Daytrippin’ ~ Head to Huntsville

Looking for a fun way to spend a day? Head up to the northernmost part of our state to find three completely different but equally entertaining (and educational!) things to do, plus two delish restaurant options to fuel up or wind down.

SEE & DO:

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U.S. Space & Rocket Center

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is ready and waiting for you to come visit and have a blast. As a Smithsonian Affiliate and the Official Visitor Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, The Center boasts one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia anywhere in the world. They tell the story of the “space race” and highlight the integral role the people of Huntsville, the city and the Center played.

And it’s not just the sheer number of items on display that’s impressive; the size and scope of the exhibits are awe-inspiring too. You’ll be blown away (pun intended) by the massive Saturn V rocket that’s suspended in all its glory from the ceiling in the Rocket Center’s Davidson Center for Space Exploration. The Saturn V launched Apollo 11 and the subsequent Apollo missions. A simulator gives you an idea of the force (and noise!) exerted by a rocket so large.

Rocket Park is home to 27 missiles and rockets that detail how Army rocketry pushed our space program forward. All ages enjoy participating in activities that teach about gimble, G-forces and other laws of physics. The Space Shot shows you exactly what a rocket launch feels like, including three full seconds of heady weightlessness, as it propels you 140 feet straight up in a mere 2.5 seconds. A replica of the International Space Station outlines how astronauts endure the “special” living and working conditions aboard, all in the name of science. And the state-of-the-art IMAX dome screen puts you in the middle of the action of several compelling movies.

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Lowe Mill

Lowe Mill transformed the abandoned factory buildings of a textile mill (that has a rich history of its own) into one of our country’s most innovative, invigorating and active arts communities that houses and features more than 200 working artists, small businesses, restaurants and live performance venues. It is the largest privately owned arts facility in the United States, and its working studios, galleries, theatre and performance spaces nurture artists while giving the public amazing access to art and art education.

Visitors get the chance to explore the Mill and its resident artists, learn about them and and their works, and even sign up for workshops. A favorite tenant is Green Pea Press, a member-based organization that provides access to equipment for artists working in fine art print media, including wood/linocut, etching, letterpress, screen print and bookmaking as well as educational lectures and workshops. Members “buy” time in the studio to create their own work, and the general public can take advantage of GPP’s classes. The Pea Pod, an offshoot of Green Pea Press, shows and sells the members’ original pieces: fine art prints, t-shirts, posters, cards, textiles and more.

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Huntsville Botanical Garden

This 112-acre wonderland of green growing things is filled with trees, shrubs, flowers, a fern glade, a peaceful aquatic garden and more. Wide walking paths make a leisurely stroll through the many colors, textures and peacefulness of the plants easy. And in the Children’s Garden, a special treat awaits, the nation’s largest seasonal butterfly house and several spaces designed specifically with kids and their curiosity in mind. Check the website before you visit. The Garden routinely has special events going on.

EAT:

Rosie’s Mexican Cantina

This colorful place deserves a visit for the Chipotle Chile Con Queso alone. But its other south-of-the-border standards like the enchiladas and Pollo Santa Fe as well as twists on traditional Tex-Mex fare like the Smoked Pork Burriot are just as delish. The bold flavors of the food are matched by fun, energetic atmosphere and spot-on service.

Commerce Kitchen

This cozy eatery features turn-of-the-century style and the era’s classic cuisine as interpreted by famed Huntsiville chef and restaurnteur, James Boyce. Located downtown, its menu features favorites like cheddar-bacon mac ‘n cheese with green onions and a fried green tomato BLT at lunch, with roasted half-chicken, grilled steaks with tasty toppings and pan-seared fresh fish at dinner.