For a small city, there’s something about St. Catharines that just feels more sophisticated, more ambitious. It is the largest city in Ontario’s booming Niagara region, and the sixth-largest urban area in Canada’s most populous province, just 90 minutes from Toronto and 30 to Niagara Falls and the US border. The historic downtown (it’s held a farmers’ market since the 1860s) and impressive housing stock can take a lot of the credit. Recent investment have created a nerve centre for events, music and the #4-ranked restaurants among Canada’s small cities, powered by the dozens of award-winning vineyards around town. Anchored by the eight-year-old Meridian Centre (a $50-million performance venue with 5,000 seats), the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and the new Warehouse Concert Hall, this stealth creative hub ranks #8 in Canada in our overall Programming category. All this creativity, foodie culture and some of the province’s most impressive breweries has people who missed out on affordability in Hamilton looking further west. House prices have been climbing rapidly as a result, and more is being built, including a 28-storey condo development that will be the city’s tallest residential building.