If you’re considering moving to Alabama, get ready for breathtaking shorelines, low costs and some of the kindest neighbors you’ll ever meet. Between its deep-rooted history, mouth-watering food and passion for college football, you’re going to love being a part of the authentic Alabama experience.
Here’s the best part: you’re going to love the cost of it, too. Alabama’s largest city was even deemed the most affordable city in America.
Before you pack up your things and head South, we put together everything you need to know about Sweet Home Alabama to help you live like a local.
So, what is Alabama known for, anyway?
Alabama is the physical heart and the cultural soul of the deep south. Nicknamed the Heart of Dixie, Alabama joined the Union in 1819. At 52,419 square miles, Alabama ranks No. 30 in size of all the states. It also has more than 4 million people, making it No. 23 in U.S. population.
If you’re going to be new the area, here are a few things the state is known for.
Alabama–in the river city of Montgomery, to be exact–is where the breakaway Confederate States of America were born, leading to the U.S. Civil War. It’s also where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached and changed history. Alabama is famous for its role in the Civil Rights Movement, where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and 3,000 demonstrators marched in Selma. There’s arguably no better place to learn about the modern history of the U.S. than right here in Alabama.
Its mouth-watering food.
Alabama is one of the greatest food destinations in the U.S., so get ready to eat! Locally owned restaurants dish up slow-cooked Southern dishes, elegant fine dining and fresh seafood. If you want to try out the authentic barbecue, be sure to stop by Dreamland and Big Bob Gibson’s. And if you haven’t experienced all that fried food has to offer, you may want to start. There are certain dishes–like fried okra, fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and fried catfish–that you won’t want to miss.
Its beautiful landscapes.
Florida, watch out–there are definitely perks of living in a humid, subtropical climate right off the Gulf Shores. From 60 miles of silky white beaches to lakes lined with cottages, to high-ridge mountains, Alabama has it all. Whether you enjoy soaking up the sun while relaxing, floating down a river or being more active on nearby trails, Alabama is a nature lover’s paradise.
Its musical heritage.
In Alabama, you’ll find roots deep in music and a history that has played a huge role in the development of blues, jazz and country worldwide. Between the Jazz Hall of Fame in Birmingham, the Hank Williams festival in Montgomery, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia and the Muscle Shoals Music Studios, the entire state has always centered around its music. Not to mention the footsteps of some great music legends that are all found here: like Nat King Cole, Jimmy Buffet, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones and more.
If there’s one thing you need to know before moving to Alabama, it’s that football is a way of life–especially with the competition between the University of Alabama and Auburn University. Every year, more than 100,000 fans gather to witness the game at Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare stadiums. So prepare for the time when you get asked, “who are you for?” Your friends, neighbors and coworkers want to know if you say “War Eagle” or “Roll Tide” — and you’ll want to answer confidently!
Did you know?
Alabama is also the only state in the United States that provides the natural resources needed to make iron and steel. As a result, Alabama is the largest supplier of cast-iron and steel pipe products in the entire U.S.
Popular Towns in Alabama
Alabama is divided into 67 counties, consisting of 169 cities and 291 towns. If you’re moving to Alabama, it doesn’t matter which town you live in–you’ll be centrally located to everything you need. Montgomery and Birmingham are a 2.5-hour drive from Atlanta, while Mobile and the Gulf Shore beaches are about the same distance from New Orleans.
Whether you’re looking for a thriving downtown scene or some spots on the water to relax, here are some of the best places to live in Alabama:
From the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to the Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, Birmingham is known for playing a crucial role in Alabama’s history. Today, the area boasts a thriving cultural epicenter, numerous trails in Red Mountain Park and the Southwestern Athletic Conference. With over 212,000 people, Birmingham is the most populated area in Alabama and offers the draw of urban life without the affordable price tag.
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As the State Capital and Alabama’s second-largest city, Montgomery offers rich history, ample job opportunities and vibrant downtown life. From the Civil War to the civil rights movement, Montgomery has played a vital role in some of Alabama’s most significant achievements. It’s also home to the State Capitol building where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous speech in 1963. Today, Montgomery is recognized nationally for its recent downtown revitalization and new urbanism projects.
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From turquoise waters to deep-sea fishing at The Wharf, to panoramic bay views, Mobile is the ultimate beach destination. Known for being one of the largest shipping ports in the U.S., the city has a deep history of its own: including its centuries-old Mardi Gras tradition, WWII-era Battleship Memorial Park, and architectural style. Whether you’re relocating to this part of Alabama alone or with your entire family, you’re going to love it in no time.
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Known as the Rocket City, Huntsville is the third-largest city in Alabama with a population of 193,000. Home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (along with Redstone Arsenal, a military base of the U.S. Army), Huntsville is the area to be for military, aerospace and advanced-technology businesses, and is even called the STEM capital of the country. It hosts one of the largest research parks in the U.S., one of the most well-educated populations in the world, and it’s also home to several Fortune 500 companies including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and more.
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Auburn is a top-10 college town. It’s home to 63,000 people and Auburn University. The school is the largest employer in the area and offers dynamic job opportunities. With affordable housing, an award-winning school system and tons of sports perks, it’s no wonder Auburn is a sought-after place to live. Centrally located near Atlanta, Birmingham and Montgomery, the area is easy to get to and easy to love.
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Schools in Alabama
The University of Alabama. Founded in 1820, UA is the oldest and largest public university in Alabama. Located in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama (UA) houses an art gallery, a 50-acre arboretum, a classroom dating back to pre-Civil War and two museums. In addition to its impressive academics, UA’s football team is one of the best in the country. Known for their war-cry of “Roll Tide,” the Crimson Tide boasted a 14-1 season last year.
Auburn University. Chartered in 1856, Auburn University became the state’s first four-year, co-educational college in 1892. With over 28,000 students and 1,200 faculty members, AU’s academic status has kept the college ranked as one of the top 50 public universities in the U.S. for the last 20 years.
If you’re not a huge football fan (our advice to you: maybe keep that to yourself), Alabama offers plenty of other sports to keep you entertained. The Birmingham Barons dominate in baseball, and the Huntsville Havoc are Alabama’s hockey team. You’ll also find plenty of beautiful golf courses throughout the state for recreation. Alabama is one of the few states that doesn’t have a professional football or baseball team, but with everything the state has to offer, you’ll get acquainted in no time!
Moving to the South
If you’re a northerner moving to the South, let’s just say that it may take some adjusting. Here are a few things you need to know before making the big move.
Mild winters mean hot summers.
If you’re not a fan of snow, you’re in luck. Summers in the South can hover anywhere between the 90s to 100s with lots of humidity. Winters are more-than-bearable with January highs in the 50s and minimal snow. But while the winters are mild, Southern states are not necessarily in the clear the rest of the year. Alabama, for example, has one of the highest rates of hurricanes and tornadoes in the entire country. You’ll soon learn that this comes with the territory. Just be sure to have emergency plans and safety provisions in place.
Life is significantly more laid back.
Southern folks seem to have more of a leisurely lifestyle than everyone else in the country. Where you’d normally find chaos, hustle and bustle, and rush-hour traffic (we’re thinking of Queens, NY), you’ll find slow paces, friendly drivers and lots of “bless your heart” remarks. After relocating to the South, it shouldn’t take you long to get into the Southern state of mind. Just make sure that everything you do, you do with a smile.
The stereotypes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
When you think of moving to the South, it’s tough to avoid the cliche stereotypes. But before you assume anything, just make sure you take the time to educate yourself. Southern states are home to some of the most well-educated professionals in the nation. Not everyone says y’all with a thick accent. The South is just as much of a metropolis as it is a small town. But of course, there are still those traditions that Southerners won’t ever grow tired of–like sweet tea in a mason jar, authentic barbecue and Saturday tailgates.
Cost of Living in Alabama
Boasting some of the country’s most affordable home prices, lowest cost-of-living indexes, along with low taxes, Alabama is a very affordable state to live. The median home value in Alabama is $126,000 which is 26 percent lower than the national average, giving you much more value than other housing markets in the country. Alabama home values have gone up 3.4% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.3% within the next year.
Three of Alabama’s largest cities, Huntsville, Montgomery and Mobile, are also among the top 25 places in the nation with the lowest cost of living.
Let’s take a look at the numbers:
- In Huntsville, the median home value is $160,400 and the median rent is $723. The average home is valued at 3.3 times the income of an average family.
- In Montgomery, the median home value is $119,500 while the median rent is $818. The average home of a Montgomery family is valued at 2.3 times the income of an average family.
- In Mobile (the 22nd lowest cost of living in the nation), the average value of a home is $123,600 while the median rent is $764. The value of the average home in the Port City is 3.1 times what a family makes.
Getting Around Alabama
If you’re moving to Alabama, chances are you’ll commute to places in a car. It’s the fastest method and also the most scenic. Interstates converge on Montgomery, Birmingham, and Mobile, and make quick transportation between those cities (and in other states). They also connect to Anniston, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville.
And here’s the good news: overall, the traffic isn’t as bad as it is in most other states, which can vary depending on how congested of an area you’re in. Residents of the greater Birmingham area, for example, lead the state in terms of time spent driving to work (26 minutes), while Tuscaloosa leads the state’s five largest metros for short commutes (9 minutes).
Navigating around the state will be a piece of cake, as long as you have transportation plans. Here are your two best options:
- By Rail. There are three major train stations in the state of Alabama: Birmingham, Anniston and Tuscaloosa. The stations are all served by Amtrak’s Crescent service, which has a daily route that links New York Penn Station with New Orleans, stopping at a number of major cities on the way. While both rail and bus options are available, they’re limited within the city and to some suburbs. If you’re looking for efficiency, traveling by automobile is your best bet.
- By Car. If you’re driving yourself around, commutes will be a breeze in Alabama. A well-developed system of highways makes this an easily navigable state no matter who’s behind the wheel. The principal highway routes into Birmingham are I-65 from the north, I-20 from the east, I-59 from the northeast, I-20/59 from the southwest, and I-65 from the south. With the number of revitalization projects going on in its large cities, parking is what tends to be problematic. Taxis are available within Alabama’s major cities and Uber also recently rolled out its service in Montgomery, Birmingham, Homewood, Mobile and Mountain Brook.
Moving to Alabama?
With its rich history, beautiful coastlines and undeniable Southern hospitality, it’s no wonder Alabama is a desirable place to live. Whatever your reason may be for moving to the South, Life Storage offers self-storage in Alabama as well as moving trucks to assist you and your family with your move.