Written by Merry Kuchle
Summer vacations are a great way to remove “bored” from your child’s vocabulary, but where to go and what to do? This year, add a trip to Lacombe County in Central Alberta to your list! It’s only two short hours from Calgary and there are tons of things to do and see that will keep the children and adults in your family happy.
Our family bought a lake place on Gull Lake almost ten years ago. We spent many years driving back and forth every weekend from Calgary. Five years ago, we decided to take the plunge and make central Alberta our home. Since then, I’ve been singing the praises of the area to friends in Calgary because it’s close to home, your dollar goes further here, and you leave the crowds and lines behind!
What’s so special about Lacombe County? Just two hours north of Calgary off of Highway 2, Lacombe County has Gull Lake, Buffalo Lake, nature areas, activities, a cute little town and more. It's the perfect getaway for a few days or a weekend without having to drive long distances or take too much time off of work.
How long should you stay?
With any staycation, it is easy to consider only going for one night or even just the day. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give you the chance to really see and experience the area. I recommend staying at least two nights so you have two full days to explore.
Lacombe County has many options for places to stay, depending on your preferences. If you’re a camper, there are many provincial, private and municipal campgrounds throughout the area. If you would rather stay at a hotel, I suggest staying at the Best Western Plus in Lacombe. It’s a great hotel with a pool, waterslide and free breakfast.
What to do in Lacombe County
Instead of laying out an itinerary for you explicitly, I’m going to share some of my favorite activities, eats and attractions and let you decide! Definitely plan to explore the downtown areas of both Lacombe and Bentley while you are in Lacombe County.
As with many smaller centres, all activities, restaurants and shops may not be open seven days per week. Make sure you check opening hours and dates before you book your trip.
Fun, family-friendly activities in nature
- Head to Aspen Beach Provincial Park (free parking), Ebeling Beach (free parking) or Sandy Point Beach (parking fee) for a swim in Gull Lake. All three have beautiful sandy beaches and shallow water. Perfect for a family beach trip. Albertaparks.ca and sandypoint.info
- JJ Collett Natural Area (free) – With over 18km of maintained trails, take a walk through the natural area types of Central Alberta including shrubs, wetlands, Aspen groves and more. The area has many looping trails so it is the perfect way to do a hike right for your family. You just do the loops that give you the distance your family can handle! jjcollett.com
- Bike the Trans Canada Trail – Bike the 8km dedicated biking/pedestrian trail between Lacombe and Blackfalds. Check out the map so you know where the day use areas, bird watching boardwalk, restrooms and more are along the trail. centralalbertatrails.org
- Len Thompson Trout Pond - Wet a hook in the Len Thompson pond and enjoy catch-and-release fishing in a stocked pond in the shadow of the world’s largest fishing lure. lenthompson.com
- Kuhnen Park - Take a stroll through Kuhnen Park in Blackfalds. The short-loop trail winds through forests and past a small lake that often has a beaver dam. alltrails.com
- Mary and Cliff Soper Natural Area - 25 acres of forested trails near Blackfalds is an easy and peaceful walk for the whole family. lacombetourism.com
- Ellis Bird Farm (free) - We visit Ellis Bird Farm every year. We love it so much. Definitely ask for their scavenger hunt upon arrival, make sure to go say hello to the goats and visit the dip pond to learn about pond creatures. They also run free programming for children each Saturday. Check online and sign up in advance for a spot. If you plan to be there around lunch time, consider making reservations at their on-site farm cafe. ellisbirdfarm.ca
- Kraay Family Farm (ticket needed) - Open July 17 to October 14. Kraay Family Farm can take an entire day to explore! They have chickens, goats, a corn maze and more. Plus, they add new attractions every year. And they aren’t kidding, it is owned and operated by the Kraay family so you are supporting local! Kraay has everything you need for a full day including concessions or you can pack your own picnic to enjoy on the grounds. Make sure you plan enough time to enjoy because your kids won’t want to leave. Water and sunscreen are a must and I like to go on an overcast/cooler day if possible. kraayfamilyfarm.com
- Lacombe Blacksmith Museum (free) - Open from Victoria Day through Labour Day, the Lacombe Blacksmith Museum runs historical blacksmithing demos as well as tours. Check out their website before you go as they often run interpretive programs through the summer months. lacombemuseum.com
- Lacombe Michener House Museum (free) - Open from Victoria Day through Labour Day, the Lacombe Michener House Museum is a great way to learn how people lived in 1899-1900. lacombemuseum.com
- Gull Lake Honey Company (free) - Visit Gull Lake Honey Company to see how local honey is made. Make sure and check out their gift shop for some honey to take home and say hi to the goats and chickens. facebook.com/GullLakeHoney
The best eats and treats!
- No visit to the Lacombe region is complete without a stop at Cilantro and Chive Lacombe. Locally owned and focused on delivering fresh, delicious food, it has been our family favorite for years. Their menus change four times a year to highlight the best Alberta has to offer each season. Definitely check out their Burger of the Month which supports a local charity with a $2 donation per burger sold on the kid’s menu, we recommend the mac & cheese as it is even better than homemade. cilantroandchive.ca
- Blindman Brewing - Blindman Brewing is Lacombe's own craft brewery. Definitely make a plan to try one of their many beers on tap, take a tour of the brewery (subject to availability), play cornhole in the parking lot, sit outside and meet some new friends or relax in their tap room. Kids are welcome and they have a small taqueria if you get hungry. blindmanbrewing.com
- Tollers Bistro - Delicious paninis, salads, coffees and donuts make Tollers Bistro in Lacombe a must-try on your trip. The California BLT is a crowd favorite and you have to finish off your meal with one of their house-made donuts in one of their daily flavors. tollersbistro.com
- Eastside Eatery - Overstuffed sandwiches, housemade soups and cheesecakes are on tap at this breakfast and lunch-only Lacombe eatery. All of their ingredients are made in-house except the bread and you can taste the difference. We recommend the Gobbler Sandwich. It’s like turkey dinner in a sandwich! facebook.com/eastsideeaterylacombe
- Moe’s Pizza - Feeling like a pizza in the hotel room after a long day of exploring? Order a pie from Moe’s in downtown Lacombe! They also have great milkshakes and great craft beer. moespizzaco.ca
- The Drop Coffee & Tea - No trip to Bentley is complete without a stop at The Drop. Parents will love their selection of espresso and coffee-based drinks and kids will love their Frozen Hot Chocolate. Feeling a bit peckish? check out their selection of muffins, scones, cookies, sandwiches and more. facebook.com/thedropcoffeeandtea
- The Monkey Top Saloon - Don’t let the name fool you, kids are welcome at the Monkey Top until 8pm so it’s the perfect place to stop for lunch while you are exploring the boutique shopping in Bentley! Parents and kids alike will love their pub food including pizza and wings.
Can’t miss shopping
Who knew that Central Alberta could have such great shopping? Definitely take some time to browse around our great shops throughout the area.
- Merry’s Mercantile (downtown Bentley) - After moving to the Lacombe area, I opened Merry’s Mercantile. We curate an eclectic style of antiques, vintage items, new home decor, women’s clothing and more. We try to have something for everyone and you could look for hours without seeing everything. facebook.com/MerrysMercantile
- The Kite Guys (downtown Bentley) - Kites and spinners and flags and windsocks - oh my! Families love this store featuring all things kites. Bet you can’t visit without bringing one home. kiteguys.ca
- Earthy Accents (downtown Bentley) - Stop into Earthy Accents and experience a little oasis in Bentley. Gorgeous plants, chirping birds, curated products from local vendors and more make Earthy accents a must visit.
- Oodles of Chocolates - Swing by Lacome’s favorite chocolatier for a chocolate dipped treat while you explore the historic downtown. Chocolate dipped sour soothers are a must try! oodlesofchocolates.ca
- Hometown Market (downtown Lacombe) - Hometown Market marries fantastic style with hometown pride. Pick up one of their super-stylish hats, sweaters or tees as a souvenir from your visit. Not sure you want to represent a particular town? Check out their No Coast brand merchandise that celebrates our “no coast” Alberta lifestyle. hometownmarket.ca
- 5024 General Store (downtown Lacombe) - Love skateboarding, skateboarding style and/or coffee? Then 5024 General Store is a must stop when you explore downtown Lacombe. @5024generalstore on Instagram
Trying to decide when to schedule your trip to Lacombe County? Make sure to check out our list of local festivals and rodeos below.
A bit of shopping, great food, relaxing outdoors and a fun attraction or two and you have a great holiday that is close to home. Need more inspiration? Make sure to follow Lacombe Regional Tourism (@lacombe_tourism on Instagram) for event listings, fun activity ideas and gorgeous pictures to get you excited about your next visit.
Local summer rodeos and festivals
Local farmers markets and farm stands
- Bentley Farmers Market - Curling Rink, 5218 50 Street, Bentley - Runs Victoria Day through Labour Day from 2pm to 4pm - facebook.com/Bentleyfarmersmarket
- Koornneef Strawberry U-Pick - 40217 Range Road 10, Lacombe County - Open days depend on berry ripening - koornneeffarms.com
- Lacombe Farmers Market - Michener Park, 63 Street, Lacombe - Runs May 18 to Oct 5 (Thursdays) May and June 3pm to 6pm, July and August 3pm to 7pm, and September and October 3pm to 6pm - lacombefarmersmarket.ca
- Pik-N-Pak Produce Farm Store - 28118 Highway 12, Lacombe - Open year around as an unmanned honor-system vegetable market. facebook.com/piknpakproduceltd
- S4 Greenhouse Farm Store - 40315 Range Road 275, Lacombe - Open year around as an unmanned honor-system vegetable market. facebook.com/s4greenhouses
Street art, murals and Instagram-worthy stops
- Bentley Mural - 5014 50 Avenue, Bentley on the side of Merry’s Mercantile
- Lacombe Murals - Throughout downtown. Download the self-guided tour from lacombemuseum.com
- Rainbow Pizza Mountain Mural - 4914 50 Avenue, Lacombe on the side of Moe’s Pizza.
- Heart of Lacombe arch - corner of 50 Avenue and 52 Street
- World’s Largest Fishing Lure - Len Thompson Drive, Lacombe
Sips & treats to try
- Caesar Flight at Cilantro & Chive - Four mini Caesars (garlic, bacon, heckyeah & pickle)!
- Five of Diamonds Pilsner at Blindman Brewing - A German-style pilsner brewed by Blindman Brewing sporting the iconic five of diamonds of the Len Thompson lure made in Lacombe.
- Frozen Hot Chocolate at The Drop Coffee & Tea - Frozen, creamy chocolate topped with whipped cream!
- Cotton Candy Crush at Cilantro & Chive - Kids love this cotton candy topped drink.
- Ham & Cheese Croissant at The Drop Coffee & Tea - Peckish but not hungry for a full meal? This buttery croissant stuffed with ham and swiss cheese is just the ticket!
- Donuts at Toller’s Bistro - Made in house, the donut flavors at Toller’s changes daily. You may find yourself stopping by more than once!
- Giant Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing at Eastside Eatery - They’re big enough to share but you probably won’t want to.
- Chocolate Dipped Sour Soothers at Oodles of Chocolates - Sweet and sour come together beautifully in this sweet treat.
Merry is a blogger at MerryAboutTown.com and the owner of Merry’s Mercantile in Bentley. After living in Calgary for over ten years, Merry moved to central Alberta and now spends her time exploring and introducing others to central Alberta.
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