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If you are making the move to Ontario or are looking for a new location to call home, then the sheer number of amazing cities can seem overwhelming at a glance. Whether a city is small, mid-sized or large, there are always special features that help any city stand out from the competition. We have curated a list of five fantastic cities in Ontario and detailed exactly what makes them worth your consideration. Between natural features, innovative industry, efficient infrastructure and access to essential transportation, cities in Ontario have lots of appeal.
Barrie, Ontario is quickly emerging as a central Southern Ontario hot spot. Thanks to a GO Train connection to the Greater Toronto Area, this mid-sized city is gaining popularity as a Toronto bedroom community, too. Between waterfront views of the Kempenfelt Bay, a strong job market and excellent transit options, the City of Barrie has a lot to love about it. Barrie is located in Simcoe County, but the city is politically independent. Within the county, the City of Barrie wraps around the Kempenfelt Bay, the western arm of Lake Simcoe. Barrie is north of Toronto and southeast of Collingwood and The Blue Mountains destinations along the Georgian Bay. In the 2016 census, Barrie reported a population of 141,434 people which has been growing ever since. If you are looking to be close to the water and cottage country all while still having convenient access to the Greater Toronto Area, then you have to check out Barrie.
Buyers looking for an alternative to Toronto will be delighted to see Barrie’s vastly more affordable housing market. In 2021, Barrie’s year-to-date average price was about $700,000 which is lower than Simcoe County’s overall average of nearly $745,000 and significantly lower than Toronto’s million dollar average. The southern end of Barrie is the site of much of the city’s newer development, this is close to new schools and the newest GO Transit feature of the city: The Barrie South Station.
Aerospace, manufacturing, medical technology and digital software and technology are some of Barrie’s key industries. The city’s fastest growing sector is in arts, entertainment and recreation. The largest employers in Simcoe County include the Simcoe County District School Board and the Honda Canada Manufacturing plant located in Alliston, Ontario about 35 minutes southwest of Barrie. The two largest school boards that service Barrie are the Simcoe County District School Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board. Barrie is also serviced by two French-language school boards: Conseil scolaire Viamonde and Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir. In addition to being a major employer in the city of Barrie, Georgian College’s main campus is also the city’s only post-secondary institution.
Barrie, Ontario is a well-connected city. Many who work in Toronto choose to live in Barrie and take advantage of the city’s stellar commuter network. Barrie is located on the GO Transit train route with two stations in the city: the Allandale Waterfront GO Station located closer to downtown and the newer Barrie South GO Station in the southeastern end of the city. Getting around Barrie is equally convenient with the help of Barrie Transit which operates several bus routes across the city. An inter-city bus system called LYNX is also operated by Simcoe County and connects Barrie with other cities located in the county area. For drivers, the 400-highway runs through Barrie and also connects the city with the Greater Toronto Area through Vaughan.
As the largest city in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge tri-city grouping, Kitchener, Ontario is a popular choice for those considering moving to the Waterloo Region. Kitchener is known for its great post-secondary institutions and an exciting and innovative tech and software industry. With a population of 233,222 people and access to a total population of 523,894 in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo census area, Kitchener is one of the larger mid-sized cities in Ontario. Together with Waterloo and Cambridge, Kitchener is part of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo and is sometimes considered together with its northern neighbour as Kitchener-Waterloo. Kitchener is located in Southwestern Ontario, northwest of Hamilton and southwest of Mississauga with access to the 401-highway. Before 1916, Kitchener was known as Berlin, Ontario and it has maintained its Germanic roots through architecture and big, annual celebrations like the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest. Some main attractions in and around Kitchener include the Chicopee Ski & Summer resort, the Kitchener Market in downtown Kitchener and
Being so close to the Golden Horseshoe region of Southwestern Ontario has meant that the real estate market in Kitchener has been heating up recently. Early into 2021, records were already being broken for the highest number of homes sold and continually rising prices for all types of property. The average price of residential properties in Kitchener-Waterloo is about $750,000 early on into 2021. This shows a figure on the rise and a steep increase from the average price last year. Average home prices in Kitchener-Waterloo are comparable to those in nearby Cambridge.
The Kitchener-Waterloo region is known for its diverse and modern industries. Between the two nearby cities, some key industries are manufacturing, business, food processing, technology and digital media. In Kitchener-Waterloo’s well-known information and communication technology sector, some of the bigger names are BlackBerry and Honeywell Aerospace. In terms of public education, the Waterloo Region District School Board and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board are the two largest school boards that operate in Kitchener. Students in Kitchener also have access to several French-language schools across the Kitchener-Waterloo area in both the Conseil scolaire Viamonde and the Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir. The Doon area of Kitchener is the location of Conestoga College’s main campus which also has campuses and training centres in Waterloo and Cambridge and beyond. The region’s two big universities: Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo are both located in Waterloo, but only a short drive or public transit commute from Kitchener, so it is still a viable city to live in for students and employees.
For residents of Kitchener looking to commute to Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph or any other nearby municipality, owning a vehicle is essential. By car, commuters can use the city’s main routes: the Conestoga Parkway, Highway 8 and the 401 to reach their destination. Public transit in Kitchener is operated by Grand River Transit which oversees a fleet of buses in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. The company also runs the ION light rail line, a rapid-transit solution for commuters between Kitchener and Waterloo. The ION light rail travels between Conestoga Station in Waterloo, through downtown Kitchener to Fairway Station in Kitchener with stops near Waterloo’s universities and Grand River Hospital. The route is planned to expand into downtown Cambridge in the future.
If you are looking for a growing city close to Great Lake access and the 401, then look no further than London, Ontario. London is a mid-sized southwestern Ontario city located north of Lake Erie and south of Lake Huron. The 401 and the 402, two important Ontario highways, meet south of the city. Residents of London are connected to Sarnia, Windsor, the American border with Detroit and the Greater Toronto Area thanks to these nearby highways. Though an independent city, London is located in Middlesex County and is the county seat. Known as “Forest City,” London’s natural features include large, forested parks and trails as well as the Thames River which flows through the city. As of the 2016 census, The City of London has a population of 383,822 people making it the highest populated city on this list. Because of its diverse population, London is a popular test market for new products and often sees new innovations before the rest of Canada. Some of the city’s main attractions include Springbank Park in the southwest end, Fanshawe Pioneer Village in the east and the Museum London downtown.
The real estate market in London is on the rise. London’s developing industries, location in Southwestern Ontario and the all-important highway connections have drawn a lot of eyes to the “Forest City.” In 2021, the average price for a home in London, Ontario was around $620,000 as it remains a hot, but relatively affordable market. As with other Southwestern Ontario cities, London has seen average house prices increase month after month as well as record-breaking sales figures.
The City of London economy is largely based on medical research, insurance and manufacturing. Some of the largest employers in the city are London Health Sciences Centre, the Thames Valley District School Board, St. Joseph’s Health Care London, TD Canada Trust and the University of Western Ontario among many others. The city cites agri-food, manufacturing, digital media and technology and health as some of the fastest growing industries in the city. There are four major school boards operating in London: the English-speaking Thames Valley District School Board and the London Catholic District School Board and the French language Conseil scolaire Viamonde and Conseil scolaire catholique Providence. London is known for two large post-secondary institutions: Western University (also known as the University of Western Ontario) and its affiliates: Brescia University College, Huron University College and King’s University College as well as Fanshawe College.
Owning a vehicle is the easiest way to get around London and the surrounding area. For those who don’t drive, the city operates LTC buses which serve some of the major hubs in the city like downtown, the malls, Western University and Fanshawe college. The highest traffic routes are reinforced by a fleet of express buses that make fewer stops in order to help passengers reach their destination faster. The city is also working to expand bike lanes throughout the city, connecting residential areas, urban areas and beautiful parks by a seamless network perfect for cycling.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
The City of Niagara Falls is most-known for being the bright cluster of attractions and hotels around the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The region’s best-kept secret? That it is a thriving metropolitan area with absolutely stunning natural areas and diverse industry in addition to being famous for its tourism. Niagara Falls is on the eastern side of the Niagara Region. The city’s eastern border is the Niagara River which divides Canada from the United States; Buffalo, New York, specifically. The Niagara Region itself is a beautiful, natural destination located south of Lake Ontario and north of Lake Erie. With a total of 88,071 residents, Niagara Falls has the smallest population on this list. The city sees a higher number of visitors on average because of its location on the U.S. border and status as a world-renowned vacation destination.
The real estate market in the Niagara Region is experiencing a rise similar to the rest of Southwestern Ontario. The region’s inventory can’t keep up with the interest in and demand for properties, so average prices tend to be higher each month with less average time on the market. In 2021, the Niagara Region has an HPI benchmark price of about $578,000 for the average property in the region. The City of Niagara Falls sports a slightly lower benchmark at $524,000 for the same period. Out of other prominent cities in the Niagara Region, home prices in Niagara Falls are right in the middle.
Hospitality and tourism are very important aspects of the workforce in Niagara Falls as there are many hotels, restaurants and attractions that are both year-round and seasonal. Other important industries include manufacturing, agriculture business as well as emerging industries like technology and engineering. Schools in Niagara Falls are operated by the District School Board of Niagara and the Niagara Catholic District School Board. A French-language education is offered by the Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir. The City of Niagara Falls has one of Niagara College’s campuses with the primary campus being located in Welland to the southwest. Another prominent post-secondary institution in the region is St. Catharines’ Brock University.
Residents of Niagara Falls have access to local transit around the city and connections to the GO Transit route and the Greater Toronto Area. GO Transit operates a Toronto to Niagara weekend GO train which lets residents travel efficiently back and forth without needing a vehicle. For drivers, two important routes are the Queen Elizabeth Way which wraps around the western end of Lake Ontario and into the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and the 405-highway which crosses the border into the United States.
Located right on the border with Detroit, Michigan, the City of Windsor is one of Canada’s southernmost cities. With a population of 217,188 people, Windsor, Ontario is a growing mid-sized city with a strong connection to the United States. The City of Windsor is located in Essex County with the Detroit River to the north and west, Lake St. Clair to the northeast and Lake Erie to the south. Windsor also represents the western end of the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor for rail service as well as the western end of the 401-highway. Residents of Windsor, Ontario enjoy quick and easy access to Detroit and all of its shopping, entertainment and sports attractions by way of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Windsor’s waterfront is also the site of several exciting festivals and events throughout the year such as Bluesfest International Windsor and SummerFest Windsor.
Windsor, Ontario has been experiencing the same increase in its real estate market as the rest of the Southwestern Ontario. The City of Windsor was always one of the more affordable in the region and even with the recent increases, that remains the case. In 2021, the year-to-date average of a property in Windsor is about $492,000. While this is one of the lowest averages on the list, it still marks a nearly 30% increase from the city’s 2020 average, so it is still a rising market with increasing sales.
For years, Windsor, Ontario was referred to as the automotive capital of Canada. The auto manufacturing industry is still strong in Windsor, but there are many other thriving industries making their mark on the city. Another large industry in Windsor is hospitality and tourism, with the largest employer in the sector being the Caesars Windsor casino and entertainment venue. Machinery, metal and pharmaceutical manufacturing are other strong sectors in the city. Public schools in Windsor are operated by the Greater Essex County District School Board and the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. Conseil scolaire Viamonde and Conseil scolaire catholique Providence are two school boards in Windsor that operate French-language elementary and secondary schools. In addition to the public boards, there are also several private school providers as well. Windsor has two post-secondary institutions as well: St. Clair College and the University of Windsor.
Transportation around Windsor is handled by Transit Windsor which operates public buses around the city and a special Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Bus that travels across the border. For vehicle owners, Detroit is mere minutes away across the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The 401-highway is another very important transportation route in the city that connects Windsor with Chatham-Kent, London and beyond to the northeast.
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