You could ask executives at Toyota, Mazda, Boeing, Remington, Google, NASA, the US Army, or the FBI—all who’ve established major operations here in the last half century. They’d most likely tell you without exaggeration that Huntsville, Alabama was an obvious choice of address. Business-friendly. Renowned for innovation. Gifted with first-class technological infrastructure and forward-thinking, skilled citizens. The city is a rising star with a bright future.
But if it's the real scoop you're after, who better to ask than a local? Where's that hiking trail everybody talks about, the one that takes you the pretty waterfall? The best running route? Where and when is traffic on 565 the worst? What's with the rubber ducks glued to buildings all over town? Ice hockey is big here, really? Who makes the best cup of coffee? The best spot to indulge a sweet tooth? The best eggs and grits? Don't even ask about barbeque or beer unless you've got a good half-hour to spare.
Any proud son or daughter of Huntsville will tell you that the region was remarkable long before the titans of technology and industry figured it out. The area surrounding the city has an extensive cave system and a rich prehistoric legacy; generations of Native Americans lived here for thousands of years before Europeans began settling near the turn of the 19th century. The state constitutional convention was held in Huntsville, Alabama's first capital city, in 1819. Both the meetinghouse in which the constitution was signed and the inn where many of the delegates stayed are still standing and well preserved. Commerce soon followed.
Huntsville's location between the southwesternmost foot of the Appalachian Mountains and the Tennessee River, with a crystal clear spring at its center and black fertile soil for miles around, made it the ideal frontier town and victualling stop for settlers looking to expand into the West in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The community remained small through the early 20th century and has a distinction for being one of the few cities to escape defacement and destruction during the Civil War. (However, backyard archaeologists will tell you that Civil War artifacts are common finds, as Huntsville was a major headquarters for the Union Army through most of the war.) As such, Huntsville has some of the best surviving examples of antebellum architecture in the South. A few are now museums or living history exhibits, but many are still private residences. Some even pop up occasionally on the real estate market! Tours of Huntsville's historic districts are popular during the spring and the fall when the mild weather here beats just about any other destination in the country for comfortable living.
So if history’s your thing, there’s more than enough to here to keep the most ardent buffs busy. But if your desires tend more toward the 21st century, the city’s got you covered too. Huntsville embraced all things modern during the heyday of the space age and never looked back. A replica of the massive Saturn V rocket—a symbol of American daring and ingenuity—stands sentinel over the city’s skyline, a visual reminder that Huntsville isn’t content to stay still. Progress is in our DNA.
These days, the aerospace and defense industries are still going strong here, but they’ve been joined by manufacturing, biomedical, and technology firms, including Google, which recently awarded Huntsville (one of only 11 cities in the country) a place in its Google Fiber Internet and TV service pilot project. Naturally, with all this buzz comes jobs, and lots of them: CBS News recently reported that Huntsville was rated as the number one city in the country for technology job growth.
And if you come for a job, you’ll likely stay for the culture. Being an older town, Huntsville is built around a central square with a gridded street plan. It’s the very definition of a walkable city, and the scores of small businesses that have sprung up in the last decade bring citizens out by the hundreds on nights and weekends. Restaurants, cafes, shopping, museums—Huntsville’s got something for everyone. And if outdoor cultural events tickle your fancy, we’ve got them too. Art fairs, food trucks, farmers’ markets, food and music festivals, a growing Mardi Gras tradition, there’s usually something big happening every month!
Huntsville balances its urban attractions well with plenty of natural ones. The city center has its share of green space, but the further you get from Big Spring Park, the greener it gets. Huntsville and the surrounding region have miles of recreational greenways for pedestrians and cyclists, extensive playgrounds for children, and thousands of acres of state parks and hunting and fishing grounds for the rugged set. Or, if gardening is more your style, take a tour of the Huntsville Botanical Garden, one of the top tourist attractions in Alabama. However you choose to experience natural Huntsville, you’ll be rewarded with a feast for the senses: a full palette of floral color, birdsong in spring and junebugs’ buzz in summer, the green smell of soil after the rain, mountainsides ablaze in orange and gold in the fall. It never gets old.