In 2020, interest in small town living has increased, driven by pandemic-related concerns. The prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are filled with great towns (population under 40,000) that let you leave behind the hectic pace of city living. Some of these towns offer ideal proximity to the Rockies and/or major cities. Others promise quietude, a relaxed pace, and reliably conservative values. You’ll find these and more in our list below.
Typically, lists of best places to live focus entirely on statistics like tax rates, crime statistics and the like. Our lists take in factors like those, but we also have input from people who have moved there and tell us what makes their home special. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a place to start anew, in peace and solitude, these are towns and villages we recommend.
Population: 12,288 (2016)
Average property tax: $1,7361
Average value of primary real estate: $912,4361
Traveling west from Calgary into the Rockies, Canmore is the first place where you must stop. Take in vistas of nearby mountains including Mount Rundle, Grotto Mountain and find a bustling town, full of charming shops and galleries. You’ll consider the benefits of moving here when you visit the quiet side streets, populated by beautiful homes with striking architecture.
Canmore is ranked #7 across Canada on MoneySense’s rankings of the best places to live, and it’s the smallest town in their top 10. It’s highlighted for its arts community, robust local economy, and relatively reasonable property tax and rental rates. The town received a notable kickstart from its participation in the 1988 Winter Olympics, turning it into the destination it now is. Canmore features a full slate of year-round activities, like hiking, fishing and climbing in summer, and skiing in winter. Golf lovers have their choice of six spectacular local courses. As with anywhere in the Rockies, it’s a nature lover’s retreat. Wildlife sightings are common.
Living and retiring in Canmore
The liveliness of the town is a big draw for people. Amelia moved here from the Athabasca area. Since moving, she says, “I feel a lot better. You socialize here … it's an hour and a half, and I'm still having breakfast! Second cup of coffee ... third cup of coffee because you're [with other people]. It's so healthy!
Population: 33,890 (2016)
Average property tax: $1,6041
Average value of primary real estate: 311,5931
Moose Jaw offers much more than just an ear-catching name. It’s a fun prairie destination, with notable local attractions including the Moose Jaw Tunnels and mineral springs. Several local hotels feature those hot springs, and there's also a casino. All of these are good reasons why it’s highlighted by us and other authorities on small towns2. It’s also listed in MoneySense's top 250 best places to live across Canada1. They note its accessibility to health care here, along with home affordability and low taxes.
Living in Moose Jaw, you’ll enjoy the features above, but there’s more. It offers an unusual bounty of local parks. It's home to Canada’s storied SnowBirds. There’s a striking array of local museums for a town this size, including Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village. For all of that, it's the simplicity of life here that most Moose Jaw residents acclaim when asked why they like life in "The Jaw."
Population: 16,773 (2016)
Average property tax: $1,8341
Average value of primary real estate: $381,443 (2018) 2
Yorkton is the sixth largest city in the province of Saskatchewan, well-distanced from other major cities. Yorkton is noted for its arts community, one of the reasons why it makes its way into MoneySense’s list of best places to live in Canada1. It also offers excellent access to health care and low property taxes.
Yorkton is appealing to a variety of personality types. For arts, as just noted, there’s the Yorkton Film Festival and a collection of murals throughout the town. The Yorkton Gallagher Centre offers an array of activities options, including a swimplex, curling, and hockey rink. Museums in the area include a branch of the Saskatchewan Western Development Museum.
Population: 20,489 (2016)
Average property tax: $2,1771
Average value of primary real estate: $437,395 1
Lloydminster began as a temperance utopia in 1903, and it still retains some of that original purity. It's a haven for strong conservative values. It has a strong oil industry presence, and there are a variety of local cottage industries that benefit from runoff of that. The funny thing about Lloydminster is that you can choose which province you want to live in. In the past, many people chose Saskatchewan, but these days Alberta has the bulk of the population.
Lloydminster ranks very high on MoneySense’s rankings, notable for its combination of home affordability with a wealthy local economy1. And like other towns on this list, it promises and delivers on tranquility.
Find a great place to retire in Lloydminster.
Population: 3,780 (2016)
Average property tax: $1,7061
Average value of primary real estate: $51,000 (2016) 3
Claresholm is one of a number of small Alberta communities that finds itself ideally equidistant from a major city and the mountains. It’s a little over an hour to Calgary and an easy day trip into the Rockies to do whatever it is you enjoy there (hiking, skiing, snowboarding, sightseeing, etc.) Crows Nest Pass and Top of the World Provincial Park are just a couple of easily accessible spectacular destinations. Its isolation from tourist destinations removes it from the hustle and aggravation that comes with tourism.
And for all that, there’s lots to do right in town, including a golf course (The Bridges at Claresholm), swimming pool, rinks, and a water spray park. Average home prices here are incredibly low for the province of Alberta. Find a great place to retire in Claresholm.
Sources and further resources
Despite being diagnosed with early-onset dementia at only 54 years old, Kathleen found joy, togetherness, and meaningful connections with others.
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