Are you planning a move to Alberta? Perhaps you know you want to live in a major city but can’t work out whether living in Calgary Vs Edmonton would be a better fit.
BEFORE writing this article, I would probably have recommended Calgary based on my experience of bringing kids up in the surrounding area. My time in Edmonton was mainly spent sitting in cold arenas and watching kids’ hockey tournaments. However, having spent time researching, I now realize there is way more to both cities than I realized.
Calgary has a well-deserved reputation for being a smart, clean and attractive city. Perfect for young couples looking for a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Conversely, Edmonton is seen as relaxed, friendly and great for bringing up children. All of this is true but there is so much more to both places.
Calgary and Edmonton are both beautiful cities with extensive parkland and walkways. They benefit from the sunny Alberta weather and excellent amenities. However, the overall feel of each city is quite distinctive, and the leisure opportunities in and around the cities are quite different.
We have compared living in Calgary Vs Edmonton partly using statistics (size, weather, economics, etc.) and based on the opinions of people who live there. Why do Calgarians like living in Calgary, and why do Edmontonians like living in Edmonton?
Living In Calgary Vs Edmonton (An Overview)
Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and the political and industrial centre of the province. Calgary has a larger population than Edmonton and is the commercial centre of the province. It is the oil capital of Canada and is home to the head offices of most Canadian oil companies.
Calgary is centred around its large downtown area, where many people commute daily for work. However, Edmonton has a smaller downtown area and several large suburbs, so many people’s working and personal lives are based around the suburbs.
People living in Edmonton often say it has a friendly, small-town community vibe. Calgary has a smart cosmopolitan feel and may not be as relaxed as Edmonton.
Calgary and Edmonton have the excellent healthcare and education systems you would expect anywhere in Alberta. However, rapid growth in some residential areas of Calgary has left the city unable to keep up with infrastructure development. This has included the building of schools, and some have suffered from overcrowding in recent years.
Some basic statistics and information for the two cities are given below:
|Population Growth (2010-2020)||24.40%||24.10%|
|Ave (Median) Age of Population||37.2||36.6|
|Ave Cost Real Estate Dec ’21||$451,200||$336,600|
|Average Income 2019||$115,600||$104,400|
|Median Income 2019||$85,300||$84,000|
|NHL Team||Calgary Flames||Edmonton Oilers|
|CFL Team||Calgary Stampeders||Edmonton Elks|
Living In Calgary Vs Edmonton Weather
Calgary and Edmonton have similar temperatures through spring, summer, and fall. Annually, Calgary has marginally more sunshine hours than Edmonton, while Edmonton has slightly higher precipitation. However, winter in Edmonton is colder, with average January temperatures around 5 degrees C colder than in Calgary.
The most significant difference between the climates of Calgary and Edmonton is caused by the warm, dry Chinook winds that blow through Calgary in the winter months. Calgary sees around 25 Chinooks every winter, and they can last from a few hours to several days. The effects can be pretty dramatic, with temperature swings of 20-30 degrees C.
For the people of Calgary, Chinooks can provide much-needed relief from the frigid winter temperatures. However, they do provide an element of uncertainty to the winter weather. Many people in Edmonton will tell you they prefer the consistency of their winter temperatures.
Many migraine sufferers claim that they suffer from intense headaches just before or during Chinook winds. Unfortunately, there is very little information about how these sudden weather changes trigger migraine attacks, but hospital emergency visits often increase during strong Chinooks.
|Days Above 0 Deg C||170||185|
|Days Above 20 Deg C||87||88|
|% Daylight Sunshine Hours||52%||50%|
|Ave Jan Temp||-7||-12|
|Ave July Temp||17||16|
What Outdoor Activities Are There In Calgary And Edmonton?
Calgary may be the place for you if you are a fan of active outdoor activities. The centre of Calgary is less than an hour away from the Rocky Mountains, with four downhill ski resorts accessible for day or weekend trips. Other popular activities include cross-country skiing and hiking and biking in the summer.
Edmonton does have one local ski hill. Rabbit Hill Resort isn’t in the same league as the Rocky Mountain Resorts, but it is an excellent hill for families and beginners.
Edmonton is also a better location for boating and lakes in the summer, with access to more extensive, cleaner lakes than Calgary.
If you are looking for local activities, both cities have remarkable parklands and options for biking and walking. In Calgary, the walkways along the Bow and Elbow Rivers are popular.
Edmonton is probably the greener city of the two, and the people of Edmonton are very proud of the River Valley. The valley is the most extensive stretch of urban, connected parkland in North America, with over 100km of trails.
What Are The Transportation Systems Like In Calgary And Edmonton?
Both Calgary and Edmonton have international airports, although Calgary Airport is larger and has a much more comprehensive range of international destinations. Calgary has the look of an international airport, whereas Edmonton has the feel of a regional airport. The passenger numbers below are based on pre-covid 2019 data.
ii) Inter-City Rail Transport
Calgary may offer better airport facilities, but Edmonton is a clear winner regarding rail transport within Canada. Calgary doesn’t provide any train services outside of Calgary, whereas Edmonton lies on the Toronto-Vancouver train line. From this line, it’s possible to connect to various destinations, including Halifax, Churchill and the States.
iii) Public Transit
Both cities have excellent public transit systems. Calgary’s high-speed C-Train system operates in all four city quadrants and is free of charge along downtown 7th Avenue. Calgary Transit also operates buses within the city and neighbouring communities such as Chestermere, Airdrie and Okotoks.
Like Calgary, Edmonton operates a light rail system within the city. This runs partially underground to connect with the Edmonton Pedway. An extensive network of bus services complements the light rail. Both cities have fleets of around 1000 buses.
iv) Enclosed Walkway Systems
Calgary’s Plus 15 Skywalk is an extensive 18km system of connected, enclosed walkways within the downtown area. The name comes from the bridges being around 15 feet above sky level.
Edmonton’s Pedwalk is a shorter 13km system of skywalks and tunnels connecting 40 downtown buildings and parkades. It may not be as visually impressive as the Calgary system, but its connection to three light rail stations is a major benefit.
As with most major cities, there are various options for watching sports. Both cities have the National Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Canadian Football League teams.
Calgary is also home to the only Alberta team in the National Lacrosse League. The NLL is the North American professional box lacrosse league, playing games from December through June. Box lacrosse is a very rough, physical game with a lot of contact; if you like to watch hockey, then I would recommend trying a lacrosse game.
Comparing Shopping In Calgary Vs Edmonton.
Calgary and Edmonton have several sizeable malls and many options for visiting boutique stores (try Whyte Avenue in Edmonton and Eau Claire Market in Calgary).
Calgary probably wins out in terms of boutique stores, but it can’t compete with Edmonton’s West Edmonton Mall.
West Edmonton Mall is a massive indoor shopping and entertainment complex. We found it was the perfect place to take the kids when the freezing winter temperatures became too much. It is home to more than 800 stores, 20 restaurants, and attractions, including:
- A Water Park
- Bungee Jumping
- Adventure Golf
- Marine Life Centre
- A Roller Coaster
- And too many more to mention……
Entertainment, Nightlife, Arts & Culture
I found it difficult to provide a summary for this section because there is just so much to discuss. Both cities have great nightlife; they have parks, zoos, and activities for children; they are both host to various concerts and cultural activities.
Edmonton has a well-earned reputation for arts and culture, with many galleries, theatres and concert halls. However, Calgary has topped Maclean’s “Most Cultured City” ranking on more than one occasion.
When it comes to festivals, Calgarians are justifiably proud of the Calgary Stampede. A 10-day annual rodeo extravaganza with a mass of shows, concerts and other events. Meanwhile, Edmonton has earned the nickname of Festival City for its wide range of festivals each year.
Should I Move To Calgary Or Edmonton?
Your preference for living in Calgary Vs Edmonton will depend mainly on your circumstances. They both offer different pros and cons. We have summarised these below.
Calgary Pros (Vs Edmonton)
- Warmer winter weather
- Easy access to ski hills & Rocky Mountains.
- Bigger airport/better for international flights
- The city is very smart and clean
- Very cosmopolitan feel
Edmonton Pros (Vs Calgary)
- Working life less centred on downtown (leads to shorter commutes)
- Rail access to other major Canadian cities
- Better recreational lakes in the summer
- It doesn’t have Calgary’s issues with overcrowding in schools
- Friendly small-town feel
- Less dependent on the ups and downs of the oil industry
- Lower cost of living relative to salary
Conclusion: Making the Right Choice Between Calgary And Edmonton
Deciding between living in Calgary and Edmonton is a significant choice that depends on various factors, including your lifestyle, career goals, and family needs. Both cities offer unique advantages and have their own distinct vibes. Calgary is known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, proximity to the Rocky Mountains, and a larger international airport. On the other hand, Edmonton offers a more relaxed, community-oriented lifestyle, better rail connectivity, and a lower cost of living relative to salary.
In summary, your decision should align with what you value most in a city—whether it’s outdoor activities, cultural experiences, or career opportunities. Both Calgary and Edmonton have a lot to offer, making them excellent choices for newcomers to Canada. So take your time, weigh the pros and cons, and choose the city that feels like home to you.