Looking to entertain your toddler when he's out of sorts with the world? If you live in or are visiting Huntsville, Alabama, and you have small children to entertain, a variety of activities will please the pickiest child. Nicknamed the “Rocket City” because of its space industry, Huntsville is a city recognized in 2010 by Kiplinger as one of the country’s 10 best cities for raising families. Huntsville offers natural parks, a real locomotive, science centers and the South’s largest children’s museum.
1. Sci-Quest Hands-on Science Center
Let your child become a scientist for an afternoon. Toddlers ages 2 to 3, along with preschoolers ages 4 to 5, can participate in activities at the Sci-Quest Hands-on Science Center. Accompanied by a caregiver, even younger toddlers can participate in programs such as Sprouting Scientists, in which experienced preschool teachers lead the children in hands-on activities with a scientific theme that include music and stories. Kids learn about simple machines, snow, laboratory skills, rockets, sensory expression and domestic animals. The Sci-Quest Café serves quintessential kids’ foods such as hot dogs and popcorn. Sci-Quest Hands-on Science Center is recommended by Chattanooga Parent magazine as an ideal place for area families to visit.
2. EarlyWorks Children’s Museum
At the EarlyWorks Children’s Museum, which is really three museums in one and the largest hands-on experience history museum in the South, toddlers and preschoolers can hear stories told by the museum’s “talking tree.” Additionally, kids can play songs on the huge instruments at the bandstand. Tiny pirates can walk the gangplank while exploring a 46-foot keelboat, and a talking clock and a special preschool learning center, Biscuit’s Backyard, will entertain your preschooler for an entire afternoon. Here they can visit the water table, the garden, a grocery store and sing karaoke. Imagination Station is an area just for children ages 6-and-under that lets them cook, serve or just sit and eat at the Depot Diner. At Dan's Garage, they can play-act "filling 'er up."
3. Huntsville Botanical Garden
A botanical garden might not the first place you think of when you want to entertain your little one, but Southern Living magazine recommends the Huntsville Botanical Garden for its special children’s garden, featuring a dinosaur world where kids can crawl or walk through a dinosaur rib cage and step into a very large footprint. And to fulfill that digging urge, your child can excavate a dino graveyard for fossils. The Water Rocket Clock sprays large jets of water on the hour. Prisms and kaleidoscopes make everything in the garden appear rainbow-hued, while a “pot of gold” adds a whimsical note. Little ones will enjoy the Storybook Garden with its mushroom seats, hidden garden gate, a yellow brick road and wishing well. On Alabama’s hot summer days, your child can cool off in Pollywog Bog, a wading pool. A maze and a labyrinth offer your little explorer a mental challenge.
4. North Alabama Railroad Museum
For many little boys and girls, “choo-choo” is one of the first phrases they learn to speak. For that little engineer, the North Alabama Railroad Museum offers a 10-mile train ride that takes a little more than an hour. While parents might appreciate the historic elements of the ride along the restored Huntsville branch of the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway, the little ones can listen to the chugging of a real locomotive as they watch for the concrete animals in the museum’s "menagerie.” Deep in the woods, kids can glimpse a concrete porpoise and frog, and real horses and the occasional deer.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images