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U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Without a doubt the most impressive, and the most notable, attraction in
Huntsville, Ala., is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. But with closer
investigation, the traveler will discover that there is much more to see
and do in this north-central Alabama city, including world-class
museums and a botanical garden with the nation’s largest open-air
butterfly house.

Many of the city’s attractions are located in the downtown area, which
is easily accessible from Interstate 565, the connector between
Huntsville and neighboring Decatur. Within the downtown area there is
the Huntsville Museum of Art and the EarlyWorks Museum Complex —
consisting of the Historic Huntsville Depot, EarlyWorks Children’s
History Museum and Alabama Constitution Village.

Also along I-565, the Huntsville Botanical Garden is a 110-acre
natural paradise. With new gardens and displays opening, it is a
destination unto itself. To go along with the space and rocket theme,
there is also Sci-Quest, a hands-on science center for children. At
Sci-Quest, kids can explore the mysteries of many things usually taken
for granted.

When it comes to nature and the outdoors, there are plenty of
opportunities for recreation. The city has foothills of the Appalachian
Mountains on three sides. Just a short drive away is Monte Sano State
Park, which offers an incredible view of the city below. Hiking trails,
camping, picnicking and bird-watching are popular activities.

Back indoors, the nationally accredited Huntsville Museum of
Art has its own 2,522-piece permanent collection and fills its other
seven galleries with works from nationally and regionally acclaimed
artists in traveling exhibits throughout the year. In addition to its
exhibitions, the museum offers art classes for children and adults, and
has special programs. The Huntsville Museum of Art is located downtown
in a relatively new development called the Big Spring International
Park. As well as being impressive on the inside, the grounds of the
museum are beautifully landscaped with a reflective lake and fountain
with plenty of area for picnics and just being outside.

The EarlyWorks Museum Complex, near the Huntsville Museum of
Art, offers three venues to discover history. The Children’s History
Museum has displays and opportunities to interactively learn about the
history of Alabama. The Historic Huntsville Depot was built in the
mid-1800s and again has that same look and feel. Visitors can tour the
depot and see old locomotives. There is a Civil War section with a wall
of graffiti left by soldiers. The Alabama Constitution Village is a
living-history museum. As the site for the 1819 Alabama Constitutional
Convention, villagers dressed in period outfits enlighten travelers of
the way life was in the early 1800s. There are eight federal-style
buildings on one square block in Huntsville’s downtown area containing
the Village.

If there were not enough history at the EarlyWorks Complex,
Huntsville has five historic districts on the National Register. The
Twickenham Historic District contains a lot of early 19th century homes,
many of which were used during the Civil War by the Union army. The Old
Town District contains Victorian homes built between 1870 and 1930.

Something new to this section of the state is the North Alabama
Birding Trail. There was much success with the Alabama Coastal Birding
Trail, which was introduced in 2000, so this trail should attract as
much attention for birding as the more southern one. Fifty bird-watching
sites are scattered throughout 11 North Alabama counties with several
in the Huntsville-Madison County area.

However, the most visited attraction in Huntsville is the U.S.
Space and Rocket Center. There are many reasons to visit the center
again and again. With the amount of things to do and see, it would be
very difficult to take it all in with one tour. The museum tour explains
the history of the U.S. space program and the part Huntsville and Dr.
Wernher von Braun played in shaping that history. Museum pieces include a
space shuttle, Saturn rockets, a lunar rover, several of the actual
spacecrafts that made the first missions in orbit and to the moon, and
many rockets that propelled those crafts and our astronauts into space.

If seeing and hearing about the details of America’s space
program is not information enough, there are IMAX movies and rides that
simulate weightless space travel and blastoff. Another important feature
and popular part of the center is the Space Camp program, where
youngsters, teachers and other adults enroll and get intensive astronaut

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center has a campground with full
hookups and is within walking distance of the most exciting attraction
in Huntsville.

The city has a lot more to offer its visitors than the U.S.
Space and Rocket Center, but that is still the most popular attraction
and the reason many people come to Huntsville. But after they visit the
center and venture off other exits, they will soon understand the amount
of things to do in Huntsville.

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