question from an american considering moving to canada

Steve, his husband and their two sons live in Pennsylvania. They're disgusted with the US and are contemplating the Great Move North.

The men were married in Toronto, but while they like Canada's largest city, they're looking for something different when it comes to a home. Steve writes:
We'd like to find a small-to-medium-sized city, say anywhere in the range of 30,000 to 100,000 people. It could be a satellite of a larger metropolitan core.

The key thing we're looking for is open space within easy reach - trees, water, and wildlife in its natural state rather than a cultivated park. A library and a bookstore. A grocery store that stocks some specialty foods - we have a wheat allergy in the family and need some access to gluten-free foods, though this is not too critical since you can order just about anything online these days.

A place to ride a bike. A lake where the kids can skip stones. Good schools. Access to a concert hall for the occasional parents-night-out.

A Catholic church where we can, quietly and unassumingly, belong.

I write web software, and my husband is in medicine. We recognize that a move to Canada would probably mean that we would swap roles - currently, he works while I raise the kids. But he's feeling ready to cut back and spend more time at home, while I'm more likely to be able to find work in our new country.

I think the best way to describe what we're looking for to say we want to take a step backward in time. I remember my own youth of running around our neighborhood pretty much at will, and a network of parents at home (honesty forces me to say they were pretty much all moms in those days) who all kept an eye on things. My husband has similar memories, though his are of the woods and the mountains near where he grew up. Here, today, I can't imagine allowing my six-year-old to run loose for four hours. Then, it was just no big deal.

We'd like to have friendly relations with our neighbors, though we wouldn't want to be intrusive. We like to play bridge, and love to have friends over to play board games. My husband enjoys going to concerts and movies (me less so - I'm more the crossword-solving type). We like to sing in our church's choir and go for hikes in the woods.

Steve and his husband are thinking Ontario, because they don't want to move their sons too far from their grandparents and other extended family. There's a Boston connection, so perhaps something in Atlantic Canada would work.

But experience tells me that no matter what I write, readers are likely to suggest locations all over Canada. Plus, I get email from prospective immigrants to Canada on a regular basis, and other readers may find your answers helpful. So all suggestions and explanations are welcome, even if they don't exactly fit Steve's specs.

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