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13 Best Places to Live in Alberta: A local’s guide

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There’s a lot to love about Alberta – its natural beauty, friendly people, and thriving economy. And, when it comes to finding the best places to live in Alberta, trust us there are plenty of great options to choose from. 

Alberta has been our home since 2015, and we have lived in 2 other provinces as well. But work and travel opportunities here have kept us, for this long!

So whether you’re looking for a bustling city or a quiet small town surrounded by nature, here are some of the best places to live in in the province.

Best Places To Live In Alberta Canada: A Local’s Guide

Best places to live in Alberta Canada

Know about Alberta

Alberta is a province in western Canada. It is one of the three Prairie provinces in the country. 

Alberta is bordered by the provinces of Saskatchewan to the east and British Columbia to the west, as well as the Northwest Territories to the north, and the U.S. state of Montana to the south. 

View of Edmonton Alberta

Its capital city is Edmonton, while the largest city is Calgary. The province has a population of over 4.3 million people (2019), and its economy is primarily based on the oil and gas industry. 

Alberta is also home to a large number of national parks, including the iconic Canadian Rockies from Banff to Jasper National Park. 

The province’s culture is a mix of First Nations, English, Scottish, Irish, Ukrainian, and some French influences.

  • Alberta is the fourth largest province in Canada
  • Alberta minimum wage is $15 CAD per hour (2022)
  • Alberta’s unemployment rate stands at 8.4% (2021), which is higher than the national average of 7.43% (2021)
  • Vacation days in Alberta are 10-15 working days off (or 2-3 weeks), based on the first year of service

The province has the third highest GDP and second highest per capita income, at $74,343 in Canada. 

Alberta is popular with new immigrants and tourists visiting the Rocky Mountains. 

Calgary: One of the most livable cities in the world 

  • Population: 1, 581, 000 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $75 000 (2016)
  • Winter temperatures: -3° degrees C or 26.6 F (High) / -14° C or 6.8 F (Low)

As Alberta’s largest city, Calgary is a great place to call home if you’re looking for a vibrant and dynamic community. 

There’s something for everyone in this city, from world-class shopping and dining to a lively arts and culture scene. 

Calgary skyline
Calgary is one of the best places to live in Alberta

And, with its proximity to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy. There are also many provincial parks and valley trails that one can enjoy. 

Calgary is a cosmopolitan metropolis and it often ranks as one of the most livable cities in the world. 

We personally LOVE Calgary and make a trip there at least once a month. We have traveled for work, vacationed, and generally explored the city on a regular basis.

Calgary’s downtown with numerous skyscrapers is beautiful. And its annual rodeo festival, Calgary Stampede, pulls in thousands of visitors every July. 

Having said that, here are some downsides to living in Calgary. Traffic and transportation can be a dampener in Calgary. During office hours, you can experience a significant traffic issue in Calgary. 

Weather can be challenging for some. Chinook winds can cause headaches and dryness, so frequent temperature shifts from snowy days to sunny hours. 

In Alberta, residents of Calgary, and the surrounding areas are frequently impacted by significantly bigger hail, downpours that flood homes and cause significant damage, and severe storms than in other parts of Canada.

Edmonton: The Capital City of Alberta

  • Population: 1,418, 118 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $97, 800 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -7° degrees C or 19.4 F (High) / -16° C or 3.2 F (Low)

Alberta’s capital city is a great option for those who want all the amenities of a big city but with a more laid-back vibe. 

Edmonton is home to a thriving art and music scene, as well as a variety of excellent shopping and dining options. 

Edmonton Alberta

And, with its many green spaces and parks, it’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors. 

In Edmonton, you can enjoy segway tours by the Saskatchewan River valley, go snowshoeing in the winter or attend epic seasonal festivals in the city. 

Edmonton’s job market is slightly stable and steadier as compared to Calgary. Provincial Government (along with Health Services) jobs can be found in plenty. 

The University of Alberta is located in Edmonton, and it offers excellent educational facilities and jobs! Read our complete guide to getting a job in Canada.

The city has definitely grown over the years. Edmonton has everything that you need – good housing, schools, jobs, shopping (hello 800 stores at the West Edmonton Mall), and access to both Banff and Jasper National Park within 4 hours. 

But having said that, many people find Edmonton to be boring. It can be, depending on what you are looking for. Edmonton’s downtown is not the coolest, and navigating the city will require a vehicle. 

Edmonton Transit network has buses and an LRT (light rail transit), but the city is so spread out that transportation via these means will add additional travel time. 

Traffic is not super bad unless it’s a heavy winter storm or during peak office hours. 

Edmonton can get very VERY cold during January, and February, but rains are not common. 

Read: All about the pros and cons of living in Edmonton Alberta

Airdrie: Calgary bedroom community 

  • Population: 77 000 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $115,850 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: 1° degrees C or 33.2 F (High) / -11° C or 12.2 F (Low)

Airdrie is a city in southern Alberta with a population of about 68,000 people. 

It’s located just north of Calgary, making it a popular bedroom community for those who work in the city. 

Airdrie, one of the best places to live in Alberta
Airdrie, one of the best places to live in Alberta

When driving you are only 20 minutes away from Calgary. Airdrie is home to a number of parks and recreation areas and shopping! 

Airdrie is a nice place to live in Alberta. You will find all the amenities like schools, retail, banking, and affordable housing as compared to Calgary. 

Airdrie has both a higher median income and a median household income than Calgary, by approximately $6,000 and $12,000 annually respectively. 

The city has excellent employment rates (over 91%), and low divorce rates.

St Albert: Beautiful community city near Edmonton

  • Population: 65,589 (2016)
  • Median Salary:  $131,300 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -6° degrees C or 21.2 F (High) / -16° C or 3.2 F (Low)

St. Albert is a city in Alberta, located northwest of Edmonton. It was originally settled as a Métis community, and it is now the second-largest city in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. 

It is a beautiful city, perfect for families or those looking to buy a nice property. The average household salary in St Albert is slightly higher than in the capital city. And the unemployment rate is also low.

St Albert and Sturgeon River
St Albert and Sturgeon River

There are low crime rates and better policing and community building which makes St Albert a safe place to stay. 

You will also find public schools, and lots of green parks and markets to enjoy in St. Albert. 

Canmore: Small town, grand views

  • Population: 16 000 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $115,450 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -4° degrees C or 24.8 F (High) / -13° C or 8.6 F (Low)

Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Canmore is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. But it’s also a great place to live, with its small-town charm and friendly residents. 

Its proximity to Banff National Park (and no park fees) in Canmore makes it an awesome place for visitors and long-term residents to stay in. You can easily find apartments or single homes in the area.

Canmore Alberta

This little town thrives on hospitality, whether it’s the retail stores, fast food restaurants, or working with the tourism industry directly (like hotel staff, instructors, information officers, etc). 

You can also invest in real estate (we have seen a big growth in short-term rentals in Canmore as well). 

Certain jobs will be seasonal (summer or winter/ski related) in Canmore. It is also common to find a lot of ex-pats living/staying here on a working visa supporting the tourism industry. 

Canmore is beautiful, but it is small. It is surrounded by nature, quaint, and a little laid back. 

If you prefer the hustle-bustle of city life, corporate or office culture, Canmore may not be for you.

If you want the outdoors, yes. Go for it! 

Transportation-wise, having access to a car will be beneficial. There are buses that can take you to Banff, and the town itself is walkable. 

Okotoks: Small town, big benefits

  • Population: 30 405 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $125,190 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -2° degrees C or 28.4 F (High) / -13° C or 8.6 F (Low)

Okotoks is a small town in southern Alberta with a population of about 28,000 people. It is one of the largest towns in the province, and it is located just south of Calgary about 18 km away. 

This town is perfect to call home with affordable housing, and retail and hospitality jobs. Plus you are soo close to Calgary for the international airport, University, and shopping! 

Huge boulder from Ice age, Big Rocks, near Okotoks
Huge boulder from Ice age, Big Rocks, near Okotoks

Okotoks is a family-friendly town, with a strong young population. Okotoks possesses a highly educated workforce and above-average education and income levels.

Known as Big Rock, Okotoks is also home to a number of parks and recreation areas, as well as a vibrant arts and culture scene. 

The town has a number of annual festivals and events, such as the Okotoks Western Wheelers Bike Rodeo and the Okotoks Jazz Festival.

Red Deer: A smaller city with all the amenities of a larger one

  • Population: 104 392 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $99, 110 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -5° degrees C or 23 F (High) / -16° C or 3.2 F (Low)

Red Deer is a great option for those who want to live in a smaller city with all the amenities of a larger one. This city is super close to Calgary, so if you want access to an international airport this is it.

There is also a Red Deer Regional Airport for further connections, plus they also have a metro bus system to get you in and around the city. 

Red Deer one of the best places to live in Alberta
Red Deer one of the best places to live in Alberta

It also has cool dining options as well as parks and trails for you to enjoy. 

Red Deer gets a lot of traffic due to the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor, and you will find decent employment opportunities in the health care, construction, and oil & gas supportive industries. 

Grande Prairie: Work, save money, low-key lifestyle 

  • Population: 67 627 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $118,270 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -8° degrees C or 17.6 F (High) / -19° C or -2.2 F (Low)

Grande Prairie is a city in northwest Alberta, Canada. It is located between Edmonton and along the British Columbia border. 

The city has recently had a massive positive jump in the annual rankings for “ Canada’s best places to live in”.

Grande Prairie Alberta

However, keep in mind crime rates including drug-related issues are still common here. Rent and living costs here are also higher than in places like Calgary and Edmonton (and the further north you go, it gets pricier).

If you choose to live in Grande Prairie remember to claim Northern Residents Deductions when filing your taxes, also called the Northern Living Allowance. 

Note that Grande Prairie’s economy is based on agriculture, oil and gas, and forestry. And if you secure a job (mid-level, above entry-level positions) in these sectors, you can surely set up a plan to work, save and get professional experience! 

The average income is $118 270 while the unemployment rate is at 5% (2019).

Sylvan Lake: Lakeside community, close to Edmonton and Calgary

  • Population: 16 354 (2021)
  • Median Salary: $110, 050 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -6° degrees C or 21.2 F (High) / -18° C or – 0.4 F (Low)

Sylvan Lake is a charming town in central Alberta that’s known for its namesake lake. This lakeside community is known for its beaches, swimming, boating, and fishing. 

The town itself is small and quaint, and it is located equidistant from both Calgary and Edmonton. The nearest big city located to Sylvan Lake is Red Deer.

Sylvan Lake best day trips from Calgary Alberta
Lighthouse near Sylvan Lake in Alberta, Canada

Sylvan Lake is a great place to enjoy the outdoors, and finer and quieter things in life. Relax, go to the beach, swim, soak in the sun or gather the family around for a nice picnic. 

If you prefer a fast-paced, competitive life with tons of job opportunities, then Sylvan Lake may not be for you! But if you are looking for a good work-life balance with a higher quality of living standards, you will LOVE Sylvan Lake.  

Medicine Hat: History, sunny vibes + views (charming small city)

  • Population: 65 203 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $93 780 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -1° degrees C or 30.2 F (High) / -13° C or 8.6 F (Low)

Located in southeastern Alberta, Medicine Hat is a city of about 65,000 people. It’s known for its sunny weather (it’s nicknamed “The Sunniest City in Canada”), affordable housing, and low cost of living (about 18% less than the average).

Medicine Hat is the sixth-largest city in Alberta and is considered to be one of the best communities in Canada, according to Maclean’s Magazine.

Medicine Hat
Medicine Hat

The city is significant in history, having been mentioned by notable writers like Rudyard Kipling. Medicine Hat became a well-known metropolis of Alberta due to its numerous natural gas fields, which have earned it the name “The Gas City.”

Medicine Hat is home to the South Saskatchewan River and its valley, making the city very picturesque and perfect for families with young children (good schools in the area). 

Lethbridge: University city, mild winters, and work-life balance 

  • Population: 101 799 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $74, 084 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -1° degrees C or 30.2 F (High) / -12° C or 10.4 F (Low)

Lethbridge is a city in southern Alberta with a population of about 93,000 people (2016). It’s known for its mild winters, and high winds (it’s nicknamed “The Windy City”), and as a hub for the province’s agriculture industry. 

Lethbridge is also home to the University of Lethbridge, as well as a number of parks and recreation areas, such as the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.

Lethbridge, one of the best places to live in Alberta
Lethbridge, one of the best places to live in Alberta

Lethbridge is the third-largest city in Alberta and the fifth-largest city in the Canadian Prairies. Lethbridge’s climate is semi-arid and Chinook winds provide mild winters and pleasant summers. 

The north, south, east, and west sides of the city are divided by the Oldman River. And one of North America’s largest urban park systems is located in the coulee valleys of the Oldman River.

Lethbridge is a great alternative to living in Calgary or Edmonton. The city has a smaller population size and is also affordable as compared to the other popular Alberta cities. 

Lethbridge has a lower cost of living, ample job opportunities in the public sector, and a good work-life balance. 

There are lots of recreational activities in and around the city as well. 

Cold Lake: Quiet life, small business/franchise opportunities 

  • Population: 15 165 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $115,110 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -10° degrees C or 14 F (High) / -20° C or -4 F (Low)

Cold Lake is a city in northeastern Alberta with a population of about 14 000 people. It’s known for fishing, bird watching opportunities, and an abundance of wildlife. 

If you love the outdoors and quiet city life, Cold Lake is a good option to consider. Living in Cold Lake you can also open smaller cafes and restaurant franchises without much struggle. 

Having said that, Cold Lake does have issues with drugs, breakages, and crimes in the city. But as long as you are being careful and looking after yourself, you should be fine. 

Cold Lake is one of those places where you can live in the lap of nature, save money, and enjoy the smaller things in life without being rushed to get anywhere!

Lloydminister: City along the AB-SK border

  • Population: 36 186 (2021)
  • Median Salary:  $122 350 (2019)
  • Winter temperatures: -8° degrees C or 17.6 F (High) / -18° C or -0.4 F (Low)

Lloydminster is a city in Alberta and Saskatchewan with a population of about 36,000 people. It’s known for its unique location (it straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border), its annual rodeo and exhibition, and as a hub for the province’s oil and gas industry. 

There are a number of parks and recreation areas in Lloydminster, such as the Border City Petting Zoo and the Lloydminster Golf & Curling Centre.

Lloydminster ranks high as one of the best places to live in Alberta Canada due to its rich local economy and low home prices. 

You also have the best of both the provinces and the city is also very peaceful. 

Best places to live in Alberta: Living and Moving Tips

Alberta is a great place to call home. If you love big cities with shopping, movie halls, and airport accessibility, then look no further than Calgary or Edmonton. 

Depending on your field of work, both Calgary and Edmonton are great for young people looking for jobs. 

Scenic Icefields Parkway highway between Banff and Jasper National Parks during summer in Alberta

Smaller towns and cities in Alberta are great for new workers as well. There is less competition so you can get your feet wet, and climb up the ladder (particularly in banking, retail, and hospitality jobs). 

Each jurisdiction will have white-collar jobs (admin assistant, mid-management, supervisory roles) that you can aim for – promotions and salary increases. 

If you are working in a retail or banking organization elsewhere in Canada, you can look for job transfers to move to Alberta, and be close to nature (and possibly save money as well)!

Here are more FAQs about the best places to live in Alberta, 

Where is the best place in Alberta to live?

Here is the list of the best places to live in Alberta
Calgary
Edmonton
Airdrie
Saint Albert
Canmore
Okotoks
Grande Prairie 
Slyvan Lake
Medicine Hat
Lethbridge
Cold Lake
Lloydminister

Where is the most affordable place to live in Alberta?

Here are some of the cheapest places to live in Alberta, and save money
Grand Prairie
Lethbridge
Red Deer
Camrose
Sylvan Lake
High River
Cold Lake
Stony Plain

What is the safest place to live in Alberta?

Calgary is one of the safest and most livable cities in Alberta. 
If you go by stats, the City of Beaumont, near Edmonton has named Alberta’s safest municipality (Maclean’s magazine in 2020). Beaumont brings in the French vibes and it has green spaces and all modern amenities in its municipality. 

What is the best small town to live in Alberta?

We personally LOVE Canmore. Its close proximity to Banff National Park, on one hand, and Calgary on the other makes it a great choice for those looking to move to a small town in Alberta. 
Salil and I thought of moving/buying a vacation home there at some point (we love it so much). But the only thing is if you are very focused on a corporate career, Canmore will not work for you. 
If you love nature, and work-life balance, pick Canmore, any day! The quality of life is amazing here.

Where is the warmest place to live in Alberta?

Medicine Hat, Alberta. The city is called ‘the sunniest city in Canada’ due to its hot summers and low rainfall.

Is it better to live in BC or Alberta?

It really depends on what you are looking for, really. Both provinces have natural beauty and lots of outdoor activities. But the weather in British Columbia might appeal to many due to milder winters (and rains), versus the extreme cold in Alberta.
Alberta wins for affordability. There are fewer taxes and the standard of living is still of good quality. 

What is the minimum wage in Alberta?

$15 CAD per hour (2022).

Is moving to Alberta worth it?

YUP! Alberta is a great province to move to. Cities like Edmonton and Calgary are not as big as Toronto or Vancouver, but it offers better-paying jobs, and career development opportunities. 

The province also has fewer taxes (save money on taxes when you buy groceries or go shopping). It also has a very low cost of living. 

Housing is affordable as compared to prices in Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal. And beautiful NATURE!

Alberta does have some downsides. Weather can be a concern for some (cold winters), a vehicle is needed to get to places even in cities, some areas/towns have a relatively high crime rate, and many have only a handful of things to do. 

But we bet you will save a lot of money (if you want).  

Read more of our living in Canada guides:

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Best places to live in Alberta

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