Don’t think of me as a girl born and raised in Huntsville, or a woman raising her family here now, or even the social media specialist for the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, because that person might come across as a bit biased in her desire for you to choose Huntsville to host the 2017 Women in Travel Summit (WITS).
Think of me as traveler – just like you – who knows the best place for your next trip, and she doesn’t want you to miss it! I travel quite frequently with my 12- and 10-year-old sons – we’re trying to see every state in the U.S. before they graduate high school – and I often travel alone or with friends to writer/blogger conferences, like WITS.
So from one girl traveler to another, here are a 5 things I look for in a travel destination that I think you can relate to, and – even more importantly – that you can find right here in Huntsville.
When I travel, especially to a conference, I like to take a break from the sessions and the banquet-style conference food and walk around downtown. I love to experience the old buildings and cobblestone walkways and hopefully find some local food and a glimpse into a city’s personality. Recently at a conference, I realized after a day and a half inside the fabulous conference hotel that I hadn’t seen sky or breathed fresh air since I arrived. So I took advantage of one of our breaks and took a stroll through the host city’s downtown area. It was so refreshing! I found a local pizza place, kept walking to a few shops on the square and, before heading back, picked up a latte at a local coffee joint.
Downtown Huntsville is perfect for this kind of exploration! You can do all three of these on the square alone, ducking into Sam & Greg’s for pizza and gelato, visiting Harrison Brothers Hardware to pick up Huntsville-eqsue souvenirs, and getting a coffee to go from A Cup of Everything. Explore a little farther out from the square to Big Spring International Park and enjoy the splashing sound of the big spring, wander over to Pane E Vino for pasta and wine overlooking Big Spring Park, or go healthy with a sandwich and smoothie at The Cozy Cow.
I’m a sucker for natural beauty in a city I’m visiting. I look to experience trees, flowers or natural land formations that are different from what I have back home or at places I’ve visited previously. So in Huntsville, this natural beauty is best if you take a drive up one of our mountains. Not far from downtown, a drive up Monte Sano Mountain will take you to Monte Sano State Park with over 20 miles of hiking trails and beautiful overlooks of the city below. If you’re the adventurous type, the extra effort to drive the few miles to Green Mountain and the Madison County Nature Trail will be worth your reward. The nature trail is an easy walk through the forest, around the glistening Madison County Lake, with treasures like a chapel in the woods and a covered bridge, along the way.
Our bloggers included the Madison County Nature Trail as part of the “5 prettiest, least known spots in Huntsville.” Read it here.
When I visit a new place, I want to know and experience a little bit of who they used to be and how they became who they are today. In Huntsville, that could look like exploring our Civil War history at the Historic Huntsville Depot, our role in Alabama state history at Alabama Constitution Village, or appreciating beautiful historic architecture with walk through the Twickenham Historic District and Alabama’s highest concentration of antebellum homes. Of course, there’s also our space history on glowing display at Alabama’s most popular tourist attraction, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Not only will you see history of the rockets that took man into space and to the moon, you’ll see why Huntsville was – and still is! – a major part of space exploration.
A city needs something that makes it unique, that sets it apart from other cities! In Huntsville, that something is the Saturn V moon rocket. The upright Saturn V model is a beauty to behold, from afar and up close. Getting up close and personal with the Saturn V, a National Historic Landmark, inside the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, is an experience unlike any other, and this is coming from a traveler who’s seen all three Saturn V’s in the world! Think about it: When else in your life will you have the opportunity to dine beneath one of the most powerful rockets ever created – an authentic Saturn V.
We have a rule in my family. When traveling we don’t eat at any restaurant we have back home. This forces us to try local restaurants and new foods. After all, why go to a new place if you’re just going to eat the same things you have back home. So then, what you can eat in Huntsville that you don’t have back home? For starters, tasty pork barbecue, and several local places serve it up right. A few of my favorites are Dreamland BBQ – especially if you like barbecue ribs – or a pork-topped barbecue potato from LawLers or Gibson’s. People around here like to eat their barbecue with a white sauce. Trust me, just try it. We also like a vinegar-based sauce that’s unique to the area and delicious.
Wash it all down with sweet tea from local tea experts Piper & Leaf. Huntsville locals and visitors simply CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF Piper & Leaf tea! The tea artisans at Piper & Leaf blend delicious teas made with the fresh flavors of fruits and herbs grown organically by local farmers — flavors like peaches and cream, strawberry sassafras and lavender. Just one sip and you’ll quickly see taste what all the fuss is about. Plus, their souvenir refill jar is a must-have.
So there you have it ladies! If you didn’t know whether or not you wanted to visit Huntsville before, you do now, right?
See you in 2017, unless you can’t wait that long, in which case I’ll see you before!
(A Rocket City Crash Course)
Which iHeartHsv blogger wrote this?
Heather Smith is a Huntsville native, who left the great state of Alabama just long enough to know it was time to go back home. A former newspaper reporter and author, Heather loves to tell a good story and believes every one and every thing has a story worth telling. Heather is an avid reader, music-lover, movie- and concert-goer, lover of plays and shows and the occasional sports fan. When she’s not cheering on her two sons at basketball or soccer, she can be found sipping white chocolate mochas with caramel drizzle at Starbucks or trying to learn guitar.