Cities Journal

Top 20 Small Cities In Canada


Small cities are scattered throughout the Canadian landscape, but there are some that stand apart from others. The cities on this list represent the best quality of life that Canada has to offer. Each of these cities will make a great vacation spot or a perfect place to start a family.

These cities have rich historical roots, thriving economies and many leisure activities. Best of all, you can get a taste of the small-town atmosphere while having access to the same amenities that attract people to large cities. With distinct local traditions, each of the following cities has something unique to offer you.

1. Dawson Creek, British Columbia

Dawson Creek was named after Dr. George Mercer Dawson, who was a geologist and naturalist. It’s located approximately 200 miles north of Prince George BC, and its main industries are renewable and nonrenewable energy products, mining, agriculture, forestry and tourism. According tothe HelloBC website, this little town started as a pioneer settlement, and quickly built into an agricultural hub.

By 1930, five grain towers were built in Dawson Creek. This small town was instrumental during World War II. After the Pearl Harbor Bombing in 1941, the population skyrocketed from 600 residents to 10,000 as people moved in to help build the Alaska Highway.

Over the last few decades, little has changed in Dawson Creek. The Community Profile page lists this town as having a population of 11,583. Home values average $259,000, while 2-bedroom apartments can be rented for $1,085. Like many small towns in Canada, real estate prices are rising.

Dawson Creek saw a 6.6% increase on home prices between 2013 and 2014, and similar growth in previous years. With this trend, real estate in Dawson Creek is a sound investment.

The Tourism Dawson Creek website details some of the many attractions for visitors and residents of Dawson Creek. One such attraction is the Northern Alberta Railway Park, where you can stand at “Mile 0” of the great Alaskan Highway.

Visitors interested in the history of the Alaska Highway might enjoy walking over Kiskatinaw Bridge, one of the last original structures of the famed wilderness highway. At this park, you can also visit the Dawson Creek Station Museum, Art Gallery and the Visitor Center. It is the place to start if you want to follow in the footsteps of thousands of World War II Veterans.

Dawson Creek also has a thriving arts community. According to the DawsonCreek website, the Dawson Creek Community Arts Council is made up of more than 15 artist groups representing historians, performing arts, visual arts, and literary organizations.

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  • portapetey

    Still wrong. Saint John doesn’t have a public gardens. The Algonquin is 100 km (60 miles) away from Saint John, in St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea.

    • Terra

      Yes, there is a public gardens….mount pleasant area by rock wood. It’s well kept, I lived in the area for years.

      • Tyr

        Yes there are public gardens and ducks unlimited wet lands and tons of maintained beaches and still parts of Farvale where no one locks there doors. People say hello to you just walking down the street and other then late at night my only worries is a bum asking me for a smoke or some change. I like it here. It is sweel.

    • Kate

      I thought Saint John’s Public Garden was by Allison Dr, right at the Crown Street exit (by the big sign that says “Public Garden”). However, yes the Algonquin is in a small town an hour’s drive from Saint John, and Saint John IS a city, not a town.

    • e550mercedes

      Actually, Saint John does have public gardens near Rockwood Park.

    • portapetey

      My mistake; had never heard of the public garden there.

  • CarrieMcG

    Just in case you were unaware the Algonquin Hotel is an hour and half drive from Saint John in a small town called St. Andrew’s.

  • Callie

    The Algonquin is in St. Andrews, NOT in Saint John. Both Saint John and St. Andrews are very British, but a 2 hour drive away from each other!

  • chris

    no industry in corner brook, rude people, not much of a night life, not much shopping outside of the big box stores. i guess whomever picked corner brook as #1 didn’t actually visit this hole on earth.

    • corner brooker

      i agree

    • leela

      someone’s feelings must have been hurt, boohoo :(

  • Pingback: Corner Brook named Best Small City by Cities Journal |

  • SteveH

    What is any of this based on? Provide us with some kind of rationale, methodology, something. Otherwise this is just a joke.

  • BenW

    Interesting that St. John, New Brunswick makes both this list and the “15 cities to move away from in Canada” list… obviously take all of this information with a grain of salt…

    • ndale27

      It’s Saint John, spelled out to avoid confusion with St. John’s

  • Alysia

    I lived in Kamloops for a long time – there is nothing to do there. There is no place to go hiking where there are trees; just dirt and sagebrush. The only things open after 9pm are the scummy bars (even Starbucks closes at 9). Over 90% of the restaurants are chain restaurants with crappy service and over-priced food. It’s not a tourist ATTRACTION, it’s a place where tourists stop on their way to nice BC destinations

    • doots

      sounds exactly like nelson b.c lol.

  • TheChief3

    Ft MacMurray is a hole. No one would be there without the oilsands, and no one could afford to live there if they’re not employed by the oilsands, unless you live on a camp.

  • Steve Ball

    Fort McMurray maybe a place to find work (paying jobs in the Oil Industry), but the city is a HOLE

  • ndale27

    Any list such as this one, is always going to be highly subjective and, usefully, provoke arguments. However, in all my years of scanning others lists never have I encountered one with which I so utterly disagree. Included is the city I live (Prince George) in which is widely known as a crime hub (perennial leader in that category of MacLean’s Magazine), of foul pulpy air and replete with a politics that would guarantee the Conservatives a seat if they ran a dead dog. Almost invariably when I encounter folks from other parts of BC, when I tell them where I live the nicest response is a confounded, “WHY?” and usually much less metaphors involved vernaculars for “anus”. Saint John and your winner, Cornerbrook, get a similar reaction. Your errors of omission are no less egregious. Where, for instance are Charlottetown, Fredericton, Rimouski, Stratford, Comox-Courtenay? Maybe one criterion (would like to see all the criteria, by the way) was “would be a long-shot pick to make anyone else’s list” ?

  • Dan Senior

    They sure got it right with Sault Ste. Marie. A beautiful city to live and the great outdoors right at our doorstep and International access 5 minutes away. Sault Ste. Marie #1 in Canada

    • Davey Baskcomb

      Hahaha, you been outside the Soo? Yes, we do have a beautiful (well parts anyway) city with great outdoors right at our fingertips, but I’d say a great city embraces this. But a great city embraces their youth and encourages them to grow as a community, instead of more or less forcing them to leave because they can’t stand the idiocy and just anti-youth sentiment in the town. Sault Ste. Marie is rapidly increasing in crime and drug statistics, anything aimed at keeping youth here is shot down immediately (or almost immediately), and our job outlook and economy is shit….yaaaa greeeeaaat city to live in…maybe if you’re 50+ it is, anyone under 30 hates it.

  • Russell Vander Ende

    I agree. I’ve lived in Prince George as well since 2001 and I absolutely hate it. We’re internationally known for our high crime, horrible air pollution, crumbling infrastructure, highway deaths/murders, and slummy downtown. Finding steady year round employment that offers a liveable wage but doesn’t require extensive travel along the Highway of Tears is also quite challenging. Whats also interesting is that this website named two of our neighbouring cities in their ‘cities to move away from’ article. Quesnel and Williams Lake are simply smaller versions of Prince George that are at least a shorter driving distance from the lower mainland.

  • Caesar J. B. Squitti

    Thunder Bay, Ontario, “Superior by Nature”…”Land of the Sleeping Giants”…is truly a most beautiful city, located half-way between east and west, and the head of the Lake Superior, in the midst of gold, diamond and silver mines.

    A beautiful city of two cities, with the full spectrum of seasons, where hot chocolate, and skiing are balanced with refreshing summers on the lake, green golfing hills and a mecca of fishing, walking, hiking, and natural trails…

    Thunder Bay, “Land of the Sleeping Giants”…celebrating Canada’s most important resource; its people: With the monument for Terry Fox, overlooking the natural harbor and the other Giant, the mythical ‘Sleeping Giant” on the cities waterfront…

  • abdar nitangae

    I have met a few Prince George fans, actually. But the author seems to really like resource-extraction and heavy-industry oriented towns. Oil towns, pulp-and-paper,mining- even the two choices for the Maritimes (Cornerbrook with off-shore oil and Saint John with the refinery) reflect this – and then there is the absolutely strange choice of Fort Mac. In contrast to Prince George, I haven’t met anybody who defends Fort Mac, at least not since the 80s. Well, lots of jobs in those cities, I guess, so just as well to make people feel good about them if they have to live there. Still, a truly odd list.

  • Beverley Smith

    unfair photo of Fort McMurray. it actually has residential streets and a business centre too.

  • Tibby

    I’m from Thunder Bay, as much as I miss a few things from back home like Persians and family and friends, that’s about it. Every nice place to visit is outside of the city not in it. People either remark on the beauty of the landscape outside the city or remark on how much of a dump the city is to drive through.

  • frannie in Thunder Bay

    Proud to be living in Thunder Bay…especially love the warm summers and our beautiful Marina Park where you can dine, take a splash in the water park, skate (in winter), attend wonderful summer concerts, enjoy boating, or just take a quiet stroll with or without your canine friends…just one of our area’s treasures!

  • Kellie McIver

    I have lived in Fort McMurray for 14 years now (came from B.C.) And I love it here :) It is very beautiful in the summer and has so much to offer and things to do.

  • J Paul Chobaniuk

    I read a list on this site a few weeks ago about the worst places to live in Canada and I swear half of these cities were on the list.

  • Heather

    You found all these majestic photos, and then put THAT up for Grand Prairie. Odd.

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