Behind the Scenes Huntsville: Places You Might Not Know We Can Totally Go!

Sure, most of our neighbors might have a security clearance of some level or another. AND, there may be running jokes about the “Stranger Things” level of “we could tell you, but then we’d have to kill you” type research being done here. BUT, none of that means you and I can’t be privy to a little inside information about some, not as secret as you thought, Rocket City goings on. Here’s a handy dandy list of some of those off limits locations where you can occasionally push the limit.

Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology

HudsonAlpha, the folks who put the DNA in Huntsville’s…well…DNA, may seem like a smart people hub in the middle of Cummings Research Park doing mysterious, magical, science-y things (and they are) but they’re not afraid to “drop some knowledge” with you and me. In this spirit, they host quarterly public tours; those scheduled for the remainder of 2019 are September 12th and December 12th. Tours begin at 10:00 a.m. in the HudsonAlpha atrium, are usually an hour to 90 minutes long and require quite a bit of standing and walking. The recommended ages for tours is 12 years old and up.  After the tour, participants can even grab a bite to eat at the cafe in the atrium which is open to the public. To register, visit:

Harrison Brothers Hardware

Our beloved Harrison Brothers Hardware started as a family-owned business and their store has operated on the downtown Huntsville courthouse square since 1897. These days, they’re less about hammer and nails and more about local goodies, art, Huntsville-centric souvenirs and so much more. Fear not though, the inside still holds every bit of the charm and nostalgia of days gone by, proudly displaying lots of nods to their storied past like the Harrison Brothers’ business desk, the old safe and even the 1907 cash register.

But, did you know that every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, Harrison Brothers Hardware open up the basement for a warehouse sale. You can find anything from gorgeous old doors to fireplaces mantels to window panes ready for your next Pinterest project. They’re open 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Go check it out and then let me know what kind of repurposed masterpiece you create!

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Perhaps the granddaddy of all “behind the scenes” is Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center. Believe it or not, I’ve got not one but TWO ways for you to see some of the historic and world-changing stuff they’re doing out there.

First up, the Marshall Space Flight Center Bus Tour! Did you know, you can take a bus from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for a tour of the MSFC facilities and it includes stops at the Historic Test Stands and the Propulsion Research and Development Laboratory. Here’s the scoop:

“The MSFC Bus Tour ticket is $20 for guests ages five and up and children ages four and under are permitted to ride free. The tour bus departs every day at 12:30 p.m. CST from the blue awning located in front of the main entrance to the USSRC. The tour is led by a trained Museum Presenter, allowing guests to sit back and relax as the presenter explains the past, present and future of Marshall Space Flight Center. Tickets must be purchased at the main ticket desk or call 256-721-7114 for pre-paid reservations. Please note that bus tour ticket sales close each day at 12 p.m. CST.”

NASA Bus Tour Rules:

  • All participants must be U.S. citizens
  • Picture I.D. (state issued driver’s license or Passport) required for anyone 16 years of age or older.
  • No large bags or backpacks
  • Bags may be subject to inspection
  • No food or drinks
  • Bathrooms are not readily available
  • No weapons allowed
  • No outstanding warrants”

A perfect way to “WOW” your friends, family and out of town guests with all your fancy insider knowledge.

This next one is for your true space aficionado, professional science nerd or just plain curious civilian; it’s a NASA Social. “What’s a NASA Social?”, you ask. Well, I am here to tell you! (No seriously, that’s why we’re here, me telling you what stuff is…I digress) A NASA Social is when NASA centers throughout the country including our own NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center, put out a call to anyone interested in learning more about their current missions to apply for upcoming hosted day events. These events occur multiple times a year and you can even set an alert to be informed when a new opportunity posts. Participants are escorted by NASA staff, given briefings by leaders or project teams and there’s usually some pretty cool NASA swag involved too. It is an application process, there are a few exclusions, rules and regulations, but not many, so go check it out: NASA Social

The Historic Homes in the Twickenham District

If you’ve found yourself driving through downtown Huntsville, passed the gorgeous historic homes in the Twickenham District, and are anything like me, you’ve thought, “I wonder what these look like inside?” Guess what? You have the opportunity to find out.

Each December, you can join in for the Annual Spirit of Christmas Past Homes and Luminary Tour.

And though a date in the new year has yet to be released, ArtsHuntsville is known for hosting their Art Tour of Homes event in January, which generally has a house or two in Twickenham featured.

Can’t wait for one of these events? Well then, good news for you! The Weeden House Museum is the only home in the district that is open as a museum and they would love to give you a tour. Guided tours are offered Wednesday-Saturday at 10:30 AM or by appointment and admission is $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children 12 and under (cash only).

They say, curiosity killed the cat, but it doesn’t have to be any skin off your nose. So, get out there! There’s lots to see and do in the Rocket City; some of it’s just a little less obvious.

Originally published at Our Valley Events.


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