You’ll find the small town of Lacombe (population 11,000) in central Alberta, half way between Calgary and Edmonton. It’s a short drive off of Highway 2, and only 25 minutes north of Red Deer. I once biked through Lacombe from the Ellis Bird Farm but not once have I so much as stopped. Maybe that’s you too, but I’m hoping I can change that now that I’ve spent a few days in the Lacombe area, hiking, eating and shopping. While I may not be the local expert, I’m going to share some of my fabulous Lacombe finds.
Lacombe is home to numerous lakes, including three large ones within the city limits, a beautiful natural area, lots of locally owned businesses and restaurants full of pride for their community and as of fall 2022, Alberta’s Brewery of the Year winner, Blindman Brewing.
Come see what you can do indoors and out in late winter in Lacombe. This off-the-beaten path town has plenty to offer nature lovers, shoppers, foodies, and beer connoisseurs. If you’re on Instagram, check out my reel on Lacombe.
Location map of things to do in Lacombe and nearby
- Click on the three dots in the top right hand corner (that don’t quite form a triangle) to email a copy of the map.
Go for a hike in the Lacombe region
Lacombe Lake trails in Kuhnen Park
Kuhnen Park, located just 12-minutes east of Lacombe, is home to 6.3 km of nature trails, thanks to a land donation to Lacombe County in 2014 by Frank and Rosalie Kuhne.
The park is an ideal destination for family outings as the trails are easy with only minor elevation changes. You won’t get lost either as there is literally signage at every intersection. Bring your dog too, but keep it leashed.
The trails weave through the woods, ultimately to Lacombe Lake if you’re so inclined. You can also pick up the Trans-Canada trail from one of the trails in Kuhnen Park. Allow one to two hours, depending on how ambitious you’re feeling.
Before my overnight visit to Lacombe, I didn’t appreciate that there were three major lakes within Lacombe’s city limits including Barnett, Cranna, and Elizabeth. As you can see on the map below, they all have perimeter trails, though they don’t necessarily loop the full way around all the lakes.
I set out on a wintry Saturday to walk from the parking lot beside Cranna Lake back to the parking lot via the loop trail that goes most of the way around Elizabeth Lake. What I discovered was a lovely walk of about 3 km in total, with almost all of it dead flat and easy. Along the loop, I enjoyed sections that felt far removed from the city – where all you could see was bulrushes, trees, and the lake. At other times, it was obvious I was in a city, but still the walking was pleasant.
I appreciated the myriad of interpretive signs I saw pointing out the types of ducks you might see and some information about them. I also discovered many pieces of exercise equipment that the public is encouraged to use, including bars, a sit-up apparatus, a leg lift set-up, and others.
When I finished the Elizabeth Lake trail, I pulled out my phone to get directions back to the Cranna Lake parking lot. As it was early on a Saturday, there wasn’t much traffic on Rosedale and Montrose Streets, but my bet is that most people would prefer to retrace their steps on a car-free path. All in all, it’s a wonderful trail that can be hiked year-round.
J.J. Collett Natural Area
Located 15 minutes north of Lacombe, the J.J. Collett Area will appeal to nature lovers who are looking for an easy day hike or cross-country ski in winter. Explore a multitude of loops, never retracing your steps on over 18 km of maintained trails winding through the 635-acre natural area. Discover wetlands, meadows, mixed forest, and even grasslands, stopping on a bench or in a gazebo to catch your breath or enjoy a picnic.
The area is free to visit, though they’ll gratefully accept donations. Your dog is welcome on a leash, but don’t forget to pick up after them.
Enjoy a specialty coffee or light lunch at Anna Maria’s Cafe
Anna Maria’s Cafe, located in the Lacombe Memorial Centre, is a great choice if you’re in downtown Lacombe and you’re looking for specialty coffees and teas, a sandwich, bowl of soup, or baked good. The sunny space with lots of windows and high ceilings, also offers live music on a Monday -Wednesday-Friday basis from 11 AM to 1 PM. There is free parking and it’s easy to find.
Stock up on baked goods at Totally Gluten-Free Bakery
Totally Gluten Free Bakery is a family run business, partially born of necessity from what I can see. Husband and wife team, Joe and Valerie Van Gelderen are the parents of nine children, seven of whom have celiac disease. If you’ve ever tried cooking even a few days without gluten, you can appreciate just how difficult that is.
I arrived at the bakery, located in a non-descript building, to find it buzzing inside. People were going in and out in numbers I certainly wouldn’t have imagined. This is one popular store!
Not only does the bakery sell gluten free flour and baking supplies, but nine types of gluten free bread, cookies, baked goods of all sorts, pizza crusts, hot dog buns as well as loads of ready to cook meals. According to their website, their “pizzas are known around Central Alberta for being the BEST gluten free pizza there is.”
Other meals you can buy – and many are frozen, include chicken ranch paninis, chicken pot pie, lasagna, pasta, quiche, Stella’s perogies and ravioli, as well as soups. They also offer deliver twice a month to Calgary and Edmonton.
I am not gluten sensitive, but I bought some pecan squares to try – and both my husband and myself agreed that they were delicious.
Enjoy a craft beer and tacos at Blindman Brewing
I’m not going to lie and tell you I’m a beer connoisseur or that I go in search of breweries on my travels. But I will say that I was impressed by the warmth of the staff who served me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the vibe of the Blindman Brewing taproom on a Friday night. In addition to wolfing down three beautifully presented and totally delicious tacos, I can also tell you that the Coffee Stout, one of four beers I tried is lip-smacking good. Also on their menu are favourites like nachos, tortilla chips, and quesadillas.
Need another reason to visit Blindman Brewing in Lacombe – named for the nearby Blindman River? In the fall of 2022, it took home Alberta’s Brewery of the Year award, beating out more than 60 breweries. It also won Best in Show for its 24-2 Brett Stock Ale. You’ll find lots of beer on tap, and fridges filled with a wide selection of beers so you can mix, match, and go.
Eat at Milly Oak Cafe in Lacombe
The Milly Oak Café is named in honour of two inspirational people in owner Derek Layden’s life – his grandmother Mildred and high school culinary instructor, Mr. Oak. The cafe opened in October 2021 and what a great addition to the Lacombe food scene it is.
Milly Oak is a wonderful spot full of good smells, friendly people, delicious pastries, and best of all in my books – an all-day breakfast menu. Once a month (on different days) they also offer a high tea and a 5-course dinner from somewhere around the world. Check out their website so you can take advantage of these monthly culinary events.
I had the pleasure of eating lunch – eggs benedict and a side of bacon with the most delicious side of potatoes ever. With a book to keep me company, I sat back and savoured every mouthful, while glancing around the busy restaurant. It looked like lots of people were nipping in to pick up a pastry and coffee, while those around me all looked contented.
Check out locally run stores in Lacombe
Reds Source for Sports
Vivacious owner Tammy Derowin is one half of the “two bossy redheads” that opened Reds Source for Sports in 2016 after lamenting the fact there was nowhere to buy sports equipment in Lacombe. Well there sure is now.
She and her husband now have two stores in Lacombe with one, Reds Source for Sports Bike Shop, focused on all things bike related including a massive selection of bikes, bike clothing and gear, as well as offering bike tuning and ski tuning in season.
I visited their store on 50th Ave in Lacombe and was blown away by the inventory they carried across a wide range of sports. You’ll find team sports covered here like hockey (the hockey section is run by two women involved in the sport), basketball, lacrosse, swim team, baseball…you name it. The there are the shoes – which you can get expertly fit by one of their part time workers who is also an ultramarathon runner. You’ll also find clothing including the Patagonia line as it’s Tammy’s personal favourite.
If you walk into Reds Source for Sports, I doubt you’ll get out without finding something you need. And in summer, it’s worth visiting so you can get the best view of Lacombe from their rooftop space.
HometownMarket.ca, owned by local entrepreneur Kim Kay, has been in its space for about a year, after starting off with a Christmas popup store that was very successful. Kim got the idea after seeing a lot of generic souvenirs that didn’t speak to her or the region. This store is in business to celebrate and build community pride for all the small places that make up the central Alberta corridor. To that end, you’ll see them at places like the Gull Lake farmers market in the summer.
Walk into the store and you’ll see Kim’s design aesthetic at work. She hones in on Alberta and the prairies and recreates the Alberta flag elements in a fun, hip way. Look for lots of ball caps, fun socks, community mugs, hoodies along with plenty of locally made products. Don’t miss a chance to pop into this store and show some love for the community.
Hannas Seeds & Garden Centre
I was driving through Lacombe when the sign outside of Hannas Seeds & Garden Centre caught my eye. As a passionate garden, I am excited come March for planning what I want to grow in the coming months. I decided to make a quick stop and see what they had to offer.
There are plenty of gift items but what I really liked was the seed section. They offered so many varieties of hard-to-get vegetables, including their own well-priced, bulk brand of garden seed. There were wildflower seeds galore along with garden tools and grower supplies – so everything you need to get started. This place is a treasure and it’s hard not to get carried away with loading up on seeds, and things you think you’ll need in the coming months.
You’ll also find a great selection of bird, bat and lady bug houses along with pet food and wild bird seed.
ONA Cafe and Bakery
Located on 50th Avenue, one of Lacombe’s main shopping streets, ONA Cafe and Bakery, is a top spot for a stop. I only picked up a loaf of their delicious artisanal bread, but it’s the sort of place I’d be happy to linger for an hour or more over a latte and one of their mouth-watering baked goods. They also offer some gourmet food and drinks, so chances are high you won’t walk away empty-handed.
Where to stay in Lacombe, Alberta
In Lacombe I stayed at the Best Western Plus Lacombe, a very comfortable hotel just a 4-minute drive from the downtown. My room had a fridge, microwave, LED television and a very comfortable bed with good pillows. While I didn’t take advantage of it, there is an indoor pool and waterslide, should you be traveling with your family.
A breakfast is included with the price of your stay. They had everything from pancakes to sausages to eggs, yogurt parfait, muffins, juice – a large selection by anyone’s standards. And working that day was one of the friendliest wait staff I have ever encountered. You couldn’t help but smile as she tried to help everyone who came into the restaurant.
Thank you to Lacombe Regional Tourism for hosting my stay. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine alone.
Looking to explore more of Alberta? Check out these posts.
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