Aerial view of the big town city center of Huntsville, Alabama.

Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville is a big city situated in the Madison and Limestone counties of the US State of Alabama. Placed in northern Alabama's Appalachian region, it is the state's most populous city. The city holds significant cultural and historical importance to the entire nation. Nicknamed "Rocket City," Huntsville is well-known for the achievements of the country's rocket scientists and houses NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center as well as the nation's Army Aviation and Missile Command. Having a population of 491,723 inhabitants, the Huntsville Metropolitan Area is the state's second-most populous metropolitan area. 

Geography And Climate Of Huntsville

An aerial view of the downtown area of the city of Huntsville, Alabama
An aerial view of the downtown area of the city of Huntsville, Alabama.

Huntsville covers a total area of 571.95, of which 568.08 is occupied by land and 3.87 is covered by water. Located in the Tennessee River Valley, Huntsville is surrounded by plateaus and big hills. These plateaus, which are known as "mountains" locally, are connected to the Cumberland Plateau. Along with Round Top, Chapman, Huntsville, and Green mountains, the most noteworthy is Monte Sano Mountain, which is located east of the city. The surrounding terrain in Hunstville is karst in nature, similar to the other regions along the Cumberland Plateau. The Big Spring, a typical karst spring, served as the center of the city's original settlement, and numerous caves, which is common in karst regions, pierce the limestone bedrock under the surface.

According to the Koppen Climate Classification, Huntsville experiences a humid subtropical climate, with hot and wet summers and mild winters. The average temperatures range from 90°F in summer to 49°F in winter. Huntsville lies towards the middle of a broad region of the United States' mid-South that receives the most precipitation in the winter and spring, rather than the summer. The average annual precipitation is more than 54 inches. The wet season lasts from November to May with the wettest month being December. The city experiences a dry seasom from August to October. Due to the its location in the "Dixie Alley,"  Huntsville is more vulnerable to violent, long-track tornadoes than the country's most other portions. 

Brief History Of Huntsville

Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama
Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama.

Before white colonization, the area that would become Madison County was part of the lands of the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indian tribes. The area around Big Spring was a prime hunting ground because of the abundance of wildlife. Around the start of the nineteenth century, despite federal restrictions, unauthorized settlement of Native American territories was attracted by the Mississippi Territory's excellent soil and plentiful wildlife. In 1805, the first settler in the region John Hunt, arrived from Tennessee and lived in the Big Spring area. The Chickasaw relinquished its claims to the region in July of that year. The Cherokee surrendered their territories in January of the following year, and illegal colonization began.

During the 1840s and 1850s, Huntsville was the cotton trade capital of the Tennessee Valley, and planters and businessmen from Virginia and the Carolinas erected elegant town mansions. Along with the pioneers, wealthy planters, and investors who arrived in the area. LeRoy Pope, a tobacco farmer, was among the early planters. A large portion of the Big Spring region, including John Hunt's property, was purchased by Pope and other rich planters when the US government put land in Madison County up for public auction in 1809. Pope rose to prominence as a community leader. In accordance with Pope's proposal, the town was incorporated as Twickenham on December 22, 1809, in recognition of Alexander Pope, an English poet. The name was changed back to Huntsville after the War of 1812 to commemorate the original settler in the city.

Population And Economy Of Huntsville

Tourists enjoying a blue sky day at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Tourists enjoying a blue sky day at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Editorial credit: LMspencer /

Based on the most recent US Census estimates, Huntsville has a population of 215,006 inhabitants. Huntsville's population is currently rising at a pace of 1.60% yearly. The top ethnic groups in Huntsville include: White at 55.17%, African Americans at 29.0%, Hispanic at 7.75%, Asians at 2.51%, Native Americans at 0.4%, Other races at 2.02% and Native Hawaiians at 5.04%. With a 15.23% poverty rate, Huntsville has an average family income of $80,877. Huntsville's economy is mainly driven by aerospace and military technoogy. The significant contributors incude: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenals, Cummings Research Park, Access Network Company Advanced Transmission, etc. Over the last year, the city's job market has grown by 3.6%. Future employment increase is anticipated to be 40.9% during the next 10 years, which is greater than the US average of 33.5%.

Attractions In Huntsville

The Weeden House Museum in Huntsville, Alabama
The Weeden House Museum in the Twickenham Historic District in Huntsville, Alabama. Image Credit: Chris Pruitt, via Wikimedia Commons

Visitors can enjoy a variety of attractions and leisure pursuits in Huntsville. The Twickenham Historic District in Huntsville is home to 60 historic buildings and has the highest accumulation of antebellum homes in Alabama for those who are interested in the city's past. The oldest building in Alabama and the 1819 Weeden House, where artist Maria Howard Weeden lived, is now a city museum. Visitors can view several antebellum and Victorian homes in Huntsville's Twickenham and Old Town Historic Districts during the Pilgrimage Home Tour, which takes place every May.

Free music concert at Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama
Free music concert at Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. Editorial credit: Katssoup /

Big Spring International Park, the historic Big Spring that served as the heart of John Hunt's pioneer village, is now housed within a downtown city park. In April, it hosts the Panoply Arts Festival. Throughout the year, the Huntsville Museum of Art, which is also located on the grounds of Big Spring Park, hosts a variety of exhibitions, which include traveling exhibits as well as the work of nationally and regionally renowned artists. Visitors to Huntsville can participate in a variety of recreational activities.  Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville is a mountaintop park that has drawn tourists since the 1820s. Monte Sano, which translates as "Mountain of Health," was the site of a 19th century sanatorium and hotel resort.

Lily pads in Huntsville Botanical Garden
Lily pads in Huntsville Botanical Garden.

North Alabama's natural beauty and plant communities are displayed in the Huntsville Botanical Garden, which is open all year. Along with several speciality gardens and plant collections, it has a nature trail and wildflower trail. The National Speleological Society's offices are located in Huntsville, which is also a well-known starting place for exploring the numerous caverns in northeast Alabama.

Instrument Unit and Flight Control Computers of the Saturn V at the Saturn V hall in Huntsville, Alabama
Instrument Unit and Flight Control Computers of the Saturn V at the Saturn V hall at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration in the US Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama. Editorial credit: /

The US Space and Rocket Center is the most popular destination for tourists visiting Huntsville. The Redstone Arsenal provided property for the facility, which opened in 1970 and has evolved to become the world's premier museum of space exploration and technology. There are launch and G-Force simulators, cockpit training modules, an IMAX theater, and a digital 3-D theater among the attractions. The US Space and Rocket Center hosts the US Space Camp, which draws guests from all around the world.

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