Huntsville isn't necessarily a top tourist destination in the United States. In fact, I would bet that many people don't even know where Huntsville is (it's in northern Alabama, by the way). And if they do know about Huntsville, they probably only vaguely know it for its ties to NASA or the US Army.
But what happens if you find yourself passing through Huntsville on a road trip through the South? Don't worry - there are a handful of cool things to do.
Huntsville is quite literally filled with rocket scientists. The city is often known as "The Rocket City" thanks to its close association with NASA and former U.S. space missions. The Marshall Space Flight Center was opened in Huntsville in 1960, and scientists there worked on space propulsion research for decades.
Huntsville is also home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, a museum all about the U.S. Space program. You'll recognize it by all the old rockets on display outside. And, if you're really into space exploration, the Space & Rocket Center offers a few different Space Camp programs including a version for adults.
You probably can't picture the landscape of northern Alabama. And that's fair; I had no clue what it looked like, either, before I went there for the first time.
As it turns out, this part of Alabama is much hillier than most people expect. The best place to appreciate this rolling landscape in Huntsville is to head up to Monte Sano State Park. The park sits atop a small mountain, covers more than 2,000 acres, and offers some great views over the surrounding forests. It's a great place for a short hike or picnic, and the best time to go is in the early evening when the temperatures start to cool down.
Spending a lazy day floating down the river in a canoe (or kayak) is a favorite pastime for many Southerners, and this is definitely true in Huntsville, too. If you want to do as the locals do, you'll have to stock up a cooler, slather on some sunscreen, and spend a weekend afternoon floating down a local river.
The closest river to Huntsville to float down is the Flint River. You can rent canoes and kayaks from North Alabama Canoe and Kayak in nearby Brownsboro for this float trip. They even do twilight floats in the summer. Or, if you're up for driving a little further, you can head over the border to the Elk River in Tennessee, which is slow moving and perfect for a lazy float. Rent from Elk River Canoe Rental in Kelso, Tennessee for this trip.
The suggestions don't end there, either. You can also spend an afternoon shopping at Bridge Street (be sure to check out the homemade popsicles at Steel City Pops), stroll through fields of cotton during the summer months, visit the botanical gardens or EarlyWorks Children's Museum if you're traveling with family.
Did any of these to-dos in Huntsville surprise you?
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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