The high-tech city of Huntsville, Alabama is equally at home in the 19th or 21st century. Huntsville’s tourist attractions reflect the heritage of Alabama’s first English-speaking city, the struggles of its pioneers and the accomplishments of America’s rocket scientists.
The city is nicknamed “The Rocket City” for its close history with U.S. space missions. Huntsville has been important in developing space technology since the 1950s. And Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) is Alabama’s No. 1 tourism attraction, hosting more than 650,000 visitors in 2015. Located just off I-565, it is a Smithsonian affiliate, the Official Visitor Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and has one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia anywhere in the world. Among its displays: the original Mercury and Gemini capsule trainers; the Apollo 16 capsule “Casper”; a Skylab solar array; and many hands-on interactive exhibits and space travel simulators. It features its own permanent exhibits and regularly hosts traveling exhibits from around the world. Bus tour passengers may also enjoy daily screenings of films in the full-dome IMAX Theater or on the 52-foot high-definition screen in the National Geographic Theater.
Group rates and programs are available, and tour passengers may dine on site at the Mars Grill. For more information, visit online at rocketcenter.com.
Following your group’s high-tech tour, bring them back to nature with a stop at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. Located just five minutes from the Rocket Center on Bob Wallace Avenue, its 112 acres offer a blend of wildlife, foliage and florals year-round. The facility includes a large butterfly house, educational center and gift shop.
Tours along paved trails include specialty gardens, water features, a G-scale garden railway, arbors, picnic areas and more. Group tours, led by friendly and experienced docents, are available with advance notice and can be customized. The garden is handicapped-accessible and shuttle service can be provided with two weeks’ notice. No on-site dining is available, but with several picnic areas, tour passengers may bring their own lunches to enjoy in the garden. To schedule a group tour please call (256) 830-4447 ext. 223 or email Monica Gilstrap at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another great motorcoach stop is the EarlyWorks Family of Museums, consisting of three museums located in the heart of downtown Huntsville. Alabama Constitution Village is an open-air historical museum, where guides in period clothing take tour passengers through eight Federal-style buildings, describe life in Alabama in 1819 and perform tasks from that era. The Huntsville Depot & Museum takes passengers back to the “rockets” of the rails, with a four-bay roundhouse and turntable, early engines and train cars and historic displays. The EarlyWorks Children’s Museum is a hands-on, interactive spot with a talking tree, oversized instruments, costumes and more. Groups can choose among tickets for one, two or all three museums; discounted rates are available, and reservations are required. For information about group tours of the EarlyWorks Family of Museums, visit online at earlyworks.com.
To learn more about motorcoach tour opportunities in Alabama, including itineraries, visit online at tourism.alabama.gov.