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Why this Alabama city was named one of the best in the country

Three hours northwest of Atlanta you'll find the city that currently holds the No. 7 spot on U.S. News & World Report Best Places to Live list: Huntsville, Alabama.

The fastest-growing metro area in the state, Huntsville has been transformed from a quaint southern town to a tech-friendly metropolis.

U.S. News determines its picks using data from sources like the Census Bureau, the Department of Labor and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Once gathered, the information is sorted into five categories:

  • Job Market Index – Measures the strength of the job market based on unemployment rates and averages salaries.
  • Value Index – A comparison between annual household incomes and the cost of living.
  • Quality of Life Index – Accounts for crime rates, access to health care, education quality, general well-being and average commute times.
  • Desirability Index – Pulls results from a national survey asking where people would prefer to live.
  • Net Migration – A measure of how many people are moving in or out of town.

According to Hunstville's U.S. News profile, recent growth in the local tech industry has led to a boom in jobs, shopping, dining and living options. However, even with the new establishments in town, the city still holds onto enough of its rich history to maintain a unique personality and some southern charm.

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If you're interested in more than just statistics, we've compiled a list of five reasons you should visit Huntsville:

Historic locations

If you're interested in Huntsville's more humble beginnings, you might want to visit Alabama Constitution Village. At this museum, you can get a taste of what life was like in 1819 when the Alabama State Constitution was signed. With the 200th anniversary coming up next year, the village is currently closed for restoration, but will re-open in March of 2019. If you're in town, you can still visit the Village Shoppe from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you want more history, you can also check out the Huntsville Depot and Museum, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Art

As the largest privately owned arts facility in the country, Lowe Mill ARTS contains about 148 working studios, six galleries, a theatre and several performance venues. Over 200 artists from around the world come to Lowe Mill to work, learn and share ideas from day to day. Visitors get the chance to walk through their studio spaces and can shop and learn about the artists at their own pace. With regular classes, performances and exhibitions, their calendar of events is always jam-packed. If you're looking for a more traditional art-viewing experience, you can visit the Hunstville Museum of Art in the downtown area as well.

Outdoor activities

If your family loves the great outdoors, Huntsville has a selection of parks and greenways where you can spend the day enjoying nature. Because a bunch of the parks are connected to local walking trails, you can actually travel through 26 miles of greenways on foot or on a bike, if you're up for a real challenge. The city also several dedicated dog parks

Huntsville's restaurant scene, including popular spots like Cotton Row in Courthouse Square, is one of the top reasons to make the trip to town. (AJC.com)

International cuisine

Huntsville's growing space and tech industries have brought in residents from around the globe and the city's restaurant scene reflects that diversity. According to the City of Huntsville's blog, "[Visitors] can explore an entire world of cuisine, all in one city – because this is Huntsville, and exploration is what we're known for." Be sure to check the city's resaturant guide during your trip to discover the many locally-owned options.

Rockets and robots

The Saturn V rocket, which carried Apollo astronauts to the moon, was born at the NASA center in Huntsville. Decades later, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the largest spaceflight museum in the world, is carrying the city's space legacy well into the future. With programs like Space CampRobotics Camp and tons of educational attractions, the sky is the limit for visitors interested in learning the history of America's space program.

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