Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Huntsville, AL

  • Published 2022/11/15

Home to more than 200,000 people as of the 2020 census, Huntsville is the most populous city in the state of Alabama.

Also known as the Rocket City, it’s the county seat of Madison County and is also part of the counties Limestone and Morgan.

One of the early settlers, LeRoy Pope purchased the area and named it Twickenham, but it was later changed to Huntsville after John Hunt.

The city’s flourishing economy is attributed to its nearby military and aerospace technology, including Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center.

However, tourism also contributes to its progressive economy with unique attractions that draw many people to visit, work, and live in the city.

Museums, restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, and many other fun activities are in store for you, but it’s better not to break the bank!

Here are the free things to do in Huntsville, Alabama:

Explore Big Spring International Park

Bench overlooking Big Spring International Park's pond

Katssoup /

How nice is it to befriend the geese, ducks, and koi with gorgeous cherry trees?

You can find out at Big Spring International Park, where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.

The koi, ducks, and geese are visitors’ favorites as they’ve become friendly to all people visiting the park, especially the kids.

A couple at Big Spring International Park

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The cherry trees are a gift from Japan to Rocket City, which add to the park’s charm and friendly ambiance.

Don’t miss strolling across the red Japanese bridge, also a gift from Major General Mikio Kimata.

Food trucks at Big Spring International Park

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The bridge and the 60 cherry trees are gifts of gratitude to the city for its hospitality during Kimata’s stay when he attended the missile program at Redstone Arsenal in the 1960s.

Big Spring International Park was constructed in 1898 on Church Street Southwest.

It was named after Huntsville’s original water source, Big Spring_._

People at Big Spring International Park

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Let the Kids Cool Down at the Richard Showers Center Splash Pad

When visiting Huntsville in the summer, one of the best ways to cool off is to spend some time at the Richard Showers Center Splash Pad.

Opened in 2016, the splash pad is free for public use, with easy access to lockers and bathrooms with shaded benches and a pavilion.

The splash pad is packed with pop jets and spray fountains and also features a mini waterslide for kids to have fun while enjoying the water.

The Richard Showers Center Splash Pad is located on Dr. Richard Showers, Sr. Recreation Center on Blue Spring Road Northwest.

It also has an indoor pool, meeting rooms, a playground, and sports fields.

Wander through the Old Town Historic District

Houses along Old Town Historic District

Chris Pruitt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of Alabama’s best-kept secrets is the Old Town Historic District, with an old-world charm featuring archaic styles of homes.

See Victorian, Greek Revival, Federal, American Craftsman, Prairie School, and Queen Anne architectural styles.

These preserved homes bring an old-fashioned vibe to the district, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

A house at Old Town Historic District

Chris Pruitt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1973 by homeowners Charles E. and Frances J. Rice, the historic district was an idea of local architect Harvie Jones.

The Old Town Historic District is the second historic district in Rocket City.

The district extends to Holmes Avenue, Pratt, East Clinton, Walker, Lincoln, and Andrew Jackson Way.

Check Out the Patriot’s Mosaic

Freedom is what the military forces, both retired and active, have been fighting for.

Huntsville, one of North Alabama’s homes to over 30,000 military veterans, built the Patriot’s Mosaic to honor its war heroes.

The 15-by-15-foot mosaic comprises 1,296 images of veterans who chose to serve the country with courage and sacrifice.

You can walk through the public grounds of the historic Huntsville Depot Museum to see the patriotic images of the members of the armed forces.

The Patriot’s Mosaic is a fund-raising project of the Earlyworks Family of Museums in partnership with the Madison County Commission.

The museum is located on Church Street Northwest.

Drop Your Fishing Rod at Ditto Landing

Gorgeous sunset reflecting on Ditto Landing's river

James Deitsch /

Another gem in Huntsville which offers fun water activities is Ditto Landing on the scenic Tennessee River.

On a sunny day, you can drop your fishing line at the marina’s fishing spots, which will not cost you a dime.

As long as you have a fishing license, you can enjoy your time of day at the marina while appreciating its beauty and relaxing atmosphere.

Explore the gorgeous riverbanks on foot with gorgeous lush greenery surrounding you.

The charming waters house the sailboats and yachts docking side by side while others cruise around the river.

Picnicking, boating, camping, and special events are also available, but for a fee.

Huntsville pioneer James Ditto established Ditto Landing in 1807.

Get in Tune with Nature at Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve

To enjoy the beauty of nature, head to Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve, with about 4.5 miles of trails to explore.

You can enjoy hiking while appreciating nature in the form of a fresh spring, hickory trees, persimmon, flowers, and more.

The trails are marked, easy, and flat and are great for hikers at all levels.

While strolling, you’ll be face-to-face with pines, red buckeye, maple-heavy forest, and tiny creeks winding through the mountain.

The 472-acre Chapman Mountain Nature Preserve is also a favorite spot for bikers and equestrians.

The Terry family donated the property, which was established in 2018.

Its trailhead is located on Highway 72 East.

Tour around the North Alabama Railroad Museum

Railcar at North Alabama Railroad Museum

Jeff Hunter from Madison, AL, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another gem the city offers is a chance to see vintage trains at the North Alabama Railroad Museum at no charge.

You can enjoy a free self-guided tour around the museum and learn about North Alabama’s railroad history.

The museum highlights the Chase Depot, the smallest union depot in the U.S.

Three historic locomotives are preserved alongside over 30 freight and passenger equipment you can see at the museum.

Boxcar at North Alabama Railroad Museum

William Hunter, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tour sheets are also available at the museum.

Train rides are available by schedule, although you’ll have to pay for tickets if you want to experience old-world rides.

The North Alabama Railroad Museum was established in 1966 on Chase Road Northeast.

Join the Fun at Lucky Duck Scavenger Hunt

The Huntsville Visitors Bureau hosts a free exciting activity downtown called Lucky Duck Scavenger Hunt, which lets you explore downtown.

The hunt is available 24 hours a day, allowing you to do it at your most convenient time with family and friends.

It’s a fun way to explore downtown and learn the city’s rich history while looking for the 14 lucky ducks hidden downtown.

You can visit the Visitor Center at Church Street Northwest to get a free clue for finding all the ducks.

Once you’ve collected all 14 ducks, drop by the center to claim your special prize!

On a sunny day, do this Lucky Duck Scavenger Hunt with ice cream in hand and enjoy the fun!

Take a Stroll at the Historic Maple Hill Cemetery

Headstones at Maple Hill Cemetery

LonelyPilgrim, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Strolling around Maple Hill Cemetery may sound scary, but once you’re there, you’ll be amazed by the site’s history and the story of war veterans, known public figures, and Huntsville’s pioneers.

The Huntsville Pilgrimage Association volunteers will guide you and reveal many fascinating stories about the cemetery and the notable people buried there.

See the gorgeous sugar maples turn red, bright yellow, and orange in the fall.

Maple Hill Cemetery was founded in 1822 and is the largest and oldest cemetery in Huntsville.

It’s one of the four active cemeteries in Rocket City.

You can find it on Maple Hill Street Southeast.

Take a Secret Art Walk at the Quigley Arts & Entertainment District

For fun and artsy outdoor activity in Huntsville, take a secret art walk at the Quigley Arts & Entertainment District downtown.

It’s another exciting way to discover the city’s rich history and culture while appreciating art.

The art trail will get you closer to the artists and the city’s public art, featuring more than 20 masterpieces.

Stroll around the downtown nooks and crannies, take a peek, peer down, or look up to see these amazing works of art.

Do the secret art walk with a drink in hand, served in a purple cup.

The art trail is courtesy of Arts Huntsville.

If you want to see more of it, check out the Mae Jemison Segment art trail in Big Spring International Park.

Walk through the Bridge Street Town Center

People walking along Bridge Street Town Center

Mactones, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Huntsville is home to many scenic trails, which will amaze you during your visit.

One of the city’s most-visited spots with walking trails is the Bridge Street Town Center on The Bridge Street.

The shopping center features a five-acre lake, two beautiful fountains, three waterfalls, and a Pop Jet Fountain, perfect for kids.

On weekends, local musicians play until evenings to keep visitors entertained while enjoying the sights.

Shops at Bridge Street Town Center

Mactones, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This upscale shopping center houses restaurants and stores featuring brands like Apple, Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret, and more.

The Bridge Street Town Center was established in 2007 by O&S Holdings.

Miller Capital Advisory purchased it in 2012.

Buildings at Bridge Street Town Center

Mactones, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Experience the Beauty of Night Life at Downtown Huntsville Night Light Trail

As soon as the sun goes down, the lights downtown glow from Big Spring International Park to the Clinton Row Color walk.

The colors of the lights change as you stroll around downtown Huntsville Night LightTrail.

The lights highlight the public art masterpieces scattered downtown, giving them dramatic lighting and a spotlight.

It’s a unique way of exploring downtown at night.

Get those happy feet ready and explore the Night Light Trail at Clinton Avenue, and West Side Square, among others.

Step Back in Time at Twickenham Historic District

Weeden house at Twickenham Historic District

Voxinferior, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The first historic district in Rocket City, known as Twickenham Historic District, features Greek Revival Late Victorian and Federal architectural styles of homes.

These homes existed since the early 1800s when Virginia-native architect George Steele introduced them to Huntsville.

Twickenham Historic District also houses the homesite of Maria Howard Weeden, an artist and poet whose works include African-American portraits.

Cox house at Twickenham Historic District

Voxinferior, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See the fascinating antebellum homes and imagine life during the early days.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the district was named after Huntsville’s original name Twickenham.

A house at Twickenham Historic District

Chris Pruitt, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Attend the Panoply Arts Festival

Live music, arts and crafts, demonstrations, exhibits, and interactive activities await you at the Panoply Arts Festival!

It’s celebrated annually on the last weekend of April in a series of three-day events at Big Spring International Park and Von Braun Center.

The festival consistently ranks in the “Top Twenty Events” by the Southeast Tourism Society.

The first Panoply Arts Festival was held in May 1982 and has attracted many tourists to celebrate in Huntsville with the locals.

Join the fun and experience Huntsville’s longest-running festival to date!

Pay Tribute to the Fallen Heroes at Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial

Statues at Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial

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Huntsville is home to large military forces, honored at Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial.

You can walk through the park to see the memorial of fallen heroes, statues and pools, medals of honor, monuments, flags, and more.

Wounded warrior statue at Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial

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These fallen heroes were from Madison County, who served the armed forces from World War I to the present.

Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial was founded in 2001.

It’s nestled on Monroe Street Northwest.

Battlefield memorial at Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial

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Final Thoughts

Huntsville is a perfect definition for soaking up history and art.

The city prides itself as home to many historical sites and world-renowned art, which are all free to experience.

On your visit, try these free things to do in Huntsville, Alabama!

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