So, you’re moving to Huntsville! Well, Welcome to Alabama. We have lived in Huntsville for almost twenty years on and off, and here’s my blog to hopefully help newbies coming in and maybe highlighting things for homesteaders too. We are a military family and this article was written from my perspective of coming into Huntsville years ago and making this our home.
Huntsville is filled with so many treasure from world class Botanical Gardens to the Space & Rocket Center and everything in between. It truly is a hidden treasure with a bunch to explore in and around North Alabama.
So, here we go…
Whether you are moving to Huntsville for the military on Redstone Arsenal or are moving here for one of the many companies that are helping grow our city like Google, Facebook, Toyota and so many more. Huntsville is growing in leaps and bounds.
If you have a family with children, one of the first questions you will ask is, How are the schools in Huntsville?
Schools in Huntsville
On average, the schools in and around Huntsville score above state average for testing and math scores. They have excellent sports and arts programs and compete nationally for many sports and events.
Personally, I homeschooled our children during their middle school years and I think the homeschooling community in Alabama is amazing and super supportive. To homeschool in the State of Alabama, you must be under a school umbrella. Here’s a good list for Alabama. Some are faith-based and others are national umbrella schools. For more information, you will want to visit the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website. These guys are wonderful advocates and support for the homeschooling family. We were members all three years.
Our children also attended magnet High Schools at Lee High School for arts and music and they thrived. There are several magnet schools in the Huntsville City School District. New Century Technology School is ranked #156 in the nation for schools and #48 for all MAGNET SCHOOLS NATIONWIDE, really fantastic!
There are also several private schools in Huntsville and have very competitive, college-ready and sports programs. If you have school-aged children, I highly suggest you research the schools that best meet your needs.
Some people choose their home based on the location of their school, so let’s talk about real estate.
If you are going to buy or rent in Alabama here are a few things you need to know before you sign on the dotted line. The following is my personal experience and a collection of conversations through research I have done around the city.
CAVEAT EMPTOR (Buyer Beware)
Alabama is a buyer beware state, so the onus is on the buyer to do research on your property/purchase prior to your VERY FIRST OFFER. Here are a few reasons why you need to know before you put your hard earned money down.
In the state of Alabama, appliances do not always convey with the sale/rental of your house. If you want the appliances you see in the showing of your house, make sure you state that you would like them to convey in your very first offer or compensation for replacing them.
Also, negotiate any cosmetic issues that you see, also prior to YOUR FIRST OFFER, new paint, small home repairs, outlet covers, new outlets, remotes etc. before the house inspection. After the inspection takes place and the offer is given it is much harder to get the seller to pony-up for these items.
In the State of Alabama there is this also a tax exemption for new homeowners if they purchase and occupy their house prior to October 1st of the purchase year. It is CRITICAL that you apply for the exemption if you are the new homeowner (your realtor can not do it.) As a homeowner, you must physically go to your county tax assessor’s office and file for the exemption prior to October 1 to qualify. Most new homeowners do this after their first mortgage payment. Just don’t forget, because it is a bunch of money if you forget to apply. HERE’s a LINK FOR more info!
Another suggestion I have, after your purchase, when you know your “move-in” date plan to have your utilities turned on prior to your arrival. I do this a day or two before the moving trucks arrive. If you are moving in the summer, having the A/C running a few days in Alabama before they arrive is important.
In Huntsville (Huntsville Utilities) you will have to
- Make a $300 deposit to have your utilities turned on (after a full month of occupancy, you will get $200 of that refunded) Yea, I know, it’s weird, but true.
- Trash pick up is part of the Utility Company and is $16.50/month and each additional cart is $3.00. (You will want to check this website for your community day pick up.
HOAs (Home Owners Associations)
There are several incredible communities around Huntsville to live in and some of them have Home Owners Associations (HOAs.) These HOAs include many amenities from walking trails, gyms, pools, fitness centers, and more. Each HOA is different and have different dues, bylaws and governance. You will definitely want to check them out prior to purchase.
Most annual dues are for club membership and community property maintenance. These fees can range from $500-2000 annually. We found them to be much more affordable than the DC area. Others have commented that they are much more affordable than the Houston area too. Membership is not always mandatory and sometimes membership does convey with the property, although annual dues are still collected and the responsibility of the new homeowner (some rental properties include the membership in the rental.) If you are renting, this is a good question.
In my opinion, the medical care in Huntsville is good, but not great. When we left Huntsville in 2014 to move to Germany, Huntsville’s medical care was great. As a military family, we didn’t have trouble finding off-post care, for pediatricians, dentists, orthodontists or eye care. However, with expansion in population it has also stretched our medical community thin too, it seems as if it hasn’t been able to catch up.
After returning to Huntsville in 2019, it took us almost a year to find a general practitioner for our family, being placed on waiting lists. If you are active duty (I am pretty sure you can still receive care, at Fox Army Clinic on Redstone, but verify that first.) This is just a piece of the puzzle you will want to research before coming, especially if you have a condition that needs a specialty. Our daughter has thyroid issues and because of her age there was not a pediatric endocrinologist in Huntsville, we were referred to UAB, in Birmingham, which is EXCELLENT care, just a little drive.
Also, if you have family with mental health issues, finding care is also a challenge, this is a worldwide dilemma though and Huntsville was similar to Germany and Europe with just too few providers out there.
There is also the insurance song and dance as well. Be sure to research your provider prior to booking an appointment to see if they accept your insurance. You may have to wait six months for an appointment only to find out they don’t accept your insurance. This sounds obvious but not everyone accepts Tricare.
The Internet in Huntsville is actually really good. After moving back from Germany, from personal experience we are much faster than many cities around Europe, MANY! Although I have heard mixed reviews regarding the providers, we now have Google Fiber and I really like it. However, it is not available all over Huntsville yet, but continues to grow the area. Perhaps after the arrival of the Tech Center it will increase exponentially.
Here are a few providers – definitely check out their ratings and reviews
- Google Fiber
- among many others
O.k. NOW THE FUN STUFF!
You’ve got your house, electricity turned on now you want to explore Huntsville. Here you go… Are you a hiker, cyclist, runner, golfer, maybe you love hockey, YES! Hockey in ALABAMA! So many clubs for you to join right here in North Alabama.
I am a HUGE hiker! I have been hiking since I was a little kid thanks to Mom and Dad. They just framed it as taking a walk in the woods. Huntsville and Madison are filled with some of the most beautiful trails and thanks to trail Angels like The Land Trust of North Alabama there are many trails you’ll want to explore.
There are over 75 miles of walking trails called Greenways in Huntsville that is a part of the long-range city planning project. For more information, click here.
Cycling in Huntsville is on the rise. Check out my friends with the Rocket City Belles! This group of gals plan weekly routes around the state and is organized to help support women of all cycling levels and really get the community involved about needing more bike lanes. You can join them just for coffee too!
I can’t even remember the first time I met Suzanne and Dink Taylor. It was years ago though. This dynamic duo are a critical part of our running community in Huntsville. The owners of Fleet Feet Huntsville and now the new Madison location they not only are small business owners but true educators and just plain great people to know.
Fleet Feet has training for every athlete level from beginners to Tri-Athletes. Check out their website. If you have any interest in starting to run or joining the running community. Their team ROCKs!
How to PCS/Move like a PRO! Available HERE!
Are you moving with the military or overseas? Have I got the book for you! After our 17th move, I decided it was time to WRITE A BOOK! With collections from military spouses from around the world, here you go! What to know before you even get YOUR ORDERS!
If you haven’t heard Alabama is home to over a dozen Robert Trent Jones Golf Courses as well as many, many, many more. I mean like holy cow. I am married to one of those golfers and a goal we have is to play all the RTJs as well as others. There are over 120 golf courses in Alabama and the North Alabama trail is phenomenal, here’s a little more information too in the North Alabama Golf Guide.
Huntsville has a LOT too. So if you moving here and golf, retiring here and golf, are interested in starting to golf, you picked the right place. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
There’s also a Links golf course on (Redstone) that is quite wonderful too. I think you will enjoy all of them too.
This is from my friend Debbie Barrie, Executive Director of Fight Club Hockey Association, “We started back in February of 2010. A group of rec league adults were fed up with ugly side of the local hockey league and wanted to relax and just play with and against people who just wanted to have fun and not take it all so seriously. What we have evolved into is a beginning to end solution for anyone looking to try ice hockey, regardless of your age or experience. The Fight Club Hockey Association is non-profit run by hockey players and coaches who are dedicated to bring the dream of playing hockey to anyone, young or old, and teach them that it is never to late to start something new!”
“Our team of coaches range from ex semi-pro players, ex D1 College players all the way to players who started playing later in life JUST. LIKE. YOU! Our coaches aren’t just passionate about the game of hockey, they are excited about introducing the sport to new to hockey adults and watching them evolve into Rec league players the right way. Come join our tight hockey community!” Special thanks to the volunteer coaches out there Mike Kiene. Darin Taylor. Troy Skinner and Jason DeGuehery ( dee-Gary), Brittany Mock and Kasi Payne.
Great Brews and Eateries in Huntsville
I love having so many opportunities to try new cuisines from new entrepreneurs and restaurateurs. It feels like every week Huntsville is announcing a new eatery or small business opening up in Huntsville. In this series, I’ll be writing a blog coming out soon on some of my new favorites, sign up and subscribe for my website newsletter to not miss an article.
Beer and Wine
Cup a Joe
Not just beer and wine, but COFFEE shops and cafes are popping up all over the place. If you need a cup of black gold before starting your day, you will enjoy the choices of the craft coffee trail in Huntsville. More about this too in a future article.
Football is REAL!
Before moving here, you may have heard the joke about how big football is in Alabama. It’s Real! Be prepared to answer this question probably thousands of times, “who do you go for?” That means you must “Roll Tide” (University of Alabama) or “War Eagle” (Auburn University.)
It is part of the fabric of this state. Football fans delight when the season gets near and is all occupying during the season. The new tailgating recipes every year will have your mouth watering with delight. You will be amazed at what can fit in a cooler and how they are even used. Did you know they insulate hot and cold? That was a game-changer for me when we first moved here.
For the not-so-football fan, this is the absolute best time to shop in Huntsville. Seriously, if you just take a look at the football schedule you can shop people free at any grocery store and its an extremely enjoyable experience.
Making Friends and Connecting
My main mission for Travel with Wendy is connection. I am always hoping what I do and share helps people find connection. Huntsville is a great place to make friends, but it is not always easy. After several conversations and research I can collectively say if you would like to connect in our community the best way to do that is to be a joiner, of some kind.
For instance, volunteering in any related field of interested is not only appreciated but also opportunities to meet like minded people who share the same ideas and probably lifestyle.
There are so many volunteer opportunities in Huntsville, I’m not sure where to begin. Plus, you will feel so good about making our community better. Here a few places I have volunteered over the years and have loved every minute of it, the connections I made here are real.
- Burritt on the Mountain
- Huntsville Botanical Gardens
- Huntsville City Schools
- Fleet Feet of Huntsville
- Lincoln Village Ministries
- Food Bank of North Alabama
Here are some other volunteer opportunities…
- Land Trust of North Alabama
- CASA – Care Assurance System for the Aging and Homebound
- Huntsville Hospital
- Huntsville Library – for the readers out there!
- Manna House – Food Distribution
- Arts Huntsville
If you need more resources around Huntsville, I can’t recommend ROCKET CITY MOM high enough, they currently have info on “teen volunteer” summer opportunities. They also have a ton of information about this home we call Rocket City.
Also, if you are a person of faith, Church might be another place to connect in Huntsville. With many denominations from Protestant to Greek Orthodox there are many church communities around Huntsville to worship and have community.
Being a military family, we have learned the art of plugging in, jumping in, however you want to call it. My experience has been, that it may take time to build connections and true friendships, but all good things are this way, right? Keep trying, because Huntsville is definitely worth it!
I have only just touched on a few highlights for moving to Huntsville. Please stay tuned as I share my info here on my vlog channel about our new restaurants and food trucks, the music and arts scene, Farmers Markets and much more. Thanks for joining me here for this quick little preview, please let me know other questions in the comments below. If I can’t answer it, I’ll try to find you the answer.