Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

A haze of wildfire smoke from B.C. hangs over the downtown as a pedestrian walks past in Calgary on July 15, 2021.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

In many ways, Calgary is a tale of two cities. There’s the dense and eclectic downtown neighbourhoods, and also the sprawling suburbia that starts just as suddenly as the downtown core ends.

There are stark differences between the two sides of Calgary, but residents in both parts share some common loves for the city. There’s the extensive trail and park network that runs through its neighbourhoods. The access to more raw nature in nearby Banff and Canmore is seen as a huge plus. And then there’s the fact that you can live a less hectic pace of life with a cheaper cost of living than in bigger cities like Toronto, but still have city amenities with easy reach.

They’re among the reasons why Calgary ranked as the most livable city in Alberta in a comprehensive data study by The Globe and Mail, in partnership with Environics Analytics Group Ltd. Calgary also ranked as the 8th most livable city nationally.

Some factors that led to its high ranking were solid scores in the amenities subcategory, which factored in the city’s access to services like child care and its proximity to many parks. Even in some of the furthest reaches of Calgary suburbia, it’s possible to bike into downtown on the many multi-use paths that are completely separated from roadways.

And while Calgary is known for cold winters, the city scored high in the weather subcategory because of the lack of humidity during its mild summer months and the small amount of rain it gets. Residents say reliable sunshine in the winter also makes the frigid temperatures bearable.

Richard Campbell grew up in Calgary before living around the world in cities such as London, Buenos Aires and Boston as he looked for an interesting place to settle down. When it came down to choosing a city to raise his family, he couldn’t figure out a place better than Calgary.

“With kids there’s so many distractions we face, and we can just get out to the park and put the phones away and we can actually spend time as a family,” Mr. Campbell said.

“For me and my wife, just having access to nature allows us to have that time with our kids.”

Mr. Campbell lives in the suburbs in a neighbourhood called Lake Bonavista, which he describes as especially walkable for a suburb in the city. There are large parks nearby and amenities like libraries, supermarkets and cafes that he can walk to with his family.

Mr. Campbell admits that not every Calgary suburb is as well laid out, but that even when you’re in the suburbs, downtown is not far off. He said it’s not like Vancouver, where he might have to move out of the actual city to comfortably raise his kids.

Meanwhile in downtown Calgary, 26-year-old Christopher Chiasson said the city has a strong urban culture that’s been fostered by years of boom-and-bust cycles in energy that have forced the city to be innovative.

Mr. Chiasson, who works remotely from home and also runs a not-for-profit organization that promotes walkability in Calgary, said an example of that innovation is the city’s drive to convert empty office spaces into residential apartment buildings. Calgary’s programs to financially incentivize these conversions could serve to revitalize the downtown core and add housing stock.

Mr. Chiasson moved to Calgary from the Toronto area in 2021, and he said it feels like it’s easier to get involved in the community. He said that applies to both his not-for-profit work and just everyday activities in his neighbourhood. It feels like the city is moving in the right direction when it comes to walkability and urban revitalization, Mr. Chiasson said.

He described downtown Calgary as a much more progressive space compared with the suburbs and the rest of the province, which generally leans more conservative politically.

“The exciting thing is that because the inner city feels perhaps a little outnumbered, it encourages a sense of engagement that I didn’t find in Toronto,” said Mr. Chiasson said.

Canada’s most livable cities in Alberta

1. Calgary

2. Canmore

3. Edmonton

4. St. Albert

5. Lethbridge

6. Strathcona County

7. Wood Buffalo

8. Olds

9. Okotoks

10. Lacombe

Are you a young Canadian with money on your mind? To set yourself up for success and steer clear of costly mistakes, listen to our award-winning Stress Test podcast.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe