Calgary vs. Edmonton: Which City Should You Live In?

Comparing Calgary and Edmonton

Calgary or Edmonton? This pressing question faces many considering moving to Alberta. Understanding the differences—from employment landscapes to cultural scenes—can influence your choice. Whether you’re a current resident or a prospective homebuyer deciding between Alberta’s best cities, Calgary and Edmonton stand apart for their quality of life and cultural dynamism.

Key Takeaways

  • Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta’s largest cities, each offer unique cultural experiences, including Calgary’s dynamic downtown nightlife and Edmonton’s rich arts scene with venues like the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Neon Sign Museum.
  • Both cities have distinct economies, with Calgary being a hub for the oil and gas industry, focusing on energy efficiency and reduced emissions, while Edmonton possesses a diversified job market and strong public sector employment, emphasizing environmental initiatives.
  • The cost of living shows variation between Calgary and Edmonton, with Calgary generally having higher housing costs, whereas daily expenses like grocery items and utilities tend to be more affordable in Edmonton.

Exploring the Vibrant City Vibes: Calgary or Edmonton?

Calgary and Edmonton, the biggest cities in Alberta, each embody unique city vibes that resonate with their inhabitants. Calgary is known for its bustling downtown core, while Edmonton boasts a vibrant arts scene. The nightlife in Calgary is teeming with diversity, offering a myriad of nightclubs that contribute to its lively downtown atmosphere. In contrast, Edmonton’s best neighbourhoods exude a more libertine aura, offering a contrast to Calgary’s late-night bustle.

Despite their geographical proximity, each city provides a unique experience tailored to diverse preferences. Whether you’re a night owl seeking the pulsing energy of Calgary’s downtown core, or an art enthusiast drawn to Edmonton’s vibrant arts scene, both cities promise unique experiences that make life in Alberta endlessly fascinating.

The Heart of the City: Calgary's City Centre vs Edmonton's Downtown

Calgary’s City Centre and Edmonton’s downtown core each impart their own unique experiences, shaping the heart of these cities. Calgary’s nightlife includes a range of venues, such as Back Alley Calgary and Twisted Element, which contribute to the city’s lively downtown atmosphere. On the other hand, Edmonton’s nightlife showcases venues like Envy Nightclub and The Bower, adding to the vibrant urban experience in the city center.

Additionally, a myriad of cultural attractions are available in both cities. Calgary’s downtown area boasts top-rated restaurants, live entertainment, and significant cultural spots like the Calgary Folk Music Festival and public art installations.

Similarly, Edmonton presents cultural attractions such as the Stanley A. Milner Library and various galleries and theatres, offering a wealth of resources and community programs.

Arts and Culture: Celebrating Arts in Calgary and Edmonton

In the realm of arts and culture, Calgary and Edmonton each showcase their distinctive charm. Here are some highlights:

  • Calgary boasts a greater number of art galleries
  • Edmonton is home to more theatre companies
  • Downtown Calgary serves as an arts and culture hub with venues like Arts Commons housing various live theatre productions and musical performances

On the other hand, Edmonton’s Art Gallery of Alberta stands as a prominent cultural institution, showcasing a diverse array of art from the region and beyond. The Neon Sign Museum in Edmonton provides a colorful journey into the city’s history through its collection of iconic neon signs.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or a theatre lover, both cities offer a vibrant arts and culture scene that caters to diverse interests.

A Tale of Two Economies: Job Markets and Industries

Job Markets: Calgary vs. Edmonton

Distinct economies, varied job markets and diverse industries characterize Alberta’s two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton. Alberta’s economy relies, in large part, on the energy industry. The oil and gas industry in Calgary has seen a resurgence, with record-high energy prices in recent years and a significant rise in production levels. On the other hand, Edmonton, as the province’s capital city, boasts a diverse job market with more blue-collar jobs compared to Calgary’s white-collar dominated workforce.

However, employment in Alberta’s oil and gas sector, as well as related sectors like construction, has not fully recovered, standing at 75% and 80% of 2014 levels, respectively. Despite this, the disparity in wages is narrowing, as wages in Calgary’s oil and gas industry are no longer significantly higher than other sectors.

Fueling Careers: Calgary's Oil and Gas Industry

Calgary is a leading city in job opportunities in the energy sector, particularly in the oil and gas industry, along with finance and technology sectors. In the Calgary economy, jobs in the oil and gas industry lean towards more professional and managerial positions. However, there has been a strategic pivot in Calgary’s oil and gas industry to focus on investments that prioritize smaller projects aimed at improving operational efficiencies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, rather than on expanding production.

This shift in focus has been a response to the changing dynamics of the energy sector and the global push towards sustainability. Despite the challenges, Calgary’s oil and gas industry continues to be a significant player in the city’s economy, driving a large part of its job market.

Capital Jobs: Employment Prospects in Edmonton

The economy in Edmonton, the province’s capital city, offers a wealth of public sector jobs, with approximately 25% of individuals in the workforce engaged in this sector. The city’s job market has experienced significant expansion, highlighted by a notable 4.1% increase in jobs over a year, which can be attributed to the growing Edmonton population.

Environmental initiatives, like the partnership with Aviva plc and Wild + Pine for land restoration and greenhouse gas emission reduction, are indicative of efforts in Edmonton that contribute to job creation. With a diverse job market and a commitment to sustainability, Edmonton presents a promising landscape for employment prospects.

The Cost of Living Face-Off: Calgary vs Edmonton

The cost of living in Alberta is considerably lower than in British Columbia and Ontario. Calgary and Edmonton each display different dynamics in relation to the cost of living, so an in-depth look at the breakdowns is vital before moving to either city.

Home Sweet Home: Housing Market Comparison

In terms of housing, a variety of options are available across both cities. The biggest factor in the lower cost of living in Edmonton is the different home prices. 

On average, the median home price for a detached single-family home in Calgary is about $640,000. For townhomes and rowhomes, the typical price drops to the low $400s. In contrast, in Edmonton’s median single-family home price is in the mid-$400s, and its townhome and rowhome prices are in the high $200s.

Affordability also varies within the cities. For example, there are more affordable three-bedroom unfurnished units in Northeast Calgary compared to two-bedroom unfurnished units in Southeast Calgary and City Centre. On the other hand, the least expensive unfurnished three-bedroom units were found in Northwest Edmonton.

Part of the reason why housing is so much cheaper in Edmonton is the desirability draw of the Rockies near Calgary. In addition, Calgary is simply larger, which draws immigrants to consider it first. Lastly, the difference in driving industries between the two—oil vs. public sector—causes Calgary's housing market to fluctuate to a greater degree than in Edmonton.

Daily Expenses: From Groceries to Utilities

A comparison of daily expenses in Calgary and Edmonton uncovers intriguing differences, especially when it comes to the different meal costs. Grocery items such as local cheese, rice, and eggs are less expensive in Edmonton, while a litre of regular milk and a loaf of fresh white bread are more expensive in Edmonton.

Edmontonians also benefit from cheaper basic utilities, and all of this combines to make the cost of living in Calgary moderately higher than in Edmonton. In addition to basic utilities, mobile communication and internet are also cheaper in Edmonton.

Getting Around: Public Transit and Commuting in Alberta's Major Cities

Public Transit: Calgary vs. Edmonton

Another significant facet of city life in Calgary and Edmonton is the commuting and public transit systems. Calgary’s public transit, known as Calgary Transit, features the Light Rail Transit system with the C Train covering over 118 km of track, additional bus routes, and multiple Park and Ride locations. Edmonton’s public transit is provided by the Edmonton Transit Service, with key LRT expansions improving the city’s connectivity.

On Track with Light Rail Transit: Calgary's C Train

Taking a closer look at Calgary’s C Train system, it boasts a network of 45 stations spread across two main lines known as the Red Line and the Blue Line. The Red Line connects the Airdrie community and North Calgary before bisecting downtown and running to South Calgary and beyond. The Blue Line provides transit from west to east, including suburbs like the city of Chestermere.

Furthermore, within Calgary’s downtown core, passengers can ride the C Train for free, and they are also connected via the Plus 15 skywalk network, comprising 16 kilometres of enclosed pedestrian walkways. The C Train system ensures extensive transit coverage throughout Calgary, making commuting convenient and hassle-free.

Edmonton Transit Service: Connecting the City

Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) operates Edmonton’s light rail transit system (LRT) and bus system, ensuring city-wide coverage. The newly opened 13-kilometre Valley Line Southeast LRT in Edmonton improves the city’s connectivity with 11 street-level stops and an elevated station at Davies.

The ETS also operates Edmonton’s public transportation system until 3:00 a.m. on extended services, providing accessibility throughout the week. With a well-planned transit system, Edmonton ensures efficient connectivity throughout the city and its nearby suburbs, making commuting easy and convenient.

Lifestyle and Leisure: What to Do in Calgary and Edmonton

A wide array of lifestyle and leisure activities tailored to various interests are available in both Calgary and Edmonton. Whether you’re a festival-goer, an outdoor enthusiast, or a foodie, both cities boast vibrant lifestyle and leisure options that promise to keep you engaged and entertained.

Embracing the Great Outdoors: Nature and Activities

In terms of outdoor and nature activities, both cities provide a plethora of choices. The Calgary area, being closer to Banff, is an ideal starting point for exploring nearby national parks like Banff and Waterton, with Jasper further away at approximately four hours by car. Summer in Calgary offers a diverse range of outdoor activities, including river surfing, picnicking in various parks, and floating down the Bow River with city skyline views.

On the other hand, Edmonton’s best neighbourhoods are home to hundreds of parks and more than 160 km of trails within its urban parkland system, offering an urban escape for residents and visitors alike. Whether you’re a nature lover or an adrenaline junkie, both cities provide ample opportunities to embrace the great outdoors.

The Thrill of the Game: Sports Scenes in Calgary and Edmonton

Calgary and Edmonton both nurture a competitive sports culture, providing a treat for sports enthusiasts. The cities are particularly known for the passionate rivalry between their NHL teams, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. Both cities rally around their ice hockey teams and support their Canadian Football League teams, the Calgary Stampeders and the Edmonton Elks.

The Calgary Stampeders play at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, whereas the Edmonton Elks are based at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. Whether you’re an ice hockey fan or a football enthusiast, the sports scenes in Calgary and Edmonton promise thrilling games and a vibrant sports culture. Don’t miss out on the excitement of the Calgary Stampede, another popular event in the city.

Educational Opprtunities: Comparing School Systems and Universities

Education: Calgary vs. Edmonton

A key facet for city comparisons is education. Renowned universities and varied school systems in both Calgary and Edmonton ensure opportunities for a high-quality education. Edmonton hosts institutions such as the University of Alberta, MacEwan University, and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), alongside Calgary’s University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, and SAIT Polytechnic. The biggest universities can be found in some of Calgary’s most expensive neighbourhoods, where the scenery and open spaces are unmatched.

Edmonton offers three different school systems for families, demonstrating a commitment to providing diverse educational options. Whether you’re a student or a parent, both cities have options to assist educational excellence and cater to diverse needs.

Weather Patterns: Chinook Winds vs Cold Temperatures

Another contrast between Calgary and Edmonton is their distinct weather patterns. Calgary experiences Chinook winds that lead to rapid temperature increases, sometimes going up as much as 15℃, enhancing outdoor comfort in winter. However, following Chinook events, melting slush can refreeze into ice, creating hazardous conditions for pedestrians and anyone driving in Calgary.

On the other hand, Edmonton experiences a colder overall climate with longer winters and shorter summers compared to Calgary’s milder winters and hot summers. Whether you’re a lover of warm Chinook winds or the crispness of cold winters, both cities offer unique weather patterns that add to their charm.

Calgary or Edmonton: What City is Calling You?

Alberta’s two largest cities offer unique experiences across a wide range of domains. From vibrant city vibes to diverse job markets, from cost of living comparisons to educational opportunities, each city presents its own unique charm. Whether you’re drawn to Calgary’s bustling downtown core and Chinook winds or Edmonton’s vibrant arts scene and extensive parkland system, both cities promise a rich tapestry of experiences that cater to diverse lifestyles and preferences. The choice ultimately depends on individual tastes and preferences, proving that Alberta’s major cities truly have something for everyone.

If you're thinking about buying Alberta real estate, contact The Justin Havre Real Estate Team with eXp Realty at (403) 217-0003 to get in touch with a local real estate agent who can help you find your dream home in Alberta today.

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