I grew up – a very long time ago – 38 miles from New York City. My Dad and all the others dads left the suburbs by carpool or train every morning and commuted into the “City” to work, every weekday. The moms and the kids sometimes went into the City for special occasions, like Broadway shows, Radio City Music Hall, Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, and shopping expeditions for things that the suburban malls of those early years might not have. Or just because a trip to the fancy stores on 5th Avenue was a very special mother-daughter bonding experience. For me, a big city meant the Big Apple. How was I to know that NYC wasn’t just any old big American city, it was a very big, very special world city.
Because I loved NYC and my young, idealistic vision of what a big city was (compared to suburban living), I chose to go to university in a big city. And since I loved cold weather, too, I made an unusual choice as far as everyone was concerned at the time; I chose to attend McGill University in Montreal. In another country! I embraced Montreal just as I had embraced NYC. I loved its mountain, historic Old Montreal, and its charm and bilingualism. I loved just walking its streets. When my husband and I moved to London for 2 years after various graduations, before settling back in Canada, we embraced everything about that big world city: its history, its amazing cultural offerings, and its parks. And we fully expected to come back to live in Montreal, or at least Toronto. What else would one expect? We were big city people.
But, as we all know, life has a funny way of changing your plans and expectations. Instead, much to our astonishment, we found ourselves in the small, tucked-away city of Fredericton, New Brunswick. In 1970. 52 years ago. And, after initially expecting to move back to a “city” within a few years, we found ourselves thriving in this much smaller place. Thriving in a way I’m not sure we would have done had we moved back to a bigger place. We would have been perfectly happy, for sure, but we would have missed a lot. We wouldn’t have spent 9 years farming, only a 15-minute drive from town and work, for one thing. We would have missed the incredibly strong sense of community one gets when living in a smaller place. We would have missed feeling part of something much bigger than ourselves. We are grateful for every day that we live here.
And now it turns out that others are recognizing the specialness of Fredericton as well. Drumroll, please. Vancouver’s Resonance Consulting has just announced their rankings of the 10 best small cities in Canada for 2022, and look who’s #9!
- Victoria, BC
- Kelowna, BC
- Kingston, Ontario
- Niagara Falls, Ontario
- Waterloo, Ontario
- North Vancouver, BC
- Burlington, Ontario
- Guelph, Ontario
- Fredericton, New Brunswick
- Lethbridge, Alberta
To create the list, Resonance used 6 different categories to evaluate the offerings of each pick of cities with a population under 200,000:
- Place (natural and built environment)
- Product (attractions and major institutions)
- Programming (arts, culture, entertainment and culinary scene)
- People (immigration rate and diversity)
- Prosperity (employment and corporate landscape)
- Promotion (online recommendations and recognition)
Interestingly, Fredericton is the only city in the Atlantic region to make the list. And our population is one of the smallest of these small cities. Some of you might also be interested to know that our real estate prices are probably something like ½ to ¼ of the prices of most of these other cities. And our airport is only a 15-minute drive from downtown. So if you’re looking to move, you might want to give Fredericton some thought!
Living here we don’t get to Broadway, but we do have a top notch Playhouse that brings in shows, performances, orchestras, and ballets throughout the year. Plus an annual Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. Plus a world class art gallery and vibrant arts scene. One of our shout-outs was that when Leonard Cohen was planning his final world tour, he came to Fredericton a week before his first show, rehearsed at our Playhouse, walked around town without attracting too much attention, and then started his world tour right here. Right here, in little old Fredericton! It. Was. Incredible.
And, like most cities, even NYC and Toronto, we get our fair share of wildlife stopping by. Just this past week a young moose decided to take a stroll down our main North American “mall street” and was given full marks for navigating one of our new round-abouts better than some of our local drivers!
We are small, but we are New Brunswick’s capital city. We have the rich history of our Indigenous peoples, and the early French and then British settlers. We have 2 universities, major research laboratories, IBM’s international centre for cybersecurity – brought here when they recognized our homegrown talents, and many locally-founded IT companies. We have become far more culturally diverse over these past 52 years, which I absolutely love, and are home to a vibrant Multicultural Association. We have miles and miles (kms and kms) of trails for walking, running, cycling, and now e-scooters. We have a beautiful river on which to kayak, canoe, and sail. We have excellent winter facilities for hockey, curling, and skating. You name it. And nothing is far away. But, for me, the most valuable commodity of all is that we have such a strong sense of community. Of being there for each other. Of helping those in need. And I suspect that this is true in most smaller towns and cities. We moved here by accident rather than design, and it turned out to be a true blessing.
Congratulations, Fredericton, on being named one of Canada’s top 10 small cities. Proud to call you home! ❤