If you’ve asked me over the years which Canadian city I’d most like to live in (other than St. John’s), my tune has changed several times. First it was Halifax, perhaps because it’s a lot like home and I had a huge circle of friends there. And then it was Montreal, where I did live for awhile, and which is still one my favourite cities in the world. But is it livable? Not for me, at least. Not so much.
Nowadays the answer is instant: my favourite Canadian city is Calgary.
I’ve ended up in Calgary several times throughout the past few years, totalling maybe 2 or 3 months. I can’t claim to be an expert on the city, but I’ve been wholly immersed, and I LOVED it. I also feel like Calgary is underrated. Here’s why.
1. It’s the easiest place to make friends ever
As much as I love St. John’s and Montreal, I found both places incredibly hard to make friends in. Particularly in St. John’s. Most people living here have always lived in Newfoundland and already have their close-knit circles of friends (although that’s certainly changing).
2. Its proximity to the Rockies gives you the best of both worlds
I love how the city changes when Friday rolls around. Suddenly there’s a hundred people strapping their mountain bikes or ski equipment to their SUVs and heading to the Rockies for a weekend of adventure and play. All my friends who live in Calgary are avid skiers and snowboarders, and they take advantage of places like Canmore or Banff at every opportunity they can get. Calgarians are INSANELY active – much more than many other Canadian cities. I admire that. Although I’ll never be into winter sports.
3. The Calgarian food scene
Putting aside the fancy pantsy restaurants for a second, I LOVE THE FOOD TRUCKS. GAHHH! FOOD TRUCKS! You can use the YYCFoodTrucks website to find which food trucks are in your neighbourhood, because they rotate daily. And they’re all SO GOOD. My favourite, naturally, was Cheezy Bizness – gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. My head exploded.
4. Calgary’s got big heart, and Nenshi is a badass
I happened to be in Calgary last year when the Bow River overflowed and caused havoc throughout the city, while at the same time other Alberta towns were being pretty much destroyed. People had their homes washed away; several lost their lives. I was staying downtown with my friend Matt and his girlfriend, Laura. Many of their friends got evacuated, and so they ended up crashing with Matt and Laura as well. Picture this: ten people in one two-bedroom apartment. Hilarity ensued.
But we spent a lot of time watching the news coverage in complete silence. The aftermath was devastating, but it became clear to me that Calgarians REALLY know how to take care of one another and their city. Nenshi, the mayor, took a hands-on approach to handling things and really helped to rally Calgarians. He earned a lot of respect from me in the process.
He’s also really good at the whole Twitter thing.
5. There actually is an alternative scene
It’s easy to overlook Calgary for its white-collar stereotype. But there are a ton of artistic endeavors put forth by the “Living a Creative Life” campaign. I admittedly didn’t see much of it while I was visiting, because for the most part I was visiting for other occasions. Like the Calgary Stampede. That whole greatest rodeo on earth thing.
AND there is SO MUCH green space, and unlimited bike trails to get you just about anywhere in the city. I don’t know if I’ve come across another city that does green space quite so well.
What I don’t like about Calgary? Having to make dinner arrangements so damned far in advance, and starting an evening at 7 PM. Thanks to the growing young population it’s hard to accommodate all them rowdy youth. Because I’m spoiled and in Newfoundland things don’t get started until 11 PM. At the earliest.
I miss it. Take me back.