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Torontonians are quickly realizing there’s something to be said for the simple life outside The Big Smoke. Affordable homes, spacious yards and friendly neighbours who’ll loan you a couple of eggs in the morning all make for ideal family-raising criteria, and as the relatively bustling metropolis of Hamilton or the quaint township of Prince Edward County are proving, idyllic small-town life doesn’t have to come at the expense of cute boutiques, quality coffee or trendy restaurants.
Thorold, a city tucked away in the Niagara region in between St. Catharines and Welland, is the latest destination for fed-up city folk on the hunt for a more enjoyable, stress-free lifestyle. Just about an hour-and-a-half west of Toronto, the 18,000-strong community has a culturally rich city centre and quaint residential neighbourhoods that feel nothing like the urban sprawl of Vaughan. The area is steeped in history, with regular festivals, a lively dining scene (the Karma Kameleon is a community favourite) and sought-after schools like Brock University basically across the street from Thorold City Hall. Plus, oenophiles will love that some of the province’s best vineyards, like Peller Estates and Inniskillin Wine, are nearby at Niagara-on-the-Lake—making day-long wine-tasting trips a breeze.
The town is particularly appealing for cash-strapped Toronto families looking to score a three or four-bedroom home without going into crippling debt, or savvy investors looking to enter an up-and-coming market. Thanks to spacious houses that are going for just a few-hundred grand, the city is starting to attract a younger, cooler crowd who are sick of throwing away their paycheques on sky-high rent (and being kept up by rowdy partygoers). Empire Communities’ newest project, Legacy, is a master-planned community with a range of home sizes and designs that doesn’t feel like a cookie-cutter development. There’s a mix of townhomes and detached houses (30, 36 and 44 foot lot sizes) that resemble everything from cute cottages to classic Edwardian mansions. The backyards are bigger than many Toronto parks, and there’s no risk of suffocating from smog in the summer. Best of all, three-bedroom townhomes start in the high $300s and four-bedroom detached homes start in the mid $400s (in Toronto these days, that would barely buy a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom condo in North York).
The move makes perfect sense for anyone already considering transitioning from a typical nine-to-five desk gig to a flexible freelance schedule or occasional commutes. Even for those who travel to the city a few times a week, the lack of traffic in Thorold means you’ll still probably spend less time in a car (and will certainly experience much less maddening road rage). Plus, the area is a nature-lover’s dream, with kilometres of picturesque paths and wooden boardwalks lining the Welland Canal (which is literally in your backyard). We must admit, even for diehard urbanites, it’s a tempting proposition—one that becomes even more appealing when you consider all the like-minded Torontonians who will probably become your new neighbours.