I'm a Floridian but currently go to school in Huntsville. I also lived in Birmingham for a year in high school, not far from "The Summit." Birmingham, IMO has a more modern culture than Huntsville from scenery to shopping - Sax Fifth Avenue, restaurants - Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang's, education etc. Lots of movie theaters and malls within a reasonable distance. Many people in Birmingham seem to have a high-income and the entertainment options reflect that. For its Alabama location it does a good job of resembling a city.
Truthfully there is not a lot going on in Huntsville. It is sort of in the middle of nowhere. It really needs to be updated. The downtown area is not a very eventful place. There is your basic convention center and a few hotels. The nicest hotels in Huntsville are the new Embassy Suites, and a really old Marriott. There is not much entertainment. Many weekend nights I've ended up and Books-a-Million, Barnes and Noble, or both for lack of anything to do. A lot students here complain about the lack of recreation. No real clubs and few bars that aren't sports bars where older, bearded men have been going to hang out for 15 years. On University there are low end to mid level shopping, Walmart, Target, Burlington Coat Factory, Old Navy, Discount stores such as Ross, Marshall's, Rack Room Shoes. There are also restaurants along the same strip - Friday's, Chili's, Longhorn Steakhouse, Mama Fu's, Atlanta Bread Co, Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill. This is the most condensed area of entertainment in Huntsville. Still, really nothing special. I don't know where I would recommend someone to go if they were looking for something high end. A lot of people say it is a nice place if you have a family and kids. Pretty safe and friendly.I'd have to agree. In fact I would call it much friendlier than Birmingham. There is a large black population. A lot of office centers have popped up. Other than that I don't think Huntsville has much going for it. If you are looking to have fun and have a cultured social life and are younger than 35 I would not recommend it.