If you’re considering moving to Alliston, or any of the surrounding towns (Beeton, Tottenham, Cookstown) then you’re in the right place.
Alliston and towns nearby are becoming a very popular place to move to as people seek more affordable housing and the ‘smaller town’ feel.
Having lived in Alliston for the better part of a decade, I can tell you a lot about living in Alliston and surrounding areas, things to do, and the pros and cons of living here. I believe that New Tecumseth is a good place to call home; one of the best places to live in Ontario.
So let’s go through a few different categories to help you figure out if Alliston is a good place to live, and if its right for you. So let’s jump in!
What is Alliston close to?
Alliston is approximate 90 km (55 miles) from Toronto, which is approximately a 1.5 hour drive, depending on the time of day and traffic. Its also about 30 mins from Barrie, 40 from Orillia, and 50 from Newmarket.
What is Alliston known for?
Alliston is best known for having the Honda plant, which is the largest Honda factory in Canada. The Alliston plant is a pretty important plant for Honda manufacturing throughout North America, and has 39,000 employees which includes many locals. Many people who move to the Alliston area specifically to work at the Honda plant.
Why is Alliston Called New Tecumseth?
New Tecumseth is the name of the municipality that Alliston is apart of. New Tecumseth includes Alliston, Beeton and Tottenham; Alliston being the largest of the three.
Fun fact: The name “tecumseth” in New Tecumseth was chosen after a historical indigenous leader, Chief Tecumseh. The name was chosen in 1991.
How Big is Alliston?
Sometimes that can be a hard question to answer, because there are different population numbers for the town of Alliston and the municipality of New Tecumseth.
The population of Alliston as of 2021 was 23,253. The population of New Tecumseth (all the small towns combined, plus the surrounding farmland) is 43,948 as of 2021.
This means about half of New Tecumseth’s population lives in Alliston; its by far the largest of the three towns in New Tecumseth.
Things to Do in Alliston
Between parks, nature and farm activities, community events and celebrations, and a walkable downtown core, there is more to do in Alliston and the area than what people realize.
Despite being a fairly small city of 20,000 people, Alliston has a number of activities great for families and individuals, such as:
- Hiking and nature trails
- Parks with trails, benches and playgrounds, including a dog park
- Two movie theatres, Imagine Cinemas for latest releases, and The Circle Theatre for a more vintage and old-fashioned movie experience
- An indoor playground
- Playcade, a popular new archade that opened last year on Victoria street
- Farm activities at Murphy’s or Sheldon Creek Dairy
- Community events and live shows at The Gibson Centre
- Historical landmarks, such as The Banting Homestead and The Tea Corner
Festivals and Fairs in and around Alliston
If you’re moving to the area, you likely want to know some of the big events that are happening in Alliston or nearby. Here are some of the events to mark on your calendar.
Alliston Potato Festival
Alliston Potato Festival has been running since 1972. The main street in Alliston, Victoria street is completely closed to traffic so it can be used for the parade, and the grounds for rides and markets are held on a plot of land nearby.
The potato festival is held annually on the weekend after the civic holiday long weekend in August. It kicks off with a parade on the Friday night which is local-business sponsored, and then followed by a weekend full of festivities. There are contests, fair rides, face painting, deals offered through small businsesses
Alliston Santa Claus Parade
Yes, Alliston has its own Santa Claus Parade. Its usually held on the 3rd weekend of November, and is a good opportunity to become acquainted with many of the local businesses and services, and of course, see Santa at the end.
The cool thing about Alliston’s Christmas parade is that its held at night, and its a lit-up parade. This makes it different from the Santa parades in other towns.
In addition to Alliston’s Santa parade, there are lots of other small-town Christmas events held in Alliston and surrounding towns.
Beeton Fall Fair
The Beeton Fall Fair is held in Beeton, just 15 minutes from downtown Alliston. There are rides, craft shows, farm animals, vendors and a car show. It runs for a full weekend in September, and is one of the best things to do in New Tecumseth in fall.
Beeton Honey & Garden Festival
The Beeton Honey Festival is held every May, usually the last weekend of the month. Held right on main street in Beeton, traffic is closed so that you can visit the 190 vendors and take part in the activities, such as Family Fun Zone, entertainment and enjoy some great food!
The Sugarplum Fair
The Sugarplum Fair is held at the Nottawasaga Inn and its the largest craft fair in the area. Its been running since 1983, and is celebrating its 40th birthday in November 2023. The fair is held in a 2100 ft sq. dome and has hundreds of vendors.
You can find a lot of locally made goods from small businesses from the area – crafts, woodwork, toys, snacks, baked goods, gifts, clothing items, bags, handmade candles, skincare – there’s a lot to see and its worth checking out to find unique gifts and support small businesses.
Where to Eat in Alliston
Where to eat in Alliston is something that changes frequently. If you were to ask me 5 years ago what my favourite restaurants in Alliston were, the list would look very different from today, because businesses frequently open and close; sometimes small businesses don’t make it, for various reasons.
One of our favourite places to eat in Alliston is Da Grazia Ristorante right on the main strip, which serves authentic Italian cuisine. They’ve been open for over 5 years, which is a very good record for a small family-owned business in Alliston. Da Grazia makes the perfect date night, but they’re also kid-friendly, with high chairs for the little ones. In the summer, they open up a patio.
Pro Tip: Be sure to grab one Da Grazia’s homemade jars of tomato sauce, its so delicious!
There are a number of other restaurants in Alliston, including:
- GÛST, classic dine in experience, outdoor patio in the summer
- Yuki Sushi, eat in or take out
- Tiger Sushi, eat in or take out
- Williams, right downtown, classic dine-in experience, nice outdoor patio
- Eden Grill, Middle Eastern cuisine, take-out primarily
- Table for Two, a steak house
- Taquería al Norte, Mexican street food, eat in or take out
- Riverview Restaurant at the Nottawasaga Inn, great for lunches with a gorgeous view overlooking the golf course
- Barnstormer Brew Pub and Bottle Shop, good ‘bar food’ for eat in or take out
- Rebel Crumb, a bakery and cafe right downtown, take-out only
Schooling Options in Alliston
If you’re moving to Alliston with kids, or planning to have kids, then you might want to know how the schooling works in Alliston and what your options are. Here are your options for schools in Alliston and the area.
There are two different school boards that operate schools in Alliston:
- Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) – operates 3 different schools in Alliston
- Simcoe Muskoka Catholic School Board (SMCDSB) – operates 3 different schools in Alliston
The main difference between these two school boards is that one is Catholic, and one is public. The school your child attends will depend on two things: whether or not you want to attend a Catholic school and your home address. You cannot choose your school based on personal preference; your child’s school will be determined based on where you live. You will need to show proof of address when you register your child into a school.
French Immersion options in Alliston
Sadly, French Immersion options at schools in Alliston are very limited. We have very few spaces for the demand, which is growing. A lot of this is due to staffing.
French Immersion is offered through SCDSB at Ernest Cumberland Elementary School in Alliston from Grade 1-4, and the program continues from Grade 5-8 at Alliston Union Public School. Children from Tottenham, Beeton, Cookstown, Alliston and surrounding areas are eligible to apply for the program from Senior Kindergarten, and the space is lottery-based. There are only 40 spots for hundreds of children who are entered into the draw.
Other French-language schooling options in or near Alliston
If you choose not to enter the French Immersion program, or you don’t get in, there are still other opportunities to learn French.
- Core French is taught starting in Grade 4 in SCDSB
- Core French is taught from Grade 1 in the SMCDSB
- There are two French schools in Base Borden, for families that are serious about their child becoming bilingual. Preference is given to having at least one parent being able to speak French.
Private Schools in or near Alliston
There are not a lot of private school options in the area. Most children in Alliston attend one of the publicly funded schools. However, here are some of the private school options in or near Alliston:
- Alliston Christian Academy, a Kindergarten – Grade 8 school located just outside of Alliston
- The Montessori Family School, located in the heart of Alliston, for children 2.5-6 years old
- The Forest Courtyard Initiative in Tottenham
Where to Stay in Alliston
Looking to stay in Alliston short-term to determine if its somewhere you’d want to live permanently? Not a bad idea to get a feel for the place before committing to a move.
- Stevenson Farms Spa B&B Stay on a farm just outside Alliston, and wake up to a classic country-style breakfast in the morning. Spa treatments are also an option
- Lakeside House in Tottenham Stay in a small house on the Tottenham pond, just 20 minutes from Alliston
Is Alliston a Good Place to Live? Pros and Cons
Like with any place, there are pros and cons to living in Alliston. Here are some of the pros and cons in a nutshell to keep in mind.
-Relatively small (but growing) town with a good sense of communuty; events, groups and festivals
-Lots of parks and green space, close to nature and walking trails
-A 30 min or less drive from larger cities with more amenities like Barrie and Bradford
-A local hospital right in town (Stevenson Memorial Hospital) with a birthing unit and an ER
-There’s an outdoor public pool to enjoy in the summer months
-Two movie theatres, and an arcade
-Lots of extra-curricular activities for kids right in town: two different dance schools, gymnastics, hockey, soccer, Girl Guides, piano lessons, guitar, and more
-Adult classes offered at dance schools and at the Gibson Centre (salsa, art, ballet, cooking, etc)
-Lots of locally owned small businesses to support: bakeries, restaurants, spas, pet groomers and more
-There is not much of a nightlife scene. Most restaurants and bars in Alliston close by 8-9pm
-Very few daycare centre options. In most cases you will have needed to get on a waitlist while still pregnant in order to secure a spot in a centre. Most babies and toddlers in the area go to home daycares
-The local hospital is also struggling with limited resources for a growing population; the waits can sometimes be long
-You will sometimes be slowed down by farm vehicles, the train, and the shift changes at Honda which causes a lot of traffic and holdups. Best to leave 5-10 minutes early to account for any delays
-Depending on where you live, it can be very hard to get around town without driving.
What I like about Alliston personally, is that it is small enough that it still has the ‘small town’ feel, but its large enough that its beginning to have a larger range of diverse options when it comes to dining, activities, events and businesses to support.
Is Alliston Right for You?
You might still be wondering, if Alliston is a good place to live for you specifically. Here are the main perks to living in town, but also the things to keep in mind
Alliston or the surrounding area might be for you if:
- You enjoy the small town feel
- You enjoy getting outdoors and in nature
- You work locally, in Barrie, in or around the GTA, or remotely
- You enjoy supporting small businesses
- You aren’t going to be too bothered by the ever-changing town as it continues to grow
- You’re aren’t going to miss too many of the big chains (we have some in Alliston, but not as someone from the city would be used to having nearby)
- You don’t get intense road rage from slow-moving farm vehicles, or from being stopped occasionally by a train
Final Thoughts: Is Alliston A Good Place to Live?
Is Alliston a good place to live? I believe it is. I enjoy the more diverse options that have been brought to our town over the years, the sense of community and the range of outdoor activities. There are a few downfalls and hurdles worth considering, but overall, there are some perks to make up for it. I hope that this has been helpful in your decision about whether to choose Alliston as your next home!