You just dropped the kids off at Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. Now what? Well, you aren’t going to fly home only to turn around and pick them up a few days later. You’re also not going to go hang out in your hotel room and twiddle your thumbs. There are a ton of things to do in Huntsville AL for the mom traveling without kids.
You just might have to do a little wandering to figure out what is happening around Huntsville, Alabama. Lucky for you, we already made a few visits to get to know the area and have a handy list to get you started. So, the only question left to ask is- what to do in Huntsville today?
THINGS TO DO IN HUNTSVILLE AL
Whether you are into outer space, gardens, history, wine, bourbon, shopping or hiking, Huntsville has you covered. This town will keep you active, learning, hydrated, caffeinated and well fed while you wait for the kids to wrap up their week at space camp.
In fact, let’s just call this “Huntsville Camp” shall we? While the kids are off in outer space, you can find out why we like to play down here on the ground on Planet Earth.
U.S. ROCKET AND SPACE CENTER
Just because you dropped the kids off at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Space Camp doesn’t mean you can’t wander around and check out the complex. Even if you aren’t a space nut, you can still appreciate man’s (and woman’s) advancements in science through space exploration. There are four planetarium shows throughout the day you won’t want to miss. Our favorites include Destination Solar System and Galileo First Light.
Not sure where to get started when you tour the complex? Just follow the flow through the building. There is usually a special exhibit towards the front that will lead to the permanent exhibits, Mars Climbing Wall and outside to the Space Shuttle Park. Follow the path along to the right to see the Saturn V (a really big rocket, in a really big building). There is nothing quite like walking under that much metal and power. It is also a bit quieter in this part of the complex, especially in the afternoon.
Moms won’t want to miss the Cocktails and Cosmos, a cocktail hour at the planetarium (check RocketCenter.com for dates and times). Oh, and the Biergarten every Thursday from 4:30pm-7:30pm in the Saturn V Hall in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration.
Yes, Huntsville does know how to celebrate outer space in the best ways.
BURRITT ON THE MOUNTAIN
History, nature and homeopathic medicine all come together at the site of Dr. William Henry Burritt’s 1938 mansion on Round Top Mountain. Learn why this is one of the city’s most unique and eccentric homes (it’s built like an X and has no shower in the formal house), and the reason he had three wives. Hint: one wasn’t too happy about that lack of shower.
The house sits on 126 acres that have been preserved as a historic park, and house six 19th century homes that showcase life in the Cumberland Plateau, as well as a blacksmith shop, and assorted outbuildings. There is also a playground, gift shop with incredible local artist jewelry for sale, and is home to one of the best examples of early school life in Alabama.
If you are into geocaching, you will want to hit the nature trails to track down the cache on property. It’s a lovely spot to spend the morning exploring after you hike around the LandTrust of Madison County and Monte Sano State Park, which are connected to Burritt.
Want to hit the parks? Check out these Alabama National Parks.
WEEDEN HOUSE IN HUNTSVILLE AL
While many homes in the Twickenham District are private residences that you can only view from the outside, Weeden House is open and available to tour four days a week. Not only is it a prime example of pre-Civil War architecture, but it was also home to artist Maria Howard Weeden.
Weeden may be best known for her realistic portraits of African-Americans that showed hair, skin texture and even veins in a way not many artists were portraying in the late 19th century or early 20th century. She put a face to the people she saw coming out of slavery in her hometown, and gave their stories voice through her writings and poetry that would later be published. Her work is on display in the house, as well as in the Huntsville Museum or Art.
Weeden House tours available on Wednesday-Saturday at 10:30am-11:30am and by request with advance notice. Call ahead of time or check the website as weddings and school groups often cause schedule changes.
TWICKENHAM DISTRICT IN HUNTSVILLE
Twickenham has the largest concentration of antebellum homes in the south (more than 65 in the area). Not sure where to find them? Drive past the Weeden House, down Greene Street SE and turn left on Williams Avenue SE into the neighborhood. Now, follow the big houses. You can’t miss them. Historic homes are marked with their names and the date they were built.
Why the name Twickenham? Well, Twickenham was the first official name given to the town back in the early 1800s. Cotton trading flourished, and Twickenham became the center of trade in the Tennessee Valley by the mid-19th century. Those with money (bankers, lawyers, traders, merchants, etc.) started building their homes, all trying to outdo one another of course, making this the fashionable area to live in. Now, the district is home to Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne Bungalow and post-Civil War homes, making it an architect’s wonderland.
Grad a coffee at Honest Coffee Roasters on Clinton Avenue East, and take a stroll through history. What better way to get your exercise in the morning, right?
Free walking tours of the district are offered in April and October. Check Huntsville.org for more details and dates.
HIKE MONTE SANO STATE PARK IN HUNTSVILLE AL
According to AllTrails.com, most of the hikes in Monte Sano State Park are Easy to Moderate, but as we all know, it depends on what kind of shape you are in. Also, how much time you have. If you are short on time, I found that the North or South Plateau Loop were best for a morning stroll before lunch.
If you have a bit more time, and you want to go where all the locals talk about, head to the Stone Cuts Trail. This is where everyone will point you too. It is also one of the most scenic hikes in the park.
You will find plenty of wildflowers throughout your hike, as well as waterfalls, depending on where you go, and the time of year you are hiking. Birdwatching is big if you are into birds, and dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash. Runners love to hit the trails on the weekends, so stay to the right so they can pass you. Mountain bikers can also be found in the park on nice days.
HUNTSVILLE BOTANICAL GARDEN
Grab a picnic lunch and head to the Huntsville Botanical Garden for a few hours. You will not want to rush through this garden. Wander the trails to see what is in bloom. Even in early spring you will find buds popping out of the ground. There are 19 sections of the garden- don’t miss a single one.
While I was visiting, there was a Chinese Lantern Festival happening at night. This was a special event only happening for a limited time, but the garden regularly brings in special events for patrons to enjoy. Keep an eye on the HSVBG.org website to see what is coming next. It is worth planning your trip around. The lantern festival was like nothing I had ever seen before.
May through September you can enjoy the Purdy Butterfly House. I don’t know about you, but I love quietly sitting amongst the butterflies. For some reason, my youngest is terrified of butterflies, so whenever my kids aren’t with me, I take full advantage and pop in to see these winged critters. You won’t just see them in the pavilion either. Butterflies will be roaming the garden, looking for nectar in the wildflowers, along with birds, bees and other flower loving insects.
HUNTSVILLE MUSEUM OF ART
The Huntsville Museum of Art is small, yet mighty with a permanent collection that impresses, and traveling exhibits that bring in some of the top art from around the world. Free daily guided tours are available with a curator to help you dive deeper into the exhibits. Take advantage of the guided tour. The museum features local artists you might not be familiar with and some you may know all too well, but not realize they have an Alabama connection.
Best of all, every Thursday the museum offers up $5 wine and $5 admissions after 5pm. What better way to meet the locals, enjoy a glass of vino and celebrate the local art scene?
WINE TASTING AND COCKTAIL SIPPING IN HUNTSVILLE AL
You really can’t go to Huntsville and not enjoy a glass of wine at Domaine South or a cocktail at one of the many craft cocktail spots, micro breweries, and restaurants. It’s almost as if all of the bartenders are in competition with each other, and quite frankly, we are OK with that idea. Here are just a few of our favorites in Huntsville, Alabama.
- Domaine South, 103 North Side Square, Huntsville, AL 35801
- Cotton Row, 100 Southside Square, Huntsville, AL 35801
- Purveyor Huntsville, 201 Jefferson St N, Huntsville, AL 35801
- SIP Cocktail and Bar, 111 Greene St NE, Huntsville, AL 35801
- Straight to Ale, 2610 Clinton Ave W, Huntsville, AL 35805
- Yellow Hammer Brewery, 2600 Clinton Ave W, Huntsville, AL 35805
Get more delicious inspiration in our Huntsville Restaurant guide
LOWE MILL ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Are you ready to get lost? Oh good. But first, you might want to load up on sweets at Pizzelle’s Confections and a strong black tea from Piper and Leaf Tea. Now, make a note. These are both accessed via the exterior of the Lowe Mill complex. Park in the back and you will see them on the docks.
Once you have provisions, you can enter the labyrinth. Get ready to be inspired by sketches, pottery, illustrations, paintings and installations of all shapes and sizes.
Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment was set up as a space for artists to work, but also educate the public on the creative process. Artists can rent studio space and sell their art out of their space. Over 200 artists and makers are creating at Lowe Mill. There are also six galleries, a theater and performance venues. Public performances are regularly on the schedule, with Concerts on the Dock being a local favorite each week throughout the spring and fall.
Check LoweMill.net for workshops and classes being offered while you are in town, including pottery, print making, cloth mending and journal making.
SPA TIME AT SALT ON THE ROCKS
Everyone deserves a break from the daily grind. Even when you can’t take time off to escape to the Caribbean, Salt on the Rocks can bring you a little of that beach and calm island life into your life.
Book time in the salt room, or better yet, a sinus massage or Raiki session to unwind and rejuvenate your soul a bit. The kids are at Space Camp. It’s your time to take care of you, and what better way than with a little self-care.
The staff is lovely and always up for a chat, especially if you need restaurant recommendations. Take advantage of the natural remedy store in house. The Elderberry syrup will help you get through flu season, as well as a number of other natural cures to help you and the kids stay healthy this season.
CIVIL AXE THROWING AT CAMPUS NO. 805
Now, the mother of all activities has got to be ax throwing at Civil Axe Throwing in Campus No. 805. Not only is it a great arm workout, but you can get some serious aggression out in under 30 minutes ladies. One session here had me looking for places closer to home to practice on a regular basis.
Kids whine one too many times on the car ride or flight to Huntsville? There is an ax for that (no, you will not harm your children. Just let it loose on some wood!) Work driving you insane with deadlines and an incompetent boss? Yup. There is an ax for that too! There are so many reasons to throw an ax, and the helpful instructors at Civil Axe will make sure you get that metal ax into the wood over and over again. They will even let you throw two at once if you ask nicely.
And yes, you will impress all of the men around you. No one shows aggression like a mom. No one.
While you can grab a beer from Straight to Ale or Yellow Hammer Brewery, you may want to try it sober first. Just saying. But you could try an absinthe drink after you wrap up from Cafe Benelux. Just make sure you grab an Uber home, OK?
SHOPPING ON CLINTON ROW
Clinton Row is the main shopping street in downtown Huntsville, but there are plenty of spots throughout the city to find great clothing, accessories and a few treasures to take home. Unclaimed Baggage is probably the biggest claim to fame when it comes to shopping in the area, but never discount the beauty of a well curated boutique.
Sales in Huntsville are magnificent when the seasons are changing over, and you can get beautiful high-end items at bargain prices. Elitaire and Kennedy + Rowe on Clinton Avenue are our two of our favorite boutiques to pop into for clothing, especially when sales are going on. Grab a cute dress or bright top to show off tonight while you are out on the town.
Make sure you walk around the corner to Harrison Brother’s Hardware to wander for a bit. It’s a great spot for local art, gifts and, well, you just never know what you will find in there.
DAY TRIP TO UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE
Ladies, are you ready to shop until you drop? Unclaimed Baggage is like thrift shopping on steroids. Instead of browsing through the stuff people don’t want anymore, you are now digging through the things people wanted but lost.
How does Unclaimed Baggage work? When a suitcase is lost on a flight, the airline has 90 days to reunite it with the owner. Most of the time the airline does just that. However, when they can’t, it gets sent to Unclaimed Baggage. The staff sorts through each suitcase, filtering out what is trash, donations and what should go on the floor to sell.
If you ever wondered why you should NOT pack your iPad, laptop or camera in your checked bag, Unclaimed Baggage is proof. You can get electronics for half their retail price. Need a diamond engagement ring? Yup. You can pick one of those up for half their appraisal value too.
There is also unclaimed cargo, which means a company lost a ton of goods in shipping. That gorgeous vegan leather handbag I just bought was marked way down because it was lost in transit. Oh well. All the better for me!
Looking for a Huntsville Hotel? Check out the following!
- AC Hotel– Sleek design in the heart of Huntsville, AL
- The Westin– 4-star property in Bridge Street Town Center.
- Homewood Suites– Great for families
- Embassy Suites– Pool and Spa on property
This post is part of a paid partnership with Huntsville CVB. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t you will be the first to know. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.