No longer being a young mom, and having three kids who are, shall we say, more spicy than sweet, we have seen our share of ups and downs. When we moved to Calgary, my kids were aged 5, 3, and 1, and the city quickly became home, a place to raise our growing family that also offered us a great sense of well-being. Here are seven reasons why I love raising my kids in Calgary. (But house prices aren’t one of them.)
1. The Great Outdoors
If you were to ask me to choose between the mountains or the ocean, I have to admit, I would pick the ocean. But it’s pretty spectacular to live with the mountains on your doorstep. Calgary has such wonderful outdoor playing opportunities. Whatever you love the mountains for, from hiking to skiing to camping, you’ll find it only an hour away! Even if you don’t want to leave the city, there are so many parks within the city limits, from amazing playgrounds to educational parks to wide spaces where you can get back to nature. Did you know that Calgary has the longest urban park and pathway system in the world, bringing us over 1000 kilometres of trails?
2. Terrific Entertainment
Calgary is the biggest city I’ve ever lived in and I have loved the wide variety of entertainment here. We have everything from world-class attractions like the Calgary Zoo to indoor play places where the kids can burn off energy in the winter while you grab a coffee. (Often, these little things are the most important.) There is Heritage Park and Calaway Park and the amazing TELUS Spark Science Centre. You can find diverse concerts, festivals, great theatre, and ballet, many of which are kid-friendly. And sports – so many sports to see and play! Really, the hardest part is deciding on and budgeting for everything your family might be interested in.
3. Yes, You Can!
So, maybe this one’s a little more personal, but I love the Calgary attitude and “can-do” spirit. People seem to easily move from, “That’s not how it’s done,” to “Well, let’s give it a try!” The world seems a little more manageable when you have options.
4. Weather – The Chinooks, Of Course
I’m writing this article during an early fall snowstorm, the kind where the roads are so bad and backed up you should just stay home. Nevertheless, we sometimes tend to focus on the wacky negative weather in Calgary, rather than the decent weather. We usually don’t have too much snow to shovel and when it gets really cold, it usually doesn’t last too long. Basically, if you like the unexpected, you’ll love Calgary weather. And what else would we talk about with our neighbours?
Plus, we have chinooks. Calgarians, myself included, tend to act mildly smug about the chinooks, as if it somehow had something to do with us. Growing up as I did in Edmonton, I never understood this attitude. Now I just enjoy it.
5. Back to School
Many times, your neighbourhood public school is all you need to feel like your kids are getting a decent education. But sometimes life isn’t so simple and having a choice is invaluable. Calgary has such interesting school options, from bilingual public schools to private schools to sports schools. There are many homeschool boards to explore, plus the unique charter school options.
6. Plan Your Fun on a Budget
I have to admit, things like housing prices were hard to swallow when we moved to Calgary. Even on a tight budget, however, you can still have fun. The city has its Fair Entry program, of course, making life that much more enjoyable if you’re low income. But there are tons of other cheap or free activities, like a variety of things to do at the Calgary Public Library (which also offers a free membership) ranging from what my kids called “math camp” to chess club to ballet demonstrations, and so much more. City of Calgary pools offer toonie swims and deals at the leisure centres, and in the summer, the city runs Park and Play programs for free. You’ll find cheap movies at certain times, like March break or Saturday mornings, plus a second-run theatre in Canyon Meadows. Big stores like The Home Depot, Michaels, Toys R Us, The LEGO Store, and Indigo or Chapters often have kid-friendly activities that are free or inexpensive. Plus, there are tons of community sales and second-hand stores to stock up on great kids’ clothing and toys. Really, I could write a whole blog on this!
7. Lessons for Kids (and Adults!)
The possibilities for fun kids’ lessons and activities in Calgary are amazing! (Especially if you’re NOT on a budget!) I purposefully try not to overschedule my kids, so we have to choose carefully, but it seems like any sport, any instrument, or any skill is waiting to be discovered. Kids aren’t the only ones who get to play, either; there are great adult communities here, doing things they love together.
When it comes right down to it, a strong community with people who have your back is a solid predictor of contentment where you live. Calgary is the biggest small town I’ve ever lived in, making it the perfect place to raise my family. What’s not to like?! (Sorry, Edmonton.)