Once the largest town in Upper Canada (now Ontario) as well as the first capital of the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec) in the 1840s, the city of Kingston, Ontario has a connection to the past that makes it one of the most interesting places in the region. Widely recognized as a vibrant community, Kingston offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the arts, history, culture, shopping, dining, and more. All these make Kingston not only the ideal place for a weekend getaway, but also a longer stay. In fact, many consider it one of the best places in Canada to work and establish one’s roots.
If you’re asking yourself, “Is Kingston, Ontario a good place to live?”, read on to learn more about this historic Canadian city and decide if it is indeed the right place for you.
OVERVIEW OF KINGSTON, ONTARIO
Kingston is located on the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario, enviably located midway between Toronto, ON and Montreal, Quebec. The seat of Frontenac County, it boasts a stable and diverse economy, with a business sector that runs the gamut from established global corporations to startups on the verge of becoming the next big thing.
Kingston’s biggest industries include manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and healthcare. The manufacturing industry is the largest in terms of employment. Tourism is also strong in the area, thanks to its strategic urban hubs, as well as its proximity to the US Border, which can be reached by car in under an hour.
Sports is also a big part of Kingston. Whether you’re into hockey, rugby, golf, soccer, football, or even curling, you won’t find it hard to find locals who share your interest. The city is obsessed with sports, and has its own sports teams such as the Kingston Frontenacs, Kingston Aces, Kingston Canadians, Kingston FC, Kingston Granites, Kingston Raiders, and Kingston Voyageurs. The city also holds annual national and international championships for pickleball, football, sailing, and chess.
The city of Kingston, Ontario enjoys a high quality of life matched by a relatively low cost of living and low crime rate, providing residents with easy access to high-paying jobs, world-class education, advanced healthcare facilities, and a wide array of modern lifestyle amenities. Yes, you can get all the same amenities in larger cities, but Kingston comes with the bonus of beautiful natural scenery and awe-inspiring historic sites. With top attractions such as Fort Henry, 1000 Islands, Pumphouse Museum, and Haunted Walk, Kingston truly has it all.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE AND WORK IN KINGSTON, ONTARIO
Is Kingston, Ontario a good place to live and work? Ask any resident and you’ll probably get lengthy appreciative answers about the Limestone City. Below are just a few of the reasons Kingstonians love living and working in this hotbed of opportunity for professionals.
Kingston is a city with a rich historical background, with a story that dates back to the 17th century. Long before it was named the First Capital of Canada in 1841, it was previously the First Capital of New York in 1777, until it was attacked by the British after the Battles of Saratoga. It was originally called King’s Town as a tribute to King George III, but was later shortened to Kingston in 1788. The history of Kingston, Ontario is evidenced by the many old buildings and landmarks that allude to its storied past.
Even after it was burned to the ground, the city managed to rise up from the ashes, eventually becoming a major trading and transportation hub in the 19th century. The ideal location also made Kingston a strategic military post—Fort Henry was built here, serving from 1832 to 1837. Today, the Fort is now open to the public as a tourist attraction.
Other major sites alluding to the history of Kingston, Ontario include Fort Frederick, the Shoal and Murney Towers, Kingston Penitentiary Museum, and Bellevue House. The Kingston Public Market, Ontario’s oldest, has been supplying agricultural products to the city’s residents since 1801. Around the market and all over downtown, you’ll find plenty of Kingston’s renowned limestone architecture that makes the city truly unique.
- Arts and Culture
Is Kingston, Ontario a good place to live for artists? Definitely. Aside from being an urban hub, Kingston is also widely known as a mecca for creativity, literature, and other cultural pursuits. Music, film, dance, theater, galleries, exhibitions, museums—culture and the arts are alive and well here. The city’s innate beauty and rich history has been an endless source of inspiration for artists, musicians and writers from all over.
The heart of Kingston’s artistic community is The Grand Theatre, a performance venue located downtown that has hosted local and international artists throughout the years, and remains one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. The Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts—otherwise known as The Isabel—is located on the waterfront and is another local haven for artistic study, expression, and experimentation.
The city’s vibrant arts community is supported largely by the Kingston Culture Plan, Kingston Arts Council, and Kingston Theatre Alliance—initiatives that seek to further the arts and provide artists with strategic leadership and services. The local government itself also manages and supports public venues for the arts including Market Wing Cultural Space and The Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning.
The city’s commitment to the arts is further attested to by the many artists, authors, and musicians who reside here. Some of the more prominent names that have called Kingston their home at one time or another include author Diane Schoemperlen, novelist Robertson Davies, poets Helen Humpherys and Bronwen Wallace, actor Dan Aykroyd, and singer-songwriter Brian Adams.
- Affordable living
The cost of living in Kingston is relatively affordable, especially when compared to Canada’s biggest metros. A single person will likely spend around CAD 1,294 a month in Kingston, rent excluded, while a family of four may typically spend approximately CAD 4,525.90. Renting will cost around CAD 1,300 to CAD 2,500 depending on the size and location of the apartment. Overall, rent prices in Kingston are lower than in Toronto (-28.6), Vancouver (-33.3%), Victoria (-22.4), and even nearby Ottawa (-2.5%).
If you would like to purchase a property, the median sale price for single detached homes is CAD 602,000 as of the first quarter of 2023, which represents an 11.5% year-over-year decrease.
- Competitive Business Environment
Kingston’s commercial community benefits business owners with easy access to global markets and a vast pool of talented and skilled workers. The city places great priority on strengthening economic development opportunities through the city’s strategic plan, which focuses on three goals, namely:
- Supporting old and new business enterprises to help owners navigate city programs and services more effectively
- Creating innovation hubs, with the goal of addressing clean, green, and biotech issues
- Investing in innovative workforce development and in-migration strategies to attract and retain top employers and talent to the region
Kingston’s business environment is especially conducive to startups, with the city ranking 9th in Canada in the Global Ecosystem Index Report for its startup ecosystem, while also ranking 183rd globally. The city also ranks highly in Healthtech (4th in Canada, 79th globally), energy and environment (6th in Canada, 59th globally), and hardware and IoT (7th in Canada, 85th globally).
The city also has multiple facilities to address the needs of established companies in expanding their markets. As of late, Kingston’s commercial reputation has grown exponentially as an increasing number of multinational companies have invested in facilities and set up operations in the region, including IPG Photonics, Frulact, and Umicore SA, to name a few. The city was also recently named among the top 20 Canadian Cities to invest in.
If you’re a businessman who’s wondering, “Is Kingston, Ontario a good place to live in and start a business/”, the information above may be enough to convince you that Kingston is indeed the right place for you to put your money.
- Science and Innovation
The technology sector is inarguably the fastest growing sector in Kingston, with numerous public and private institutions investing in individuals, partners, and companies in the field of tech to ensure a community-wide effort in transforming Kingston into Canada’s next great tech hub.
One particular endeavor—the Innovation Park at Queen’s University, was established to give innovators and specialists a community where they can “cultivate ideas, identify and transform technological discoveries, and propel innovations into the marketplace.” Thanks to input from academia, industry, government, and not-for-profits, Innovation Park boasts enormous assets that can be leveraged to ensure emerging tech companies in Kingston can compete globally.
Similarly, Saint Lawrence College has The Launch Lab, designed to provide tech-based businesses and startups with provincially-sourced funding to raise capital. Focusing mainly on companies in Eastern Ontario, The Launch Lab works with those who have an innovative technology or idea and are looking to grow.
In addition to these efforts, the local government of Kingston has its own initiative, Health Innovation Kingston (HI YGK), which focuses on health tech. The HI YGK facility houses two universities, a college, and a tertiary care hospital that provides health tech professionals a space to develop and test technologies designed to meet the health sector’s unique and growing challenges.
Is Kingston a good place to live for tech professionals? With the endeavors described above, the answer is shaping up to be a resounding yes.
- Natural Beauty
Living near Lake Ontario means being surrounded by jaw-dropping natural beauty. If you’re a nature lover, you will surely find Kingston, Ontario to be a good place to live. Imagine waking up every day to such an inspiring view—for most people, it can be no less than a dream come true. On top of this, Kingston residents get to enjoy numerous recreational water activities, from boating, swimming, and fishing to camping, picnicking, hiking, and more. The main downtown sits on the water, complete with designated sites for these outdoor attractions.
Kingston is also just an hour’s drive away from 1000 Islands National Park, a famous attraction in the St. Lawrence River that offers some of the most scenic river cruises in the world. You can tour Boldt, Castle, sunbathe on the many public beaches, or go camping with the whole family. You can even take a river cruise all the way up to Ottawa if you’re feeling adventurous.
Besides Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River, Kingston also lies close to many lakes and provincial parks with plenty of rental cottages for those who want to stay longer than a day. Suffice to say, if you enjoy activities on the water, Kingston is where you should be.
For those who prefer to be on land, the city has many amazing hiking trails and nature parks that are easy to get to, such as Rideau Trail, K & P Rail Trail Connector, and Lemoine Point Conservation Area, to name a few. These little nature getaways within the city provide a rejuvenating respite from the busy downtown area, perfect for a quick escape from the daily grind and some much-needed fresh air.
- Walkability and Accessibility
Kingston’s administrative heads understand that all of the city’s facilities belong to the community, that’s why there’s a collective effort to ensure a high level of accessibility throughout the locale.
In terms of walkability, the city is known for being walk-friendly, and has been acknowledged with an honorable mention from Canada Walks, an initiative of the Department of Green Communities Canada. Meanwhile, its cycling infrastructure received a Silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community designation from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition.
According to Statistics Canada, 16.4 percent of Kingston residents get to work via sustainable means including walking, biking, and public transit. The city’s walking percentage—8.5 percent— is the second highest in the country, with Victoria, B.C. coming in first. Biking percentage, which is at 2.2 percent, is also among the highest in the nation. The city has also placed first in the Commuter Challenge—an annual week-long challenge that encourages Canadians to use alternative modes of transportation—for five years in a row.
The Kingston community also takes painstaking steps to remove difficulties for persons with disabilities in accessing city properties and services. The city’s Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS), an initiative that outlines city-wide standards for accessibility, holds more stringent measures than the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to ensure all residents enjoy and contribute as productive citizens.
Kingston seeks to further elevate FADS by complementing it with the 2023-2025 Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, which seeks to review and update past and present accessibility measures. The document aims to ensure that the accessibility standards under the AODA are fully implemented by 2025, while also staying vigilant for opportunities to learn and improve understanding of accessibility and inclusion for Kingston residents.
- Ideal Location
Despite being a city, Kingston is where you can enjoy plenty of peace and quiet. Stunning landscapes, modern amenities, sophisticated people—making the move to Kingston may be just what you need to start living a safe, tranquil, and stable existence. There are many great neighborhoods to choose from, including Brockville, Central Frontenac, Gananoque, Kingston Central, Kingston Downtown, and Kingston East and West. The communities are clean, safe, and easy to get around, making Kingston an ideal spot to find work, raise a family, and even retire.
Kingston’s proximity to major Canadian cities means you’re always near where the action is. Whether it’s watching an NBA game in Toronto, attending the Jazz Festival in Montreal, or enjoying the Winter Carnival in Quebec, you’re just a short two- to three-hour drive away from your favorite event. Likewise, being so close to the American Border means you can head over there for a day trip or a night out if you are so inclined.
As a bustling urban hub, Kingston is highly accessible, and there are many ways to travel to and from the city. Its location right along the four-lane Highway 401 ensures quick and easy travel to the nearest major cities. Likewise, VIA Rail, Canada’s main rail company, makes multiple scheduled stops in Kingston, morning to evening, seven days a week.
The city is also accessible by air (Norman Rogers Airport), bus (Coach Canada/Trentway-Wagar), and boat (St. Lawrence Seaway/Rideau Canal System). You can even travel to the US directly via the Wolfe Island Ferry that transports passengers between Wolfe Island and Cape Vincent, New York.
- Food and Beverages
As a melting pot of various cultures, Kingston’s diversity is made apparent in the variety of cuisines that can be found here. With more restaurants per capita than almost any other Canadian city, you can take all the time you want to find the restaurant that will satisfy your hunger while allowing you to enjoy cuisines from around the world.
If you prefer to cook your own meal, Kingston has a good selection of local farmers’ markets selling locally grown produce, as well as local meat, cheese, and baked goods. The Kingston Public Market, in existence since 1788, is a must-visit if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local culture.
If you’re into night outs or after work get-togethers, you’ll be glad to know the city is home to a great number of craft breweries, and many of them are conveniently located downtown, such as The Ale House, Miss Bao Restaurant + Cocktail Bar, The Grad Club, and more. For something out of the ordinary, make sure to visit the breweries outside of the city center, such as Spearhead Brewing Company or Skeleton Park Brewery.
Those who prefer wine will love the fact that Kingston lies close to Prince Edward County, a wine-growing region that hosts numerous tasting events throughout the year. Just a little over an hour’s drive from Kingston, Prince Edward County has close to 40 wineries, with Sandbanks, Waupoos Estates, and Closson Chase among those receiving notable accolades from wine enthusiasts.
WORK WITH THE KRISHAN NATHAN GROUP TODAY
Is Kingston a good place to live? Let the Krishan Nathan Group help you answer this question. Led by the #1 Royal LePage agent in Kingston, we help home buyers explore all available options before committing to buying a home. We work to make your home purchase a smooth and enjoyable experience. Call us if you have any questions about the Kingston community and real estate market. You may reach us by phone or send us a quick email here.