Calgary AB vs. Winnipeg MB: Which City is Right For You?

Comparing Calgary and Winnipeg

Choosing between living in Calgary, Alberta, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a decision that involves considering various lifestyle and environmental factors. The city of Calgary, known for its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, offers a unique blend of outdoor activities and urban amenities. In contrast, with its vibrant arts scene, Winnipeg provides a different kind of urban living experience. These cities' climates, job opportunities, cost of living, and recreational options differ markedly, affecting daily life and long-term satisfaction. Explore the nuances of living in Calgary versus Winnipeg, and find out which city aligns best with your lifestyle and preferences.

Is it Cheaper to Live in Calgary or Winnipeg?

Budget-minded homebuyers have a clear choice between these two cities. Those looking for the cheapest option of the two should opt for Winnipeg. While Calgary is the least expensive of Canada's biggest cities, it's still among the world's top 150 priciest metro areas. Still, choosing between the two on financial grounds is a bit more complex than it might appear.

Cost of Living

The overall cost of living in Calgary is higher than in Winnipeg, with most estimates putting the gap in the 15%–30% range, depending on lifestyle and other factors. The most significant difference for residents is the cost of housing. In Winnipeg, the median price of apartments and other units in multi-household dwellings is in the low $200s, with townhomes around $300,000 and single-household homes in the high $300s. But in Calgary, the corresponding costs rise to the high $200s, around $400,000, and the mid-$600s. Renters see a similar disparity, with median rent around $2,000 monthly in Calgary and $1,500 per month in Winnipeg. 

The highest-end real estate in each city is similarly varied. Luxury homes in Calgary typically list from around $1 million to nearly $10 million, while Winnipeg's highest-end real estate ranges from the $800s to around $3 million.

Utilities are also slightly more expensive in Calgary, though there's less of a noticeable difference. The same is true for food, entertainment, and transportation, even accounting for Calgary's typically cheaper gas prices. Healthcare costs vary widely depending on use and personal circumstances but are generally similar between the two cities. However, Manitoba provincial plans are typically more generous regarding benefits. 

Typical Salaries & Income

Calgary residents will find that the city's higher prices are at least partially offset by its significantly higher salaries and wages than Winnipeg. Median household income in Calgary sits around $98,000, a number that's been steadily rising over the past few years. Meanwhile, Winnipeg's median household income comes in at around $80,000, a substantial decrease. Average individual salaries also show a similar gap: Calgary's is roughly $65,000, above the Canadian average, while Winnipeg's $50,000 is below the national average. 

Both cities have a comparable minimum wage, set at $15 per hour in Calgary and $15.30 hourly in Winnipeg. Calgary residents are also subject to Alberta's lower provincial income taxes, saving them money in their take-home pay compared to Manitoba rates, which are higher for all income levels. 

How's the Weather in Calgary vs. Winnipeg?

Weather in Calgary vs Winnipeg

While winters are cold in both cities, Winnipeg is Canada's chilliest city, with average daytime highs of -9° during the season. However, it's also relatively dry and clear during the winter months. Much like researching neighbourhoods before buying a home is vital, knowing you can thrive in a given climate is supremely important before moving to that climate.

Despite its more northern location, Calgary typically has milder winters than Winnipeg. This is due to a unique weather pattern that results from the nearby Rocky Mountains, known as Chinook winds. These warmer, drier air currents can help moderate Calgary's temperatures and quickly eliminate residual snow. Winnipeg also sees slightly higher average high temperatures and higher humidity levels during the summer compared to Calgary, a result of its location on the Prairies. 

Both receive most of their precipitation in the summer, typically between May and September. Overall, Calgary typically has more moderate and stable weather in all seasons, while Winnipeg offers a great opportunity for those who enjoy warmer summers and don't mind chillier winters. 

Which is Bigger, Calgary or Winnipeg?

From a size perspective, the answer is clear. Calgary is larger than Winnipeg in both population and geographic space. Calgary spans approximately 820 square kilometres, while Winnipeg is just over half that size, at around 464 square kilometres. 

More people also call Calgary home: about 1.4 million live in Cowtown compared to Winnipeg's roughly 750,000. The result is that each city has almost the same population density, though Calgary residents may often find themselves travelling further to destinations within the city. Both have been growing in population in recent years, a trend that's expected to continue. 

Finding a Job in Calgary vs. Winnipeg

Both cities offer excellent opportunities for those looking for work, and each has its own economic strengths. Calgary is best known as the centre of Alberta's thriving energy industry but also supports significant jobs in financial services and life science. These industries are most prevalent in Calgary's City Centre. In contrast, Winnipeg stands out for its large manufacturing sector and several significant transportation and logistics companies. Those seeking positions in aerospace, agribusiness, the creative arts, and technology will have excellent opportunities in both cities, ranging from managerial work to skilled and unskilled labour. 

Calgary's unemployment rate is close to the nationwide average, and Winnipeg's rate is typically a percentage point or two lower. However, Calgary's substantially larger size and population mean more jobs are available overall, as well as a more diverse set. Crucially, both cities have seen steadily growing economies in recent years, a trend poised to continue into the near future. 

Getting Around in Calgary vs. Winnipeg

Driving in Calgary vs Winnipeg

No matter how they get around, those living in Calgary tend to have a bit of an easier time doing it than residents of Winnipeg. However, it's important to note—particularly for those travelling around the city a lot or those moving to Calgary with kids—that Calgary's larger size means trips within the city can be significantly longer in time and distance. There are also some other important distinctions between the two. 

Public Transportation

As with many more populated cities, Calgary has a more extensive and more diverse public transit network than Winnipeg. Calgarians can take both bus service and the light rail C-Train, both operated by Calgary Transit. The heavily used system includes two rail lines and nearly 300 bus lines throughout the city, with an emphasis on Downtown Calgary and other city centre neighbourhoods. Single rides cost $3.60, while weekly and monthly passes provide more affordable rates for frequent riders. 

Winnipeg residents only have access to about 85 bus routes offered by Winnipeg Transit. Fares are $3.25 in cash or $2.90 when paid electronically. As in Calgary, transit passes ranging from 24 hours to a month provide good deals for everyday transit users. Winnipeg is also connected to the national VIA Rail Network, which offers direct service along scenic routes to Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, and many spots in between. 

Bikers will find an extensive network of paths and trails in Calgary, while Winnipeg's system is still expanding its offerings. Both cities also offer access to ride-hailing services like Uber, as well as taxis. 

Driving & Traffic 

It may surprise would-be residents that, despite Winnipeg's smaller geographic size and population, traffic is usually worse than in Calgary. Winnipeg has been ranked as Canada's third-worst traffic city, with only the huge population centres of Vancouver and Toronto having worse traffic. Drivers there spend just over 19 minutes on average to drive 10 kilometres, compared to a bit under 13 minutes in Calgary. Typical Winnipeg motorists spend 63 hours more in traffic per year than their Calgary counterparts. 

Both cities experience standard traffic patterns and peaks, with the most congestion on weekday mornings between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. and weekday afternoons between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. While exact prices will vary by driver and coverage, Calgary drivers generally are charged higher auto insurance rates than those in Winnipeg. 

Does Calgary or Winnipeg Have Better Things to Do?

No matter what would-be residents enjoy doing in their free time, they'll likely find opportunities to do it in both of these top Canadian cities. However, each has certain areas where it stands out from the other. 

Outdoor Activities

Lovers of the Great Outdoors will have plenty to keep them busy and entertained in Calgary and Winnipeg. Calgary is just over 80 kilometres east of the Rocky Mountains, making it convenient to enjoy some of the world's best skiing, hiking, mountain biking, camping, and more. Extensive green spaces and parks are spread throughout Calgary's best neighbourhoods, including the riverfront Prince's Island Park or the expansive Nose Hill Park, one of Canada's largest urban parks. 

Winnipeg residents also have incredible nature nearby, like the boating, fishing, and camping opportunities around Lake Manitoba, less than 100 kilometres northwest. Closer to home, the city's Assiniboine Park offers a zoo, entertainment venues, and many other attractions. Nature lovers can find an even wilder experience at Fort Whyte Alive, an urban green space with lakes, green space, and a nature centre. 

Arts & Culture

Calgary may be best known for its annual rodeo and western-themed festival, the Calgary Stampede, which draws tens of thousands to the city every summer. It's just one of many music festivals and other themed gatherings that Calgary hosts, typically during the warmer months. The city is also home to cultural and educational spots like the popular Calgary Zoo and the art and history exhibits at the Glenbow Museum. 

However, many find Winnipeg to have a broader and more developed art scene. Residents enjoy access to spots like the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which houses a notable collection of European and Inuit art, while the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Manitoba Museum are also among the city's top attractions. 

Sports fans will be at home in either city. Both have NHL franchises (the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets), CFL teams (Calgary Stampeders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers), and Canadian premier league soccer teams (Cavalry FC and Valour FC), among other teams and leagues. 

Food & Nightlife

Foodies will likely be quite happy with either of these choices from a culinary perspective, though each enjoys its own distinct culinary scene. Calgary has a diverse mix of international and traditional Canadian cuisine and plenty of high-quality beef, thanks to Alberta's cattle ranching heritage. Winnipeg also has a strong global influence, as well as a significant impact from Indigenous/Native Canadian/Inuit cooking. 

On the nightlife front, Calgary outparties its smaller rival. With a larger population and more entertainment areas, it's an excellent choice for would-be residents who enjoy going out on the town, especially in areas like the exciting 17th Avenue SW corridor or the Kensington district. Still, Winnipeg has plenty of nightlife options centred around The Forks—a thriving downtown district of shops, restaurants, bars, and other unique attractions. The Forks is also flanked by other unique and fun neighbourhoods like Osborne Village and The Exchange District. 

The Distinct Allures of Calgary & Winnipeg

Deciding between Calgary and Winnipeg for your home hinges on personal preferences and lifestyle priorities. Calgary's allure lies in its dynamic urban life and proximity to natural wonders, appealing to those seeking adventure and a fast-paced environment. With its historical depth, Winnipeg offers a warm, community-focused living experience. Each city boasts unique advantages, from Calgary's economic opportunities and outdoor activities to Winnipeg's arts and cultural richness. Ultimately, whether it's Calgary's mountains or Winnipeg's heritage that calls to you, both cities offer enriching experiences for their residents.

Are you ready to move to Calgary? Call Justin Havre with eXp Realty at (403) 217-0003 to talk with a local real estate agent who can help you find your dream Calgary home.

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