Tucked between the cities of Oakville and Hamilton—and also between the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment and the shores of Lake Ontario—Burlington carries the elegance and authenticity of each of its neighbours. The city’s distinct livability is no secret, considering the recent accolades that have been heaped upon its municipal borders: from “Best Community in Canada” by Maclean’s in 2019 to topping MoneySense’s annual rankings of the best mid-sized cities in Canada. The leading metric in our own most recent favourable ranking of the city is Safety: few spots in Canada can top the serenity of Burlington, which is a bonus, given the many opportunities to be out and about in a place that has some of the most sprawling green spaces of any city in the province (1,436 acres of parkland, to be exact). From Spencer Smith Park’s pristine waterfront minutes from downtown to the striking, undulating hiking and biking trails of the Niagara Escarpment, Burlington ranks #19 for Parks & Outdoors. What makes all these public green spaces even more magnetic is the clear and sunny days that so often seem to grace one of Canada’s southernmost cities, with the lake effect softening the edges of the sometimes harsh Ontario winters. Burlington ranks #15 in our Weather subcategory. The city’s Royal Botanical Gardens are a manifestation of the area’s distinct climate and of the local appreciation for stopping to smell the flowers—in this case, more than 180,000 plants representing 2,300 plant species that are an ode to Canada’s vast and varied flora. These are the country’s largest botanical gardens—designated as a national historic site—and the 27 kilometres of walking trails on the grounds let locals and visitors explore independently.
It’s hard to imagine that this bucolic serenity and safety is still technically part of the Greater Toronto Area, with the big city just an hour away by car or via three GO Transit stations. The wineries and tourist attractions—perfect outings for when friends and family come to visit—are an hour the other direction, in Niagara. But the city is far from a bedroom community. Industry and infrastructure have long been supported and built here, with the recent remodelling of Joseph Brant Hospital, the first in Canada to create a pandemic response unit in 2020, being just the latest example.