Visit the friendly towns of Lacombe, Blackfalds, and Bentley this winter for outdoor fun and fantastic dining and shopping.
Lacombe County’s friendly communities welcome you this winter with an abundance of good eats (food really is farm to fork here), family-run shops, an award-winning brewery, and recreational opportunities. Pack your skates and cross country skis, and bring a healthy appetite! You’re gonna need all three, plus a few days to explore. Here’s how to spend a fun winter weekend in Lacombe, Blackfalds, and Bentley; in the heart of Central Alberta.
Disclosure: This story was written in partnership with Lacombe Regional Tourism, but all words and opinions are my own.
As we explore Lacombe, I remember why I like visiting small towns. Not only is it easy to get around – we can walk across historic downtown in an hour, and drive across town in ten – but people have time to talk to you. At Oodles of Chocolates, Edna Macleod asks if we’ve seen her favorite mural (the one behind Dollarama) and recommends Leto’s Steakhouse for dinner. While Macleod’s retail location is new, she has been in the chocolate business for 25 years; making, selling, and teaching people how to make chocolate, so her products are in high demand. We stock up on her famous HotChocSticks, chocolate on a stick that melts in a mug of hot milk, and head over to the Flatiron Building.
Built in 1904, Lacombe’s Flatiron Building is one of two flatiron buildings in Alberta, and is a beautiful example of the Edwardian Classical Revival style. Incidentally, this gorgeous brick and sandstone building was the only building to survive the devastating fire of 1906, so all new buildings were constructed of brick or stone. Formerly a bank, the Flatiron is now occupied by the Lacombe Museum. Check out the Portraits of War exhibit in December, or new national exhibit in January 2022. Admission by donation.
Lacombe’s historic downtown is beautiful from all angles with an Edwardian-style streetscape, and murals in the alleys. Over 40 amazing murals, created by artist Tim Giles, grace the alleys of downtown Lacombe. The first series, near the Flatiron Building, depicts life in Lacombe from 1890-1910. The second series, behind Bank of Montreal, portrays scenes from the 1930s. Allow 15-30 minutes for the Lacombe Self-Guided Mural Tour. You can download a PDF of the route here. If you’d like to learn more about local history, download the On This Spot App.
Lunch finds us at Cilantro and Chive, one of Lacombe’s best restaurants. As we peruse The Chive’s mouthwatering menu “utilizing locally sourced ingredients & seasonal menu items to bring a twist on old favorites,” Kim Kay, co-owner, swings by our table to say hello. When I ask what’s new this season (the menu changes every season), I’m surprised to learn of all their community initiatives. “We have a guest chef create the monthly burger, and $2 of each burger goes to charity,” she shares. Since the promotion started five years ago, $100,000 has been raised! December’s burger was created by Edna Macleod of Oodles of Chocolates, and $2/burger will go to the Lacombe Food Bank. “If there’s any way to help the community, The Chive is doing it,” Austin Weaver of Lacombe Regional Tourism adds. “This month, kids can enter a contest to design the February burger,” Kay tells us while handing the kids entry forms and crayons.
Cilantro and Chive also donates $1 per Dessert of the Month to charity. What a delicious way to give back! Support local businesses and charities while you enjoy Cilantro & Chive’s seasonal menu, great service, and curated collection of 200 craft beers. Reservations are recommended at this popular, family-owned and operated restaurant.
On the other side of tracks, we visit the World’s Largest Fishing Lure at Len Thompson Pond. It boasts an 8.7 metre (28.5 foot) long Five of Diamonds spoon with a 4.3 metre (14 foot) long hook. The giant replica of Len Thompson’s famous lure commemorates the 90th anniversary of the company he founded in 1929 in Lacombe. Come back in summer to fish at the stocked pond (closed in winter as aeration required to keep the fish alive creates thin spots in the ice)!
Totally Gluten Free Bakery is worth a visit if you or a loved one can’t eat gluten. My celiac friends from Calgary drive to Lacombe expressly for goodies from this bakery (but if you can’t make it, they deliver), and I can see why! Whether you’re looking for gluten-free gingerbread, cupcakes, bread, English muffins, pies, or pizza, you’ll find it here! There are lots of dairy-free options as well.
Joe and Valerie Van Gelderen started Totally Gluten Free Bakery 11 years ago with the goal of creating healthy and delicious gluten free baked goods. Since seven of their nine children have celiac disease, you can trust there will be no cross contamination in their products. Enjoy a free coffee and samples while you shop.
Blindman Brewing, named for the nearby Blindman River, is an award-winning Central Alberta brewery that focuses on flavor, high quality local ingredients and community (a common theme in these parts). Blindman has collaborated with Birdy Coffee Co., Sherbrook Liquor, and Fallen Timber Meadery to create some unique craft beers. Try a flight in the Taproom – kids are welcome – or bring some home. Thanks to the helpful staff, I was able to find some great holiday brews for my relatives.
When the sun goes down, it’s time to enjoy Christmas lights and outdoor ice skating at Lacombe Memorial Centre. Skating is free, and so is parking!
Blackfalds, one of Canada’s fastest growing communities, is 10 minutes south of Lacombe. Like its neighbor to the north, the town of 11,000 people is extremely friendly. People at the park say hello; and when we go for dinner, the family seated next to us says hi too.
In winter, the Blackfalds Christmas Light Display at Tayles Water Spray Park is a must see. Lights change color in time to the music, and the gazebo, archways, and tunnel are perfect for selfies. There are no admission or parking fees, and no crowds!
At Okinawa Sushi, we fill up on fresh sushi, rolls, and appetizers. This family-run restaurant has custom rolls, like the Amazing Grace Roll filled with deep fried salmon and cucumber and topped with avocado and tempura flakes; and izakaya (Japanese bar) favorites such as takoyaki (a battered and fried octopus dish) and tempura.
After a day of exploring, relax in the hot tub at Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham – Blackfalds. The hotel is conveniently located in the shopping district, a short drive from the Christmas lights display, Centennial Park, and Mary & Cliff Soper Natural Area. Free breakfast is included!
In the morning, we head to Mary & Cliff Soper Natural Area for a walk in the woods. The land was donated by Cliff Soper, a former Lacombe County Councilor, and Mary Soper in 2017, so everyone could enjoy it. Allow about an hour to explore the forested trails, and find the little cabin and Mary & Cliff Soper Natural Park geocache. If you’re quiet, you might see deer too (we saw lots of tracks). Download a map of the park here.
Got skates? There’s outdoor skating at Centennial Park, Riser Pond, or the Multi-Plex Arena. Check the Town of Blackfalds – Outdoor Skating page for hours. Outdoor rinks typically open in mid December, weather permitting.
If it’s freezing outside, play inside at Blackfalds Abbey Centre. Kids will love the 3-storey indoor playground’s tunnels and slides, and big kids (that’s you, parents) will love the state-of-the-art fitness centre, running track, and field house. Fun fact: Canada’s Great Trail goes right through Abbey Centre.
Refuel at Sabrina’s Pizzeria after skating/working out; their pizza and donairs are legendary!
Discover Bentley & Gull Lake Honey Company
When I say Toller’s, you say donuts. Ok, it’s not a real thing, but is basically what happened every time someone mentioned the place, so of course we had to go! In addition to their famous donuts, Toller’s Bistro cooks up culinary creations such as their signature gnocchi, bacon poutine, and Prairie Beef sandwich with seasonal ingredients from local farmer’s markets. Everything is delicious – just make sure to save room for dessert! Located on the SW side of Lacombe, en route to Bentley.
Sufficiently stuffed, we make our way to Gull Lake Honey Company. The honey company and bison ranch, run by Lorne and Alida Prins, has an amazing farm store/gift shop filled with honey, 100% beeswax candles, bison steaks / sausage / jerky / rendered fat, and local handmade items. Lorne was happy to tell me about all the different kinds of honey (sunflower, dandelion, blueberry, and more) to help me decide. In the end, I chose the blueberry honey which gets its flavor and aroma from blueberry blossom nectar.
Gull Lake Honey Company’s beeswax candles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the beer candles really caught my eye. “We’re trying to make more candles that will appeal to dudes,” Lorne shares. While these ones feature Blindman Brewing, “We’ll have lots more to choose from soon,” Lorne says. We stock up on gifts, but plan to come back in the summer for the U-pick, petting zoo, hay rides, and honey extraction facility tour.
Next, we head to Bentley, “the little town with a big heart,” southwest of Gull Lake. This little town boasts more than its fair share of specialty shops. At Merry’s Mercantile, Merry Kuchle has a wonderful curated collection of old and new. Festive gnomes (here for the holidays) perch amongst furniture, cabin couture, décor, women’s apparel, and antiques. “This is my happy place,” Merry says with a big smile. She’s talking about the beautiful store, but she loves Bentley too. Like her friends at the pharmacy and Piccolo Pizza & Pasta, Merry hails from Calgary and is enjoying small town life. She encourages us to check out Earthy Accents “if you like plants”, and The Drop. “I go there every day!”
A coffee sounds good, so we pop over to The Drop Coffee & Tea. While I get an almond milk latte, my kids both order the Abominable Snowman, frozen white hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and crushed candy canes. It’s happiness in a cup!
To our surprise, Canada’s largest kite store is in Bentley! Two friends on Instagram told us about The Kite Guys, and my eldest wanted a kite for Christmas, so we had to check it out. “It’s a really great store; it’s in the church,” Merry tells us, pointing down the street. Bud Taylor, co-owner, greets us when we arrive and shows us all the suitable kites for my daughter’s age range. It’s a toss-up between a delta-wing single line kite or parafoil – “I like these (parafoils) because there are no poles and they’re so packable,” Bud says – but he assures us both types are easy to fly. There are so many choices, but my daughter finally chooses a gorgeous owl kite.
Before we leave, Bud shows us how to set up the kite and tie the line (including more advanced skills like adjusting the bridle), and gives us lots of pointers on how to fly it. The service and range of products can’t be beat! They have everything from high quality kites and windsocks to garden spinners, banners, and flags.
Other highly recommended stores in the area include The Wooden Shoe (European Food Store) and Brown Eggs & Lamb (Farm Store). We can’t wait to visit them next time we’re in Lacombe County! An overnight trip provided a great taste of Lacombe County, but two nights would be even better.
Lacombe County Weekend Itinerary
If you’d like to do the same trip that we did, here is our itinerary. We were able to do a lot in one day because everything is close together. Have a great time and let us know what you liked best! Note that many businesses are closed on Sunday, so we recommend visiting on Friday and Saturday.
Day 1: Lacombe & Blackfalds
- Oodles of Chocolates – 4915 50 Ave Lacombe
- Lacombe Self-Guided Mural Tour (PDF Map)
- Flatiron Building Museum (open Wednesday to Saturday) – 5005 50 Ave (Barnett Avenue), Lacombe
- Lunch at Cilantro & Chive – 5021 50 St, Lacombe
- Outdoor fun: Ice skate at Cranna Lake, or Cross country ski at JJ Collett Natural Area
- World’s Largest Fishing Lure – Len Thompson Pond
- Totally Gluten Free Bakery (closed Sundays) – 5100 Wolf Creek Dr Unit 2, Lacombe
- Blindman Brewing – Bay F – 3413 53 Avenue, Lacombe
- Ice skating and Christmas Lights at Lacombe Memorial Centre (free), OR Free Kinsmen Public Skating at Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex – Fridays 6:45-8:15 pm & Sundays 12:45-2:45 pm
- Dinner at Okinawa Sushi (closed Mondays) – 5201 Highway Ave, Blackfalds
- Blackfalds Christmas Lights Display – Tayles Water Spray Park, Blackfalds
- Stay at Blackfalds Microtel – 6021 Parkwood Rd, Blackfalds
Day 2: Blackfalds & Bentley
- Breakfast at hotel
- Winter walk at Mary & Cliff Soper Natural Area, Blackfalds (If it’s cold out, play inside at Blackfalds Abbey Centre)
- Outdoor skating at Centennial Park, Riser Pond, or the Multi-Plex Arena.
- Lunch at Sabrina’s Pizzeria – 5007 Indiana St, Blackfalds; or Toller’s Bistro – 2-4801 63 St Bay 2, Lacombe
- Gull Lake Honey Company (Closed Sundays) – Located 2km west down TWP Rd 412 off HWY 792.
- Bentley Grain Elevator – 4701 51 Street, Bentley
- Merry’s Mercantile (closed Sundays) – 5014 50 Ave, Bentley
- The Kite Guys (open Thursday – Saturday) – 4901 – 50 Ave, Bentley
- Coffee at The Drop Coffee & Tea (closed Sundays) – 5013 50 Ave, Bentley
- The Wooden Shoe – 40 Lakeview Ave, Gull Lake
- Brown Eggs & Lamb (open Thursday – Saturday) – 40323 Range Rd 281, Bentley
More Winter Fun in Lacombe County
- Ice skate at Cranna Lake Park, Lacombe
- Cross country ski at JJ Collett Natural Area (trails 7, 8, & 9 are trackset), or Lacombe Golf & Country Club. For current trail conditions, visit Ski Lacombe.
- Downhill ski at Medicine Lodge Ski Area: 15 km west of Bentley, opens in January
- Ice fishing and kite boarding at Gull Lake
- Walk from Kuhnen Park to Lacombe Lake (shown above): 20 minute walk
- Alberta Sports Hall of Fame & Museum: 15 minutes south of Blackfalds – a good stop en the way to/from Lacombe County
- Light Up Lacombe: Every November, there’s a 3-day festival in Lacombe with a Christmas market, live music, Santa visits, gingerbread house decorating, a free movie, and more.
- Lacombe Farmer’s Market at Lacombe Memorial Centre: See the Lacombe Farmer’s Market Facebook Page for hours of operation.
- Fireworks at Cranna Lake: Light up the Night presented by Stantec. December 22, 2022 at 8 pm.
See Lacombe Tourism for more events and festivals in Lacombe County.
Where to Stay
Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham – Blackfalds has clean and modern rooms near the QEII highway. Amenities include a hot tub, sauna, and fitness facility; business centre; and free breakfast. Conveniently located in the shopping district with lots of shops & eateries nearby.
You can easily visit Lacombe, Blackfalds, and Bentley in one weekend:
- Lacombe is located 1 3/4 hours north of Calgary, half an hour north of Red Deer, and 1 1/2 hours south of Edmonton.
- Blackfalds is located only 10 minutes south of Lacombe.
- Bentley is located 20 minutes west of Lacombe, near Gull Lake.
For More Information
For more information on things to do and where to stay, contact Lacombe Regional Tourism.
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