Calgary vs. Winnipeg: Which Should You Live In?

Is Calgary Better Than Winnipeg?

Although both are the largest cities in their respective interior Canadian provinces, Calgary and Winnipeg offer significantly differing living experiences. For homebuyers considering moving to Calgary or Winnipeg, it’s vital to consider diverse elements such as Calgary’s towering Rockies and thriving job market against Winnipeg’s affordability and cultural depth. The best way to hone in on these differences is by undertaking a side-by-side analysis to determine which city best aligns with your personal and professional needs.

Key Highlights

  • Calgary is renowned for its proximity to the Canadian Rockies, providing residents and visitors with ample outdoor recreational opportunities and cultural events like the Calgary Stampede, while Winnipeg is celebrated for its rich historical and cultural heritage with institutions like the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
  • The cost of living in Calgary is higher compared to Winnipeg, with Calgary having a more favourable Property Price to Income Ratio and higher average income, offsetting its higher median housing costs and daily expenses such as food, transportation, and utilities.
  • Calgary’s economy is diverse, focusing on the energy, technology, and finance sectors, offering numerous job opportunities despite higher unemployment rates. Winnipeg’s job market is noted for its diversity in healthcare, social assistance, retail, and public administration, with a better work environment and work-life balance.

City Profiles: Calgary and Winnipeg

Skyscrapers in Downtown Calgary

Nestled between the Rocky Mountain Foothills and the Canadian Prairies lies Calgary, a city that serves as the gateway to the Rockies. Named after Calgary Castle on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, the city was incorporated in 1884, shortly after the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the area. Over the years, Calgary—one of the best places to live in Alberta—has grown from under 12,000 residents to one of Canada's largest cities. Today, it is home to numerous professional sports teams, including the Calgary Flames and the Calgary Stampeders, which have become a vibrant part of the city’s culture.

On the other hand, Winnipeg, the heart of the continent, serves as the capital of Manitoba and is the largest city in the province. Known for its historical roots as a trading center for Indigenous peoples, Winnipeg is a city that celebrates its deep cultural heritage. Today, Winnipeg is home to the Winnipeg Jets and boasts the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Western Canada’s oldest public art gallery. Anchored by its rich history and vibrant arts scene, Winnipeg offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern city life.

Calgary: Gateway to the Rockies

Located about 80 km east of the Canadian Rockies, Calgary serves as a gateway to this mountain region for many tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. The city’s strategic location allows residents and visitors alike to engage in a variety of outdoor pursuits. Some popular activities include:

  • Skiing and snowboarding
  • Dog sledding
  • Hiking and mountain biking
  • Fishing and boating
  • Camping and wildlife viewing

Calgary’s mountainous backdrop offers a playground of adventure for all seasons.

And it’s not all about the great outdoors. Calgary’s best neighbourhoods host major cultural events, including the world-renowned Calgary Stampede and various music festivals. The Banff Gondola, offering breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies, is a popular day trip for those living in or visiting Calgary.

With its unique blend of outdoor activities and cultural offerings, Calgary truly is a city that has something for everyone.

Winnipeg: Heart of the Continent

Winnipeg, often referred to as the heart of the continent, is a city that thrives on its rich history. Some notable cultural attractions in Winnipeg include:

  • The Winnipeg Art Gallery, Western Canada’s oldest public art gallery, which houses the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art.
  • The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
  • The world-renowned Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

These institutions, including numerous art galleries, are a testament to the city’s commitment to the performing arts and its cultural vibrancy.

In 2014, the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights added a modern dimension to Winnipeg’s cultural significance, becoming the first national museum situated outside of the National Capital Region. With its diverse cultural offerings, Winnipeg provides a rich tapestry of experiences for art lovers and history buffs alike.

Living Costs: Budgeting for Life in Calgary vs Winnipeg

When considering a move to a new city, one of the most critical factors to consider is the cost of living. How do costs in Calgary compare to Winnipeg in terms of housing, daily expenses, and overall cost? 

Housing Market Comparison

Homes in Calgary's Valley Ridge Neighbourhood

When it comes to housing, both Calgary and Winnipeg offer a range of options, from downtown apartments to suburban homes. However, the cost of housing can vary significantly between the two cities. A one-bedroom apartment in Calgary’s City Centre costs about $958 a month, compared to $721 in Winnipeg. Outside of downtown, the rent in Calgary is approximately $813 per month versus Winnipeg’s $688.

For homebuyers, there’s a similar discrepancy. More than any other factor, Alberta’s cost of living is higher than Manitoba’s because of home prices. Alberta homes hover around the mid-$400s, while Manitoba’s is in the $300s; average prices for homes in Calgary are in the $600s, while Winnipeg’s are in the $300s. The highest-end luxury homes in Calgary list from $5–$10 million, while Winnipeg’s most expensive homes rarely top $4 million.

In terms of housing affordability, Calgary’s Property Price to Income Ratio of 4.71 is more favorable compared to Winnipeg’s ratio of 5.76. While median rent in Calgary is higher at approximately $2,000 monthly compared to Winnipeg’s median rent of $1,500 per month, Calgary’s higher average income can help mitigate these costs.

Daily Expenses Breakdown

Beyond housing, daily expenses such as food, transportation, and utilities also play a significant role in the cost of living. On average, monthly food expenses in Calgary are $554, while in Winnipeg they are $474. While a meal at an inexpensive restaurant is $20 in Calgary compared to $18 in Winnipeg, groceries such as chicken fillets, bread, rice, and eggs are generally more expensive in Calgary.

When it comes to transportation, a monthly public transportation pass costs about $106 in Calgary, while it is approximately $100 in Winnipeg. Gasoline costs are slightly higher in Calgary at $1.35 per liter, compared to $1.30 per liter in Winnipeg. For utilities, monthly costs are $160 in Calgary and $150 in Winnipeg.

Overall, while the cost of living in Calgary is higher, the city’s higher average income helps offset these costs.

Job Scene: Career Opportunities in Alberta vs Manitoba

Jobs in Winnipeg vs. Calgary

A thriving job market is another crucial factor to consider when choosing a new city. We’ll assess the employment prospects and overall economy in Alberta and Manitoba, focusing on Calgary and Winnipeg.

Calgary's Economic Landscape

Calgary’s economy is vibrant and diverse, with dominant energy, technology, and finance sectors. The city hosts a variety of economic activities in these sectors, supplemented by its vibrant startup ecosystem and numerous corporate headquarters. There are numerous opportunities in Calgary’s technology and energy industries, reflecting the city’s strong influence in these areas.

Over the past decade, Calgary’s economic expansion has outpaced the overall growth of the Canadian economy. Despite a higher unemployment rate than the nationwide average, Calgary offers more job opportunities due to economic advantages and a larger population.

Winnipeg's Job Market

In contrast, Winnipeg’s job market is marked by diversity. Major employment sectors in Winnipeg include:

  • Health care
  • Social assistance
  • Retail
  • Manufacturing
  • Public administration
  • The aerospace sector
  • Agricultural industries

The average individual salary in Winnipeg is approximately $50,000, with median household income at $80,000, and the minimum wage is set at $15.30 per hour.

In addition to the lower unemployment rate compared to Calgary, Winnipeg is noted for its better work environment and work-life balance. The city’s job market is bolstered by its business and administration roles and an active arts scene, which draw a diverse range of professionals.

Transportation Tales: Calgary Transit vs Winnipeg Transit

Calgary Public Transit

Next, we’ll examine another integral part of urban living: transportation. How do Calgary and Winnipeg stack up in terms of public transit systems and commuting experiences?

Commuting in Calgary

Calgary’s public transportation system includes the CTrain light rail network and around 170 bus routes, offering residents a reliable and efficient way to navigate the city. Despite more intense rush hour traffic, Calgary’s public transportation system is considered more efficient than Winnipeg’s.

Future expansion plans for Calgary Transit include the Green Line LRT, the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history. This new line will run from 160 Avenue N to Seton in the southeast, spanning approximately 46 kilometers and featuring 28 stations, enhancing the reliability of Calgary’s public transit system.

Navigating Winnipeg

In contrast, Winnipeg relies heavily on a bus network as it lacks a light rail system. Winnipeg Transit provides extensive coverage through main line routes, express routes, suburban feeder routes, and operates every day of the year, including late evenings.

While traffic in Winnipeg tends to peak between 7:30–9:00 a.m. and 3:30–5:30 p.m., the city’s low Traffic Commute Time Index indicates manageable commute times via Winnipeg Transit compared to personal vehicle usage. Therefore, even without an urban freeway network, Winnipeg’s transit system proves to be a reliable option for residents.

Climate and Environment: Seasonal Experiences in Calgary and Winnipeg

Winnipeg Gets Much Colder Than Calgary

Climate can significantly impact the lifestyle and activities of a city’s residents, and though located in neighbouring provinces, the respective climates of Winnipeg and Calgary have fairly stark differences.

Calgary's Weather Patterns

Calgary’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains results in unique weather phenomena like the Chinook winds, which contribute to the city’s distinctive climate patterns. In fact, Canmore—one of Calgary’s best suburbs, located west of the city—is less than 25 kilometres from Banff. These winds are warm and dry, dramatically raising temperatures by up to 20°C and causing rapid snow and ice melting. Hence, Calgary experiences milder winters than Winnipeg, largely due to the warming effects of the Chinook winds.

The more moderate and stable weather in Calgary’s winter season provides more consistent conditions for winter sports and activities. From tubing at WinSport Tube Park, the largest of its kind in Western Canada, to dog sledding through the Canadian Rockies, Calgary’s weather supports a variety of outdoor winter activities.

Winnipeg's Seasons

Contrary to Calgary, Winnipeg is known for its harsh weather conditions. The city’s Climate Index is 24.67, indicating that residents face extreme temperatures, especially during winter. In fact, Winnipeg experienced its coldest temperature at -47.8°C in December 1879.

However, these extreme temperatures bring about a unique set of recreational activities. With its icy winters, Winnipeg transforms into a winter wonderland, offering residents opportunities for ice skating, ice fishing, and snowboarding.

In contrast, summers in Winnipeg can reach up to 27°C, allowing for a variety of outdoor activities in the warmer months.

Recreation and Leisure: Entertainment in Calgary vs Winnipeg

Having discussed the practicalities of living in Calgary and Winnipeg, let’s now explore the recreational opportunities in these cities. What do both cities offer in terms of recreation, leisure, and entertainment?

Outdoor Adventures and Sports

Forgetmenot Pond Near Calgary

When it comes to outdoor adventures and sports, both Calgary and Winnipeg have plenty to offer. Near Calgary, you can enjoy:

  • Banff Upper Hot Springs
  • Kananaskis Nordic Spa
  • WinSport Tube Park
  • Lake Louise
  • Mount Norquay

These attractions provide a unique mountain experience and offer activities such as outdoor soaking pools, hydrotherapy, tubing, and skiing. For skiers, living in West Calgary or a suburb like the city of Cochrane may be the best option, as they are the closest to the Rocky Mountain skiing destinations.

On the other hand, Winnipeg is surrounded by natural attractions, offering outdoor enthusiasts a range of activities from hiking to water sports. Some of the natural attractions near Winnipeg include:

  • Lake Manitoba, which offers additional outdoor options such as boating, fishing, and camping
  • Assiniboine Park, a notable nature spot
  • Fort Whyte Alive, another notable nature spot

These attractions in the exchange district provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure and exploration.

Arts and Culture Scene

While outdoor activities are great, what about indoor entertainment? Both Calgary and Winnipeg boast a vibrant arts and culture scene. Some notable attractions include:

  • Calgary’s Gasoline Alley Museum
  • Hangar Flight Museum
  • The Military Museums
  • Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre
  • Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre Museum

These attractions contribute to the complex cultural scene of the cities and provide insights into specific community histories.

In contrast, Winnipeg boasts a robust arts scene with various galleries, including the Winnipeg Art Gallery and cultural institutions like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Manitoba Museum. The performing arts further enrich Winnipeg’s cultural offerings, with the city playing host to the distinguished Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Nightlife and Dining

Downtown Winnipeg at Night

When the sun goes down, Calgary and Winnipeg come alive with vibrant nightlife and dining options. Calgary offers a mix of international and traditional Canadian cuisine and is renowned for its high-quality beef. The city’s nightlife is concentrated in the Beltline neighbourhood, known for its vibrancy and a high concentration of Calgary condos.

In contrast, Winnipeg’s culinary scene includes a strong global influence enriched by Indigenous/Native Canadian/Inuit culinary traditions. The city provides an array of nightlife options with its bars, clubs, and venues that host live music performances.

Living in Calgary vs. Living in Winnipeg

Calgary and Winnipeg are both exceptional cities with unique appeal. Calgary offers a vibrant economy, easy access to outdoor adventures, and a milder climate, making it an attractive option for those who love the outdoors and seek job opportunities in the tech and energy sectors. On the other hand, Winnipeg offers a lower cost of living, a robust arts scene, and a strong sense of community, making it a great option for individuals seeking a slower pace of life with a deep cultural experience.

Are you ready to move to Calgary? Call The Justin Havre Real Estate Team with eXp Realty at (403) 217-0003 to talk with a local real estate agent who can help you discover your dream Calgary home.

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