Rocket City


In 2021, U.S. News & World Report named Huntsville, Alabama one of the best places to live in the country, surpassed only by Green Bay. And let’s face it, Wisconsin’s cold in the winter. In addition to the north Alabama town being the home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Earth’s largest space flight museum, it’s the site of oldest railroad depot and the oldest house functioning as a public museum in the state, plus the state’s constitution was created here. “Everyone thinks of us as high tech,” said local historian and author Jacquelyn Procter Reeves. “But we have a lot of history.” Huntsville can also boast of a hot arts and music scene, numerous festivals and the Rocket City Trash Pandas, a minor-league baseball team named for the raccoons who adore garbage cans. Rocket City Thousands visit each year to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Space Camp, but the accompanying museum is “the most comprehensive U.S. manned spaceflight hardware museum in the world,” according to the Center. The museum, named the official NASA Visitor Center for Marshall Space Flight Center and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, features the actual Saturn V Moon Rocket, an Apollo 16 Command Module, an Apollo 12 moon rock and much more. Visitors will learn that rockets for the first U.S. satellite and moon missions, modules for the International Space Station and much more were developed in Huntsville. The list goes on and on. Harrison Brothers Hardware Everything from local artwork and books to homewares is sold at Alabama’s oldest continuously operating hardware store. Established in 1879 and located on the downtown historic square since 1897, Harrison Brothers Hardware is a trip back in time. Shelves and tables are stocked with modern items but many original products line the historic shelves that reach to the ceiling. Be sure to notice the gem of the store, the 112-year-old cash register still in use.  Botanical Gardens It’s easy to get lost in the Huntsville Botanical Garden, and that’s a good thing. Trails wind around an art-enhanced pond, through vibrant woods and grassy fields accented with birding stations and benches and swings and along creeksides filled with local plants. It’s 118 acres of pure bliss for the nature and plant lover. No wonder USA Today rated it number six in the nation for “Best Botanical Garden.” The Orion Amphitheater There’s no bad seat in the brand spanking new Orion Amphitheater, which brings in big-name artists, regional music acts and special events, such as yoga. The sustainability policies are impressive: drinks are served in glasses that are returned and cleaned, native plants used in landscaping, some of which end up in food and drinks, and recycling bins everywhere. It’s all part of The Orion’s zero-waste goals. Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment  A former cotton warehouse and factory for military boots received a new lease on life when transformed into the Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment complex. The giant complex now houses 158 public studios with more than 200 working artists, making it nation’s largest privately owned arts and entertainment venue. Visitors may enjoy watching artists in action (don’t miss Jeff Mello demonstrating at the Cigar Box Guitar Store) and have an opportunity to purchase original pieces, everything from pottery and painting to crepes and coffee. Special events happen regularly, including the Concerts on the Dock — dock meaning loading dock, not something adjacent to water.

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