Great places to live: Alberta

Over the next month we are featuring various provinces and the great places to live within! Today’s area: Alberta.

Medicine Hat: Prairie oasis amid oil and ranch country
The fifth largest city in Alberta (population 51,000) and shaped like a bowl cut into the prairies, Medicine Hat claims the title of sunniest city year-round in Canada with 2,500-plus hours and leads in the category for most dry days with 266 annually. Adding to the Hat’s appeal are the lowest average property taxes in the country.


• Average Jan temp (mean): –10 C
• Average July temp (mean): 20 C
• Annual rainfall: 250 mm
• Annual snowfall: 95 cm

House facts:

• Bungalow: $174,500 (built 1965 through 1994); $223,600 (built 1995  to present)
• Standard two-storey: $193,400 (built 1965 through 1994); $225,500 (built 1995 to present)
• Condominium: $148,400
• Monthly rent for two-bedroom apartment: $575 to $950
(Average prices pvided by Ernie Benesch, Royal LePage Community Realty)

Public transportation is available Monday through Saturday (no service on Sundays and holidays). Off-peak service provides buses when requested weekday evenings and Saturday mornings and evenings. Special services are offered for those who cannot use regular public transit. Four taxi companies service the area.

Great things to do
The Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre will open in August 2005 to house a new performing arts centre, city archives, Medicine Hat Museum and an art gallery. City and school partnered to create the Medicine Hat Cultural Centre on the campus of Medicine Hat College. It features an art gallery as well as rehearsal space and the Black Box Theatre, and is home to the Conservatory of Music and Dance. The Black Box is one of several venues that swings during the annual Medicine Hat Jazz Festival.

How many cities can boast a Historic Clay District? Clay and gas deposits made possible a thriving brick, tile and ceramic industry. (Rudyard Kipling called Medicine Hat “the city with all hell for a basement.”) The Friends of Medalta Society have completed an interpretive centre and the first phase of restoration of kilns and original buildings.

The Veiner Centre offers more than 45 activities for people over 50. These include floor curling, cards, choir, bocce, snooker, line dancing and clogging. More challenging are courses available through the continuing studies department of Medicine Hat College, such as computer training, learning to fly a plane or ride a motorcycle, or studying French or Japanese.

Sport fans can cheer on the Western Hockey League Medicine Hat Tigers at the Medicine Hat Arena, where rodeos, concerts, skating shows and WWE wrestling events are also held. The Medicine Hat Drag Racing Association runs a drag strip attracting western Canadian and American racers. Stock cars race at the Medicine Hat Speedway.

The city has more than 90 parks and more than 92 kilometres of trails for hiking or cross-country skiing.

Grandchildren love the waterslides at the Kinsmen Aquatic Park/Medicine Hat Family Leisure Centre, as well as the wave pool, and swimming pool. During the summer, everyone can cool off and exercise by ice skating in the same complex at the Encana Arena on the Olympic-sized rink. There are also outdoor pools and opportunities to get involved in fly fishing, playing in the darts league, fencing and baseball.

The Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club, an 18-hole par-72 semi-private course has hosted several provincial championships.

If you’re sick
Medicine Hat Regional Hospital offers a full range of services, including geriatric and diabetes clinics and outpatient occupational, physical and respiratory therapy. Along with its 190 acute care beds, the hospital also has 135 beds designated for long-term care.

There are 78 physicians practising in this area (31 family physicians and 47 specialists). Medicine Hat has six nursing homes.

From the horse’s mouth
“Medicine Hat is Alberta’s if not Canada’s best-kept secret. I landed here in 1987 after bouncing around Canada for 20 years. In the past 27 years, I have often said they don’t make a crowbar long enough to pry me out of here.” – Ernie Benesch

Next page: Red Deer

Red Deer: Great for golfers
The fourth largest urban centre in Alberta, Red Deer with more than 67,700 residents enjoys a spot halfway between Calgary and Edmonton and is emerging as a vibrant community for spending retirement years.


• Average Jan temp (mean): –12 C
• Average July temp (mean): 16 C
• Annual rainfall: 385 mm
• Annual snowfall: 102 cm

House facts

• Bungalow: $183,261
• Standard two-storey: $230,810
• Condominium: $125,102
• Monthly rent for two-bedroom apartment: $620 to $675
(Prices provided by Red Deer & District Real Estate Board; Community Information & Referral Society)

Red Deer Transit offers a bike-and-ride program, senior bus passes and low-floor buses on certain routes. Service is daily. The Citizen’s Action Bus offers transportation to those who cannot use regular transportation.
There are also six taxi companies and more than 100 cabs in town.

Great things to do
Red Deer residents face winter head on at 54 outdoor rinks and at six indoor rinks, including the Enmax Centrium. With its NHL-sized surface, it’s home base for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. With seating for more than 6,000, it’s also used to hold rodeos, major curling bonspiels and concerts. Grandchildren have a great time at the Collicutt Centre’s wave pool and waterslides. Older folk can maintain fitness using the running track and weight room or by joining fitness classes to boost cardiac health. Or go for the tennis, basketball, volleyball and wall climbing in its Field House.

In warm weather, watch or play ball in the parks, or paddle on Bower Ponds, part of Waskasoo Park. The Recreation and G.H. Dawe centres both have indoor pools, while outdoor pools are located in other parks.

Fitness facilities as well as squash and racquetball courts are available at Red Deer College, where older adults can take fitness classes through the extension department. The college has other offerings such as workshops for adult concert bands. Alberta’s athletes are celebrated at the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, which has interactive games and a small stadium-style video theatre.

The city, recognizing a need for theatre and art gallery spaces and the importance of cultural activities, has developed a cultural plan that includes public art installations similar to the Ghosts, eight bronze sculptures tucked throughout the city depicting moments from the city’s past. (There’s even a sprinting pig nicknamed Francis who escaped the local abattoir and hid out in parks for several months.)

Artwalk Festival, held in locations downtown, promotes the work of local artists and craftspeople.

The Culture Services Centre currently includes a small member-run gallery, studios for visual and performing arts and the office of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra. Red Deer College’s Art Centre has a theatre seating 580, and rehearsal spaces. Both local and international performers appear there.

There are five golf courses in the Red Deer area, from the semi-private Red Deer Golf and Country Club to the public 18 holes of Spirit Creek Golf and County Club. Additional courses can be found at nearby small towns.

If you’re sick
Red Deer Regional Hospital acts as the health-care hub of Central Alberta. The facility offers an extensive array of health services. It also houses a dialysis clinic and a cancer clinic. Besides the extended care services offered at the hospital, there are two other nursing homes in the city.
There are 90 family physicians and more than 90 specialists in the area.

From the horse’s mouth
“My family loves living in Red Deer because of the extensive parks and trails. We have excellent facilities and programs for sports, recreation, arts and culture. And we’re located midway between Calgary and Edmonton.
We love being close to the Rockies.” – Morris Flewwelling, Mayor