Huntsville is named for pioneer John Hunt, the first white man to settle the area. Eventually, Huntsville grew to be the cotton-trading center of the Tennessee Valley during the mid 1800s, and the wealthy built stately homes here. Although the town saw action during the Civil War, sections of the town were left undisturbed and remain in use in the present day.
Visitors will be pleased to discover a thriving city that cherishes preservation and offers plenty of opportunities for enjoyment. A good way to get to know the city is by touring its significant historic districts. The Twickenham Historic District includes a number of homes from the early 19th century. A walking tour of the area is a must-do. The Old Town district, another popular area to explore, exhibits numerous Victorian homes. Visitors to this delightful part of town will be charmed by neat, landscaped yards, wide tree-lined streets, flower boxes and American flags. A visit to the Five Points district reveals the evolution of middle-class housing, and while Bungalow style abounds, there are also Cape Cods and Ranch style homes too.
Huntsville is widely known for its contribution to space exploration, and features the outstanding US Space and Rocket Center. The Center offers a dynamic assortment of activities and displays, including bus tours, a high-tech theater, and the famous children's US Space Camp. Visitors should plan on spending a few hours at the US Space and Rocket Center.
The young, and the young at heart, will enjoy several attractions in Huntsville. The Early Works Children's Museum is a great place to start. Said to be the south's largest hands-on history museum, the kids will have hours of fun. Don't miss the Alabama Constitution Village (Alabama's birthplace) is filled with history and narrated by villagers dressed in period garb. If animals are of interest, a trip to the Harmony Park Animal Preserve should be on the list of must-dos. The Preserve will fascinate visitors as they drive through a two-mile route, viewing exotic and even endangered animals. Sci-Quest will stimulate and fascinate all who enter its doors. Exhibits include an interactive tornado simulator, a giant pendulum, a state-of-the-art reality theater, and endless hands-on stations. Just 40 minutes east of Huntsville, and absolutely worth the drive, is Cathedral Caverns. All will surely enjoy this awe-inspiring natural attraction.
Huntsville boasts a striking botanical garden. For those who enjoy flora and fauna, this is the place. The Huntsville Botanical Gardens offers 110-acres of color and beauty, as well as many festivals. Don't miss the astronaut garden and the Butterfly House.
Huntsville offers two very different, yet popular festivals. Huntsville's Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll is an unusual event that takes place annually, in May. Actors in period costumes create more than 80 former Huntsville residents, including governors. Many of the characters are buried in the cemetery. Panoply focuses on the arts of the area through the use of five stages that highlight dance, music and theater. Children have the opportunity to make their own art and become involved in the activities.
Huntsville is situated in the northern part of Alabama, about 20 miles south of the Tennessee boarder, and 100 miles north of Birmingham.