out all these places next time I’m back in Rocket City – and I can’t wait! When I do, I’ll be sure to add my recommendations to this Huntsville weekend guide. Have you been to Huntsville? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions, as well!
A very warm thank you to the Huntsville Marriott at the Space & Rocket Center, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the Huntsville/Madison County Hospitality Association, and the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau for welcoming me to experience the weekend in Huntsville, Alabama. All opinions and photos are my own.