Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Druid City

The BUZZ

What's it like to live in Tuscaloosa

What is Tuscaloosa, AL like?

Since other since other important areas have already been covered, I will address areas that have not been mentioned.

Tuscaloosa has experienced a huge growth because of the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide is a very strong football team, and that attracts students from all over the United States. It causes the University of Alabama to have a very strong Greek system, with well-developed fraternities and sororities. I personally am not a fan of sororities, fraternities or football, and I've only been to one football game in my entire life, however I do recognize the effects it has on my city. I have made recent visits to the campus, and I'm shocked at how much it's grown. The University of Alabama campus is now like a small city itself. It requires the bus system to get from one end to the other. When I attended the university years ago, I could park my car somewhere on campus and then walk everywhere.

The University enrollment has grown 92% in recent years with more than half of all students being from out of state. I'm not sure what the term Flagship University means, but the University of Alabama is considered the fastest-growing Flagship University in the nation.

So here is what this means for the city of Tuscaloosa. Our infrastructure must be improved to accommodate his huge population growth. The university caused the city to grow faster than the infrastructure could handle, therefore our mayor, Walt Maddox, has led the efforts to improve our city streets in the downtown area. There is a massive construction effort in Lurleen Wallace Boulevard, the main artery going through downtown, and it's miserable to try to drive through. The city had no choice. The infrastructure lines that lay beneath the streets was outdated. The soil underneath it was so bad, and the streets had to be redone completely from their foundations. Even though it's miserable to live through this construction, it's better that they went ahead and did it now instead of waiting until later, when it would be even worse.

Fortunately, I live 18 miles away from the city of Tuscaloosa out in a rural area. The drive to go to work inside of the city of Tuscaloosa is very easy. One can always find affordable housing outside of the city, although land is getting more scarce. I am surrounded by large tracts of hunting land owned by very rich contractors, no doubt the same ones who are rebuilding the city with all the construction projects I mentioned above. I benefit from that because it's unlikely that they will build neighborhoods in this area. There are neighborhoods sprawling out into the more rural areas, where you can get affordable homes if you don't mind a short drive. It makes it where country life is now being turned into suburban life, and that's a spillover from the growth of the city.

As far as as far as shopping goes, that's about the only advantage I see from all of this population explosion. We now have Midtown Village in the place that beautiful old homes used to be. Without that, there wouldn't be such great names as Chicos, Loft, the Nike store, jjill, Old Navy, Chuck-E-Cheese, a few menswear stores, and some cute locally owned boutiques. I hate that wonderful foundation neighborhoods were bought up by a developer one house at a time so that they could flatten them and build shopping centers. As a result, the beautiful historic neighborhoods in the downtown area where also flattened to build student housing, because with the original neighborhoods gone they had to build tall apartment buildings. It is really ruined the character of our city, however there's nothing better that the city leaders could have done after so much housing was destroyed buy one local developer to create Midtown Village. It created a domino effect.

What is Tuscaloosa, AL like?

I have to ask: Where oh where are these $300 rentals another person claims to exist near T-town? I have personally searched for such a place for myself and found nothing below $400, and the $400 was a bug infested nasty studio in areas that are not safe for single women to live, and anyone would expect their car to be broken into. Or is that person referring to shared rentals? If so, it is important to make note of that. The lowest rent that I found for clean and safe living started at $600. As for other of cost of living expenses, gas is low to average in price, tax is 9% on anything purchased (including groceries and food), and most things are reasonably priced and affordable. There are plenty of places to shop, but for excellent shopping on things other than groceries, you will likely want to go to Birmingham or shop online. And there are plenty of opportunities for employment.

As for the live music, I have to say that there is not much variety being offered. And what is out there is not that great. However, UA’s music department does offer concerts by the students, faculty, and special guests. That at least brings some variety from the same ol’ stuff being played at all the bars. But if you want variety outside of that, you have to go to Birmingham. There is the Amphitheater, and that’s great, but not for consistent weekends out.

I agree completely with another responder’s assessment of the restaurants in the area. (But I definitely prefer Archibald’s over Dreamland BBQ). There are a few fine dining options, the usual chain restaurants, the usual fast food options, and a few options outside of that. The Cypress Inn is usually consistent with their quality of food and service, and their prices are between chains like Olive Garden or Ruby Tuesday and the more expensive fine dining establishments. There are a few steakhouses that aren’t chain restaurants, and they are ok, but definitely a bit pricier than chain restaurants. Another Broken Egg is absolutely a delicious option, but also more expensive than a basic breakfast establishment. There are two southern kitchen establishments that are worth mentioning, too. Both of these are over the river in Northport, and are meat and 3’s. City Cafe in downtown Northport is the more popular one, and are always busy. The Brown Bag is out in the country part of Northport. I’d say they are just as good as City Cafe, but I don’t remember if they offer breakfast. City Cafe offers breakfast that is just as delicious as their lunch. The fast food and chain restaurant quality is usually sub-par to most other restaurants of the same name in any other city. There are definitely more quality lunch options available than dinner options, and most of these lunch options are not fast food chains but still chain restaurants: Jason’s Deli, Firehouse Subs, Momma Goldberg’s, Glory Bound Gyro, Mugshots, Mellow Mushroom… Oh! One more thing to make note of about food in Tuscaloosa! While there are not really any authentic foreign food options to speak of, Mr. Chen’s is the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten, and Hokkaido offers excellent Japanese food.

The university does offer a variety of things to do in Tuscaloosa. Their theatre, dance, and music departments all offer shows for the public. The astronomy department has viewings open to the public where they focus on a specific feature of space for the night: a lunar eclipse, the milky way, specific star clusters. Many departments offer guest presentations where a specialist comes in to speak of a specific topic that pertains to the department that invited them (psychology, archeology, mathematics, biology, etc). The English department hosts readings where the graduate students present their writings. Improbable Fictions is the English department’s presentation of Shakespeare as a staged reading series. The English department also invites authors to come in and speak about their works. There are other events available if you choose to utilize the university’s website and search for events available to the public (like the free movies showing on the University Quad during the summer). And of course there are the university sporting events that happen all year. During the summer, it is absolutely worth catching the Rude Mechanicals offering Shakespeare’s plays on a makeshift outdoor theatre. Outside of the university, there isn’t much to do unless you enjoy outdoor activities. There are a plethora of activities available if you enjoy the outdoors. However, biking is limited in the city to the campus because there are practically no bike lanes. I hear that they are supposed to be working on adding more bike lanes, but I have been hearing that for 10 years and haven’t seen much progress at all. There are a few art galleries, the Bama Theatre offers occasional entertainment (Arthouse Movie Series, live plays, the Pink Box Burlesque puts on a live rendition of the Rocky Horror Picture Show every Halloween), there are some arts and crafts events (Kentuck Art Festival is the big one, in Northport), there is the annual triathlon, there is a great farmer’s market (the Tuscaloosa River Market), and occasional events at the government plaza (such as their Live at the Plaza free live music events for the whole family and arts and craft events). If you truly want to find something to do, you can find something. Unless it’s an outdoor activity though, usually it will be something you have to actively look for by keeping up to date with Tuscaloosa events and University events.

The traffic varies. If you are trying to get anywhere at key times (to work by 8am, home from work at 5pm, anywhere around lunchtime, or anywhere around a school when schools start and end for the day) expect traffic to be terrible. On home football game days, expect traffic to be impossible before and after the game. Any other time, traffic isn’t so bad. Be careful to follow road laws, though. Cameras and cops will catch you breaking the speed limit, running a light, or rolling through a stop sign. And road construction is a constant. It will always be happening and interfering with traffic in the most inconvenient of times and places.

All together, living in Tuscaloosa is similar to living in a small town that has a few big city resources, but the big city’s real resources are about an hour away, in Birmingham. Even though Tuscaloosa is the 5th largest city in Alabama, and you would expect that to mean it has a large variety of resources available, it’s not. Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama, offering much more than Tuscaloosa does. The best resources are three hours away from Tuscaloosa, in Atlanta. If you want to visit the beaches on Gulf Shores, it’s five hours away.

You won’t break the bank by living in Tuscaloosa, but it is not as inexpensive as living in a true small town would be. You will not be bored if you actively look for things to do, especially if you like outdoor activities. Variety and culture is severely lacking, especially when you consider the fact that it has a huge university as the main focus of the city. Anybody living in Tuscaloosa must be willing to drive an hour to Birmingham to have access to most of what Tuscaloosa is missing. It is a decent place to live, especially when compared to many other places in Alabama. But if you are looking for a place with diversity, culture, and a variety of entertainment options, it is not the place for you.

What’s it like living in Tuscaloosa?

Honestly Tuscaloosa is a pretty boring place if you are beyond college age with no kids, especially if you compare it to most medium or large cities. Depending on where you are coming from you may not like it much. There’s a little bit of outdoorsy stuff, the occasional concert, local art/talents, and drinking, but overall it’s severely lacking on variety. Of course it depends on what all you are looking for, but prepare to be underwhelmed

Yeah bham isn’t far away and has a lot more stuff to do, but even I find it lacking compared to other metros of similar size. I mean you may like it here, but if you are relatively youngish and not homebodies, Tuscaloosa especially gets old fast because most of the fun is geared towards 18-22 year olds or people with kids. Also if you are not religious, you may feel some pressure to find a “church home”, which may or may not be appealing to you. I’m kinda stuck here at this point because of my job and roots in the area, but honestly I regret not leaving when I was younger and had the chance before I had kids, but that may just be me.

What’s it like living in Tuscaloosa?

Hello, been in Tuscaloosa since August 2022; came here for a job. So far is very boring, lacks good food and variety. Most of the *fun" things are aim at college students that have barely any life experiences. Cost of living is low except for groceries, eating out and sales tax being 10%. The drive to Birmingham is also very boring and takes about 45 minutes to find another boring/dull "city". People are rude in passive way and very closed minded (and no I'm not a liberal).

Tuscaloosa Alabama | The pros & cons of living here.