Calgary and the river

Why Calgary is Canada’s most underrated city

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).

New friends

But in Calgary, within three weeks I made more friends there than my entire time I lived in Montreal. It was just SO EASY, maybe because most people living there aren’t actually from Calgary (much to the chagrin of many Calgarians). Honestly. Some of my closest friends live there now, and meeting people is a piece of cake. The city is filled with young professionals all clamouring to find their way.


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.

Heli yoga in the mountains

I went heli-yogaing on top of a mountain here once. True story.

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.

Cheezy Bizness food truck


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.

Nenshi on twitter


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.

Calgary Stampede

That whole Stampede thing.
One of my favourite spots in Calgary is Kensington Village, where you can briefly escape the skyscrapers and traffic of the city centre. My friend Matt and I spent a day exploring the area, popping into record shops and boutiques, and then opted for some coffee and a game of chess. Hipsters, we are.


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.

  • November 18 2014

    So many of my friends have moved from Deadmonton (sorry, I mean Edmonton) to Calgary. They always say that they assumed it was pretty much the same as up here but when they got there Calgary was So. Much. Better!!

    • December 03 2014

      Baaahaha. I only spent a weekend in Edmonton, so it’s hard to say! But if I had a choice, I’d definitely pick Calgary.

  • November 18 2014

    Wow I obviously didn’t spend enough time in Calgary as I thought it was boring and suburban. I would be surprised if it has Vancouve rbeat for Green Spaces but it would be pretty amazing to live so close to the Rockies

    • December 03 2014

      Hmm, it might not have Vancouver beaten, but it’s hard to say! But yeah, the location. Amazing.