A Day of Fun with Kids in Huntsville, AL
One of our favorite places to visit when traveling through the south is Huntsville, Alabama aka “Rocket City,” a center of arts, music and culture in North Eastern Alabama as well as being home to many of our best friends in the whole wide world. Home to the largest concentration of engineers in the country in large part thanks to the US Space and Rocket Center and the US Army Aviation and Missile Command at the Redstone Arsenal and over 25 biotech firms, Huntsville is the perfect blend of a relaxed southern town and a sophisticated city.
First settled in 1805 by John Hunt, in 1811 Huntsville was the first town incorporated in Alabama. It is situated in the midst of the Tennessee River Valley and surrounded by the Cumberland Plateau; the plateaus are locally known as “mountains.” Poised on top of nearby Monte Sano, Monte Sano State Park is only 10 minutes from the Five Points Historic District where turn of the century bungalows represent the early development of the area when the city was becoming a mill town.
US Space and Rocket Center
One of the most notable features of the Huntsville skyline is the Saturn V and other rockets in Rocket Park alongside the highway. This is where you’ll find the US Space and Rocket Center, and NASA’s Space Camp as well as the Space Camp RV park which is reasonably priced and offers 27 full hook-up 30amp back and pull-thru sites in the Space Center complex. We love it because we can use our ASTC Passport Program to get free admission and explore the museum and Rocket Park. You can also take a bus tour through the center to the nearby Marshall Space Flight Center, which is a day full of fun on its own.
Monte Sano State Park
Monte Sano State Park sits atop – you guessed it – Monte Sano, one of the plateaus to the east of downtown Huntsville, high above the Five Points Historic District and east of downtown. If you’re traveling in an RV, be sure to check the route and length restrictions. You may not want to take Fearn street as it has hairpin turns which you most likely will not be able to negotiate safely. You have been warned.
Monte Sano offers 89 campsites with W/E, some pull-through sites as well as some buddy sites. Sites are mostly level and shaded, with fire rings and picnic tables and the bathhouses also offer a washer and dryer in good working order. There are a couple of open air shelters within the campgrounds as well as 14 cabins, 11 of which were built by the CCC in the 1930s in the Arts and Crafts style. Although it has improved over the years, there is still a lack of a strong cell signal on top of the mountain. During our February 2016 stay, AT&T had between two and four bars while Verizon had little to no service whatsoever.
The Monte Sano Lodge is another example of the architectural style, offering event space with a huge kitchen and expansive views of the neighboring valley from the stone terrace. The park has an outdoor amphitheater, picnic areas near to a playground, Japanese Gardens, trails for hiking and mountain biking, shelters and primitive camp sites as well. We’ve stayed at Monte Sano State Park on at least three of our visits to Huntsville and happened on to free camping week in February 2015 at Alabama State Parks during one of our stays.
Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment
Lowe Mill is a sprawling mass of low-slung buildings; a former cotton mill on the southwest side of downtown Huntsville, the complex has become Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment featuring 129 +/- working studios for over 200 artisans and is considered the largest privately owned arts facility in the United States. The buildings also house Flying Monkey Arts Theater which holds performances and hosts events – everything from swing dance classes to performance art to poetry slams. The property also plays host to an open air market as well as a Friday night concert series on the old loading docks from April through October.Pizzelle’s confections – a lovely chocolate shop run by two sisters, serving up the best chocolates, including drinkable! in all of Huntsville. Or so I’m told…I haven’t actually tried ALL the chocolate in Huntsville. Yet.