Attractions and Museums of Downtown Huntsville, Alabama

Located in the northern part of Alabama is a city that is truly international. Over its 160,000 residents, more than 10% of them are from other countries. In addition, within the city, more than 100 different languages are spoken. Finally, this city is home to business and industry from around the world. The city is Huntsville.

Huntsville, Alabama was founded in 1805 by John Hunt, a pioneer traveler of the time. He originally built a cabin along a spring. From that original cabin, a town began to form. By 1819, the town that is now named for its founder was the largest in the Alabama Territory. The leaders of Huntsville asked Congress in 1819 to make Alabama a state.

From its original beginnings in 1805, Huntsville has always attracted outsiders to make the city home. Today, the city is the headquarters or home to many international firms specializing in high-tech industries. From firms working with the space industry and to the medical field, Huntsville is a center of education and culture.

From first glances, Huntsville appears to be a very new city. The downtown is home to beautiful new buildings housing banks and other professional offices. In addition, downtown Huntsville is home to a major medical center. However, the new buildings are not all that the city has to offer.

Huntsville has also preserved it past very well. Visitors are able to view mansions that date back to the 1840’s, and businesses from 1870’s. They can also see cabins and farms from the 19th century. A visit to Huntsville truly provides an opportunity to see a mixture of the old along with the expansion of the new.

History

Alabama Constitution Village-This village of reconstructed buildings is the actual site where Alabama began. Visitors are guided through this tour by villagers dressed in costumes of the period. Along with the buildings, you can see where the original delegates met to begin Alabama’s history.

Burritt on the Mountain-This is more of a living history than a museum. Here, visitors walk through a 14-room mansion built in the 1930’s on the top of a mountain overlooking the Huntsville.

In addition to the mansion, the grounds are populated with farm buildings giving a glimpse of life in the last half of the 1800’s. Visitors can also walk the many nature trails and take breathtaking views into the Tennessee Valley and even the NASA rocket test stand.

Clay House Museum-This museum is really an antebellum home built in 1853. The home is decorated with furnishings from 1850 to 1950.

Harrison Brothers Hardware-In downtown Huntsville around the high-tech industries that power this city is the oldest continuously operating hardware store in Alabama. Harrison Brothers Hardware originally opened in 1879, and moved to its current location in 1897.

Visitors can truly mingle with the past and present in fully operating store. Shoppers can find the old with tasty candies and treats in glass jars, or they can purchase souvenirs of the city to take home to friends and family.

Huntsville Depot & Museum-This depot, dating back to around 1860, is one of the oldest in the nation. Visitors can view locomotives, civil war exhibits, and even see graffiti written by soldiers. The museum is also home to the largest public model railroad in Alabama.

Museums

Huntsville Museum of Art-The Huntsville Museum of Art has seven galleries displaying artwork from regionally and nationally known artists. In addition to the many traveling exhibits that are on display at the museum, it is also home to a permanent collection of 2,300 pieces.

Veterans Memorial Museum-The Veterans Memorial Museum is dedicated to preserving the experiences and accomplishments of veterans from World War I to the present, but has memorabilia dating back to the Revolutionary War.

Included for visitors are over 30 military vehicles. In addition, special displays and exhibits showcase the history and hard work of the men and women who have been apart of the United States Military.

Attractions

Cathedral Caverns State Park-Cathedral Caverns is actually located about 40 minutes to the east of Huntsville, but the beauty that you will see is well-worth the drive. Visitors get to journey down into a beautiful cavern featuring an underground world of stalactites and stalagmites. The star of this journey is a 60-foot talk column that is 200 feet around. In addition, the walls of the cavern are lined with the fossils of fish and other sea creatures dating more than 220 million years old.

Early Works Children Museum-This museum is truly a kid-friendly place to learn about history. Children can get a hands-on education of early Alabama history by walking a 46-foot gangplank, playing a tune on giant instruments, and trying their hands at building a house.

Harmony Park Animal Reserve-This animal park is truly like experiencing an African safari. Here, visitors stay in their cars as they drive through animals that traveling freely within the park. On the two-mile tour, you can experience zebras, antelope, buffalo, camel, ostriches, and crocodiles.

Huntsville Botanical Garden-These gardens sit on a beautiful 110 acres. You can see beautiful plants and flowers while walking on paths through woodlands and sprawling meadows.

The Botanical Garden features aquatic plants, roses, herbs, ferns, and many others. Visitors can also see over 50 species of butterflies in the Butterfly House. Then, stop and have lunch in the Tea Room.

In addition, visitors can see vegetable gardens and compost bins. Children can ride the g-scale trains that travel around the gardens.

Sci-Quest-For children who want to experience science in a hands-on environment, Sci-Quest is the just the place to go. The facility has over 150 exhibits, including the Tornado Simulator, a giant magnetic pendulum, and an exhibit on the wonders of the human body.

In addition, visitors will be intrigued by the Immersive Reality Theatre. This 3-D theatre is truly not to be missed!

U.S. Space & Rocket Center-This is what Huntsville is known for. The Space & Rocket Center will give you an up-close view of America’s space program. Home of Space Camp, visitors can see a space shuttle with its external tank and rocket boosters.

You can also experience the G-Force Accelerator which gives the feeling of three times for the force of gravity. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to feel the force of life-off with the Space Shot.

The Space & Rocket Center also features the Spacedome Omnimax theatre, which displays amazing views of astronauts traveling on the shuttle. It will truly take an entire day to experience this amazing place.

At first view, it may appear that Huntsville is a new city with not much to see. However, with a little effort, it is truly possible to have almost too much to do during a visit to this city.

Experiencing Huntsville is a venture to a place that has combined the beauty of the past, with the wonder of what is possible in the future.

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