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One visit to Huntsville and you feel the warmth and security of home as well as a unique sense for what the future holds. Perserving the past, the community takes great pride in its history, as well as its high-tech atmosphere that is shaping the future of this community, nation, and the world.
Area attractions representing a wide variety of interests are:
U.S. Space & Rocket Center - Visitors can view the history and the future of space exploration at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Exhibits range from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft hardware to the U.S. Air Force's SR-71 Blackbird. The Center's collection of rockets has been called "the finest rocket collection in the world" by U.S. Senator and former Astronaut John Glenn.
The Rocket Park exhibit includes the 363-foot, three-stage Saturn V, which took a total of 27 astronauts to the moon. Missiles developed by the U.S. Army Missile Command to help defend our nation, including Pershing and Hawk missiles, can also be seen. Even a display of the celebrated Scud- smashing, Patriot missile of the Desert Storm campaign is in the park.
Visitors can also experience the face-bending force of three Gs (three times the gravity of Earth) in the Centrifuge, the same force used to train early astronauts and today's high- performance jet pilots. You can even experience a futuristic voyage into deep space on the "Journey to Jupiter." The adventure takes place aboard a state-of-the-art, moving simulator and features 70mm film.
The Center also boasts the nation's first, full-scale shuttle mock-up, Pathfinder. The orbiter, mounted on the external fuel tank boosters, looms more than 80 feet above the ground, with a wing span of 78 feet.
.S. Space Camp - U.S. Space Camp, the fastest growing program at the Center, is also located on the grounds. The camp offers exciting and unique learning opportunities for students, adults, and educators. Since 1982, more than 170,000 space enthusiasts have attended the camp. Perhaps the most famous camper has been Chelsea Clinton. The "First Daughter" attended the camp during the summer of 1993. Campers reside in "Space Habitat," a dormitory designed in the shape of a space station. Students ages nine and above are eligible to attend various levels of programs.
Aviation Challenge provides youths and adults with a "Top Gun" experience. Patterned after the skills and drills of high performance jet pilot training, students train at a facility constructed around a lake on the Center grounds. Facilities include flight simulators and trainers, land and water survival areas, and a tower equipped for water recovery.
Marshall Space Flight Center - Tours of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center are also available through the Center. Here you can see facilities where astronauts train for maneuvers in space, such as the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator. This 40-foot-deep and 70-foot in diameter tank holds approximately 1.25 million gallons of water and is used to train astronauts to deal with the weightlessness of space. The excitement of Spacelab Operations Mission Control can also be experienced on the tour, subject to mission schedule.
Von Braun Center - Named after Dr. Wernher von Braun, the Center features an arena, exhibit halls, concert hall, playhouse, and museum. The Center's exterior is highlighted by a plaque placed underneath a ginkgo tree leading the eye upward past Von Braun's arena to the stars.
With a combined exhibit, convention, and banquet space of more than 72,000-square-feet, the Center has the capacity to host a number of events from large trade shows to small parties. For convenience, an in-house kitchen is available for catering. The arena has a capacity of 10,000 for concerts, and can accommodate basketball, the home of The University of Alabama in Huntsville's "Charger" hockey team and the CHANNEL CATS professional hockey team. The concert hall seats 2,171 and hosts numerous musical, theatrical, and dance performances year-round. The playhouse, seating 502, can be used for meetings and seminars.
Alabama Constitution Village - Commemorating the 1819 Constitutional Convention when Alabama entered the Union, Alabama's Constitution Village contains five major buildings and numerous outbuildings with historic gardens. The most recent addition to the Village was a confectioners shop where visitors can sample and purchase a taste of the sweet treats made during the era.
The Village schedules activities throughout the year offering samplings of life from the 19th century. Guides in period dress lead you back to the daily tasks of the Old South such as blacksmithing, weaving, spinning, and candle- making.
Twickenham Historical District - Just east of Alabama's Constitutional Village, this district contains more than 65 antebellum structures. The name Twickenham was derived from the first official name given to the town in 1810. Various architectural style houses built prior to 1860 can be found in the District. Several have been included in the Historic Buildings Survey of 1935 with detailed plans of these structures on file with the Library of Congress.
Huntsville Botanical Gardens - The only institution in North Alabama where plants are the primary focus, this 112-acre garden is a serene haven in the middle of a busy city. Dogwood and nature trails, an orchid greenhouse, and a rose garden are just a few of the garden's many features enjoyed by people of all ages. For those interested in enhancing their botanical knowledge, guided tours, horticulture and botany classes, and a library are available. The garden and reception hall provide an opulent setting for various events such as catered parties, receptions, and weddings.
Huntsville Depot - Built in 1860, the Depot served as the Eastern Division Headquarters of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, providing the local and regional cotton industry with a reliable avenue to two markets. The Depot had a significant impact on the economic growth of the Huntsville community and was used to transport passengers as late as 1968. Motor tours through the historic Twickenham District on the Depot's trolley car are available year-round. Special weekend celebrations are held in April and in October. The Depot, roundhouse, trolley, and grounds are available for parties, reunions, dances, weddings, and receptions. Memorabilia of railroad history is available in the charming Train and Trolley Shop.
Burritt Museum - Built as the retirement home of Dr. William H. Burritt, physician and inventor, this mountaintop haven contains exhibitions of prehistoric, Native American artifacts, rocks and minerals, and 150 years of medical and pharmaceutical equipment. Visitors can also see photographs of the 1887 Monte Sano Hotel and Health Resort. A pioneer village surrounds the house with guides dressed in period clothing demonstrating daily tasks of the era. A day can be spent hiking on the trails by mountain springs, coal mines, or the 1840 Big Cove Turnpike, the site of the Confederate surrender in Madison County in May, 1865. People of all ages will enjoy this serene setting overlooking the city. The house is open March through Thanksgiving with various educational and seasonal events scheduled during this time.
Huntsville Museum of Art - Located in a 23,000-square-foot facility, the Museum is an accredited art museum offering a rich variety of art exhibitions drawn from major institutions, artists, and the Museum's own collection. Educational programs are offered and designed to expand interest and understanding of the arts for children and adults. The Museum's facilities include five exhibition galleries, an auditorium, research library, and an administrative and storage area. A new 60,000-square-foot stand-alone building to be built in Big Spring Park is planned for the Museum in the fall of 1996.
Big Spring International Park - Located west of Courthouse Square, this is the site where John Hunt founded the city in 1805. It became Huntsville's first park in 1843 and was renovated into an international park in 1968. In addition to the numerous ducks and fish which inhabit the park's lake, there are many intriguing gifts from various nations. Yoshino cherry trees from Japan outline the small lake, while an authentic Japanese bridge provides a pathway across the water. There is also a light beacon and fog bell tower from Norway, a beautiful rose garden from Switzerland, and two park benches from the International Women's Club. The gazebo is the center for many summer concerts. The park is also the home of PANOPLY, the annual arts festival which draws visitors from all over the globe. Most recently, the park was the site of the first Big Spring Jam, where 64 musical groups provided a weekend of entertainment to crowds as large as 70,000.
Brahan Spring Park - This park features a covered, heated Olympic-size swimming pool, basketball gym, tennis courts, fishing lagoon, 18-hole Frisbee golf course, paddle boats, and baseball, softball, and soccer fields. There is even a small amusement park with a variety of rides. Certainly, this park provides something for all ages and all interests.
Sharon Johnston Park - A 250-acre recreational area in the county's northeastern portion, this park includes a 12-acre fishing lake, an L- shaped Olympic-size pool with handicap facilities, a horse show and rodeo arena, an open-air chapel, waterfront stage, and skeet, trap, and pistol ranges. The park also offers group hayrides.
Madison County Lake - Located 15 miles northeast of Huntsville at 2501 County Lake Road near Gurley, this 105-acre, state-owned public fishing lake offers boat rentals, grills and picnic facilities, a concession building equipped with fishing tackle, and a bait and snack bar. Madison County Lake requires a fishing license and daily fishing permits. Open daily, sunrise to sunset except December and January when it is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only.
Madison County Nature Trail - Located 12 miles from downtown Huntsville on Green Mountain, the 72-acre nature study park has a 16-acre lake, two miles of trails, a chapel, two outdoor schoolrooms, a covered bridge, Braille trail, azalea garden, and picnic facilities.
Monte Sano State Park - Overlooking the beautiful valleys, this 2,140-acre park sits approximately 1,600 feet above sea level atop Monte Sano Mountain. There are fully equipped rustic cabins available for rent, a country store, playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas, and an amphitheater. There is also a summertime film series at the amphitheater.