COnstitution Village at Huntsville, Alabama

The 411 on Huntsville with Kids

Any self-respecting space travel enthusiast will tell you that a visit to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is compulsory when visiting Hunstville with kids, and after having so much fun on my own visit, I won’t argue with that  (click here for my feature review with tips if you plan to go). But historic Huntsville, I quickly discovered, has much more than rockets to offer curious travelers.

Boasting the largest collection of pre-Civil War era homes in Alabama and a higher number of PhDs per capita than you’ll find in other major U.S. cities, you can be certain Huntsville has plenty of sights to stimulate the eyes and intellects of visiting parents and children alike.

So where would I recommend starting if you have the chance to visit Huntsville with kids? Here are 4 great activities to prioritize, with 1 great place to eat and 1 great place to stay during your family’s visit.

Activity 1: Explore the Earlyworks Children’s Museum

Earlyworks Children's Museum
At the Earlyworks Children’s Museum, kids not only step back in time but also into a 46-foot keelboat trading ship, a furnished log cabin, and a stocked general store.

Huntsville’s Earlyworks Children’s Museum showcases many interesting details of life in early Alabama with much for students of history to sink their teeth into. Interactive displays allow families to walk into a typical log cabin, a shop where you can calculate costs of goods by weighing them and see historical samples of the different early state’s currencies, walk on to and through a trading keelboat, and learn all about how the local grist mills worked. Should the mood strike you (or just your kids), there are 19th-century outfits they can try on during their visit. Just beware the talking tree–it can be a bit startling the first time you hear it! If you’re visiting with a toddler or preschooler, don’t miss the separate play area called “Biscuit’s Backyard,” with water table and other hands-on activities for tots. Earlyworks Museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding the major winter holidays. Tip: Save on admission when you buy a pass for this museum + the Huntsville Depot and Museum and/or the Alabama Constitution Village. Click here to find out more about Huntsville’s Earlyworks Children’s Museum.

Activity 2: Cross over to the Alabama Constitution Village

Alabama Constitution Village
Pay a call to the Huntsville of 1819, when Alabama became the twenty-second state.

Just across the street from the Earlyworks Children’s Museum, you’ll find the Alabama Constitution Village. The open-air museum includes the building where delegates gathered in 1819 to inaugurate Alabama as the 22nd state. As you wander throughout the eight buildings here, where costumed interpreters go about their daily tasks, you’ll get a glimpse  the lives and livelihoods of Hunstvillians of that era. Not to be missed: The cabinet maker/furniture maker/toy maker’s building, where everything from chairs and cradles to caskets and toys were built. You’ll hear entertaining stories, see how cabinet makers used their tools to create such solid work, and also learn how toys were used to teach kids important skills, such as the perfect rhythm for milking a cow. Constitution Village is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. but is closed the months of January and February. Click here to find out more about the Alabama Constitution Village.

Activity 3: Venture up to Burritt on the Mountain

Burritt on the Mountain cabin
Take a stroll through the historic log cabins relocated to Burritt on the Mountain

When I first arrived at Burritt, with its sweeping view over Huntsville from the top of Monte Sano, I thought it was all about the quirky mansion built there in the 1930s by the physician & inventor Dr. William Burritt (look for his custom built-in wall speakers and furry trophy collection hanging in the kitchen during your tour). Was I ever wrong. Since leaving his 167-acre estate to the city of Huntsville in 1955, it has sprouted six fully restored and furnished 19th century homes and log cabins brought in from the surrounding area, which you are free to stroll in and out of and explore at your leisure. As someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where most cabins of that vintage decayed in a blackberry bramble long ago, I enjoyed this part of my visit most of all. There is also a fully functioning barnyard with animals to visit, “gold” to be weighed, and costumed interpreters waiting to teach you about life in the rural Huntsville of the 1800s. The park is open Tuesdays through Sundays with hours varying by season. Click here for more information about Burritt on the Mountain.

Activity 4: Go visit the Huntsville Botanical Garden

Butterflies at Huntsville Botanical Garden
Butterflies abound in the nation’s largest open-air butterfly house found right in the Huntsville Botanical Garden.

One of the first things I noticed as I entered the Huntsville Botanical Garden was a procession of stroller-pushers heading off in the same direction. I soon discovered why. Although the 112-acre garden is home to stunning collections of ferns, dogwoods, roses, herbal gardens, a daylily garden and then some, it’s the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s “Children’s Garden” that draws its smallest guests for frequent visits throughout the year. The Children’s Garden is actually eight different themed gardens created just for kids where they can explore the Rainbow Garden with its prisms and kaleidoscopes, splash and play in the Pollywog Bog, or even launch an imaginary space mission in a real space node donated by the Marshall Space Flight Center. The nation’s largest open-aired butterfly house is just at the edge of the Children’s Garden area as well, with thousands of butterflies, a waterfall to walk behind, turtles to watch for and quail crossing through (open May through September only, included with general admission). Click here for more information about the Huntsville Botanical Garden and Purdy Butterfly House.

1 Great Place to Eat: The Blue Plate Cafe

Blue Plate Cafe in Huntsville
Cheesy Browns or Chocolate Chiquita Pancakes? An impossible choice at the Blue Plate Cafe.

If there’s one great place to indulge in an Alabama-style breakfast in Hunstville, locals will point you–as several different locals I asked pointed me–to the Blue Plate Cafe. Not only do they serve up what are arguably the best “Cheesy Browns” in town along with the biscuits and gravy and other hearty southern fair you’d expect, but they also have specialties for your sweet tooth like “Chocolate Chiquita Pancakes” (you can see why no children’s menu is needed!). The Blue Plate Cafe is open for more than just breakfast, too. Visit them any time between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. You’ll find them online at: www.BluePlateCafe.com.

1 Great Place to Stay: Embassy Suites Huntsville

Inside the Embassy Suites Huntsville.
Inside the Embassy Suites Huntsville. ©Embassy Suites Hotels by Hilton.

The Embassy Suites Huntsville is actually within walking distance of both the Earlyworks Children’s Museum and the Alabama Constitution Village, not to mention the restaurants and other attractions downtown. The all-suite hotel gives families two rooms to spread out between with the conveniences of a microwave and small refrigerator, and also serves up hot complimentary breakfasts daily and complimentary grownup and kid beverages with snacks every evening in the atrium. Better still, their indoor pool lets the kids burn off any extra energy in the evenings no matter the season. You can follow these links to see the latest offers for Embassy Suites Huntsville and other hotels while also supporting this site (thank you!):

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Shelly Rivoli

Founder, Editor, & Chief Adventure Officer at Family Travel 411 and Travels with Baby
Shelly Rivoli is the award-winning author behind the Travels with Baby guidebooks and Travels with Baby website and blog, and is the founding editor of Family Travel 411. When she isn't traveling with her husband and three children, she hangs her hat in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter: @travelswithbaby and Facebook: Shelly Rivoli.
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5 thoughts on “The 411 on Huntsville with Kids”

  1. I think I might want to order the Chocolate Chiquita Pancakes! So many good tips – looks like a perfect family destination.

    1. I went with the Cheesy Browns because it was the first time I’d ever heard of them and, being a lover of all things cheese, I had a good feeling about them… but MAN WAS MY PLATE FULL!!! Serious food coma after that breakfast, but one with a big smile on my face!

  2. It’s funny: Despite living less than 3 hours away, Hunstville is one of those towns I’ve just never quite found a reason to make it to. Thanks for giving me some new reasons!

  3. Bret, I grew up in the opposite end of the country, so I’ll admit I’m easily charmed by its good looks, but walking the historic districts and through the cemetery were a serious highlight for me, too. 😉

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