If you are coming from points north of Huntsville, Alabama, chances are you’ve had a taste of Fall. Perhaps leaves are past their peak where you live, and cold rainy or icy weather has set in. If you love Fall and hate to see it decline into winter so quickly, come to Huntsville where Fall weather begins sometime in October and lingers well into December. Temps as I write this are a pleasant 70 degrees during the day, down to low 60s at night! If you already live in Huntsville, you already know that the best way to experience this much-anticipated change in seasons is to get outside! Every year I look forward to doing just that, and the following are my top 5 favorite recommendations to get you outside in Huntsville:
- Monte Sano State Park – A favorite for locals and visitors alike, Monte Sano sits atop the mountain of the same name and has views in all directions of surrounding forests, with spectacular and long-lasting fall color, crisscrossed with miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. My favorite thing to do in Monte Sano in the fall is stay in the stone cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) between 1935 and 1940. The original 11 cabins feature wood burning fireplaces, full kitchen, ¾ bath, and are kept very clean. Some of the cabins are even pet friendly! Over the last couple of years, I have cultivated my own tradition of reserving a cabin for a weekend and bringing my mountain bike to spend long hours outdoors pedaling through the crisp fall air and listening to fallen leaves crunch under my bicycle tires. Last year, I attended a show at the Monte Sano planetarium and enjoyed a moonlit walk back to the cabin. Keep in mind that temperatures at Monte Sano are generally 10 degrees cooler than in Huntsville at any time of year, so pack accordingly!
- Huntsville Ghost Walks! – Whether you really believe in the hereafter or are just hedging your bets, Huntsville Ghost Walks are a great way to learn about local folklore and even a little history. Tours are offered of Twickenham (antebellum homes), Old Town (Victorian era homes) and Downtown (This one is touted as having “the most murders”!). Ghost walks take place every Friday and Saturday during the months of September and October and cost only $10 per person.
- Huntsville Historic District Fall Walking Tours – Unlike the ghost tours, these walking tours occur during the day and are led by local residents. A couple of years ago, I took the Five Points neighborhood walking tour, which was led by local resident Jan Williams, who spent his childhood playing in the streets of Five Points. Mr. Williams had many entertaining stories to share about growing up during a time when Huntsville was transitioning from a typical small Southern town to “Rocket City USA”, a nickname earned during the early days of the space program. Those days also heralded the arrival of a large population of German engineers and scientists, following in the footsteps of Werner Von Braun. The Walking Tours take place every year in October in Five Points and Old Town historic districts, and are free of charge.
- The Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll – Of all the tours and reading I’ve done over the past 7 years to learn about Huntsville, nothing has educated or entertained me more than the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll. Volunteers of varying acting ability dress up as historic figures who are buried in the cemetery, stand at the graveside and tell “their” stories to passersby. I went to my first cemetery stroll 7 years ago and haven’t missed it since. There are over 100 historic figures portrayed each year, and every time I go, I “meet” someone new. The event typically occurs in mid-October. In 2018, it will take place on Sunday, 21 October, from 1:30 to 4:30pm. Entrance is free and donations are welcome.
- Fall Festivals, Apple Picking and Farmers’ Markets! – Probably due to the picture perfect weather this time of year, Huntsville and surrounding areas have a full calendar of Fall Festivals and other seasonal events for every weekend from September to Thanksgiving and beyond. There are also several apple orchards in the area, some of which allow you to pick your own, others pick them for you! My favorite orchard to frequent is Scott’s Orchard near Hazel Green, AL, about 30 minutes from Huntsville. Scott’s offers a wide variety of apples, apple cider, apple and peach slushies, pumpkins and other Fall treats. The later it is in the Fall, the sweeter the apple cider! If you prefer to stay close to town, try one of the numerous farmer’s markets in the area. At this time of year, producers at these markets transition to seasonal offerings like pumpkins and other winter squashes and, of course, apples!
However you choose to do it, don’t miss this opportunity to get outside and make the most of this wonderful season!