Are you thinking about moving to the South, where you can escape harsh winters and the rush of significant city traffic?
You may want to consider Huntsville, Alabama. For the second time in consecutive years, Huntsville has been recognized as the No. 1 metro area by U.S. News & World Report.
Most of us remember that Huntsville gained national recognition in the 1960s during the “race for outer Space.” The Marshall Space Flight Center is in Huntsville on the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal grounds, and the area has been a significant location for NASA since the peak of the space race.
But while Huntsville is well-known in the aerospace industry and has young potential astronauts who attended Space Camp, it is also a genuinely welcoming southern city that has grown and continues to attract residents of all ages and backgrounds.
It’s easy to see how Huntsville eventually became known as “The Rocket City” because it is the city where “Scientists and engineers helped to put the first man on the moon in 1969. But it is also the first Alabama city to lead in making sure its school system was completely integrated.
Today, this once-sleepy farm town is considered among the fastest-growing metro areas in Alabama.
Huntsville is a perfect place for seasonal fun. Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and nestled in the Tennessee Valley, Huntsville is the site of many of Alabama’s historic firsts and brightest achievements.
So, what else drew U.S. News & World Report to rank this northern Alabama city at the top of the list? “Huntsville is a metro area that offers affordability and a great quality of life.”
“Moving to Huntsville,” says one resident, “opened opportunities for me to work that I didn’t have in other cities. Plus, there are plenty of cultural events that I like. It’s family and it’s like being home. These are top priorities for me.
U.S. News & World Report states the housing market is “strong in the Huntsville area.”
“Huntsville metro area residents spend 20.12% of the area’s median annual household income on housing costs, including mortgage payments, rent, property taxes, and utilities. That makes it the third-most affordable place to live out of the 150 metro areas in the Best Places to Live ranking.”
Significant employers in the area pay higher salaries, which helps make Huntsville more affordable and attractive to a broader group of people. “Of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., Huntsville ranks seventh for its job market, ranking factors in the average annual salary of the metro area as well as the unemployment rate.”
In the private sector, Facebook has a data center in Huntsville and announced plans to expand the campus. Google is also building a data center in Jackson County, neighboring Huntsville’s Madison County.
“Huntsville is a great place for outdoorsy people. There’s no shortage of greenways, hiking trails, scenic views, waterfalls, and opportunities to kayak, paddleboard, or go fishing,” wrote Zenovia Stephens, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Black Kids Adventures Inc., in an email.
She lives in Huntsville with her family and frequently takes advantage of the northern Alabama area’s outdoor options. She started Black Kids Adventures with her family when they noticed a few Black families taking advantage of the outdoor recreation opportunities in the area and wanted to see that change.
Famous author Jacque Proctor Reeves, who lives in Huntsville, explains that this is nothing new for the northern Alabama metro area. “Huntsville has a knack of reinventing herself,” Reeves says, pointing out that Huntsville has historically been able to shift smoothly to meet modern demand, repeatedly embracing new industries from mills to military factories to aerospace.
Reeves also says, “The concept of Southern hospitality comes through,” many quickly note that Huntsville seems a little different, a little more embracing than many other southern cities – a common theme when talking about Rocket City.
Mayor Tommy Battle said the U.S. News & World Report ranking is unsurprising. “Huntsville is a growing, vibrant community and now the most populous city in Alabama.”
“We are the Star of Alabama for a reason,” he said. “As more people discover what makes us the South’s best-kept secret, we take pride in our diverse community’s strength and authenticity. Rankings like these affirm our commitment to providing a healthy, thriving economy without losing our identity while welcoming new citizens and businesses with open arms. Great things are happening in Huntsville!”
Huntsville has several other cultural attractions unrelated to aerospace. The area’s minor league baseball team, the Rocket City Trash Pandas, plays at Toyota Field. Plus, Huntsville has an international airport and a metro bus system appropriately named Orbit.
Top 10 Attractions in Huntsville include:
US Space and Rocket Center Discover the birthplace of America’s Space Program. Since the Space and Rocket Center opened in 1970, over 16 million people have visited the world’s most comprehensive US-manned spaceflight hardware museum.
Huntsville Botanical Garden This beautiful garden features yearly botanical displays, seasonal festivals, and educational programs for adults and children.
Huntsville Museum of Art is located in downtown Huntsville and is surrounded by the Big Spring Internal Park. Featuring seven galleries that display a variety of exhibitions throughout the year, the museum also offers art classes for children and adults, as well as fantastic shopping and unique dining.
Twickenham Historic District Explore some of Alabama’s most beautiful architecture in the State’s largest antebellum district. Be sure to tour the oldest antebellum house in Alabama—the Weeden House and Museum, built in 1819.
Harmony Park Safari A federally licensed nature preserve features exotic and endangered animals.
Bridge Street Town Centre If you’re looking for a mixed lifestyle experience, the Bridge Street Town Centre is a must-see. The Center offers something for everyone, featuring over seventy unique shops and restaurants, as well as a five-acre lake, walking trails, and train rides.
Hays Nature Preserve offers some of Huntsville’s most extensive and undeveloped, pristine parklands. Ten miles of trails allow visitors to enjoy varied and unique countryside, including forests, fields, and wetlands. Hike, bike, or enjoy horseback riding through part of the trails.
US Veterans Memorial Museum Operated by the Alabama Center of Military History, the Memorial Museum is dedicated to the accomplishments of American military men and women. The museum contains artifacts dating back to the Revolutionary War.
Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Huntsville is home to Alabama’s oldest continuously operating symphony orchestra. The Huntsville Symphony Orchestra first opened in 1955, features classical and pop series, and has hosted guest artists worldwide.
Land Trust of North Alabama Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the beauty of nature in this pristine area. The Bethel Spring Preserve is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. Take in the quaint farm, continuing a tradition in the 1800s, and marvel at the spring-fed creeks and waterfalls. You must have (easy to get) reservations to enjoy this location.
For even more things to enjoy in Huntsville, click here.