Alberta is one of the three prairie provinces in Canada. It is in the west of the country, bordering British Columbia to the west, Saskatchewan to the east, Northern Territories to the north, and Montana, an American state to the south.
The communities in the province range from small towns in rural areas to big cities such as Edmonton and Calgary. Alberta is one of the cheapest provinces to live in Canada and it has the highest median household income in the country. There is no healthcare premium and no sales tax. Families and individuals also receive tax rebates and credits to support them financially.
If you are moving to Alberta, it can be difficult to decide where in Alberta you should settle. Different factors come into play when deciding such as do you prefer to live in a smaller town or a large multicultural city.
The province doesn’t have the best reputation for nightlife and indeed, life in the smaller communities can get very quiet. However, bigger cities have plenty to offer, including eating out and going out to cultural events or dancing. If you enjoy going out, then you will probably want to choose one of the larger places on our list.
You’ll also need to consider the climate since winters in the north of the province are colder than in the south. Finances are another factor because, although Alberta is a cheap province, there are differences in property prices between areas.
To help you decide, we have listed the best twelve places to live in Alberta, listed from smallest to largest. We have also included three not-so-desirable locations you might like to avoid.
Population: 6,000 (just under)
Bonnyville is in east-central Alberta and it is a blend of rural surroundings with the amenities and the infrastructure of a city. The city used to have an above-average crime rate, but with a lot of investment at the local and provincial levels, the rates have fallen significantly.
The city has a strong employment market and the unemployment rate is below average at 3.9%. The average incomes are above the national average. Bonnyville residents benefit from great health and educational facilities and good road connections to other cities.
Lacombe is located where the countryside of Central Alberta meets the prairies. It is a small town north of Red Deer with easy access to the Rocky Mountains and the prairies. Lacombe’s economy is strongly based on agriculture, oil and gas.
For a small town, it has various social facilities, partly because the town is the home of Burman University, the Lacombe Research Center and nineteen agricultural research centres whose staff and students liven and diversify the small town community.
Population: 14,000 (just under)
Canmore, which is just west of Calgary, is a lovely small town with easy access to Banff National Park. This picturesque town is ideal for people who enjoy being active outdoors. There are many lakes for fishing and boating and trails for hiking and walking. In the winter, you can go skiing and snowboarding at one of the three skiing centres.
There are plenty of job opportunities in Canmore, especially in the tourism industry. And if you are thinking of getting into property, there are many opportunities to invest in real estate.
This city, west of Red Deer in Central Alberta, is on the west corner of Sylvan Lake. Sylvan Lake offers its residents very high living standards and a vibrant, friendly community with diverse work opportunities.
Sylvan Lake residents are proud of their community and work hard to protect the local environment. In the winter, you can take part in activities such as skating, ice fishing and polar bear dips. The city also has various year-round festivals. The shopping facilities are limited at Sylvan Lake. However, Red Deer with all its facilities is only 20 twenty minutes away in the car.
Camrose, which is nicknamed the Rose City because of the plethora of roses that grow in the parklands, is located in the prairies’ fertile farmlands. It is close to Edmonton, so it is a good option for people who want to live close to a big city rather than in one.
Cameron has beautiful scenery that you can explore along the extensive trail system for walking, hiking and cycling in the summer. In the winter, the trails are great for cross-country skiing. Outside of sports and nature activities, there isn’t that much to do in Camrose, so it is better suited for people who enjoy a quieter, outdoorsy life.
Lloydminster is on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan and both provinces incorporate it as a single city with one municipal administration. Lloydminster is a fast-growing city with a diverse community. About two-thirds of the city’s residents live on the Albertan side.
The city is unique, not just because of its location across the two provinces, but also because of its mix of rural climate with urban amenities. Unlike many cities of similar size, it has good shopping facilities and lots of high-paying jobs.
Grande Prairie, a city known for its scenic beauty, is Alberta’s seventh-largest city. The mountains and lakes that surround the city bring many tourists to the area. One of the most popular destinations is the Muskoseepi Park, which has 1100 acres of parkland with amenities like a skate park, an amphitheatre and a biking track.
Grande Prairie is a great place to observe swans as it is close to their migration route and summer nesting areas. The swan is the official symbol of the city and it is for these reasons it has the nickname Swan City.
The city is also known for one of the best healthcare systems in Canada and has large regional hospitals equipped with the latest technology.
St. Albert has often been named the most liveable city in Canada, so it deserves its place among the best places to live in Alberta. It is considered a medium-sized city, which makes it an ideal choice for people who like a place with plenty of amenities, but without the hustle and bustle of big cities. And if you couldn’t find what you need in St. Albert, it is close to Edmonton and all its facilities.
It is also a great option for anyone looking for a family-friendly community with a low crime rate. It has been named the safest city in Alberta. St. Albert has an excellent public education system and great healthcare facilities. It also has a livelier downtown and nightlife than most Albertan cities of similar size.
The interestingly named Medicine Hat is the sixth largest city in Alberta and is located in the south of the province. The city has the nickname Gas City because there are rich natural gas resources in the area.
Considering the rich gas resources, it is not surprising that the city’s economy centres around gas. There is a cross-border park, the Cypress Hills, in Medicine Hat. The park is the only cross-border park in Canada.
Red Deer, which is known for cattle rearing and oil production, is the third most populated city in Alberta. The residents benefit from having the Regional Airport in the city, which provides easy connections to other parts of Canada.
Red Deer has a history of high crime rates, but it has been going down following investments in crime reduction. There are good job opportunities in Red Deer, especially in construction, education, mining and the oil industry.
There are plenty of parks and nature trails in Red Deer to explore during the summer and autumn before snowfall. In the winter, you can go downhill skiing or snowboarding at the area’s ski resorts.
Population: 1 million (just under)
Edmonton is the northernmost city in North America, with a population of over one million. The metropolitan area has approximately 1.4 million residents. It is an affordable city with a multicultural population. The residents of Edmonton have more disposable income than many other Canadians thanks to the high average household income.
The city is surrounded by rivers and forests, mountains and lakes and is a haven for people who love their winter sports. But it’s not just winter sports that are big in Edmonton. The city has been nicknamed the festival city of Canada because the city hosts over fifty festivals every year.
There is a strong employment market in Edmonton, traditionally in the oil and gas industry and agriculture, but more recently in technology and retail. Edmonton is home to many top technology companies and the West Edmonton Mall, which is the biggest mall in North America.
Population: 1.3 million
Calgary has the third-largest population in Canada and the largest in Alberta. It is a multicultural city with all the amenities you would expect to find in a city of its size. It is a clean city and the local government invests in being environmentally friendly. The city has a stable economy and is home to many notable businesses, including major oil companies.
Residents of Calgary have lots of opportunities for a healthy outdoor lifestyle such as using the many trails in and just outside the city for cycling, hiking and walking. Calgary is one of the places in Alberta with a more lively nightlife. There are also plenty of events organized around the year, including the Calgary Stampede, which is a ten-day festival in July and the biggest rodeo in North America.
Places you want to avoid
Brooks is a city where unfortunately many people have a drug problem. This has led to a high crime rate in the city. Brooks has very limited amenities, especially places that are open after 6 pm. Its healthcare system is overstretched, with Brooks having the least number of doctors per capita in the country.
Many people say that Hinton is a town with nothing to do. There is a pulp mill in town that casts an unpleasant smell over the town. The crime rate in Hinton is 84% higher than the Canadian average.
Wetaskiwin was named the most dangerous city in Alberta in 2018, hardly an accolade any city wants. At its worst, the city’s crime was 469% higher than the national average.
So there you have the twelve best places to live in Alberta, ranging from the small rural towns to the main cities in the province. We hope the article has helped you to form a clearer idea of where you would like to live in Alberta.
And if you are still wavering between a few places, then the best thing to do is to go and spend some time there. Get to know the city’s downtown area, explore the neighbourhoods and meet some locals. There’s no better way to know what an area is like to live in than talking to those who live there already.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are not that many very large cities in Alberta other than Calgary and Edmonton, which are both great for anyone looking for affordable property and good job opportunities.
If you like small town living, then you have a lot of choice in Alberta. You might like to consider, for example, Bonnyville, Lacombe, or Canmore.
Wherever you are in Alberta, you are never far from nature and excellent leisure-time activities. However, it might be easier to access all the nature in Alberta from smaller towns.
Brooks, Hinton, and Wetaskiwin all have higher than average crime rates.