Thinking about moving to Alabama? The Yellowhammer State is a great place to live, with diverse and welcoming citizens, one of the most thriving ecosystems of any state in the U.S., and public land that is full of beauty and natural wonders. And did we mention, it’s a place where people love to celebrate? After all, the first Mardi Gras took place in Mobile (sorry, New Orleans). Then there’s the matter of Christmas — Alabama was the very first state to recognize it as a legal holiday.
Whether you move to Alabama for work, to raise a family, to retire or simply to experience a different way — and pace — of life, living in the state of Alabama offers pleasures and opportunities few other places can match.
Alabama at a Glance
As the “Home of Southern Hospitality,” the state of Alabama is famous for great Southern food, beautiful Gulf Coast beaches and Crimson Tide football. It also played a key role in the American Civil Rights Movement. With a southeastern border that stretches for 53 miles along the Gulf of Mexico and its eastern half containing a major portion of the Appalachian Mountains, Alabama not only offers everything from pristine beaches to scenic mountains — it is also one of the most biodiverse states in the nation.
However, as anyone living there will tell you, that’s just scratching the surface. Alabama has world-class golf courses and top colleges and universities. And while it’s not well-known for fishing and hunting, it truly does have some of the best in the South.
Another great thing about living in Alabama is its wide, open spaces. With fewer than 95 people per square mile, the state ranks 27th in population density. According to the United States Census Bureau, Alabama’s total estimated population stood at 5,039,877 in 2020, and more people moved in from other states than at any time in the last decade.
Advantages of Moving to Alabama
There are a host of compelling reasons to make your new home in the Yellowhammer State. At 12.5 points below the national average, Alabama has the fourth-lowest cost of living among the 50 states. In fact, the Bureau of Economic Analysis has calculated that the average cost of living in Alabama is around $35,859 per year for a single individual. The median household income of Alabamians is $51,773, with the highest employing industries being in trade, transportation and utilities. Employment in the government sector also enjoys a top slot.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Alabama has a robust housing market. The statewide median sales price for a home in July 2022 was $247,706, which was an increase of 13.4% from one year ago.
The importance of education should not be overlooked. The state is home to several top-ranked universities, including Auburn University, Samford University and the University of Alabama. With many exceptional athletic programs, going to college football games is a beloved pastime for fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers.
Weathering the Move to Alabama
If you’re moving from a colder state, don’t worry about bringing your snow boots The weather in Alabama is typically warm and sunny, with few cold periods throughout the year. The state’s average annual temperature is 64° F with warmer temperatures found in its southern portions, and slightly cooler temperatures in the north — particularly in the Appalachian Mountains. The hottest month of the year is July, with most days experiencing temperatures of 90° F and above.
The coldest month of the year is January, with the average low temperatures ranging from 33° F to 54° F. Severe weather can occur in Alabama during hurricane season, which is typically between May and October.
Best Places to Live in Alabama
Depending upon what you’re looking for, Alabama offers a nice mix of small town and city life.
Huntsville was ranked as the “Best Place to Live” by U.S. News & World Report for 2022-23, experiencing a 12% growth rate over the last decade to become the largest city in the state. Considered the Silicon Valley of the south, it hosts many employers in the defense and technology sectors, including Blue Origin, Mazda and Toyota. Just recently, the U.S. Defense Department decided to move the U.S. Space Command to Huntsville from Colorado, too.
As the second largest city in the state, Birmingham boasts an affordable cost of living — 94% of the national average. It’s also a mecca for foodies. In fact, the James Beard Award Foundation recently named four Birmingham restaurants and bars among its finalists: Automatic Seafood, Johnny’s Restaurant, Chez Fonfon and the Atomic Lounge.
The capital city of Alabama and one of the nation’s most historically significant cities, Montgomery promises affordable housing and many beautiful neighborhoods. Among them is Old Cloverdale, the home of many professionals, students and educators from area colleges. Montgomery also hosts one of the top 10 Shakespeare theaters in the country — the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. It also boasts a host of other historical attractions worth exploring, such as the Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald Museum.
The oldest and fourth most populated city in Alabama, Mobile is experiencing a resurgence in economic development, thanks to the aerospace and other high-tech industries. With plenty of affordable housing, this gateway to the Gulf is situated on the west side of Mobile Bay, with an abundance of water sports, a plentiful fresh seafood supply and a generally laid-back lifestyle. If you don’t want to live right in town, West Mobile, Semmes, Theodore or Saraland along with other communities on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay are only 10 or so miles away.
Things to Do: Only in Alabama
Alabama is where Rosa Parks’ brave story began; Helen Keller first learned to communicate with the world around her; and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impactful speeches were delivered. These historical moments and landmarks can be discovered while exploring the 40 spots in Alabama on the Civil Rights Trail.
Take a closer look at the United States Civil Rights Movement at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Exhibits include a rendition of a segregated city in the 1950s, a replica of a Freedom Riders bus and the actual jail cell door from behind which Dr. King wrote his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” You can also explore its Civil Rights image gallery and listen to nearly 500 recorded oral histories from people who experienced it all firsthand.
Did you know that the Saturn V rocket that put humans on the moon had its origins in Huntsville? Affiliated with the Smithsonian, the US Space and Rocket Center has one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia on display anywhere in the world. It’s also a working NASA facility and houses the second biggest research park in the United States. You can even experience what early space flight was like with their Apollo 11 Virtual Reality experience.
Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, a simple white clapboard home where Helen Keller was born, has become known as the setting for the “miracle” that gave a blind and deaf child the ability to communicate and inspire the world. On the National Register of Historic Places since 1954, it’s both a tourist attraction and one of Alabama’s historical treasures.
Of course, recreational activities abound. Over 100 total miles of golfing experiences make the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail the largest golf course construction project ever attempted. A collection of championship-caliber golf courses, consisting of 11 sites and 26 18-hole courses totaling 468 holes, two of the courses on the trail currently host events on the LPGA tournament.
It may come as a surprise that the Heart of Dixie is also home to many beautiful state parks that encompass over 48,000 acres of land and water. They span across the state’s bountiful landscape, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. For sun worshippers, the best include Cotton Bayou Beach, Fort Morgan, Alabama Point Beach, Fairhope and the West End Public Beach on Dauphin Island. Many of the state parks provide camping and lodging, making a weekend getaway easy, relaxing and enjoyable. To glimpse the coastline’s breathtaking views, check out Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores. If the Appalachian Mountain range is more your style, be sure to visit the highest point in Alabama at Cheaha State Park in Delta.
Then there’s the fact that Alabamians are avid sports fans. The biggest sport of all? College football. With 15 college football teams to cheer for, you’ll experience plenty of thrills. As any serious Alabama football follower knows, there is an intense rivalry between the Crimson Tide at University of Alabama and the Tigers at Auburn University — both charter teams of the highly-regarded Southeastern Conference. It’s always one of the top events of the season.
Where – and What – Locals Eat in Alabama
From Gulf Coast delicacies to down-home cooking, the cuisine in Alabama is as mouthwatering as it is unique. Want to know which dishes to watch out for? Bring your appetite and read on.
As Alabama’s unofficial state dish, you’ll find shrimp and grits made in a wide range of preparations, from spicy to peppery, cheesy and even tangy. If you want to sample some of the best in a truly unique setting, try Classic On Noble in Anniston, which is housed inside of a building that dates back to 1864.
Usually accompanied by a side of coleslaw and french fries, fried catfish is served in homes and restaurants just about everywhere. If you want to give it a try, pay a visit to Newburn’s in Florence. It’s an unassuming place, but the banner above the door — “Home of the Famous Catfish Dinner” — says it all.
Now that we’ve whetted your appetite for fried dishes, let’s move on to country fried steak, basically cube steak coated in seasoned flour, pan-fried in a cast-iron skillet and served with creamy gravy. Originally introduced by European immigrants, there’s no better place to try it out than Dale’s Southern Grill in Birmingham, known for its top quality “southern experience” food and relaxed, inviting ambiance.
Have a thing for sweets? A mildly sweet graham cracker cookie and marshmallow concoction, Moon Pies come with an array of coatings, including chocolate, vanilla, banana, strawberry and salted caramel. They’re everywhere during Mardi Gras in Mobile, but you can also order them online at the Moon Pie General Store. Fun fact: There is a custom of eating moon pies with RC Cola, which is known as the “working man’s lunch.”
Although canned versions are slowly replacing this traditional Alabama snacking fave, the roasted and hand-packed boiled peanuts made by the Alabama Peanut Company in Birmingham are a state classic. Since boiled peanuts have nearly four times the number of antioxidants found in other kinds of peanuts, they’re good for you, too.
Run by award-winning chef Frank Stitt, French bistro Chez Fonfon is located in Birmingham, serving up traditional steak frites, sautéed trout, escargots and other dishes that continue to win acclaim far and wide.
If you want some atmosphere to go along with your food, head over to Cotton Row in downtown Huntsville, which serves up the very best of Southern hospitality in a 200-plus-year-old historic setting. Specializing in American cuisine with a distinctively Southern twist, its dishes include fried green tomatoes, Cajun spiced Gulf redfish and braised Black Angus beef short ribs.
Another unique dining experience, Fisher’s in Orange Beach, offers two different restaurants in one: an upscale dining room on the top floor featuring local seafood and prime steaks, craft cocktails and an impressive wine list and a more casual dockside setting for burgers, sandwiches and Gulf Coast seafood.
Feel like something more substantial. Try the “meat and sides platter” at Miss Myra’s Pit in Vestavia. Look past the diner-like decor and dive into the well-made, authentic — and generously portioned — dishes that bring people in from far and wide.
Moving to Alabama Soon? Let Mayflower Get You There
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