In 2022, the Economist Intelligence Unit named Calgary the third most liveable city in the world (tied with Zurich, Switzerland) in its annual ranking. The accolades come as no surprise to Calgarians, who have grown accustomed to living in a modern, affordable, vibrant city that is also only an hour’s drive from the Rocky Mountains.
Alberta abounds in liveable places. Our towns and cities are filled with great parks and cutting edge recreational facilities. Our theatres and concert halls are alive with creative activity. Our stadiums and arenas host major sporting events and the world’s finest artists of every stripe.
And then there’s the great outdoors. With an abundance of nature at our backyards, Albertans are famously in love with it, whether we experience it through hiking, camping, biking or whitewater rafting.
And we’re happy to share it with visitors. Alberta has five UNESCO World Heritage Sites to explore and nearly 500 provincial and national parks to experience. Travellers from around the world come here for the wide open spaces and the even wider open skies.
Alberta is now home to no fewer than five officially-recognized dark sky preserves, including the world’s largest (Wood Buffalo National Park, in the province’s northeast corner) and the world’s first trans-boundary International Dark Sky Park (Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, in the province’s southwest corner and across the border in the United States). Bon Accord, a town 30 kilometres north of Edmonton, is recognized as a International Dark Sky community. They give us all an opportunity to get away from the city lights and reimagine ourselves within the vastness of the universe.
Investment by Alberta, over three years, in health-care capital projects and programs
105 BILLION CUBIC METRES
Volume of annual water flow through the province
number of provincial parks and protected areas in Alberta
Distance of designated and managed trails in Alberta, plus hundreds of thousands of kilometres of unintended trails
Source: Government of Alberta
Alberta is known for big things; soaring mountains, wide-open skies, the West Edmonton Mall, which with 350,000 square metres of retail space is the second largest mall in North America.
Albertans also do recreation centres on a grand scale, as evidenced by Fort McMurray’s Suncor Community Leisure Centre, which is 450,000 square feet of sport, leisure, fitness and recreational attractions. Amenities include an aquatic centre, two field houses, two ice arenas, a curling rink, racquetball and squash courts and an indoor running track. There’s also a fitness centre, an indoor climbing wall, an indoor playground, a dance academy and a public library.
And even that is just part of the story. The leisure centre is just one part of MacDonald Island Park, which is located just north of downtown Fort McMurray, at the junction of the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers. The island also boasts an art gallery, a golf club and Shell Place, which is a multi-purpose entertainment and sports venue that can be expanded to seat 15,000 spectators and has hosted Canadian Football League games.
Red Deer Rising
The city of Red Deer, about halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, is Alberta’s third-largest city and is experiencing strong growth. One of its newest residential neighbourhoods is Timberlands North, just northeast of downtown.
Timberlands is a dynamic hub providing mixed-use commercial, professional and residential space. Amenities include pedestrian-friendly streets, lush green spaces and a central park. These visionary design principles played a key role in attracting the award-winning Nautical Lands Group, which is developing the $17 million CAD Wellings of Red Deer. It will see 77 one- and two-bedroom, bungalow-style villas built for residents ages 55 years and up. It includes an 8,000 square foot clubhouse, which features a full kitchen, an outdoor barbeque and patio, a big screen TV, billiards, shuffleboard, fitness classes and a space for gatherings, events and meetings.
In addition, five well-regarded builders in the region have teamed up to form the Central Alberta Builders Group, which is developing a row of five show homes in Timberlands.
In the southwest corner of Alberta, the town of Lundbreck has taken advantage of its close proximity to the Rocky Mountains to develop the Livingstone Ski Academy (LSA), a unique program for students from Grade 4 to Grade 12. It offers instruction in alpine racing and freestyle skiing, with students training at Castle Mountain Resort three days per week. The LSA training is all during instructional hours so athletes can return to their competition programs on the weekends.
The LSA is part of the Livingstone Range School Division’s outdoor pursuits program, called FACES (Facilitating Awareness and Character building Experiences for Students). FACES offers an experiential education that includes a carefully crafted personal adventure and a challenging wilderness adventure. The experiences offer personal growth and can be a head start on working in tourism and recreation.