Visiting Family in Calgary

xpat matt getting ready to kayak
xpat matt getting ready to kayak
Xpat Matt

Visiting Family in Calgary

Tips for making the most of time with family in Calgary

Visiting family can be a treat or a terror, depending on your relationships.


I’m lucky in two ways. I get along very well with my family and I work as a travel blogger, so I can visit very frequently and for extended periods of time. I’m originally from Cranbrook, but my sister, her husband, and her two young children, live in Calgary. So, when I visit my family, our mom usually drives up to Calgary and we all stay there.



Here are a few of the ways I get out and enjoy myself while visiting family in Calgary.

Matt visiting family in Calgary.

Matt visiting family in Calgary.

Check Your Facebook

Calgary’s crazy economic growth resulted in an equally crazy population explosion that has drawn new Calgarians to the city from around the world. Regardless of where you live, there’s a good chance that you’ll know somebody who lives in Calgary.


A large proportion of my graduating class from my hometown — a city near Calgary — moved to the closest big city right after graduation, so using my high school friends would be a bad illustration of how many people from all over the place move to Calgary.


Instead, I’ll talk about Taiwan. I moved to a smaller city in southern Taiwan for several years after finishing University. Now, three of my friends from that city in Taiwan live in Calgary.




From Taiwan.


If three of my friends from a small city in Taiwan moved to Calgary, odds are you also know a few transplants too.


To find out if any of your Facebook friends live in Calgary, just type this into the Facebook search, “My friends who live in Calgary, Alberta”.


I just did it one moment ago and found a number of old friends who I didn’t know were living in Calgary, including one more friend from Taiwan.


That makes four.

Gorge Yourself at the Palomino Smokehouse

This is not a place for vegetarians, health nuts, or people who dislike hipsters.


Generally speaking, I’m a healthy eater. I’m very conscious about what I put in my body and usually cook for myself so I can control exactly what I eat.


But, you can’t be responsible all the time. Sometimes you just have to forget your responsibilities, sit down at an old picnic table on a patio, and gorge on some garlic-slathered, bacon-wrapped, corn on the cob.



It’s filled with full-sleeve tattoos, beards, and what is commonly known among locals to be the best barbecue in town. The menu includes items like deep fried pickles, pulled pork spring rolls, and bourbon apple pulled pork French toast — unique, delicious twists on traditional barbecue favourites.


The Palomino Smokehouse is basically a greasy hipster meat fest perfect for those days that you’re in the mood for dirty decadence and draft beer. It is pure bliss.

The Palomino Smokehouse

The Palomino Smokehouse

Chill Out In Kensington

Every city has one of these neighbourhoods. It’s near downtown but a bit less expensive to live in. The buildings are all a little older and they all have some character. Artists are drawn to these kinds of areas — the kinds of places where you’ll find used bookstores and art house theatres alongside cafes and ethnic restaurants.


In Calgary, that neighbourhood is Kensington.


Kensington is the kind of place you go to explore on an afternoon to stroll around window shopping funky stores and drinking fair trade coffee from cups shaped like bowls.



Train at Breathe Parkour


Oh, and did I mention the foam pit? That’s right. There’s a pool filled with foam cubes so you can flip and spin though the air as much as you like without having to worry about hurting yourself.


I’m probably a bit biased because I wanted to try parkour before I ever took my first lesson in Calgary, but I think Breathe is an excellent deal.


The price is comparable to a drop-in at a cheap gym and it is way more fun. I make a point to try and stop by when I’m in town.


Starting with a couple of lessons to help you get the feel for using the course is highly recommended.

Breathe Parkour

Breathe Parkour

Breathe Parkour

Breathe Parkour

Try Your Hand at River Surfing

A massive river called the Bow River flows down from the nearby Rocky Mountains and cuts right through the middle of Calgary.



River surfing has a few advantages over ocean surfing. First, it’s more consistent. The wave is always there. So, there’s no waiting for waves.


Second, you can ride as long as you can stay standing — much longer than in the ocean.


And, perhaps best of all, it’s a relatively new sport so there are fewer crowds. Calgary’s downtown wave rarely sees any surfers before the locals finish work in the evening. So, if you’re in town visiting and can surf during the day, you have a good chance of having the wave to yourself.

River Surfing on the Bow River

River Surfing on the Bow River

Fly Down the Fastest Zipline in North America

Remember the 1988 Winter Olympics, where Eddie the Eagle made his valiant attempt at ski jumping glory? They were held in Calgary and were the reason for the construction of the Calgary Olympic Park, and huge sports complex set on a steep hill on the western edge of the city.



It’s no ordinary zipline. Riders reach speeds over 120 kilometres per hour and use parachutes to slow down before reaching the bottom.


It’s one of those things you have to do at least once.

The Monster Zipline at WinSport

The Monster Zipline at WinSport

Matt Gibson
Matt Gibson is an adventure travel writer, photographer, and award-winning blogger.