Moving to Edmonton?

By Jay Palter

Are you thinking of moving to Edmonton? If you are, I'm your man.

No, I'm not a real estate agent. I'm just a lifelong Torontonian who moved to Edmonton with my family last year. I think of myself as Newish in Edmonton. So I understand a lot of the questions and concerns you may have - the doubts and the fears.

I'm pleased to tell you that Edmonton is a way better place to live than you probably think. In fact, it's probably better than where you live now. And once you get here and get integrated, you will very likely not want to leave. Ever.

Here are 10 things you should know about Edmonton if you are thinking of moving here:

  1. A river runs through it - A big, beautiful river called the North Saskatchewan winds its way from the southwest to the northeast. The river valley informs the entire geography of the city - its transportation routes and neighbourhoods - and is the focal point of outdoor recreational life in the city. You won't find many nicer places to cycle in Canada. (Who knew there was even a river in Edmonton?)
  2. Buying a house - Like many cities, Edmonton has some more and some less desirable neighbourhoods to live - depending on your needs and preferences. But unlike many cities its size, most neighbourhoods have strong communities going for them. In any neighbourhood that borders on the river valley, the best and most valuable properties are near the river. And if you are buying anytime soon, you will be blessed with a massive inventory of properties for sale. Good thing we don't want to go anywhere soon.
  3. Schools - Edmonton Public has a reputation for being one of the best school boards in the country - and one of the largest. Not without it's issues and challenges, our experience with EPSB has been excellent. Forget private schools in Edmonton - the public and charter system is your best bet.
  4. Medical services - I've had the normal experience of finding a family doc here in Alberta - most are not accepting patients and finding a good one is a challenge (not unlike my experience in Ontario). There is a well-developed system of pediatrician care for children under 18 and that was the easiest doc to find. But the medical services are first-rate. My recent experience getting some medical imaging done at Meadowlark - a mall in the west end that was converted into medial professionals offices - was superb. You also have a university with significant interest and dollars invested in medial research drawing some of the best medical talent from around the world. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better place to get sick.
  5. Arts and culture - Depending on where you're coming from, your perspective may vary on Edmonton's offerings. While in Toronto, we did not take advantage of the city's cultural offerings as often as we'd liked - young kids, busy schedules, ya-di-ya-di-ya-da. Edmonton has lots of good, small theatre - and one big one. The symphony hall is stunning and the symphony ain't too shabby either. The state-of-the-art gallery is practically free and yours for the visiting almost any time for almost nothing. In the summer, you can spend 8 solid weeks going to excellent arts and culture festivals. I'm not saying it's a New York or a London - but there's enough good stuff for most of us mortals.
  6. Sports - This can be important to some people. Frankly, I couldn't care less. (Who moves to a city because of their sports teams?) The hockey Oilers are currently the worst team in the NHL (as of last year's standings) and the football Eskimos aren't much better. But there is good city spirit and a recent history of being a city of champions. And, well, there's always the visiting teams.
  7. Weather - Tough topic because this is where Edmonton really falls on its face. It's really a case of extremes here. When it's cold, it's damn cold. When it's hot, it's pretty uncomfortable. When there's a drought, it lasts 10 years. And when it's over, it rains almost every day (for instance, this past summer). Winter starts about a month too early and ends a month too late for my personal preference. And nothing, absolutely nothing, about the weather here is normal or predictable. I mean, other than that, you can't really complain as far as the weather goes.
  8. Tourism - Edmonton is a strange place in that there aren't really any world-class attractions to draw tourists. There are the Rockies, but Calgary kinda owns that attraction on account of Banff being an hour away. (Jasper, Banff's long-haired, granola-eating sibling, is only 3 hours drive away.) The river valley is wonderful, but it's not like there are any 60 metre high falls or anything like that. There's a small zoo, a science center, a nice art gallery. It was precisely this situation that gave rise to the West Edmonton Mall which, all things considered, is a pretty good attraction because most tourists like to shop. But hardly a reason to come to Edmonton - unless of course you're coming from Calgary. The point here is that, should you move to Edmonton, you may find yourself struggling to get people to come and visit you.
  9. Dining - If you like to dine out, you should be comforted to know that Edmonton is home to not only several world class chefs, but a vast array of ethnic communities whose cuisines are well represented in the city. Expect to find excellent middle eastern, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Indian and Italian food - in addition to the standard Alberta steak house fare.
  10. People - It sounds a bit Pollyannish, but people here are just kinda nice. And what I think I mean is that people are not pretentious the way they are in some other cities (I'm not mentioning any names, but you know who you are). To be sure, Edmonton has its fair share of curmudgeons and nut-cases  too (I'm not mentioning any names, but you know who you are). Fortunately, we haven't come across too many of them.
Overall, from the perspective of the things that really matter to quality of life, Edmonton scores high. Very high.
So...when are you coming?

Where Next?

Jay Palter

Photo of Jay Palter

Jay Palter is a dad, blogger, and all around web guy who recently exchanged Toronto for Edmonton. Triggered by a great professional opportunity for his wife, the move has inspired him to blog about the adventure of relocating his family across the country and adapting to their new life in the west.

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