It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years since I returned to my hometown. And last year, I got even closer to my roots when I bought my childhood home in Northwest Huntsville. It’s been nostalgic being back in my old neighborhood, and many of my favorite childhood haunts are right where I left them. And now these are places that I can share with my own daughter, and hopefully, you can share with your family as well.
For one thing, we’ve got Parks and Rec centers galore, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place for the kiddos to burn off some energy, or for you to relieve some stress. Not to mention, our hidden soul food gems- my favorite feature of any place I’ve lived, and some unexpected spots in between.
So, come on in and let me show you around.
Community/Health & Wellness Centers
- Lakewood Community Center – Located just off of Mastin Lake Road and down the street from Lakewood Elementary, this center not only offers seasonal activities, like basketball for the kids, but includes a meeting space and a rock climbing wall.
- Max Luther Drive Community Center – This community center is situated a good bit away from the main road, so it might be easy to miss. Just like Lakewood, they offer seasonal sports, including basketball, baseball, football, and softball; house a few small meeting rooms; and offer disability services.
- Dr. Richard Showers, Sr. Recreation Center – The Showers Center is open 7 days a week and really does have something for everyone. In addition to offering basketball, aerobics classes, and swimming lessons, the center is also home to Girls, Inc., the Showers Center Library, and a brand new splash pad. And the center continues to serve the community by hosting health fairs, summer camps, and offering computer classes as well.
- Robert “Bob” Harrison Senior Wellness & Advocacy Center – This beautiful facility, located in the equally beautiful and wooded Cedar Point subdivision off Pulaski Pike, doesn’t really cater to children. In fact, it was created with our senior residents in mind. However, it’s a great place to consider if you happen to have older generations living in your home, and they also offer a Junior Flip membership program for folks, ages 40 to 49. And with amenities like an olympic-size pool, indoor and outdoor walking tracks, and enrichment, exercise, and arts & crafts programs, you can’t beat the annual membership fees. NOTE: Residents living outside of District 6 are charged a small additional fee.
- NSS Conference Center – Folks from the area will know this as the former home of the Cahaba Shrine, located at the intersection of Pulaski Pike and Winchester Road. It includes a large banquet hall space with a stage and plenty of greenspace outdoors, where you’ll find a pavilion, picnic tables, and a small playground. While not technically open to the public, this space can be rented for large gatherings, like a family reunion, church picnic, or grown-up birthday party. And they’ve even been known to host some local roller derby action there, too.
Parks & Trails
Be sure to check out the free Explore Huntsville mobile app for details about each of these parks at your fingertips!
- Dr. Richard Showers, Sr. Park – Located on the property of the Showers Center, this playground has safe equipment and also includes a few pieces of outdoor exercise equipment. There’s also a covered pavilion with picnic tables on site. Clean restrooms are conveniently located inside the center. They opened their brand new Splashpad this summer, and I think it’s the best one in town.
- Lakewood Park
- Maplewood Park – A large and lovely green space situated on a hill right across the street from the campus of Alabama A&M University, this park is great place for an impromptu picnic. In addition to a playground and restrooms on site, there are some big, beautiful trees on the property which provide great shade for lying on a blanket and staring at the clouds. There’s also a McDonald’s close by in case you forget your picnic basket.
- Mastin Lake Park
- Stoner Field Park– This spacious park has several fields, a playground, and tennis courts
- Wade Mountain Greenway
This humble little place has been around since I was a very little girl, although under a different name. The one thing that hasn’t changed? It’s still the best place to get a BBQ pork, beef, or chicken sandwich in the city; brisket worth dying for; and broccoli and rice casserole that you’ll have to hide from your significant other. Plus, order one of Floyd’s small plates and you’ll actually have enough for two servings. Open Wednesday-Thursday, the prices can’t be beat, but it’s cash only here. Oh, and this is not a sit-down joint – walk-up or drive-thru only – but I dare you to make it out of the parking lot without taking a bite.
G’s Country Kitchen
If you’ve got a taste for home cookin’, this is definitely where you want to go. An open kitchen, red and white checkered tablecloths, and smiling faces add to this Southern charmer, which is open Tuesday-Saturday. Since the often cook to order, they let you know up front that some menu items may take a while, but trust me, it’s worth the wait. Kids meals are available, too.
Another great meat-and-three, this restaurant is located in a modest white building right off of Jordan Lane. With only a handful of tables, this probably isn’t the best spot for a family sit-down dinner, but stop in for lunch or grab some carry out after church, and you won’t be disappointed. The red velvet cake will change your life.
Sharks Fish & Chicken
Another great place for carry out when you’re short on time, or just want some really good food, is Sharks. Their wings are something special, and if you’re a seafood lover, you have to give them a try. The kid’s menu is limited to chicken tenders or nuggets, but with all the menu selections, you’re bound to find something they’ll enjoy.
Big Ed’s Pizza
Although probably not technically NW Huntsville, Big Ed’s is still close enough that I don’t mind the drive, and it’s certainly worth it. This review from my fellow RCM contributor, Bo Williams, has all the deets. But let’s just say that you might find yourself doing a lot less ordering in after you’ve tried Big Ed’s.
- Applebee’s – Standard American fare, of course. But if you’re looking to get in and get out with the fam, don’t do it on Friday or Saturday night during football season.
- Starbucks – There are actually two locations right off Memorial Parkway, but this one is never quite as crowded as the other. It’s clean, the staff is friendly, and I’ve spotted many a stroller there during my morning writing sessions, so babies are welcome.
- Zaxby’s – This location stays pretty busy, so just use caution when exiting the Parkway, or enter from University Drive and come around the back.
- Five Guys – This one’s located right next to Dunkin’ Donuts. So consider this for the one night you and the kids aren’t eating healthy. I won’t tell.
- Krispy Kreme – Two words: HOT LIGHT. And if you don’t have the app to tell you when it’s on, get it. Now. By the way, this is the only Krispy Kreme in the city.
- Dunkin’ Donuts – More donuts! Just be careful entering the drive-thru here. It can be tricky, and you might find the tail end of your car out in the adjacent street.
Funntasia Family Fun Center
Putt putt golf is often a family favorite, and Funntasia has 36 holes of safari themed fun. Located just off Memorial Parkway, there’s no way you can miss it, although finding the entrance can be a bit tricky. It’s a great place for a kid’s birthday party, and they offer discounts for special groups.
Roller Time Skating Rink
As a kid, I spent many a Saturday morning at this skating rink, which went by another name back then, but still looks pretty much the same. But hey, you go to skate and listen to music, so… As you’d expect, there are plenty of arcade games and a concession stand. You should call ahead, though, to find out if there’s a private event or if they’re expecting an older crowd. And you can always count on them for a discounted rate during fall, spring, and holiday breaks.
AMF Pin Palace Lanes
Spend an afternoon bowling with kids and find a pretty decent menu here. There are also specials with discounted prices on shoe rental and admission throughout the week.
Star HB Farms
I haven’t checked this farm out for myself yet, but I’ve heard only good things, so they’re on my list. In addition to family trail rides, they also offer spring and summer camps for kids, and of course, riding lessons, all with an experienced staff.
Anything I’ve missed? Leave a comment below with some of your favorite spots or tips.