Post-Laurier graduation, my friends were moving into Toronto high rises in droves and I was settling into a cute older home with one of my good friends in Uptown Waterloo. I always thought I’d spend a year or two in Kitchener-Waterloo and eventually swap my driveway for the subway and trade up to a faster-paced life in general.
Fast forward four years; I’m still here, and when I catch up with old friends I often get the question, “Are you still living in KW?” followed by a skeptical “Really? Do you like it?” I think people are surprised that a fun-loving, 20-something could be happy in a smaller city outside of Toronto. But I am, and here are some of my reasons why:
This city has an awesome vibe
Kitchener-Waterloo has a lot of big-city energy without losing that tight-knit community feel. There’s always something to do. There are a ton of festivals (Oktoberfest, Blues Fest, KOI, Ever After, Tri Pride, Food Truck, Multicultural, Summer Lights, Taco Fest, Rib Fest—to name a few), concerts, sports leagues, and events lined up all year. As for the nightlife, it’s definitely different than Toronto but I always have a great time out in Uptown Waterloo (Yes, there are places that skew older than the University crowd!). And when it’s time to just chill, there are two awesome farmer’s markets, a ton of trails, parks, tennis courts, and great restaurants and patios.
(Hey, on that note, check out our ongoing list of our favourite things to do and places to eat in Kitchener-Waterloo.)
You can really grow your career
Ranked by Startup Compass as one of the world’s top 20 startup ecosystems and home to companies like Google, Facebook, and Communitech, Kitchener-Waterloo is growing fast and is hungry for great talent. Working in this city and working with a wide variety of local clients, we see the gap that exists in the labour market first hand. These conditions have made Kitchener-Waterloo an awesome place to start your career if you’re looking for upward mobility and autonomy. Companies here are craving smart, multi-talented, young professionals, and when they find them, they’re eager to help them thrive.
Getting around is easy
A lot of people think smaller cities like Kitchener-Waterloo aren’t walkable. While the city as a whole has a walk score of only 47 thanks to the sprawling suburbs and farmland that are included in the data, my address comes in at 87 (i.e. It’s ‘very walkable’ and ‘most errands can be accomplished on foot”). I can walk to the farmer’s market, many of the city’s top restaurants, my gym, and a few different grocery stores. Plus, commuting to work is a breeze. From door to door, my drive takes less than 2 songs (Measuring driving time in units of songs is a thing, right?).
Real estate is a freakin’ steal I rent the top floor of an adorable century home in the historic heart of downtown Kitchener for $1100/month, all-inclusive. I’ve got a guest bedroom, two parking spots, a front porch, and a backyard with a garden. I know that the rent on a comparable place in Toronto would terrify me. The home-ownership story here is similar. Last month, I put in an offer on a 3-bedroom home here just as a friend of mine was purchasing a 1 bedroom loft in Toronto. Out of curiosity, we compared specs and it’s unbelievable (and amazing!) how much further your money goes here.
2021 update: We’re no longer Ontario’s best-kept secret!
I’m a KW lifer, and proud of it
Although becoming a Kitchener-Waterloo lifer wasn’t my original plan, I couldn’t be happier it worked out this way. There is so much for young professionals to love about this city that I didn’t get to touch on in this blog beyond just the awesome vibe, career opportunities, and cheap rent. Plus, my big-city friends are only an hour away (or you know, one podcast) so I get to have my cake and eat it too.