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The 8 Most Surprising Things About Yellowknife

The 8 Most Surprising Things About Yellowknife

Many people who are thinking of moving to Yellowknife have never contemplated a move this far north.  For them, “Life in the Knife” is a bit mysterious.  When they arrive they are often surprised at what they find.  Here is our list of the top eight most surprising things about Yellowknife.

#1 – It is Easy to Meet People Here

Yellowknife is a relatively transient city.  A lot of people move north to “fast track” their careers, and while some stay and become “Lifer Knifers,” many others return to their provinces of origin after 5-10 years.  Yellowknife is also a place that attracts adventure seekers – those who want to live on houseboats, fly float planes, and live, work and play under the northern lights.  As a result of these two tendencies, when people move here, they come into contact with a lot of other people who have either just moved here, or did so only a couple years ago.  They instantly have a something in common – a shared northern adventure.  It is pretty normal for these groups of newcomers to form close bonds.  And the locals who have lived here for a lot longer also tend to quickly integrate with these groups, because they were once in the same situation, and many of them are gregarious adventure seekers themselves.

#2 – We Have a Lot of Amenities

There are some things that Yellowknife does not have, like a Costco, but there isn’t another city of 22,000 in Canada that has the number of amenities that Yellowknife has.  We punch well above our weight class when it comes to franchises big and small, department stores, restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, municipal facilities, health services, things for kids to do, etc.  If we fall short in any one area, it might be in tourist amenities.  But that is changing as our tourism sector grows.

#3 – Yellowknife Looks Like a City

With a population of 22,000, Yellowknife certainly qualifies as a “city,” but most people who move here presume that it’s more of a large town.  When they arrive, however, they quickly notice that it looks like a much bigger place.  This is mainly because we have more tall buildings than other cities our size.  There are three reasons why we’ve gone vertical over the years.  The first is that most of Yellowknife is built on Precambrian shield, which is very expensive to level, and so developers prefer to build up rather than out.  Secondly, our downtown is hemmed in on all sides by lakes.  If we had more room to work with, like Whitehorse does, we would probably be a flatter, more spread out city.  Thirdly, for the development community in any town or city to be able to justify the construction of tall, expensive buildings, you have to have a very predictable source of tenants who are willing to sign long-term leases.  There is no better source of such tenants than the public sector, and Yellowknife is nothing if not a government town.

#4 – Your Kids Will Be Very Busy Here

Yellowknife is a very compact city – most people live within five or ten minutes of pretty much all of our recreational facilities.  When the pool is only five minutes from school and two minutes from the arena which is 200 feet from the indoor soccer field and ten minutes from the ski club, kids spend less time being driven around to stuff and more time doing stuff.

#5 – Nature Truly is at Your Doorstep

It goes without saying that cities that are not very large and which aren’t surrounded by other cities are physically close to nature, but what makes Yellowknife unique is that you can be having very urban “big-city-like” experiences one minute, and then be in the middle of nowhere, experiencing the power, beauty and solitude of nature ten minutes later.  And by “solitude,” I mean real solitude.  If you decided to just start walking in any direction, you would not encounter humans, probably ever. That’s a feeling that is hard to explain.  Nature is close here, and very powerful.

#6 – The Midnight Sun

Canadians all know what long summer days are like, so it’s not like people can’t visualize or imagine what it would be like for it to be light outside at midnight, but yet, it still really surprises people when they experience the midnight sun for the first time.  It is pretty safe to predict that people who move to Yellowknife from the South will at some point say something like “wow, the sun really does stay up late here doesn’t it?”  If you move here, you too will eventually hear people say this, and it will make you chuckle.

#7 – It’s a Dry Cold

There is no denying the fact that Yellowknife has cold winters, but what surprises many people who move here is that you can quite easily dress for the cold and go on about your business.  In some parts of Canada, no matter what you do to keep the cold at bay, humidity carries it right through your clothes and chills you to your very core.  We don’t have that here.  Ours is a dry cold.  You can dress for it.

#8 – The Dancing Northern Lights

Yes, they dance.  They move really quickly.  But not all the time, which is probably why it’s so amazing when they really start to move.  Most of the time they very slowly change shape and slice their way through the sky.  These slower displays are beautiful and almost hypnotizing. But then when they put on the afterburners and bring out the bright greens and pinks, it truly takes your breath away.  It’s a sight that never ceases to impress.  You never really get used to it, no matter how long you’ve lived here.

Honourable Mention

This section is for surprising things about Yellowknife that we didn’t think of, but which readers pointed out on Facebook:

– “We are a very multicultural city with our residents coming from all over the world” – Amanda M.

– “Despite being a winter city, Yellowknifers are obsessed with gardening! There are community plots all over town, greenhouses in backyards, and locals share gardening ideas and inspiration all year long online.” – Aey Jay

Welcoming newcomers to Yellowknife is the best part of our job here at Century 21 Prospect Realty.  If you have a house-hunting trip planned, please reach out to us at prospectrealty@century21.ca and we’ll connect you with a member of our team who will provide a great city tour and assist you with finding a home to buy or rent.


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