Sweet Home Alabama is a pretty fitting saying for a state that surpasses most other Southern states for its beauty and all-around charm. When you have the Gulf Shores and the Talladega National Forests in your backyard, it’s quite a super place to live.
But where is the best place to live in Alabama? That’s what we set out to find out.
Using science, we analyzed everything from crime, education, weather and amount of income per household to find out, once and for all, the best cities to make home in the Yellowhammer State. Apparently, living in the greater Birmingham region is a little slice of heaven.
After analyzing almost 600 places, we came up with this list as the top 10 places to live in Alabama:
- Vestavia Hills
- Mountain Brook
- Pleasant Grove
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your town ranked.
Small Towns vs. Big Cities. Which is Better?
In order to rank the best places to live in Alabama, we had to determine if it made sense to rank a large town higher than a town with 99 people. We decided that, yes, a bigger city should rank higher because there’s a lot more to do in a larger town.
However, smaller towns have their charms as well. And because of that, we felt it was fair to also rank the top 10 midsize and the top 10 small cities as well. That list is at the bottom.
How we crunched the numbers
We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the government census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Sperling’s Best Places, this is the criteria we used:
Population Density (The higher the better)
Lower Unemployment Rates
Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
Low Housing Vacancy Rate
Education (Expenditures per student and Student Teacher Ratio)
Short Commute Times
The Best Weather
If your city isn’t in the Top 10, scroll to the bottom of this post to see a complete list of the larger cities or click here for a chart with all cities and their data.
1. Vestavia Hills
Student expenditure: Tie, first in the state
Crime: Sixth lowest in Alabama
Unemployment: Lowest in the state
As typical with our rankings, suburbs of major cities are most likely at the top, and this was the case with Vestavia Hills, a Birmingham suburb.
Vestavia Hills’ schools have been nationally recognized as being top notch. In addition, its city park system has been the envy of nearby communities. Nearby is the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Put it this way: If you want a 20-minute commute into work, this might be the place place to live in the entire state.
2. Mountain Brook
Crime: 5th lowest in Alabama
Household income: Third-highest in the state
Money spent on students: Tied for first in Alabama
Another Birmingham suburb, Mountain Brook is also an awesome place to call home. With a lot of wealth comes a lot of comfort, apparently. Mountain Brook’s median household income is just under $90,000.
Not only is it safe here, it’s also beautiful, as more than 90% of the city is under tree cover, one of the highest ratios in the United States.
Mountain Brook is also the hometown of actress Courteney Cox and NFL great Bart Starr.
Unemployment rate: Tied, lowest in Alabama (a whopping 3.7%)
Education ranking: 3rd best in the state
Are you seeing a pattern here yet? Another Birmingham suburb tops the list with Hoover, population 84,124.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful location in Alabama, as a lot of Hoover is nestled at the base of the Appalachian Mountains. People who live here are pretty smart, too, because Hoover schools are always towards the top of state rankings.
Household income: Highest in Alabama
Crime: 17th lowest in the state
The first city on our list that isn’t a Birmingham suburb, Madison comes in as the fourth-best place to live in Alabama. This Huntsville suburb is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state, and most likely, for good reason.
Football is a huge deal in Alabama, and Madison Academy is the reigning 3A champs. Go Mustangs!
Crime: 9th lowest in Alabama
Unemployment rate: 22nd lowest.
Forestdale isn’t exactly a city in a typical sense. It’s what the government calls a census-designated place. And it’s a fine place at that. This small city of 10,000 people is located a bit away from the Birmingham city limits.
The median household income in Forestdale is lower than other cities on this list, but that goes to prove money isn’t everything. Folks here are lucky to live in a close-knit, overall awesome place in the south.
Alabaster High School. Source: Alabaster Reporter
Unemployment: 4th lowest in Alabama
Crime: 8th lowest in the state
Another Birmingham suburb, Alabaster claims it has ‘warm and caring neighborhoods’ and it would be hard to argue against that fact.
When lots of people are working, there’s low crime, and better-than-average weather, what else can you ask for?
7. Pleasant Grove
Pleasant Grove High School. Source: Pleasant Grove High on Facebook
Student expenditure ratio: Tied for tops in Alabama
Crime: 2nd lowest
Pleasant Grove calls itself the “The Good Neighbor City”. Could you argue with that? It’s obvious the people here watch out for one another, as crime is almost non-existent in this tiny city of 10,000 people.
Good things do come in small packages.
Unemployment rate: 5th lowest in the state
Crime: Third lowest in Alabama
Adjusted household income: Tied for tops in the state
House vacancy rate: Lowest in the state
Another Birmingham suburb in north Shelby County, Helena was named as one of the best places to raise kids by BusinessWeek Magazine about 10 years ago. Seems like not a lot has changed since.
Additionally, the crime was is not only low in Alabama, statistically, Helena is one of the safest cities in the entire country.
Remember American Idol star Bo Bice? He hails from Helena, Alabama. Maybe he’ll write a song about home one day, if he hasn’t already.
Education: Best in the state
Unemployment: Lowest in the state
Smart people who work hard. That’s Homewood in a nutshell. Perhaps it’s one of the most densely populated cities in Alabama for a reason. Lots of people want to make it home. Currently, 25,000 Alabamans call Homewood home sweet home.
Anyone see the Homewood High School Patriot Marching Band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Tournament of Roses Parade? They seem to be regulars at big-time events.
School expenditure per student: Tied, tops in Alabama
House vacancy rate: 8th-lowest in the state
Rounding out our top ten places to live in Alabama is the city of Gardendale, another Birmingham suburb with a population of just under 14,000.
There are a lot of churches in Gardendale, meaning, perhaps, there’s a little extra divinity looking over town.
There You Have It
It seems that none of the largest cities in Alabama made the top 10, but their suburbs are apparently more desirable, according to scientific data. No one can argue that overall, almost every nook and cranny in Alabama has something special and awesome about it.
Best Towns To Live In Alabama (Populations 1,000-10,000)
- Indian Springs Villagek
- (tie) Mount Olive (Jefferson County)
- (tie) Minor
- Highland Lakes
- Moores Mill
Best Small Towns To Live In Alabama
- Mooresville (Population 52)
- West Jefferson (Pop. 490)
- Loachapoka (Pop. 119)
- Spring Garden (Pop. 318)
- Silverhill (Pop. 752)
- North Johns (Pop. 208)
- McDonald Chapel (Pop. 837)
- Wilton (Pop. 825)
- Libertyville (Pop. 198)
- Gaylesville (Pop. 314)
Again, for a link to how we compiled the data, click here.