If you look to the night sky and wonder what it's like up there among all the constellations, you're not alone. Few people can experience firsthand the trip past Earth's atmosphere, but one of the South's most popular museums helps the rest of us get a little closer to worlds beyond our own. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, showcases the history of the country's space program and invites visitors to glimpse behind the scenes at the technologies that made it possible.
The museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian, and it's also the official visitors center of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center , a research hub for rocket and spacecraft propulsion. While the galleries and labs tell the stories of humans reaching for the stars, this is more than a stroll through history. There is also virtual reality programming that re-creates major events, including the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
To get even closer to the action, tumble and spin through the air on a Multi-Axis Trainer; it's based on the NASA gimbal rig and simulates the sensation of swirling through space. You can also feel like an astronaut on the G-Force Accelerator or the Moon Shot, which mimics a rocket launch. If your interests lie a little bit closer to Earth's surface, try a flight simulator and learn how to pilot an F-18 Super Hornet aircraft from a replica cockpit.
One of the most memorable programs offered by the museum is Space Camp, which has been inspiring the next generation of scientists since 1982. Experience the stars for yourself with a trip to the museum that does it best, a place that makes the universe accessible for every guest, no astronautic training required.
rocketcenter.com , 256-721-7114, One Tranquility Base, Huntsville, Alabama 35805
Have a Blast in Huntsville
What To Do
After your visit to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, see the rest of what Rocket City has to offer. You can enjoy the outdoors at The Huntsville Botanical Garden and Monte Sano State Park . Find your creative side at the Huntsville Museum of Art and LoweMill Arts & Entertainment , a former textile mill that is now home to galleries, studios, and great performance venues for live music.
Where To Stay
One of Huntsville's newest downtown hotels, 106 Jefferson takes its design inspiration from the city's rocket-filled history and has interiors that nod to the space-race era. To book a room even closer to the museum, try the Huntsville Marriott at the Space & Rocket Center or The Westin Huntsville .
Where To Dine
At Lowe Mill, don't miss The Veggie for vegan comfort food and Pizzelle's Confections for sweet treats. Also check out Gold Sprint Coffee , a cozy, cycling-themed spot where you can order lattes and enjoy travel-friendly breakfast foods. Downtown restaurants The Bottle , The Martin Bar & Bistro , Commerce Kitchen , and Cotton Row are favorites, as are local hangouts such as Green Bus Brewing , Yellowhammer Brewing , and Rocket Republic Brewing .