Huntsville, Alabama is a hidden treasure.
I found out about it kind of by accident — The Hubs and I had two days
off in a row on the horizon, so I was planning a short get-away for us and researching Mississippi day trips. All these really cool places in Alabama started showing up in my search results, though, and there were two attractions I really wanted to see.
Huntsville just happened to be smack-dab in between them, and so it was a logical place to spend the night!
And now I can’t wait to go back. We barely scratched the surface of what there is to see there. Hopefully next time, we’ll be able to check out some of the more mainstream attractions like the Rocket Center and Monte Sano State Park.
As it is, we explored secret caves and canyons, visited a fun little brewery, and had a really great dinner all in under 24 hours!
From Southern Mississippi, it was a 4-5 hour drive which is probably about the farthest we would attempt for a weekend getaway. Starting from anywhere in Tennessee, Georgia, or the Florida panhandle would also probably be do-able on a 3-day weekend.
Our first stop was Dismals Canyon located 1.5 hours west of Huntsville.
Dismals Canyon, Phil Campbell, AL
It’s privately owned and the admission was a little steep at $12 per adult, but it is so well maintained, family friendly, and truly epic that we found it worthwhile.
After paying admission in their large gift shop/eatery and receiving your trail map, you descend stairs upon stairs down into the canyon. The stairs are actually pretty strenuous and may be unsuitable for those with certain health conditions, but aside from that it was a really low-key trail and many people had their kids and puppies in tow.
The trail brings you past waterfalls and between looming mossy boulders that line a small stream and loops back, about 1.5 miles round trip. A map is provided that makes the trail seem kind of like a scavenger hunt for all their creative place markers and pieces of local trivia.
The canyon is otherworldly and a little eerie even in the daytime. They also do guided tours at night featuring a local glow-worm population!
Where to Eat, Where to Stay
From there, we ran up the road to Huntsville and found our motel for the evening. Knights Inn Huntsville was a great deal for us; I think only about $60 for the night, and it was clean and comfortable.
Dinner at Connors Steak and Seafood where the lights were low, the staff were awesome, and everything was delicious. I had grilled salmon and the hubs endorses their steak which was perfect with the Cigar Box Malbec.
We found breakfast the next morning at the Blue Plate Cafe, which had a fun, retro ambiance. I have never really understood the southern country fried steak thing, but I had a bite of Hubs’ here and it finally made sense — that crispy batter and perfectly seasoned gravy….Try the cheesy hash-browns, too.
Stephen’s Gap Cave
Our primary objective on this trip was to visit Stephen’s Gap.
It. Was. Amazing.
It also happens to be very accessible, even to the novice cave explorer with no gear. I’m going to write a separate post with all the details, but will leave you with this taste. (Update: here’s that post!)
Huntsville is a bit of a brewery hub, so we had to check it out. Our final stop before heading out of town was Below the Radar. Their website doesn’t seem to be working right now, but we were lured in by descriptions of some of their dark beers.
We tried a flight of six that piqued our interest. I don’t think we discovered any new favorites, but some of them were pretty unusual! The Gravel Road Saison tasted like candy. I had high hopes for the 300 Blackout Smoked Porter, but it didn’t knock my socks off.
Huntsville! Recommended for the:
- Craft Beer Enthusiasts
- Budget Travelers