#FindYour in #DowntowHuntsville

In October 2013, DHI debuted our original Place Branding campaign for Downtown Huntsville featuring interesting images paired with clever phrases describing the Rocket City Center (a big h/t to our friends at Matter for leading that campaign). At the time, many of today’s favorite Downtown shopping and dining destinations weren’t open yet so the available inventory of images was fairly sparse.

Fast forward to 2017 and DHI updated our Place Branding efforts with the “We Are Downtown Huntsville” campaign. Featuring “real people, doing real things, at real places” in Downtown Huntsville, the “We Are” campaign featuring many new Downtown entrepreneurs, artists, and thought leaders doing their dynamic thing in the city center. 

The campaign was designed to introduce (or, in some cases, “re-introduce”) the authentic new spaces and places in Downtown Huntsville since DHI got started in 2013. Whether is was brewing, shopping, creating or more, the images represented the fast-paced and unique new growth in Downtown (a big h/t to Kadie Pangburn for the incredible images).

This week, DHI unveiled our newest Place Branding campaign:  #FindYour in #DowntownHuntsville.  While the “We Are” campaign told you about our incredible city center, the “Find Your” campaign builds on that and invites you to experience first-hand the uniqueness that makes Downtown Huntsville so amazing (another h/t to Kadie for the great images in this campaign too).

The diverse type of experiences throughout Downtown Huntsville are featured with beautiful images and stylized suggestions for authentic ways to experience the Rocket City Center. Similar to “We Are”, there are no actors or stock photos featured in the “Find Your” campaign. Instead, these are actual Hunstvillians experiencing actual spaces and places in the Downtown area.

Thanks to all of the participating people and venues who joined us in making the #FindYour in #DowntownHuntsville campaign such an exciting new way to share the compelling Place Brand that makes Downtown Huntsville an interesting and authentic destination.

Lincoln Mill Office Campus—An Eclectic and Historic Urban Office Option

Recently, DHI Member Mission Multiplier celebrated the Grand Opening of their new headquarters at Lincoln Mill Office Campus. Serving as one of the “anchors” of the Lincoln Mill District just north of the Downtown Core, the office campus is quickly becoming a priority destination for innovation-centric companies like Mission Multiplier.

Some may not have likely envisioned Lincoln Mill evolving into a technology office campus when it originally opened at the turn of the 20th century. The now 100 plus year-old mill eventually became the largest cotton mill in Alabama during the early 1900s. That’s exactly what happened, though, in the 1950s when local business leaders purchased the mill and converted it into the Huntsville Industrial Complex.

Known as the HIC Building then, the conversion was designed to attract the Army missile command and Dr. Werner von Braun and his team to Huntsville. It soon became a hub of technology research with companies like Boeing and Brown Engineering opening offices in the HIC Building. Eventually, both the Army and many of the contractors relocated to Redstone Arsenal leaving the HIC Building increasingly empty despite its extensive retrofit from a cotton mill to a technology campus.

In 2008, the current ownership group undertook an effort to revitalize and rebrand the facility as the Lincoln Mill Office Campus. Today, a new generation of innovators call Lincoln Mill home with companies like Engenius Micro, Noetic Strategies, Bangham Engineering, and SkyTap among others.

Many of the modern cadre of companies are drawn to the fact that Lincoln Mill is uniquely situated as a HUBZone less than a mile from the Downtown Core (and connected by bike lanes to the northside of Downtown).

In addition to the technology companies, other innovators like DesignLab and Metropolitan DJ have opened unique new spaces in the mill.  The convenient city center location and growing number of creative destinations like Preservation CoHoltz Leather Co. and Mad Malts Brewing nearby make Lincoln Mill a compelling destination for innovators looking to open space in the Rocket City Center. 

Especially interesting is the “still to be renovated” Dye House portion of the campus. With high ceilings, expansive windows revealing extensive natural light and unique industrial-era features, the Dye House offers many flexible opportunities including the possibility of serving as home for quirky “destination retail” space. Whether it’s a brewery, distillery, entertainment or other use, the Dye House is one of the most interesting remaining spaces to be re-purposed in the Downtown Huntsville area.

Top 5 Reasons to Enjoy the Apollo 50th Dancing In The Streets Celebration

"My friends, there was dancing here in the streets of Huntsville when our first satellite orbited the earth. and there was dancing again when the first Americans landed on the moon. I'd like to ask you don't hang up your dancing slippers." Wernher von Braun

Mark your calendars for July 19th! We will be Dancing In The Streets of Downtown as we celebrate the Apollo 50th Anniversary from 5-9pm around the Downtown Huntsville Square. A huge thanks to Media Fusion, LLC, A Poarch Creek Indians Company for sponsoring this event!

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Curious about what Dancing In The Streets involves? No worries, we are here to share with you the top 5 reasons to come out and enjoy Dancing In The Streets!

1.) Epic digital mapping! If you have ever experienced LIT then you will not want to miss this “LIT like” digital mapping experience from Media Fusion, LLC. As the night winds down, on 200 Westside Square a projection will appear that will bring the building to life as the public experiences a visual celebration of the Rocket City’s involvement of man’s first steps on the moon. This amazing digital experience includes historical Apollo footage, incredible NASA surprises and you just may see Dr. Wernher von Braun…

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2.) Free music! Each side of the Square will be playing a different decade of music from the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and current hits! The bands and DJ's that will be playing music on the square are all affiliated with Marshal Space Flight Center (NASA).

Northside Square will have 60’s-70’s music played by Just Like Grady, who is a local band from Madison, AL. All of their members are from NASA MSFC and Redstone Arsenal MDA. You can expect to hear plenty of classic and space themed Apollo era hits from the 60’s and 70’s including Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Eagles, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, Jimi Hendrix and many more!

Eastside Square will have a DJ spinning all the 80’s hits that make you want to dance!

Southside Square will have the band Falcon Punch playing classic 90’s songs! The band started off in 2014 made of members from NASA and the Army. You can expect to hear hits from artists such as The Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Green Day and Pearl Jam!

Westside Square will have the band 3Way Handshake! You can hear music from the 2000’s to the present, including hits from: 3 Doors Down, OneRepublic, The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Keith Urban, Pharrell Williams, Cupid, Bruno Mars and Evanescence to name just a few!


3.) A moon ball launch! As the evening kicks off there will be a moon ball launch sponsored by our friends at Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc. This means "moon" beach balls being dropped all around when the Polaris replica of the Lunar Rover Vehicle has landed in Downtown. If you want to join in on the Lunar Rover Walk to Downtown check out this page for more information!

4.) NASA exhibits from the last 5 decades! There will be incredible exhibits from Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA) on all sides of the square that you will not want to miss. Each side of the square will be themed a different decade with an exhibit to match that decade. There will be exhibits from Apollo, Space Shuttle, International Space Station all the way to SLS!

5.) Post Launch Celebration! The official “street” dancing may end at 9pm, but feel free to continue your night at the Post Launch Celebration sponsored by Lockheed Martin on the Big Spring Park Terrace from 9-11pm! There will be music, dancing around a replica Satern V rocket engine made by LED-Orange Productions and an incredible time you do not want to miss.

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As a bonus, or maybe there are actually 6 reasons why you should be at Dancing In The Streets… The Food Truck All Stars 2019 will take place at The Square as well!

All of these events are FREE to the public, all ages friendly and pets are welcome if on a leash.

We hope to see you in Downtown Huntsville next Friday with your “dancing slippers” on!

The Downtown Open Returns!

It’s mid-June and that means one of our favorite annual events has returned to Downtown Huntsville. The award-winning Downtown Open presented by Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group debuted last Thursday and runs through June 23rd. This free “Pop Up” Putt Putt course is bigger than ever as 31 holes wind through the Rocket City Center.

While the Downtown Open is free to play throughout the event, we thought we’d share 5 “Spackler Pro Tips” developed by the 2019 Downtown Open Honorary Chairman Carl Spackler. 

Spackler Pro Tip #1:  Grab a free course map and scorecard like the one below. It’s a handy way to work your way through the course that covers over 6 city blocks. You can get your card from the DHI office, Harrison Brothers Hardware, Honest Coffee Roasters, Big Oh’s, Rivenbark & Roper Antiques and Green Bus Brewing. Spackler also notes that golf balls and putters are available to borrow at the previous locations as well thanks to The Ledges and Insanity Complex.

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Spackler Pro Tip #2:  Challenge your colleagues to a competition. With 30+ holes, lots of companies, community organizations, and friend groups often meet at the Downtown Open for an afternoon or evening of free fun and a potential side bet or two. Some of the holes are pretty easy to putt but some definitely make a Par 5 seem like a solid score.

Spackler Pro Tip #3: Try a Trail while you play. Did you know that the Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail, Craft Coffee Trail, and Secret Art Trail each have official stops along the Downtown Open course? You can visit Green Bus Brewing, Below the Radar, and Old Town Beer Exchange while enjoying the Open or you can check out Honest Coffee Roasters and Piper & Leaf’s new Downtown location, Piper & Leaf Constitution Park, while you min-golf around the city center. And, almost every Secret Art Trail is located near a Downtown Open hole!

Spackler Pro Tip #4: Make it a date! That’s right, we often see couples putting along the Open on a date night. Combine your putting with a romantic meal or after dinner cocktail and you’ll have aced all the ingredients for a birdie-ful evening.

Spackler Pro Tip #5:  Combine the Open with another event. During the course of the 10 day Downtown Open you can enjoy other great Downtown events like Under the Lights, Friday Night Live, Food Truck All Stars, Concerts in the Park, Tangled Strings Music Festival, Rock the Block just to name a few!

Exciting Cycling Growth in the Rocket City Center

Huntsville’s emerging bike scene recently received some nice recognition from People For Bikes when the bike advocacy group ranked Huntsville as the 37th best bike city out of over 500 cities that were ranked.  Even more impressive is that Huntsville was one of the highest ranked cities in the entire Southeast and was ranked 3rd in the nation in the category of “Acceleration”.

This is an important category because it recognizes the pace at which a city is increasing its bicycle resources. In particular, People For Bikes defines Acceleration as “how quickly a community is improving its biking infrastructure and getting people riding."

All of this fantastic recognition gave us a reason to reflect on the exciting cycling scene right here in Downtown Huntsville. From slow rides to cycle tracks, the Rocket City Center is seeing well-paced growth in our bicycle resources. Let’s take a look at a few…

1. Slow Rides: While time trials and crits are great for competitive cyclers, slow rides are a fantastic way for recreational riders to experience life on two wheels. Downtown Huntsville has seen a growing number of slow rides added through the year. In addition to the Mayor’s Bike Ride each May, the monthly Bikes & Brews is one of the most popular slow rides anywhere in the region. With multiple stops at local breweries and craft beer establishments, Bikes & Brews brings together a community of Huntsvillians who appreciate both. Downtown Huntsville is also home to the annual Tweed Ride and Tour de Ville which brings together slow riders with themed tours of Downtown and a variety of unique experiences.

2. The Actual Bikes: Downtown Huntsville is home to one of the most popular Pace bikeshare systems with nearly 100 bikes across multiple stations all around the city center. The app-based Pace system allows riders to check out bikes from both the permanent stations as well as any public bike rack where a Pace bike is located. This ability to start and stop your ride at any public bike rack dramatically expands the scope of bike availability around Downtown. In addition to Pace, Huntsville Urban Bikeshare (HUBS) provides bicycles for group events that have included everything from Leadership Greater Huntsville groups to the various slow rides in the city center. For a different type of pedaling experience, you and your friends can hop aboard the Rocket City Rover “pedal pub” and experience Downtown destinations while pedaling away at your own pace. And, of course, if you want to purchase your own bike, Downtown options currently include the Trailhead bike shop at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment (with rumors that at least another bike shop may be considering a Downtown location). 

3. Bike Infrastructure: In 2018, Downtown Huntsville won an International Downtown Association award for the Spragins Connector—the new cycle track that connects Depot Park and Big Spring Park East. The cycle track was recognized for embracing advanced technology and for connecting two bike friendly paths in both parks. By connecting these parks, the ability to ride a bike apart from motor vehicles was dramatically expanded. This strategy arose from the recent Downtown Huntsville Master Plan Update which proposed expanding bike infrastructure throughout Downtown. A new phase of this expansion is underway as new bike lanes are added to Clinton Avenue from Campus 805 toward the Von Braun Center as part of the City’s Complete Streets grant for that section. This initial phase will be supported by subsequent phases that extend the Clinton Avenue extension deeper in the Downtown core as well as add new bike infrastructure on Holmes Avenue from Downtown to UAH and connecting Gateway Greenway to the Meridian Street bikes lanes in the Lincoln Mill District. While we’d always love even more, even faster, these actual and planned expansions are one of the major reasons People For Bikes scored Huntsville so highly.

Image from  AL.com

Image from AL.com

As you can see, the Downtown Huntsville bike scene is experiencing exciting growth in all phases.  These are just a few of the examples of the great cycle experiences throughout the Rocket City.  With the warmer weather here, consider touring Downtown Huntsville and our beautiful neighborhoods and districts on two wheels this Summer!

The Podcasts of Downtown Huntsville

Downtown Huntsville has become a creative hub featuring national quality breweries, artisans, and makers of many kinds. Did you know that the Rocket City Center is also home to a concentration of several incredibly interesting podcasts? 

If not, then we’re excited to share a recent cross-over podcast where five of the leading Downtown HSV podcasts convened at Old Town Beer Exchange for a candid conversation on the exciting changes and growth happening here.

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The participants ranged from long-standing podcasts to brand new entries into the market. They all include Huntsvillians with a strong passion for Downtown and our City as a whole.

The featured podcasts included:

1. Ben and Dan from Spice Radio Huntsville (@spiceradiohuntsville) who focus on the fantastic local music talent in the Rocket City

2. Tom from Know Huntsville (@knowhuntsville) which records in the heart of Downtown at Clinton Row and focuses on art and culture conversations as well as their new Fret Shop Sessions music series

3. Jessie from People of Huntsville (@peopleofhuntsville) which also records at Clinton Row and emphasizes authentic conversations on a wide variety of important human topics

4. Tim from In Tune with TMill (@intunewithtmill) which focuses on “thinking out loud” related to important topics designed to “change the status quo”

5. Bill with Uprising (@uprisinghsv) which is the newest podcast and features conversations with local artists and entertainers filmed in the beautiful Light-On Yoga Fitness studio overlooking Downtown from the top floor of the Historic Times Building

As you can see and hear from the full episode below, these podcasters bring an important dynamic to Downtown Huntsville on a wide variety of topics addressing almost every aspect of life in the Rocket City.

We hope you enjoy this unique crossover episode and connect with these amazing Downtown Huntsville-based podcasts for many episodes to come!

Hey IDA, thanks for visiting Downtown Huntsville!

Downtown Huntsville was thrilled to host the inaugural International Downtown Association Place Branding and Placemaking Summit where we welcomed Downtown experts from over 30 different states to the Rocket City Center. The three-day event featured thought-provoking presentations, interactive sessions, and some really quirky and interesting hospitality experiences. For this week’s Downtown Explorer blog, we offer a quick recap and wrap-up from three days of incredible conversations.

Day One:

As our guests arrived at Huntsville International Airport, they were greeted with “Welcomes” on the airport jumbotron and other locations like these fun floor clings created by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Our first official activity started with a Secret Art Walking Tour through Downtown that, while pretty wet, featured our eclectic “secret art” throughout the city center. 

Fortunately, the weather cleared for a kick-off reception that featured a mini Big Spring Crush wine, bourbon and wild game tasting followed by a “field trip back to school” for the opening reception experience.  Event guests were transported via school bus to Campus 805 where their “Report Cards” allowed them to sample a variety of food and beverage both on and off campus. Add in some live music from the Silvery Moon Band and it was a wonderful way to begin the event.

Day Two:

Meeting at the beautiful new AC Hotel in Downtown Huntsville overlooking Big Spring Park, event guests learned from Master Talks (essentially 12-minute keynotes) along with a variety of sessions focusing on best practices and innovative strategies for place branding and placemaking in walkable settings.

Thanks to all of our presenters for bringing fantastic new ideas and conversations to these important topics

In addition to great content, our second day featured a mini Food Truck Rally in Big Spring Park East, coffee breaks featuring the Downtown Huntsville Craft Coffee Trail stops and morning jogs and yoga in the city center.

An amazing second day wrapped up with a special IDA Block Party along Clinton Row where event guests mingled with locals and experienced great live music, local shopping plus food and beverages, some axe-throwing, retro arcade gaming and the return of Downtown Huntsville Ink screen printing t-shirts.  Event guests lingered late into the evening throughout the many food and beverage options in Downtown Huntsville including an evening wrap-up at Green Bus Brewing.

Day Three:

As our guests departed (and some even extended their stays because they were having so much fun), we officially concluded the event with a trolley tour of three “best in class” adaptive re-use projects in the Downtown area including Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment, Stovehouse and Campus 805.  Almost every participant remarked how cool it would be to have each of these in their own city centers.

When we first began to plan this event, we had high expectations with a great National Planning Committee, Local Host Committee, and the incredible IDA Team plus our amazing DHI Staff.  We can now confidently say that even these high expectations were exceeded by everyone as the first ever International Downtown Association Place Branding and Placemaking Summit was a resounding success and will be an important event we remember in Downtown Huntsville for years to come.

A big thanks to everyone who made this great event happen!

Summer Shopping in the City Center

We love the Summer season in Downtown Huntsville. So many great events, patios and parks to experience that you could spend days exploring the city center and still have more to see.

Recently all of these amazing outdoor activities have been complemented by a fun new indoor activity in Downtown Huntsville: shopping local and regional boutiques. Indeed, some of the most interesting and unique retail shops in the state can be found right here in the Rocket City Center. 

Interested in unique gifts, beautiful flowers, and fantastic art? Then try In Bloom, Rivenbark and Roper Antiques, Clinton Row Gifts and Carole Foret Fine Art.

Interested in women’s boutiques ranging from casual chic to the newest fashions? We’ve got you covered with Elitaire Boutique, Scout & Molly’s, Clachic Boutique, Boutique 81 HSV, Kennedy & Rowe, Pants Store and, not to leave out the guys, Roosevelt & Co.

Interested in historic buildings featuring classic and modern retail options? Well, just work your way over to Harrison Brothers Hardware, Railroad Station Antiques, or Lewter’s Hardware and explore their beautiful buildings stocked with fun and useful products.

Does your favorite pet feel left out of this list? No worries, enjoy pet-friendly shopping at Goin to the Dogs Pet Supply & Dog Wash in Five Points.

Best of all, you can experience almost all of these great retail options by just walking or biking the beautiful streets and neighborhoods of Downtown Huntsville. And, after shopping, you’re just doors away from over 20 Downtown food and beverage options that beat just about anything you could find in a typical mall food court.

So, when it’s time to shop for that special friend, family or yourself, come on down to the city center and experience unique shopping in a relaxing and fun setting.

For next week’s blog, we’ll feature some of the great services all around Downtown from fitness to self-care to experiential retail…

Great Schools in the City Center

One of the less discussed but extremely important features that makes Downtown Huntsville successful are the great schools located in the city center. Whether you live in a loft, historic home, or newly constructed house, the Huntsville City Schools in the Downtown area have all received significant recognition for their success. 

Unlike some downtowns where you find a concentration of young professionals and empty-nesters without a significant number of families with school-aged children, Downtown Huntsville is an exception to that. While we have great schools throughout the community, the elementary schools zoned for the Downtown area include award-winning schools Monte Sano Elementary, Chapman P8 and Blossomwood Elementary along with the well-regarded Huntsville Junior High School and the nationally-recognized Huntsville High School.

Indeed, Huntsville High School continues to garner a wide variety of academic and non-academic accolades:

-2 Presidential Scholars

-2 National Merit Semi-Finalists

-6 National Merit Commended Scholars

-HHS junior made a perfect score on her ACT

-JROTC Air Force StellarXplorers Team – SE Regional Champs and ranked 6th in the nation

-CyberPatriot Team – State Champions

-Boys Swim & Dive – 7A State Champs

-Boys Cross Country – 7A State Champs Award winning Theater Program

Principal Aaron King’s recent State of the School Address dives even deeper into these successes and recognizes why Huntsville High School is one of the leading high schools in the area. 

Another advantage of the Downtown area schools is that they are essentially embedded in their neighborhoods with convenient and safe walking and biking opportunities.  This includes great community assets like the Huntsville High School Theater and the Huntsville High School sports facilities.

This is a big advantage to not only many of the students but also Downtown area residents who are able to enjoy great sporting and cultural activities at the schools’ high-quality facilities.

Huntsville High School is not the only Downtown area school receiving accolades. Other examples include:

Blossomwood ES:

-Blue Ribbon School of Excellence!

-Award Winning Chess Club

-Blossomwood students achieve high results at recent ACTE Region 1 Tech Fair at UAH

-Greenpower Team took 1st place overall at the Oct. 2018 Goblin Greenpower Race

-Award Winning Destination Imagination Teams – going to Global Finals!

-STEM opportunities are abundant for all students and Blossomwood ES is also home to the Entertainment Technology Academy (ETA)

-An active Student Council and a strong Peer Helper Program.  

Monte Sano ES:

-Blue Ribbon School of Excellence!

-Award Winning Robotics Team

-Chosen as an official Bicentennial School for 2019

-Home to the City of Huntsville Elementary Teacher of the Year! (Mr. Givens)

-MSES received an “A” on the State Report Card

Chapman P8:

-Pre-K Teacher, Ms. Davis, recognized as one of the Top Teachers in Huntsville City Schools – receiving the HCS Changemaker honor and recognition.

-Award Winning Greenpower Team

-Award Winning Football Team – 2nd place in the city middle school rankings

-Award Winning Basketball Team – Back to Back City Championships for Boys Basketball Team

-Home of a National Board Certified Teacher, Ms. Rayburn

Huntsville Jr HS:

-Blue Ribbon School of Excellence

-Award Winning Greenpower Team

-Home to the Entertainment Technology Academy (ETA) and Video Production Program

When competing with other Downtowns for jobs, workforce, residents and other critical factors, it’s a great asset for Downtown Huntsville to offer high-quality public-school options that appeal to individuals with school-aged children interested in living in the Rocket City Center.

Easter Weekend in Downtown Huntsville

Easter weekend is quickly approaching and for many that can mean family, friends, or maybe in-laws visiting your home. This week on the Explorer Blog we are going to take a look at a few things happening in Downtown Huntsville this upcoming Easter Weekend!

Enjoy Concerts on the Dock, Paddle the Canal, a variety of Easter Egg Hunts and incredible Easter Brunches in Downtown Huntsville!

Start your weekend at Concerts on the Dock with the Quantaphonics at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment! The show will begin at 5pm on Friday, April 19th. Concerts on the Dock will be celebrating their 11th year this year! Bring the family or friends and enjoy an incredible concert to kick off Easter Weekend!

Photo from  AlabamaTravel.com

Saturday, April 20th is full of activities to enjoy in Downtown Huntsville. Paddle the Canal will begin at 8am in Big Spring Park between the Embassy Suites Hotel and the Von Braun Center. Enjoy a day of paddling the Big Spring Park Canal, along with food trucks, live music and fun! Thank you to our sponsor, Redstone Federal Credit Union! If you would like to register for Paddle the Canal you can visit this link.

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After you paddle the canal you can walk on over to Big Spring Park East for Huntsville First United Methodist’s Easter Egg Hunt starting at 10am. Enjoy music, food trucks and pictures with the Easter Bunny. If you would like somewhere else to enjoy head over to Salty Nut Brewery’s Easter Egg Hunt and sip your brews while kids hunt for eggs from 2-4pm. If you are looking for an egg hunt on Easter Sunday, visit Pane E Vino for their Annual Easter Egg Hunt that kicks off at 1pm and enjoy incredible food as well.

Enjoy food with your friends and family on Easter Sunday in Downtown Huntsville. Commerce Kitchen and Cotton Row have their own unique Easter brunch menus to choose from this year. You can call the restaurant to get the full menu, but the Beef Short Rib Benedict from Cotton Row sounds amazing! Both Cotton Row and Commerce Kitchen will be offering a Mimosa & Bloody Mary bar!

Stop by Humphery’s Bar & Grill for their Easter brunch buffet! They will be offering a special upscale Easter buffet that will feature leg of lamb, omlette and waffle stations, carving stations and many more traditional favorites. There will be $3 mimosas and $4 Bloody Mary’s, with 99 cent mimosas from 10-11am. Seating is first come first serve and  Tim Cannon will begin live music at 11am. Enjoy Easter at Humphrey’s Bar & Grill!

Straight to Ale Brewing will be offering a ticketed Easter Brunch in the Speakeasy at Straight to Ale Brewing with a variety of items from Ale’s Kitchen. The brunch is an all ages friendly event!  Also, you can enjoy Ruth’s Chris Steak house for Easter Sunday. They will be serving their dinner menu all day.

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Easter weekend in Downtown Huntsville will be one for the books, enjoy!

It’s Time to Paddle the Canal!

Downtown Huntsville is filled with some beautiful water features in Big Spring Park East and West.  From Koi fish to feeding the ducks to the original Big Spring, thousands of Huntsvillians enjoy our downtown waterways each week.

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Slightly less used but actually extremely well done is the Big Spring Canal between the Embassy Suites and the Von Braun Center.  This quarter mile connection between Thrasher Fountain and Rotary Fountain is a wonderful place to jog, stroll, people watch and just relax.  It’s a calm setting in the center of the city every day of the year. 

Except for one day.

Photo by  AL.com

Photo by AL.com

That’s the day when Big Spring Canal is opened up to kayakers and canoers for Paddle the Canal.  Presented by our friends at Redstone Federal Credit Union, Saturday April 20 marks the 3rd Annual Paddle the Canal. 

What is Paddle the Canal, you say?

Basically, a day-long festival where you can pay a nominal fee (free if you have a Redstone Federal Credit Union account) and use kayaks from Brown Bear LLC Canoe and Kayak rentals to paddle up and down Big Spring Canal.  It’s amazing how just this small change in perspective brings the beauty of the Canal from a whole new perspective.

Participants enter at Rotary fountain (the western end of the Canal) and can paddle to and around Thrasher Fountain and back as many times as they’d like during the day.  It’s a great way to get some exercise or just leisurely paddle alone or with friends on a beautiful spring day in Downtown Huntsville.

Oh, and did we mention that you don’t even have to bring your own kayak or canoe (though you can if you’d like).  Thanks to our friends at Brown Bear LLC Canoe and Kayak rentals kayaks and life jackets are provided so, even if you’ve never kayaked before, this is an easy way to try it for the first time.

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In addition to the water-based fun, Paddle the Canal offers other exciting events during the day.  You’ll be able to enjoy tasty food truck offerings from Kudzu Cafe Food Truck, In the Bun, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Golden Years Ice Cream and Parlor.  Plus, the Embassy Suites will feature free live music and a craft beer bar (along with quick grab and go food) from their beautiful terrace overlooking Big Spring Canal.  And, since the area is inside the Downtown Entertainment District, you can grab a Purple Cup and take your beverage to-go while you watch the fun and enjoy the free live music!

Sounds fun?  We agree!  All you need to do is register here for your tickets (note: you still need to register even if you are using the free RFCU tickets).  You can also read the helpful FAQ here.

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Once registered, all you need to do is get ready for a day full of exciting happenings in Downtown Huntsville as you get to be one of the few people each year who get to Paddle the Canal and enjoy Big Spring Canal from a whole new and interesting angle of fun!

Here Comes the Downtown Huntsville Craft Coffee Trail!

Have you heard that a new “Trail” is coming to Downtown Huntsville?  If you enjoy the concept behind the Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail (that is, visit multiple establishments, get a stamp, and then get free swag), then you should enjoy the Craft Coffee Trail too.

Why?

Because we’re basically replicating the concept but just replacing the beers and ciders with teas and java.

With Sunday’s Inaugural Huntsville Coffee and Tea Festival now in the books, you can continue that experience at 7 stops along the Downtown Huntsville Craft Coffee Trail.  It’s really simple:  get a Trail Card from the DHI office or any of the 7 stops and then begin your caffeinated journey around the city center.

To further pique your interest, here’s a snapshot of the 7 Trail Stops.  Visit each one and you’ll get one of these…

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Olde Towne Coffee

As the senior statemen of the Trail, Olde Towne Coffee has been the go-to destination for coffee-seekers in Five Points and throughout the City.  The eclectic décor, relaxing patio and fantastic espresso makes Olde Towne Coffee one of our favorite stops on the Craft Coffee Trail, located at 511 Pratt Avenue NE.

Honest Coffee

If you visited Honest Coffee two years ago, you would have found yourself in the middle of a first-floor parking deck.  That’s because Honest was one of the first businesses to open at The Garage at Clinton Row, located at 114 Clinton Ave. E #106 —the award-winning adaptive re-use of the Clinton Avenue parking deck’s ground floor.  In addition to its fantastic coffee (and revolving Signature drinks like the Bootlegger), Honest also features great food including Acai Bowls and baked goods from local stalwarts Mason Dixon and Canadian Bakin.

Piper & Leaf Artisan Tea Co.

While many Huntsvillians know Piper & Leaf for their artisan teas, this Huntsville original has branched into great coffee drinks too.  In the Downtown area, you can visit them at either their flagship location, Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment at 2211 Seminole Dr. SW, or their brand-new Downtown shop at beautifully-renovated Constitution Park, 109 Gates Ave SE.  While we encourage you to enjoy both, you only have to get a stamp from either of them to continue your Trail journey.

Offbeat Coffee Studio

Like many of you, we love to visit Campus No. 805 for some of the best local beer in America.  Now, we can satisfy our coffee cravings there too with the opening of Offbeat Coffee Studio in the main campus building next to Straight to Ale at 2620 Clinton Ave W.  While sipping their eclectic coffee offerings (we love the marshmallow espresso!), you can also check out their small vinyl shop inside this eye-catching coffee destination.

Sugar Belle

Sitting on the western edge of the city center, Sugar Belle has long been a cupcake and artisan donut destination located at 515 Jordan Ln NW. They’ve now added amazing coffee drinks to their list of fantastic offerings. We love everything they have to offer including some of the best nitro coffee you’ll find in the Rocket City!

Gold Sprint Coffee

In just a few weeks, the Craft Coffee Trail is slated to get its newest addition with the opening of Gold Sprint in the heart of the Lowe Mill District.  Gold Sprint is a cross between a great coffee shop and a unique bike shop with some fantastic tasting food to try.  And, with one of the larger patios on the Trail, Gold Sprint coffee drinks just beg to be enjoyed on a beautiful day either solo or with friends. You can find Gold Sprint Coffee at 2515 9th Ave SW.

Alchemy Coffee

While Alchemy’s signature new coffee destination at the City Centre development in Downtown Huntsville won’t be open in time for the debut of the Craft Coffee Trail, we’re encouraging Trail users to visit their shop at The Camp near Top Golf in the meantime, located at 5909 University Drive.  You can get a qualifying stamp at Alchemy’s venue at The Camp until their new shop opens in the city center soon!

 

Step Into The Past

This year we get to celebrate Alabama’s 200th Birthday! This gives us a chance as a State and as a City to look back and reflect over the past years, but this celebration also gives us the opportunity to look forward at where we are going and what is to come.

Huntsville is unlike any other city in the Southeast. We have a mountain that overlooks Downtown, engineers that make history, a variety of unique artists, incredible craft beer and rich history.

Downtown Huntsville has evolved and changed over the past years and is continuing to do so in front of our eyes. Our Downtown Historic Districts are filled with a variety homes and streets that make Downtown Huntsville unique and inviting. Our friends at the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor Center have outlined a brochure that explains the history behind the Heart of Huntsville and our unique streets.

One of the most well-known areas of Downtown Huntsville is Twickenham, but where does the name come from? Twickenham was Huntsville's original name until 1811, which then made Huntsville the very first incorporated town in what we know now as Alabama!

Overall, many of the Historic streets in Downtown Huntsville have remained unchanged for over 200 years, with only a few updates made.

You may be familiar with Gallatin St and Henry St. Gallatin St still exist now and was a part of the original rectangle you see in the brochure. This street was named after Albert Gallatin who immigrated to the US from Switzerland and had a successful career in politics. Henry St existed in the original rectangle and was uniquely named after Patrick Henry who was the first governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia and is remembered for his famous last words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Gallatin St and Henry St meet in the original rectangle but have since been renamed to what we know now as Church St.

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In the heart of Downtown, you will find that Spring St and Fountain Row no longer go all the way to Church St. Fountain Row now turns into Williams Avenue and has been renamed to Fountain Circle which will bring you to the Downtown Square.

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Something that has been added and not changed is that Spring St stops at Spragins St.

One of the most interesting facts from the brochure we found was previous streets that ran East to West are now named Avenues instead of Streets like Clinton Avenue, Holmes Avenue and so on.

This year as we celebrate the Alabama Bicentennial, we hope you will visit the Historic Streets of Downtown Huntsville and explore the History that is here in the heart of our city. Grab a pace bike, join in on a We Run Downtown Huntsville pub run, or simply walk the streets yourself! Happy Birthday Alabama!

To keep up with all things regarding Alabama Bicentennial make sure to follow @AL200 on Twitter, @al200offical on Instagram and like the Alabama 200 Facebook page!

Downtown Branding and Authenticity

Each day, I try to read at least five articles on Downtown strategies in order to keep current on the dynamic growth that city centers are experiencing. There are many great resources such as the International Downtown Association weekly e-newsletter, the Project for Public Spaces e-newsletter, Strong Towns blog and many more listservs, discussion boards, and on-line forums.

One of the most useful is the CityLab daily email that includes a variety of City Building-centric articles to choose from. One that recently caught my attention is Aaron Renn’sCities: Don’t Fall in the Branding Trap”.

The article emphasizes the importance of Place Branding but stresses that the story of your City should focus on its uniqueness rather than sameness to other places:

Look at any piece of city marketing material, from promo videos to airline magazine ad inserts. It’s amazing how so many of them rely on the same basic ingredients: hipster coffee shops, microbreweries, bike lanes, creative-class members, startups, intimations of a fashion scene, farm-to-table restaurants, new downtown streetcars, etc.

Why cities with great identities and heritages of their own so seldom lead with them is something of a mystery.

Here in Huntsville, this is a really important observation. While Downtown and the surrounding Districts are fortunate to have great entrepreneurs opening coffee shops, breweries, and the like (as Renn calls them “basic ingredients”), the identity and heritage of Huntsville is tied closely to space exploration and rocketry. This is, after all, “The Space Capital of the Universe.”

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While not every Place Branding experience has to focus on rockets, you also cannot tell the authentic Huntsville story without recognizing that space and rockets are one of the pillars of our Place Brand. That is why DHI includes the tag-line “Space to Innovate”. While the play on words is intended to apply to more than “outer space,” it is deeply-rooted in that meaning though (for more on the DHI Branding process, check out this previous blog article).

This is especially true with the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo moon landing taking place this July.  While many different NASA centers played an important role in getting to the Moon, all roads to the Moon ran through Huntsville and the rocket design that lives here.

Our space exploration heritage is why we’re so excited that Downtown Huntsville is playing a major role in the official 50th Apollo Anniversary Celebration activities. In particular, we’re hosting a free community-wide Dancing in the Streets event on the Downtown Square where we’ll be taking Dr. Von Braun’s words to heart:

"My friends, there was dancing here in the streets of Huntsville when our first satellite orbited the earth. and there was dancing again when the first Americans landed on the moon. I'd like to ask you don't hang up your dancing slippers."  

We’ll do this by hosting live music and entertainment from each of the past five decades all around the Square.

We believe the Huntsville Place Brand cannot be told without our space and rocket heritage since that’s something inherently authentic and unique to the Rocket City. We hope you can join us for the big party this July as we “Party like its 1969”…

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Parking Improvements in Downtown Huntsville

As a city with a strong tech and innovation culture, Huntsville is often quick to consider new technologies that can enhance the overall guest experience. Projects like Google Fiber, Pace Bikeshare and ride hailing (Uber or Lyft) services were quickly successful here because of their innovative approaches.

Unfortunately, this innovation-centric approach hasn’t been in place for Downtown public parking.  Until now!

After extensive research and hard work by the City of Huntsville’s Parking and Public Transit Department, innovative parking solutions continue to make parking more convenient in Downtown.  This is especially important because of the number of people who live, work and play in our city center keeps growing every year. These Downtown users are often tech-savvy and expect a tech-forward approach to city services including public parking.

While the City has been steadily adding credit card payment options to many of the Downtown garages, the on-street, metered parking is now receiving an innovative makeover!  Below are a few highlights of this program:

  • The City has added the Passport payment option to approximately 450 metered spaces in the Downtown and the Medical District.   

  • To use Passport, simply download the free Passport App (available on both iPhone or Android) or visit ppprk.com and register for an account. Then enter a major credit card.

  • Users still have the option to pay with coins at a meter.  You also now have the option to use Passport to pay with a major credit card.

  • Once you find your parking spot, you will need to enter your vehicle tag number.  You can register multiple vehicles.

  • Users can pick what time you think you will need and will receive reminders when the time is close to expiring. Users can extend their parking session remotely if needed, and can also view payment history and receive email receipts.

In addition to the Passport app, the City will also soon be installing multi-space parking meters in Lot H which adjoins The Avenue and along Church Street adjoining Big Spring Park.  To learn more about this technology, you can visit here.

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For more on these exciting enhancements to Downtown parking, you can check out this WAAY story and this WHNT story.  Great examples of making our Downtown a hub on innovation on many different levels!

Winter Festivities in Downtown Huntsville

While summertime in Downtown Huntsville is filled with many of the year’s signature events, that doesn’t mean late Winter and early Spring don’t have their fair share of fantastic gatherings in our city center. 

In fact, one of the big ones takes place this Saturday as Von Brewski invades the Von Braun Center. This indoor craft beer festival offers over 170 beers to sample inside the VBC’s South Hall where, no matter the weather outside, it’s always 70 degrees and sunny at Von Brewski. For a bit of extra fun, the Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail will be sponsoring the event wristbands and will feature free Trail Cards and free local brewery swag at our table at the event. Plus, keep a look on the Craft Beer Trail’s Facebook page this week for ticket giveaways!

Just a couple weeks later, Downtown Huntsville will be filled with the sights and sounds of Valentine’s Day (have you seen some of these great window displays already up?)  We’ll have all the details in a special edition of our free e-newsletter, The Downtown Explorer, (sign up here). Needless to say, there will be romantic dining options, casual Valentine’s gatherings, special live music (like this concert at Tangled String Studios) and even an Anti-Valentine’s Day party at Green Bus Brewing.  One great way to follow the Valentine’s happenings is via the #iHeartHsv Valentine’s videos which you can follow here. So, whether you’re solo, with a group of friends or sharing the evening with that special person in your life, Downtown Huntsville is the best destination for Valentine’s fun anywhere in Huntsville!

The seasonal fun continues with Mardi Gras festivities on March 2nd in Downtown Huntsville. The popular Grand Parade returns including the “tail end” of the parade featuring the Krewe of Barkus.  The parade fun continues on March 16th with the 42nd Annual Ellen McAnelly Memorial St. Patrick's Day Parade winding through Downtown.  The big green day kicks off with Kegs & Eggs at both Jefferson Street Pub and Keegan’s Public House and wraps up with a St. Patrick’s Day party at Butler Green in the middle of all the Campus 805 fun.

As you can see, February and March make for great months of fun in Downtown Huntsville. It’s so hard to pick which one to attend so we recommend that you make your life easier and just enjoy them all!

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Downtown Huntsville In the News!

The fast-growing success of Downtown Huntsville continues to receive great coverage from local media outlets.  Both WAFF and WHNT have recently featured the Downtown development boom on their television and web platforms.

The WAFF story highlighted major projects like the AC Hotel and VBC Music Hall—both under construction in the city center.  The article features a great quote from Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle on the positive impact of Downtown growth not just in the city’s core but throughout Huntsville as a whole:

We're having more and more emphasis on Downtown and as Downtown grows, we spread out and we see more development as you go down South Parkway and North Parkway. The success of Downtown grows to the whole city. It's what we would call the living room of our city and people come down there, we have retail, shops, dining. It gives everyone an identity for this city so it's great to see all those things happening, he said.

Meanwhile, WHNT recently published this story and this story highlighting the Downtown Huntsville Annual Meeting and Downtown Awards that featured the exciting group of groundbreakings slated for 2019 in the city center. In addition to featuring the also “under construction” Curio Hotel, WHNT noted the big new investment dollar-wise in Downtown Huntsville:

Building continues at a feverish pace in Downtown Huntsville, part of what Emerson says is over $250 million worth of investment to attract more foot traffic.

The exciting growth in Downtown isn’t just limited to development projects though. In fact, a major $500,000 plus investment in public art was recently announced for the city’s core near the new City Centre and Redstone Federal Credit Union projects:

Arts Huntsville announced an international Request for Qualifications to design a large-scale, multi-site public art installation in downtown Huntsville.

The project, expected to span three sites will include a renovated plaza area in Big Spring Park, an interior plaza at RCP Companies’ City Centre mixed-use development, and a pocket park adjacent to Redstone Federal Credit Union’s new branch located along Huntsville’s developing greenway system. The award for the project is $530,000, making it the largest-scale public art project ever recorded in Huntsville.

Last, but certainly not least, one of the biggest announcements was the International Downtown Association’s selection of Downtown Huntsville for its national Place Branding and Placemaking Summit this May.  This huge honor directly results from the continued successes in our city center and will bring hundreds of the leading Downtown marketing and promotional minds to the Rocket City for three days of interactive sessions, Master Talks, and unique receptions.

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Registration is now open here.  If Downtown marketing, promotions, and creative placemaking interest you, we encourage to register soon and support this great event in Downtown Huntsville!

Unique Retail Spaces Available

DHI recently hired national retail analysis firm RCLCO to conduct a Retail Demand Study for Downtown Huntsville. You can check it out here.

The gist of the study was that there continues to be significant unmet demand for new retail in Downtown in a wide variety of categories. When you think about it, this isn’t really surprising though.  Downtown is not only a destination retail location for visitors throughout the region but is also the primary retail area for city center neighborhoods like Old Town, Blossomwood, Five Points, Twickenham and the Medical District. Add in the numerous out of town guests visiting the VBC and other Downtown venues and the combined effect is very powerful purchasing power in the city center.

This leads to strong demand for dining, drinking, shopping, and other retail in Downtown. 

Fortunately, there remain several options—both conventional spaces and unconventional spaces. Below are a few that are currently available for retail use:

Clinton Row

The Clinton Row shops continue to feature fantastic retail options like In Bloom Downtown, Clachic, Maxwell’s Music, Clinton Row Gifts and more. Several great spots remain available including street-facing spaces on Jefferson Street and Clinton Avenue. 

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The Avenue

Like Clinton Row, The Avenue is already home to great retail like Scout & Molly’s, Pet Wants, Purveyor, Oshi Poke Bowl and Sushi, and Zoom Indoor Cycling. Plus, Melt and The Moon Bakeshop are coming soon. Even with all of this growth, there are still a few remaining spaces available including a fantastic patio space across from Purveyor that would be ideal for a day spa, salon or additional food and beverage. For more information, contact Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate or The Avenue at info@avenuehuntsville.com.

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109 Jefferson

Right across from Clinton Row is another intriguing retail possibility. While 109 Jefferson has most recently served as office space, the property owner has expressed an interest in considering retail for the ground floor. With the existing Clinton Row, The Avenue, Garage at Clinton Row and coming Curio Hotel, this Jefferson Street space presents an ideal retail opportunity.

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 200 Westside Square

In addition to great office space, 200 Westside Square also offers great retail space. Already home to Keegan’s Irish Pub, the building also has a 3,000 square foot space and an 800 square foot space (with a small patio and dedicated entrance) available directly off the building’s Spring Street entrance. For more information, contact Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate.

125 Northside Square

Northside Square remains a great retail destination with popular options including Domaine South, Big Oh’s, Jimmy John’s and two upcoming new retail additions. In addition to these, the former Amendment XXI space between Jimmy John’s and Big Oh’s remains a fantastic ground-floor retail option that could also include additional space above. For more information, contact Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate.

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Coming Soon…

In addition to these great retail spaces, new opportunities will be coming to Downtown Huntsville soon at City Centre, the new city parking facility on Holmes Avenue, 106 Southside Square, and a variety of other projects breaking ground in 2019.

If you would like to learn more about any of the Current or Coming Soon retail spaces in Downtown Huntsville, please contact DHI CEO Chad Emerson at chad@downtownhuntsville.org.

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The Nominees Are In!

Each January, we get to do one of our favorite things all year long: partner with al.com/Huntsville Times on the Downtown Huntsville Awards featuring Downtown Project of the Year and Event of the Year.  Since we started the collaboration five years ago, the competition has become stronger and stronger as more new projects and events find their way to the city center each year.

Past award winners have included some of the most dynamic projects and most unique events in the Southeast which is not a surprise because Downtown Huntsville draws regional quality investment and ideas throughout the year.  This year is no exception with a great roster of event and project nominees.  Let’s take a quick look at each one.

Project of the Year Nominations

AC Hotel by Marriott

As the first piece of the $100 million plus City Centre at Big Spring development, the AC Hotel beautifully frames the southwest corner of Big Spring Park.  The Downtown Huntsville AC Hotel is also the first AC opened in the state.  The sleek new concept offers a new type of lodging in the market and will also include iconic food and beverage options overlooking Big Spring Park.

The Martin Bar & Bistro

Located in the heart of Downtown, The Martin offers amazing food and beverage with an equally great view of Washington Street.  The open-air, second floor design uses garage doors and other unique design elements to bring a great new place to gather in the city center.

Domaine South

Relocating to Northside Square, Domaine South has expanded to offer fantastic bistro food in addition to its stellar collection of retail wine as well as wine and craft beer by the glass.  Add in one of the coziest patios in Downtown and its easy to see why Domaine South has become a great new destination on the Downtown Square.

InnerSpace Brewing

Located less than a mile from the Von Braun Center, InnerSpace is a family-owned brewery just east of Campus No. 805.  It’s galactically themed beers and interior design combine to create an easy-going atmosphere with a geeky-chic vibe.  And, of course, the beer tastes (inter)stellar!

In Bloom Downtown

Expanding from their 5 Points location, In Bloom Downtown anchors the corner shop at Clinton Row with beautiful flowers and an expansive gift and décor selection.  Focusing on unique and often local items, In Bloom Downtown provides one of the most interesting shopping experiences in the city center.

Event of the Year Nominations

Tweed Ride

Downtown’s fast-growing bicycle culture is the big beneficiary of the Tweed Ride each November.  The slow ride event includes a variety of stops at local businesses for themed experiences such as afternoon tea. While not mandatory, riders are also encouraged to dress stylishly for one of the most eclectic experiences in Downtown Huntsville.

Tangled String Fest

The former Spring Fest event was relocated, rebranded, and reconceived as Tangled String Fest in Big Spring Park East. The outdoor music event features a wide variety of music types as the collaboration between Tangled String Studio and Yellowhammer Brewery re-introduced a live music festival to the heart of Downtown.

Christmas Parade

The city center was aglow with holiday floats and parade participants as the collaboration between 96.9 and the Von Braun Center provided Downtown guests with a happy holiday parade. Winding past holiday features like Skating in the Park and Tinsel Trail, the Downtown Christmas Parade is the only nighttime parade in the Rocket City which only enhances the event’s festive lights.

Von Brewski

Downtown is the epicenter of the Huntsville craft beer scene with the Downtown Craft Beer Trail and many other local craft beer experiences.  One of the most popular has become the Von Brewski beer festival at the Von Braun Center.  This winter brew festival features a large collection of beer and other food and beverage with the big benefit of being indoors where the weather is always 75 degrees and Sunny in the VBC’s South Hall.

Hunt + Gather

The 2nd Annual Hunt + Gather saw the return of one of the state’s most interesting artisan gatherings.  With an emphasis on unique maker wares and selections, Hunt + Gather has become a Downtown destination for artisans from throughout the region.

Microwave Dave Day

Named after local music icon Microwave Dave, the Sunday afternoon and evening event brought a fun festival experience to Washington Street in June.  With a full slate of talented musicians, the event also raised money for the great work being done by the Microwave Dave Foundation.

As you can see, the nominees all enhance the overall Downtown experience.  If you’d like to learn more, visit our friends over at al.com to vote, or join us at the 2019 DHI Annual Meeting and Downtown Awards by purchasing tickets here: downtownhuntsville.eventbrite.com

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Downtown Secret Art

As you stroll around the city center, you’re increasingly likely to come across some type of public art.  From murals to sculptures to quirky options in between, Downtown Huntsville is filled with creative and unique artistic installations.  That’s one reason DHI has partnered with Arts Huntsville to develop the Downtown Huntsville Purple Cup Secret Art Tour.

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