Huntsville Journals

Gateway to the Stars

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A January 2006 trip to Huntsville by NiteOwlTX

U.S. Space and Rocket Center Photo, Huntsville, Alabama More Photos
Quote: You probably know that Huntsville is home to the US Space Program, but you probably don't know Huntsville's historical and cultural significance.

Gateway to the Stars

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Overview

Huntsville Depot Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
From before Alabama's admission as a state in 1817 to 1826, Huntsville served as the first seat of the state government; appeals for statehood and eventually the state Constitution were written here in Huntsville. Many of the original buildings still exist in this area.Located in the extreme northern part of Alabama, Huntsville thrived on the cotton trade. As railroads were built, Huntsville became a major economic center until the Civil War. It was spared from the Union army during its occupation due to the loyalty of many of the wealthiest businessmen. As a result, it is the largest collection of pre-Civil War homes in the Deep South.In 1950, the Redstone Arsenal army base employed a...Read More
Quote:
I stay at a lot of La Quinta Inns as I travel. They are always pretty moderately priced, generally pretty comfortable, and generally easy to get to and around the main sites of a city.This last point is especially true of the La Quinta in Huntsville at the Space Center. Located on University Drive, it is right in the middle of the commerce side of town with the mall, the supercenters, and many shops and restaurants within a mile of the hotel. This La Quinta sites about halfway between the space center/botanical gardens and downtown Huntsville, with the historic sites and museums.Price-wise, the La Quinta Inn is on the lower end for this area. Everything (but the gas) is moderately ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

La Quinta Inn Huntsville Space Center
3141 University Dr. NW
Huntsville, Alabama 35816
(256) 533-0756

Barnhill's Country Buffet

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Restaurant

Quote:
I didn't realize until just now as I looked up the website that there are so many Barnhill's locations. I used to live in Montgomery and would visit the location there fairly often. Anyway, this restaurant was very close to my hotel, so I stopped to eat here for lunch.I generally don't review a lot of restaurants, as I consider them to be about the same. I run into good service and bad service, good food and not-so-good food, but given differences in taste, most restaurants are very similar. So, I take time to review only restaurants that I find exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. Barnhill's Buffet is neither. That is to say, it is good food. It is very good food, but it is not except...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

Barnhill's Country Buffet
3801 University Drive North West
Huntsville, Alabama 35816
(256) 535-4423

Burritt Museum

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Attraction

Burritt Museum Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
High above Huntsville on the Monte Sano Mountain, the Burritt Museum offers a taste of the regions history.The museum was originally built in 1936, when Dr. William Burritt moved here to enjoy his retirement. His mansion served as his home until his death, when he gave it to the city to turn it into a museum.The mansion now houses a beautiful collection of antiques and tells a little bit about the man who built it.On the historic side of this attraction, there are some original 19th-century buildings that were brought here from throughout the valley. The majority of people living in this area were farmers and lived very sparingly. There weren't all the big plantations dominatin...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

Burritt Museum
3101 Burritt Drive Southeast
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
(256) 536-2882

Cathedral Caverns State Park

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Attraction | "Cathedral Caverns"

Cathedral Caverns State Park Photo, Grant, Alabama
Quote:
Located just outside of Huntsville, Cathedral Caverns is smaller then most similar parks; the trail is only three-quarters of a mile long. These caverns are noteworthy, however, because they hold some world records and house some beautiful formations, such as Big Rock Canyon and Stalagmite Mountain.The first record that this cavern has is apparent as you walk up. The entrance to the cavern is 126 feet wide and 25 feet high, the largest natural entrance to a cavern. The thing that impressed me the most was a stalagmite column. Nicknamed Goliath, this column reaches the ceiling in a cavern that is 45 feet tall. Besides being a record height, this column is huge and dominates one entire caver...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

Cathedral Caverns State Park
1000 Cathedral Cavern Road near Grant, Al
Grant, Alabama
(256) 728-8193

The Historic Huntsville Depot

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Attraction | "Historic Downtown Huntsville"

The Historic Huntsville Depot Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
Some of the buildings here in historic downtown Huntsville date back to 1800, before Alabama was a state.Well over half the houses in this area date back to before the Civil War. It is especially uncommon to see a pre-Civil War community this size, as most were destroyed during the war. Huntsville, however, was saved, as it was the home to many loyalists and was spared the Union army's destruction at the end of its occupation.One interesting note for those who will also see Burritt on the mountain; compare these houses to those on the mountain, also from 1850. This demonstrates the difference between city and country living at the time.The Weeden house is open seaso...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

The Historic Huntsville Depot
320 Church Street
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
(256) 564-8100

Huntsville Art Museum

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Attraction

Huntsville Art Museum Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
I like to look at art museums. However, I find it hard to judge one against the other based on the museums themselves. You have to understand that most of the paintings, sculptures, etc., that you see in a museum of art are on loan to that museum from private collectors, other museums, or the artists themselves. The museum itself is just a bunch of walls with a roof on top of it.Having said that, I do highly recommend the Huntsville Museum of Art based on my visit to this area. When I visited, they had just completed an exhibit on Ansel Adams and were currently featuring Maxfield Parrish. Those are big names for a small town like Huntsville, so I have to believe that the curator is pretty ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

Huntsville Art Museum
300 Church Street, South
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
(256) 535-4350

Huntsville Botanical Garden

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Attraction

Huntsville Botanical Garden Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
I went to see the Huntsville Botanical Garden in the last of January, which is in the middle of winter. As you might expect, plants and trees are not blooming during this time of year.Having said that, I put the Huntsville Botanical Garden as the second best the I've ever seen (behind the Japanese Garden in San Antonio). Perhaps it is because it was winter and different than others I had seen, but the plants were very well trimmed. I'd very much like to visit this garden again in the summer to see if it has the same beauty as in winter.Exhibits are organized into either trails or gardens. Mostly the local plants are represented. The Aquatic gardens combines architecture, water, and pl...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

Huntsville Botanical Garden
4747 Bob Wallace Ave.
Huntsville, Alabama 35805
(256) 830-4447

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

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Attraction | "Huntsville Space and Rocket Center"

U.S. Space and Rocket Center Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
I rated this site as highly recommended, but I was disappointed when I got here. I set aside a day to see everything that it had to offer; it ended up taking only 3 hours to see and ride everything.First, there is an IMAX film. They typically play only two films, Magnificent Desolation, the story of man's lunar landings, and Fighter Pilot, which shows how pilots are trained. With only three showings every day, you have to catch the one that is playing during your visit. If you arrive at 9am and miss the first show at 11am, you'll be finished with the other exhibits and waiting over an hour for the second show at 1pm. The other problem with this theatre was the seating; it wasn't made for ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

U.S. Space and Rocket Center
One Tranquility Base
Huntsville, AL 35805
256 721 7155

Theatre Huntsville

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Attraction

Quote:
The one thing that I would admire the most about Huntsville over much larger cities, such as New Orleans, where I currently live, is the amount of cultural activity that goes through here. There is always something going on at the local venues. When I was here, Renaissance Theater had a play, the stage at Burritt on the Mountain had a musical, and Von Braun Center Arena had a monster truck rally. Even though it is a smaller city, there is always something happening in Huntsville.I took in the "Trial of Frank James," presented by Theatre Huntsville at the Von Braun Playhouse. I went to see this as it was historically a huge event for Huntsville. It would be the equivalent of the O.J. Simpson tr...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

Theatre Huntsville
Von Braun Center Playhouse, 700 Monroe St. Sw
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
(256) 536-0807

Veterans Memorial Museum

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Attraction

Veterans Memorial Museum Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
I enjoyed the tour of the Veterans Memorial Museum. There is a lot of war memorabilia from all the wars that the United States has been part of. However, the bulk of the artifacts center around World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War.The museum itself is not that interesting. There are a lot of tanks and army vehicles, but those seem common place these days. If you have ever ridden around in a tank, looking at one that's 50 years old just isn't the same. I see the progression, but it just isn't that interesting to me.The one really good point to the museum is the tour guide. The tour guide I had was a veteran of Korea and Vietnam. The stories that he would tell a...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 2, 2006

Veterans Memorial Museum
2060A Airport Highway
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
(256) 883-3737

Alabama Constitution Village

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Attraction | "Alabama Constitutional Village"

Alabama Constitution Village Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
In 1819, 44 representatives from all of Alabama came to Huntsville. They came together to draft a petition for statehood to the United States of America and to sign an official Constitution for the state. The largest building in the city at that time was the cabinetmaker's craft shop.This shop is still in similar condition to how it stood in 1819. There is, also, a post office, a stable, a blacksmith shop, and the home of the sheriff from that time period.It is important to note that at that time what we now know as Alabama was the American frontier, principly unsettled by whites and loosely populated by Native Americans. Huntsville was populated by fewer then 200 people...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 12, 2006

Alabama Constitution Village
404 Madison Street Southeast
Huntsville, Alabama
(256) 564-8100

North Alabama Railroad Museum Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
This attraction is maintained by a group of railroad enthusiasts, who volunteer their time to the museum.

The museum itself is a collection of train cars that have been donated to the museum. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to enter the cars. There is a depot, but you are not allowed to enter it either.

The major plus to this attraction is the rides on the train. About 12 times a year, the group takes the train on a ride through the country side.

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on March 12, 2006

North Alabama Railroad Museum
694 Chase Road Northeast
Huntsville, Alabama 35815
(256) 851-6276

The Historic Huntsville Depot

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Attraction | "Huntsville Depot and Museum"

The Historic Huntsville Depot Photo, Huntsville, Alabama
Quote:
Currently restored to its condition of 1860, the Huntsville Depot shows how this area was impacted by the trains that passed through it. In the 1820s when the depot was built, Huntsville was still a frontier community. When the train company decided to build a line to go from Memphis, on the Mississippi River, to the east coast, the people of Huntsville got together and built this depot.During the Civil War, when Huntsville was taken by Union soldiers, the depot was used as a prison for the Confederate soldiers that were captured. After those soldiers were sent to prison camps, the depot was used to house the Union soldiers stationed to hold Huntsville for the north.You begin the...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 17, 2006

The Historic Huntsville Depot
320 Church Street
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
(256) 564-8100

A Weekend Trip to Huntsville, AL

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Friday: Visit the Huntsville Visitor Center at 500 Church St. Website: www.huntsville.org.Here you can get discount tickets to the local attractions through the passport program. Ask the attendants for coupons to the Botanical Gardens, the Museum of Art (or Early Works if you have children; see below), Burritt on the Mountain, Alabama Constitution Village, and Historic Huntsville Depot. You should also purchase a ticket to the US Space and Rocket Center with the IMAX theatre for $18, saving $1 over the regular price.Be sure to pick up a map of Huntsville for finding the other attractions and a brochure of the walking tour for downtown Huntsville.Also, the people her...Read More