Huntsville was founded in 1805 by a Virginia man named John Hunt. For the first 140 years of its history, the city was a sleepy cotton town. In 1950, the US Army transferred Dr. Werner von Braun and his team of German rocket scientists to Redstone Arsenal. Within a decade, the city became a center for rocket design and construction. In 1960, NASA opened the Marshall Space Flight Center, which has played a significant role in the Redstone (named after Redstone Arsenal), Gemini, and Apollo manned space programs.
Today, the city continues to be a center for missile defense and aerospace technologies, with companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman having major operations here. Cummings Research Park, the second largest research park in the country, is home to many of these companies.
According to the Census Bureau 2013 estimates, Huntsville is home to 186,254 residents. The Huntsville-Decatur metro area, with 679,743 residents, is the second largest in Alabama, after Birmingham. Madison, Athens, Decatur, and a number of smaller cities are generally considered part of the Huntsville metro area.
Huntsville is accessible from nearby Interstate 65, approximately 20 miles west of downtown. An interstate spur, Interstate 565, runs from I-65 eastward for 21 miles, to and through downtown Huntsville.
Huntsville is very car-oriented. Public transportation  is not popular in Huntsville, but does exist. The city offers 13 different bus routes, including a Tourist Trolley, which loops past most of the city's attractions and shopping areas. Turnovers between buses can be between fifteen minutes in downtown and one hour in outlying areas. There are also two free weekend evening routes that serve Downtown, Five Points, and the Medical District.
One way: $1
Seniors, students, children under 6, one way: $.50
U.S. Space and Rocket Center Museum, One Tranquility Base (I-565 Exit 15), ☎ +1 256-837-3400 (email@example.com), . Daily 9AM-5PM except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day, and New Years Eve and Day. Alabama's number one for-fee tourist attraction, this museum is especially of interest to space-amazed kids and kids at heart. In 2008 the aging museum was revitalized with the opening of the $23 million Davidson Center, which features a Saturn V rocket that was never launched and also includes numerous exhibits on program that led up to the moon visits. Outside of the museum are replicas and test units for numerous other space vehicles, including life-size replicas of the space shuttle and a vertical Saturn V. The US Space Camp is also based here and has hosted over 500,000 visitors since its inception in 1982.$20 for adults, $15 for children, kids under 6 free. Additional charges for IMAX or traveling exhibitions. edit
Huntsville Museum of Art, 300 Church Street, 1-800-786-9095, . Open daily until 5PM (except Thursday). The Museum of Art is in Big Spring Park. It features seven exhibit halls which host many regional and national art exhibits every year and the museum's own 2,500 piece collection. There is a large gift shop and a coffee shop with a patio that overlooks the park. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, military, and students, $3 for children 6-11, and free for members and children under 6.
Alabama Constitution Village, 109 Gates Avenue, +1 256-564-8100. See where the state of Alabama was born in 1819. Village includes a cabinet shop, law office, and a post office. During the Holidays, "Santa's Village" is held here. Open Wednesday through Saturday, March through October, and special hours in November and December. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for children and seniors.
Historic Huntsville Depot, 320 Church Street, +1 256-564-8100. Mid-1800's era railroad depot used as a prison for Civil War soldiers. Various festivals are held here throughout the year, including the Rocket City BBQ Festival in May. Open Wednesday through Saturday, March through October. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for children and seniors.
EarlyWorks Children's History Museum, 404 Madison Street, +1 256-564-8100. Tu-Sa 9AM-4PM. The South's largest hands-on children's history museum. See a 46-foot keelboat, play on giant instruments, and listen to stories told by the "Talking Tree." Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children, and $4 for toddlers.
Burritt on the Mountain, 3101 Burritt Drive, +1 256-536-2882, . Located on Round Top Mountain off of US 431 and Monte Sano Boulevard. Features a large early 20th Century mansion, a late 19th Century farm and a petting zoo. There are also nature trails, including one that is handicapped-accessible. Open Tues-Sun year-round, though hours vary between winter and summer months.
Clay House Museum, 16 Main Street, Madison, +1 256-325-1018, . We-Sa. A 1850s Antebellum home and art museum in downtown Madison.
Harrison Brothers Hardware, 124 South Side Square, 1-866-533-3631, . M-Sa. Founded in 1879, it is the oldest continuously-running hardware store in Alabama. Located on the Courthouse Square downtown.
North Alabama Railroad Museum, 694 Chase Road, +1 256-851-6276, . Located in the Chase community in Northeast Huntsville. Features the smallest union station in the country and 90-minute train rides on select Saturdays. Open Wednesdays and Saturdays, April to December. Ticket prices for the train excursion are $12 for adults, $8 for children 12 and under. Prices may vary for special events.
State Black Archives and Museum, Wilson Bldg, Alabama A&M University, +1 256-851-5846. M-F. Located on the campus of Alabama A&M University in North Huntsville/Normal. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children, and free for toddlers and A&M faculty and students.
Sci-Quest, 102-D Wynn Drive, +1 256-837-0606, . Tu-Su. North Alabama's only hands-on science museum. Features more than 125 exhibits and an Immersive Theater. To get there, take I-565 Exit 15 to Old Madison Pike. Take a right on Wynn Drive. Sci-Quest is on the left, behind Calhoun Community College. $9 adults, $8.50 seniors, $8 children.
Veterans Memorial Museum, 2060-A Airport Road, +1 256-883-3737, . Open W-Sa 10AM-4PM. Features military exhibits, memorabilia, and vehicles dating back to the Revolutionary War. To get there, take Memorial Parkway South to Airport Road. Take a right; museum is on the right. $5 adult, $4 seniors, $3 students under 18.
Weeden House Museum, 300 Gates Avenue, +1 256-536-7718, . M-F 11AM-4PM. A house built in 1819, the same year Alabama became a state. Located in the Twickenham Historic District. $5 adults, $2.50 children.
A map of city parks can be found at the city website 
Big Spring International Park Huntsville's signature park, located downtown. This is where Huntsville was founded more than 200 years ago. Features various gifts given to the city by countries like Japan (the Red Bridge) and Norway (the lighthouse). Restaurants, hotels, and the Von Braun Center are nearby. Recently underwent an expansion near the Embassy Suites hotel.
Huntsville Land Trust Trails, 907 Franklin Street, +1 256-534-5263, . A 3,400 acre network of nature preserves around the city. One of the most popular attractions is the Three Caves quarry on Monte Sano.
Huntsville Greenways, . A network of bikeways, trails, and bike-friendly roads across the metro area. Currently only 18 miles have been completed, but will eventually grow to over 200 miles. Aldridge Creek Greenway in Southeast Huntsville is the most popular bikeway, but it becomes impassable after heavy rains.
Ditto Landing, 1-800-552-8769, . M-F 8AM-10PM, Sa-Su 6AM-10PM. Public park along the Tennessee River, with boathouses, greenways, and a campground.
Green Mountain Nature Trail, South Shawdee Road, +1 256-883-9501. Open daily. A mile-long nature trail that wraps around a 16-acre lake. Features a covered bridge, picnic area, and a "Braille trail." Located off Green Mountain Road in Southeast Huntsville.
Monte Sano State Park, 5105 Nolen Avenue, +1 256-534-3757, . Large state park located on Monte Sano. Features 14 miles of hiking and biking trails, a large picnic area, cabins, a Japanese garden, and a campground. Take US 431 to Monte Sano Boulevard and follow the signs.
Huntsville Botanical Garden, 4747 Bob Wallace Avenue, +1 256-830-4447, . A 110-acre garden with woodlands, meadows and ponds. Features the nation's largest Butterfly House, which is open from May to September. In 2006, a Nature Center and Children's Garden opened. In November and December, the Botanical Garden is home to the Galaxy of Lights. Open 7 days a week except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. $10 adults, $8 seniors, $5 children under 18. Hours and admission vary between summer and fall/winter/spring months.
Hays Nature Preserve and Goldsmith Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary, . The largest city-owned park and preserve, with ten miles of trails through swamps and wooded areas. Horses and bikes are allowed on some trails. Located off US 431 south of Hampton Cove.
Twickenham Historic District. The Twickenham and Old Town historic districts, located just east of downtown, feature large homes that were built as early as 1814. In June and July, free guided walking tours of the area start at 10AM each Saturday.
Five Points Historic District, . Five Points Historic District is an example of an early 20th Century neighborhood featuring several architectural styles, including California Bungalow, Queen Anne and other modest Victorian styles. In recent years, the Five Points district has become one of Huntsville's trendiest neighborhoods, with small shops, art galleries, and restaurants lining the streets in the area.
Wilcoxon Municipal Ice Complex, 3185 Leeman Ferry Road, +1 256-883-3774, . Year-round public ice skating rink. Open most afternoons to the public, but check website for hours. Admission is $6.50 per person. Located behind Joe Davis Stadium.
Canoeing on the Flint River. Several canoing expeditions are available. The Flint River is in East Madison County, about 7 miles from downtown.
Robert Trent Jones-Hampton Cove Golf Course, 450 Old Highway 431, Owens Crossroads, +1 256-551-1818, . This 54-hole golf course is part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which has nine world-renowned golf courses across Alabama. Located in Hampton Cove off US 431.
Space Camp/Aviation Challenge, . Space Camp is a week-long astronaut training program for kids and teenagers. Shorter programs are available. It is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2007. Located at the US Space and Rocket Center.
Theatre Huntsville is a non-profit, all-volunteer arts organization that presents six plays each season in downtown Huntsville's Von Braun Center Playhouse, and also produces the annual "Shakespeare on the Mountain" in an outdoor venue, such as Burritt on the Mountain. Presentations range from such popular favorites as "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Noises Off" to cutting-edge productions like "The Laramie Project" and "Angels in America," and even a few Alabama premieres, such as "Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge." Information on tickets, group rates, special rates for touring and student groups, workshops, auditions, and more at +1 (256) 536-0807; please note that office hours are by appointment only.
Renaissance Theatre was established in 1997 and has made a tremendous impact on the renewed interest in the Lincoln Mill neighborhood in Northeast Huntsville. The theatre is in the historically important Lincoln Mill Village Commissary Building, built in 1927 to accommodate the needs of the Lincoln Mill workers. Certain productions contain strong language and are thus recommended for adult audiences only; however, Renaissance also produces children's shows.
Huntsville Community Chorus Association is the state's second-oldest performing arts organization, producing both choral concerts and musical theater productions (ranging from "The Pirates of Penzance" to "Guys and Dolls" and "Jesus Christ Superstar"). In addition, HCCA features its Madrigal Singers; "Glitz!" (a show choir); a Chamber Chorale; an annual summer melodrama/fundraiser; and three children's groups, the Huntsville Community Children’s Chorus (HC3), HC3Jr, for the younger set, and HC3Sr, for high-schoolers.
Huntsville Stars, +1 256-882-2562, . Minor-league (AA) affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Plays from April-September at Joe Davis Stadium off of South Memorial Parkway.
Huntsville Havoc, +1 256-518-6160, . Minor-league hockey team. Plays from October-March at the Von Braun Center Arena. Buy tickets early- games sell out frequently.
Alabama Hammers, +1 256-518-6160, . Minor-league arena football team. Plays from March-July at the Von Braun Center Arena.
Huntsville Speedway, 357 Hegia Burrow Road, +1 256-882-9191, . Stock-car racetrack located off Hobbs Island Road in South Huntsville. Races are held on Friday nights from March to October. Admission is $10, $8 for military and seniors, and $5 for students.
Huntsville Dragway, 502 Quarter Mountain Road, +1 256-859-0807, . Small dragway located in Harvest. Open Fridays and Saturdays from March to October.
Panoply Arts Festival, +1 256-519-ARTS, . This three-day outdoor festival features presentations, demonstrations, performances, and workshops. Panoply is one of the region’s largest festivals, with activities such as the “Global Village” – a gateway to the area’s diverse cultures – to free hands-on children’s activities to the “Official Alabama State Fiddling Championship,” “Homegrown Talent Contest,” “Ten-Minute Playwright Competition,” choreography and photography competitions, and the Art Marketplace. Held the last weekend in April each year in downtown's Big Spring International Park, Von Braun Center, and Huntsville Museum of Art.
Summer Sidewalk Arts Strolls, the third Thursday of each month throughout the summer of 2007, beginning at 4:30PM and continuing until 8:30PM Featuring artisan crafts and musical and cultural performances.
Big Spring Jam, +1 256-551-2359, . Every year, over 250,000 people attend this music festival that attracts big-name bands in country, rock, blues, and jazz. Held the last weekend in September.
Whistle Stop BBQ Festival. Held the second weekend in May at the Huntsville Depot. Features music and a Barbecue cookoff.
WEUP Black Arts Festival, +1 256-837-9387, . Held in June near the Lewis Crews Football Stadium on the campus of Alabama A&M University (off Meridian Street in the Northeast Huntsville/Normal area). Features local black musicians and artists.
Galaxy of Lights. A drive-through Christmas lights show held at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. Open from 5:30PM-9PM nightly from mid-November to New Year's Eve.
Santa's Village. Held at Alabama Constitution Village. See Santa, the elves, and the reindeer. Open from 5PM-9PM nightly from Thanksgiving to December 23rd.
Con*Stellation. Annual science fiction/fantasy convention  held over a 3-day (Friday-Sunday) weekend each fall.
Madison Square Mall, . An enclosed mall with 140 shops and restaurants. Tenants include Sears, JC Penney, Dillard's, and Belk. Located on University Drive (US 72) near Research Park.
Parkway Place, . An enclosed mall with 70 upscale shops and restaurants. Tenants include Belk, Dillard's, Williams-Sonoma, Banana Republic, and Carrabba's Italian Grill. Located off of Memorial Parkway at the Drake Avenue exit.
Bridge Street Town Centre, . An open-air upscale lifestyle center with 60 shops and restaurants and a 12-story Westin hotel. Tenants include J. Crew, Kate Spade, Swarovski, PF Chang's and Barnes & Noble. Located at the Research Park Boulevard (AL 255)/Old Madison Pike interchange.
Like most cities, Huntsville does have its fair share of fast-food restaurants, but there are many local eateries as well that serve every budget and taste. Because of Huntsville's diverse population, a number of ethnic restaurants have opened in recent years with restaurants specializing in Greek, Indian, and Thai, among many other ethnicities.
Main Street Cafe & Bakery, 7500 S. Memorial Parkway (One block south of Martin Rd overpass), ☎ +1 256-881-0044, . 7-3. Located in Main Street Shopping Village with fresh salads, sandwiches and soups.Budget. edit
Sitar Indian Cuisine, 420 Jordan Lane, +1 256-536-3360, . The best Indian food in town, and reasonably priced. The lunch buffet (all days but Saturday) at this family-owned chain changes items often, remaining fresh and very popular.
Thai Garden, 800 Wellman Avenue (near Five Points), +1 256-534-0122, . Excellent, moderately priced Thai food in a comfortable atmosphere resulting largely from its family-run, family-friendly ambience. The longest-running Thai restaurant in the area.
Rosie’s Mexican Cantina, 6125 University Drive, +1 256-922-1001. Probably the most famous restaurant to come out of Huntsville since Steak-Out. Currently in the University Place shopping center, but moving soon across the street next to Logan's.
Viet Huong, 930 Old Monrovia Road, NW; #1 (near Madison Square Mall), +1 256-890-0104. Delicious Vietnamese cuisine, ranging from the familiar pho – the national dish – to clay pots, fresh spring rolls, Vietnamese coffees, and more. Condiments allow you to “doctor” your dishes to your liking.
Tim's Cajun Kitchen, 114 Jordan Lane, +1 256-533-7589. Local cajun restaurant.
Furniture Factory Bar & Grill, 619 Meridian Sreet, +1 256-539-8001, . Restaurant with a large patio and live music. Artwork and (of course) furniture are for sale. Located between Downtown and Five Points.
Café Berlin, 964 Airport Road, +1 256-880-9920. Upscale German restaurant.
Days Inn and Suites Research Park, 1145 McMurtrie Drive, +1 256-971-0208, . Located just west of the Target shopping center on University Drive. Convenient to Research Park and West Huntsville. Rates start at $59 nightly.
Embassy Suites Huntsville, 800 Monroe Street, +1 256-539-7373, . This 10-story hotel opened in October 2006. Great views of the city, downtown, and the skyline. Connected by a "skybridge" to the Von Braun Center. A Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is inside the hotel.
Westin Huntsville, 6800 Governors West, +1 256-428-2000, . Located within the Bridge Street Town Center.
Candlewood Suites, 201 Exchange Place, +1 256-830-8222, . Convenient to Space Center and Research Park. Rates start at $60 per night.
Residence Inn, 6305 Residence Inn Road, +1 256-895-0444. Located behind the Target shopping center off University Drive. Convenient to Research Park, restaurants, and shopping. Rooms start at $70 nightly.
Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, 1565 The Boardwalk, +1 256-830-2500, . Located off University Drive near Madison Square. Convenient to restaurants and shopping.
Though crime levels are above average for a city in its population bracket, most of the crime is restricted to inner city neighborhoods that would be of no interest to visitors. In general, the most dangerous region of the city is the northern neighborhoods (particularly the northwest). In addition to crime, If hiking on Monte Sano or engaging in some other outdoor activity, be aware that during the Summer, temperatures can hit triple digits and one can dehydrate quickly. Be sure to consume an adequate amount of fluids during the warm temperatures.
The area codes for Huntsville and North Alabama are 256 and now 938, which will take effect sometime around mid 2011. When the new 938 code takes effect all phones issued from that point will have the 938 area code. The new 938 area code will be within the confines of the 256 area code in what is called an "overlay" zone.
Summer- Average high: 89F (32C); Average low: 67F (19C). Summers are hot and humid, but the thermometer rarely goes above 100F. Strong thunderstorms do come out of nowhere in the afternoons.
Fall- Average high: 73F (23C); Average low: 51F (10C). Autumn is quite comfortable in Huntsville. First frost normally happens around Halloween. Strong tornadoes do occur in November.
Winter- Average high: 52F (11C); Average low: 32F (0C). Snow is a possibility, but never a guarantee. Most snow in Huntsville is on the light side (less than 2 inches). However, any snow amounts more than 1/3" can close roads and schools.
Spring- Average High: 72F (22C); Average low: 49F (9C). Being in a "tornado alley", Huntsville gets many tornado warnings in the spring, so be careful.
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