Considering a move to the south? This post goes into all the things to know before moving to Alabama!
Alabama isn’t usually the first state people think of as one they would want to live in. Yet despite the fact that it flies pretty under the radar, there are some really great things about living in Alabama. We’ve lived here for over 5 years now, and had a great experience in the Yellowhammer State.
If you’re considering a move to Alabama, there are some things you should know first. While Alabama is a beautiful and diverse state with a lot of hidden gems and relatively unknown positive aspects to living here, it also has its quirks. So we’ll go into some of the best, worst, and quirky things to know before moving to Alabama.
28 Things to Know Before Moving to Alabama
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons, and things you need to be aware of about living in Alabama. From southern cuisine to bugs to weather to great places to visit, we’ve got you covered!
1. Crape Myrtle Trees Are Everywhere
In the south, and definitely in Alabama, crape myrtle trees are everywhere. In the summer months between July-September, these trees bloom and have large clusters of flowers that hang thick throughout the trees.
There are a large variety of crape myrtle trees, from smaller bushes, shrubs, and trees, to quite large trees, and flowers in a rainbow of colors (white, light pink, dark pink, and purple). You will literally see these trees everywhere you go, in the yards of houses on every street, to school property and government buildings, and frequently in the parking lots of stores.
It’s a really beautiful time of year and one of my absolute favorite parts of living in Alabama!
2. People are Super Friendly
I think this is one of the things I love most about living in Alabama – people are generally very kind, friendly, willing to be chatty, and people are willing to help out.
Of course, your mileage will vary on this. Some people are just more crabby and some are more welcoming and warm, no matter where you live. But overall, I’ve felt that people have been particularly friendly in this state.
3. And They Say Sir & Ma’am a Lot
In Alabama, it’s not uncommon to hear people use the words “sir” and “ma’am.”
Both sir and ma’am are typically used when speaking to someone who is in a position of authority, when asking for help, or when you are in a customer service position.
Sometimes visitors not from the area feel that being called “ma’am” is actually a bit of an insult (e.g. you’re insinuating that they are old and stuffy), but it’s really not that at all! It’s just people being polite – you’ll get used to it quickly!
One other, related, speech quirk is that often, children will use Miss (or Mr) + first names to address adults. Adults will also refer to other adults this way in front of children.
For example, a friend might tell her kids “Go ask Miss Stephanie if that’s okay”. This is very common here!
4. Get Ready to Hear a Lot of “Y’all”
People in the south say “y’all” all the time. It’s one of the most defining aspects of a southern drawl.
If you’re not aware, y’all is an contraction of “you all”, and it is used as a singular pronoun to refer to more than one person and is generally used as an informal way of saying you guys or you people.
It’s definitely a defining feature of the region, and I have to say, it is catchy! I think I added y’all to my vocabulary within a month or two of moving to Alabama.
5. Get Ready for Southern Barbecue
Alabama is well-known for its delicious barbecue, and there are barbecue joints everrryyywhere throughout the state. You can often smell the meat smoking in back as you walk into a restaurant.
When you go to a barbecue restaurant when living in Alabama, you can expect to find a wide variety of meats and sides. Meats offered often include brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and sausage. Sides often include baked beans, coleslaw (creamy or vinegary), Texas Toast or white bread, corn on the cob, mac and cheese, collard greens, or potato salad.
While traditional barbecue sauce is generally available, white barbecue sauce is an Alabama specialty!
6. Southern Cooking is Drool-Worthy
Beyond barbecue, Alabama is famous for its good, homestyle southern cooking. You can find classics such as fried chicken, chicken and waffles, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, coleslaw, fried okra, sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, pecan pie, and more!
And if you’ve never tried chicken and waffles, you’re in for a treat! Before we moved here, I thought it was kind of weird, but now it’s one of my favorite things to eat in Alabama.
7. College Football is Practically a Religion
When considering what is Alabama famous for, football will definitely be at the top of that list. It’s all about football – any kind of football. But when it comes to college football, things get a little bit more intense.
There are two major college football teams in Alabama – the University of Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn University Tigers. These two teams have a long and storied rivalry, often called the “Iron Bowl.” Generally, the University of Alabama has the better football team (they’ve won the championship several times in recent years), but Auburn can hold its own too.
If you’re moving to Alabama, you need to be prepared for some serious football fever! You’ll definitely be asked on multiple occasions which team you root for, and on game day, you can be sure that everyone will be glued to the game!
8. There are Churches Everywhere You Look
Alabama sits squarely in the Bible Belt, with religion, particularly Christianity, being a very common thing. I’ve heard “You have a blessed day” more times than I can count.
A high percentage of people in Alabama are regular church-goers, and churches are plentiful. There’s a spot in our city where there’s something like 15 churches along a 2 mile section of road!
9. Snow is Incredibly Rare, But It Does Happen
One thing to know before moving to Alabama is that most winters in Alabama do not bring more than a negligible dusting of snow. Every couple of years, a few inches of snow will fall. It is much more common for the north part of the state (Birmingham and Huntsville) to get snow. It’s very rare for snow to fall in Montgomery or Mobile.
If there is *any* snow, even a dusting, the whole city shuts down. School is cancelled and everyone who can work remotely does. Of course, when snow does come, everyone loses their mind with excitement. It’s actually really fun – EVERYONE is outside playing in the snow together.
10. In Fact, School Gets Cancelled A Lot
If there is even the chance of snow or severe weather, schools will cancel, delay the start of school, get out of school early, or cancel after school activities. The reason is two-fold: severe weather often rolls through in the afternoon in Alabama, so right when school would be getting out.
Second, being in the south, Alabama’s infrastructure is not at all prepared for winter weather. There are no snowplows or salt trucks here, and people are generally unprepared for driving in icy or snowy conditions. If there’s even a chance of snow, no one goes out.
So if there’s ever a chance that bad weather might be headed your way, be sure to check whether or not your local schools are affected. You may very well have a weather day!
This actually drives me a little bit crazy, because usually when things get cancelled, no bad weather actually occurs. When snow is in the forecast, it’s pretty common for districts to make decisions about tomorrow’s weather by 4pm the day before. By the time the morning rolls around, usually we wake up to completely bare roads.
This can be pretty frustrating for parents, but I do understand that people in charge would rather be safe than sorry.
11. Shopping Carts Are Called Buggies
It was one of those things I thought people just did in movies, but yes, it’s actually a real thing – I’ve heard countless people call shopping carts buggies.
(Unlike y’all, this is not a speaking habit I’ve picked up, though)
12. The Humidity in Summer is Stifling
While it’s humid all year round, the humidity really peaks in the summer months, when temperatures can easily reach 90-100 degrees and humidity levels are around 70% or more.
For people who are used to drier climates, the humidity can be quite a shock. The air feels thicker, you are immediately sweaty and sticky, and it feels like you can never get cool.
How do Alabamians cope with the summer heat and humidity? Generally, people go outside in the early morning or evening, when the weather isn’t quite as oppressive. Or, they spend a lot of time at the pool or splash pads. Many homes have pools, and many communities have a communal pool for neighbors to use.
And honestly, a lot of people stay inside in the AC in the hottest parts of the day in the summer.
13. But the Amazing Fall, Winter, and Spring Make Up For It
While the summer can be, honestly, a bit miserable, fall, winter, and spring are really, really lovely and one of the best parts of living in Alabama. Temperatures start cooling off in October, and stay pleasant and mild through November.
It does start to get chillier in December, but often this means 50’s and 60’s F, which is still not bad at all.
Warmer weather comes back in March, with average temperatures in the mid-60’s-70’s, and April is absolutely gorgeous, with temperatures in the 70’s-80’s.
The temperatures really bounce around a lot, though, in Alabama. You can regularly have a week in January where Monday the high is 47, and by Friday, the high is 69. A few years ago, it was 75 degrees on Christmas day.
14. You Can’t Avoid the Big Bugs
The south is home to some of the biggest bugs in the country, unfortunately including cockroaches. These critters can get up to 2 inches long, and love to hide in little cracks and crevices.
There are two main categories of cockroaches. The big ones are usually found outside and the small ones generally live inside.
If you see a small cockroach in your home, it may mean you have an infestation. If you see a large cockroach in your home, it often means that they inadvertently wandered inside, but you don’t necessarily have an infestation.
One other large bug you’ll often see in Alabama are red wasps. These bugs usually come out during warm days in the fall.
15. Education and Schools is a Mixed Bag
There is a wide swing in quality of education in Alabama. On the one hand, Alabama has consistently ranked very poorly in the quality of schools among states – currently 47th out of 50.
Despite this, there are individual school districts that are really excellent in the state. For example, Madison City Schools, Homewood City Schools, Auburn City Schools, and Vestavia City Schools are all really good school districts, with good student support, extracurricular opportunities, test scores, and graduation rates.
It’s always important to consider the school district you will be moving into, but it is particularly important in Alabama, as quality can vary wildly.
16. Alabama Struggles with Poverty
Alabama is one of the poorest states in the United States. In fact, according to recent data from The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, 22 percent of Alabama children live in poverty. This is a staggering statistic, and it has serious consequences for the state’s well-being.
17. Low Cost of Living
Alabama is a great place to live if you’re looking for a low cost of living. The state has one of the lowest median costs of living in the country, and your money will go a lot further here than it would in most other states -this is one of the really good things about living in Alabama.
Housing is especially affordable, and you can find good deals on both rent and purchase prices. Food costs are also relatively low, making it easy to stick to a tight budget.
Unfortunately, like the rest of the country (and world!) cost of living has increased dramatically during this recent period of inflation, but relative to other parts of the country, cost of living remains low and is one of the main reasons why so many people choose to call Alabama home.
18. Obesity Continues to Be a Challenge
Alabama is one of the most obese states in the country.
Nearly 39% of Alabamians are considered obese, and that number is on the rise. The state has made some progress in recent years, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Obesity rates are especially high among children, with 22% of kids aged 2-19 considered obese. This is a major health concern, as obesity can lead to a variety of chronic health problems later in life.
19. The Gulf Coast Beaches are Fantastic
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the sun and the waves, Alabama’s Gulf Coast beaches are basically perfection. This may be my favorite thing to know about moving to Alabama on this list – everyone loves the beach!
While Alabama’s section of gulf coast shoreline is very small, it’s beaches, mainly Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, and Dauphin Island offer some of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see.
Miles of clear turqouise waters, soft, white sand, clean beaches are available for a relaxing beach vacation.
Besides enjoying the beach and the waves, our family always loves going on a dolphin boat tour when we’re on the coast – dolphin spotting is absolutely a delight here!
20. Storms and Tornadoes Pop Up Regularly
Alabama is known for its severe weather and heavy storms. Every year, the state is hit with dozens of tornadoes, and residents are always prepared for the worst.
While the storms can be frightening, most Alabamians take a “been there, done that” attitude and are used to dealing with them.
In addition to tornadoes, Alabama also experiences heavy rains and severe thunderstorms, particularly during the spring and summer months.
21. There Are a Ton of Civil Rights Sites to Visit
Alabama has a dark and shameful history with slavery. The state was one of the first in America to be colonized by Europeans, and it remained a slave-holding state throughout the antebellum period.
Slavery was abolished during Reconstruction following the Civil War, but it wasn’t until 1901 that Alabama ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery nationwide.
Alabama is home to many sites significant to the history of the American Civil Rights Movement. These include the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, which was the site of Bloody Sunday, and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which was bombed by members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1963, killing four young girls.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was spurred forward by the arrest of Rosa Parks, was also a significant milestone of the Civil Rights Movement.
One important site to visit in Alabama about the history of racism is the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, created by the Equal Justice Initiative.
The EJI is the organization founded by Bryan Stevenson, who wrote the book “Just Mercy” (you may have read the book or seen the movie). This museum talks about the continued legacy and effect of slavery and racism today and is a must visit.
22. It’s Blissfully Uncrowded
Alabama is a great place to live if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. With its low population density, Alabama is one of the least crowded states in the country. Plus, the rolling green countryside of Alabama is very beautiful.
23. There are Lots of Exciting Destinations Nearby
Alabama sits in a great location in the south, being close to many fun, interesting, and beautiful destinations to visit in the region.
For example, Nashville is just 1.5 hours from Alabama’s north border, and New Orleans is close to the southwest. Atlanta is just a few hours’ drive away, and you can get to Asheville, Gatlinburg, Savannah, Charleston, Orlando in an easy day’s drive from most parts of the state.
There are really so many gorgeous and historical spots to visit in the south, and fairly close proximity to these spots is one of the things we really love about living in Alabama.
Read More: 22+ Exciting Day Trips from Huntsville, AL
24. What is the best part of Alabama to live in?
Three great areas to live in Alabama are Madison (a suburb of Huntsville), Vestavia Hills (a suburb of Birmingham), and Auburn.
25. What are the Biggest Cities in Alabama?
The four biggest cities in Alabama are Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile, and Montgomery. Each of these cities has its own unique features and attractions.
Huntsville is known for its aerospace and military industries, as well as its many parks and nature preserves. It just passed Birmingham as the biggest city in the state.
Birmingham is home to numerous cultural attractions, including museums, theaters, and sports venues.
Mobile is one of the oldest cities in the United States and boasts a vibrant waterfront district that’s popular for shopping, dining, and nightlife.
Montgomery is the capital of Alabama and home to many government buildings and historic landmarks.
What is There to Do in Alabama?
26. Fun Things to Do in Mobile, Alabama
If you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly activity to do in Mobile, Alabama, look no further than the Gulf Coast Zoo.
This small zoo is home to a wide variety of animals from all over the world, including lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). The zoo also has a petting zoo where kids can get up close and personal with farm animals.
Other things to do in Mobile include exploring the Mobile Botanical Gardens, visiting the Battleship USS Alabama Museum, and taking a leisurely stroll through Daphne’s beautiful Jubilee Park.
And of course, if you visit Mobile, you must hit the beach! Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are popular options.
27. Cool Things to Do in Huntsville, Alabama
Despite being relatively unknown outside of the state, Huntsville is the biggest city in the Alabama. It is known as “Rocket City,” as a lot of the people in the city work on space programs at Redstone Arsenal for NASA or the military.
The engineers and rocket scientists in Huntsville played a very important role in the first moon landing, and today, it is also doing essential work for the upcoming moon landing in 2024. The whole city practically breathes Air and Space, which makes for a really fun and unique dynamic.
The Space and Rocket Center is definitely the star of Huntsville. This museum is home to a wide variety of exhibits about space travel and exploration. Guests can also take a tour of the center’s historic Saturn V rocket or experience a simulated mission to Mars.
Other things to do in Huntsville include visiting the Botanical Gardens, visiting the nearby Monte Sano State Park, and exploring downtown Huntsville’s beautiful Historic District.
28. Fun Things to Do in Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama is a city full of history and culture. Here are five of the best things to do in the city for visitors:
1. Visit the Birmingham Museum of Art. This museum is home to one of the largest collections of American art in the country.
2. Take a stroll through Birmingham’s beautiful Civil Rights District. This district is home to many of the city’s most important historic landmarks, including the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Kelly Ingram Park.
3. Tour Vulcan Park and Museum. This park is home to a towering statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. The park also features beautiful gardens and a museum with exhibits about Birmingham’s history.
4. Explore Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. This former iron furnace is now a museum that tells the story of Birmingham’s industrial past.
5. Have a picnic in Railroad Park. This beautiful park is home to a train station, a playground, and plenty of open green space for picnicking.
Final Thoughts on Things to Know Before Moving to Alabama
Is Alabama a good place to live? I really think so! While there are definitely some downsides, no place is perfect, and we’ve found the pros have really outweighed the cons here, I can definitely recommend living in Alabama.