Located in the heart of the Tennessee Valley, Huntsville is a thriving community with roots dating back to the old cotton row days. Known mostly to locals and space enthusiasts, Huntsville, Alabama is a quirky weekend getaway for delicious food, incredible art, where you can maybe pet an alpaca or two.

What to Eat: Jesus Eggs and Pho

Photo Credit: Matt Wake via al.com

Bandito Burrito

Bandito Burrito is more than a Huntsville landmark: it’s a cultural cornerstone of the city. Opened in 1990, Bandito is a family-owned restaurant that takes pride in serving up delicious grub with super friendly staff that will quickly remember your name and order. They’ve got a small but focused menu intent on giving you the best bang for your buck. Be sure to stay a while and order a beer, as they carry several local brews, as well as a few taps out of Birmingham.

Viet Huong

There’s no shortage of Asian cuisine in Huntsville, but the best place is an inconspicuous Vietnamese spot hidden in a strip mall off Hwy 72. What looks like a standard Asian-style buffet or hibachi grill does not prepare you for the whirlwind of aromas and flavors that await inside the door. The first time you visit, do yourself a favor: get the pho. The second (third, fourth, or fifth) time, try one of the clay pots or branch out into bun dishes.

Betty Mae’s Soul Food

If you’re not from the South, Bette Mae’s is an education in soul food. Classic home-cooked fare, you can't go wrong with the catfish, fried chicken, gooey mac n’ cheese, or fried green tomatoes, and peach cobbler. The only mistake you can make is not getting the “Jesus Eggs.” To deprive yourself of Betty’s heavenly take on the devilish recipe would be nothing short of sacrilege.

Photo Credit: via Menuism.com

The Bottle

The Bottle is an upscale dining experience in downtown Huntsville that serves a hybrid of Southern cuisine with French flair. If you’re looking for an excellent Hereford filet, New Zealand rack of lamb, or “Mississippi Rabbit Three Ways,” The Bottle captures all the elegance of Southern charm with effortless grace.

History Lesson: The Final Frontier and an Artists’ Mill

Photo Credit: Ke4roh via WikipediaSpace and Rocket Center

According to most history books, Alabama is not known for being particularly progressive, but what many people don’t realize is that America would not have gone to space if it weren’t for the scientists and researchers in Huntsville. Explore technology used to put man on the moon as you check out moon rocks, eat astronaut food, and experience life at an International Space Station. With several permanent and rotating exhibits, there is always something for the inquisitive Earthling.

Harmony Park Drive-Thru Safari

About 20-miles southeast of the city, Harmony Park Drive-Thru Safari is a privately owned zoo that hosts everything from zebras to bison to peacocks. You can feed the animals right from the safety of your car, but be warned: they can get a little overly friendly. The owners are accommodating, and there are some areas where you can get out to explore smaller animals scurrying around. Be sure to call ahead and make sure they are open, as it is a seasonal venue, and the hours can be sporadic.

Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment

Lowe Mill is quite easily one of the coolest places in Alabama, if not America. Converted from an old cotton mill, it's officially the largest independent center for the arts in the country. With space for over 120 working artists, restaurants, and small businesses, they also have live performance venues and regularly put on theatre and musical productions. It’s an eclectic blend of media and people that you really have to experience for yourself.