Quirky Attraction: Saturn 1B Rocket at Alabama Rest Stop

rocket in alabama vertical

Saturn 1B Rocket at Alabama Rest Stop
Location: Rest stop on I-65 near Elkmont and Ardmore, Alabama
When to visit: Anytime during daylight hours
Cost: Free
Time needed: 10-15 minutes
Website: waymarking.com (unofficial)

Welcome to Alabama! Look, we have a giant rocket!

That’s how visitors and road trippers are greeted as they pull in to the rest stop welcome center on I-65 in Alabama, one mile south of the Tennessee border.

I confess that I was not expecting to see a real rocket on display at a random rest stop in the Deep South, but there it was. A 224-foot-tall Saturn 1B rocket, one of three created in the Alabama city of Huntsville. A sign at the site explains the details:

rocket in alabama - rest stop sign
A sign for the rocket in Alabama at the rest stop.

In other words, one of the rockets in the Saturn series went to the moon, but not this one. It possibly could have flown into space, except it didn’t. So this rocket is kind of historic… or not.

The Saturn 1B Rocket at the Alabama Welcome Center

Regardless of where this thing did or did not go, unless you’ve been to NASA and have looked at space vehicles up close, the rocket is pretty cool to see.

There’s a fence around it (so no touching!), but you can get super close for an impressive look at a little piece of space history. Most people aren’t expecting to see a rocket in Alabama, so take pics and post them on Instagram!

rocket rest stop alabama

In 2014, it was announced that the rocket would be getting a facelift, with new paint (more than 100 gallons!) and a fresh cleaning. It had gone eight years without being painted, so it was way overdue for the update. The rocket has been on display here since 1979.

The Alabama rocket is one of three Saturn 1B rockets currently on display. One is in Huntsville, Alabama, and another resides at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

If you find yourself driving between Nashville and Huntsville, make sure to pull over at the rest stop to catch a glimpse up close.

At this rest stop, I found a couple other quirky sights. Like this menacing sign that warns outsiders not to mess with Alabama:

us huntsville space and rocket center - alabama-defend-rights

And this “beautification award” which I assumed they presented to themselves. Turns out the state of Alabama likes to present these awards to various businesses and public spaces:

saturn 1b rocket welcome center alabama rest stop

Neither is as impressive as the Saturn rocket, but I thought they were funny.

There are not a lot of places where you can see NASA history in the U.S., so make sure to stop by if you find yourself in Alabama. It’s right on the highway, so there’s no excuse not to stop!

This shuttle is especially cool place to stop on a Route 65 road trip from Nashville to New Orleans. Don’t forget to pull over at the first rest stop once you enter Alabama! You need to be on the southbound side of the highway to pull into the rest stop parking lot next to the rocket.

You’ll see the tall shuttle from a distance as you begin approaching it from far away.

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

For those who are looking for more rockets, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama has been welcoming visitors since 1970. They have a mock-up full-scale replica of the Saturn V rocket, plus lots of other attractions.

Tickets are a bit pricey – they run $30 for an adult ticket for the museum & movie combo, and $32 for the museum & planetarium combo.

Guided tours of Saturn V Hall are available daily at 10am, 12pm, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm. Of course, you are free to explore without the guided tour.

I recently had a chance to visit the Space and Rocket Center for the first time, and saw several more rockets, both indoors and outside. The center is an awesome way to learn about the history of American space exploration, and to learn about each of the specific rockets which remain on display.

There’s one huge rocket that can be seen from the highway as you’re driving past.

rocket in alabama rest stop

So there’s not one, but two chances to see actual rockets from the highway while driving through Alabama!

Have you ever seen the rocket in Alabama or visited the Rocket Center?

13 thoughts on “Quirky Attraction: Saturn 1B Rocket at Alabama Rest Stop”

  1. Audemus jura nostra defendere — Latin for “We Dare Defend Our Rights” or “We Dare Maintain Our Rights” — is the state motto of Alabama and is depicted on the official Coat of arms of Alabama.
    Not just a quirky saying!
    Great road side attraction.
    Space and rocket center is an amazing place if you get this close ( rest stop) you should go .

      1. Scott

        The Space and Rocket Center is a partner with the Smithsonian museums and is a must visit if you come into Huntsville. The history of The Rocket City (Huntsville) will be fully explained at the Space and Rocket Center but suffice to say our beautiful city in North Alabama played and still plays a pivotal role in Space. Wait until you get up close and personal to the Saturn V truly impressive.

  2. Good news! NASA just announced plans to spruce up the rocket this year and eventually a major renovation so the attraction will be around for more generations.

  3. When I was leaving Tennessee & entering Alabama, I could see the top of the rocket,for what seemed to be a few miles, & I still didn’t know what it was, above the tree tops, when I came up to the rest stop” doing 75miles per hour” all of a sudden there it was, I down shifted & crossed 2lanes just to stop &see it……….it was really cool….. a must see! !!!

  4. yes! can’t miss this one. just caught this beaut to & from our spring break excursion (SBend>/<Sarasota). 6y/o daughter said she can't wait to bring her (future) kids to see it!

  5. Just drove past this on Hwy 65, yes it’s impressive and although it’s huge, I didn’t think it was a real rocket at first. Very unexpected! Wife was able to snap a pic though, so we’ll add that to our road trip album! Thanks for posting this info on it

  6. Going to and from our home in Kentucky to Crestview Florida I always look forward to seeing this massive bit of technology standing tall and proud. I never get tired of it and as a retired Airman it makes me think of young years watching the moon missions live. I entered the Air Force in 1969 so it was quite a year, Americans landed on the moon, the Jets won the Super Bowl the Mets won the World Series. Vietnam was going strong civil rights demonstrations were every where and so was anti war demonstrations. Through it all I love America.

  7. i’m 56 years old, and I’ve been stopping at this rest area ever since I I can mremember. it especiallymeant a lot when I was able to take my own daughter and she would be afraid to walk up underneath of it LOL! No matter how old you are it’s always a thrill to get to stand next to it. So proud to have a little piece of history of the NASA space program herein my own back yard

  8. Feels good to visit your blog again after a short hiatus. This must be one quirky attraction, and its fascinating. The rocket must be visible from quite a distance, is it?

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