If you think you know Lacombe County, think again. It’s time to look at it through the lens of food travel. Food what? Food travel. It’s getting a sense of a place through the taste of that place. Lacombe County delivers in spades. A bounty of hidden gems lurk as lip-smacking rewards for food lovers out to explore life here.
The Lay of the Land (and Lakes)
In contrast to the Prairie surrounding it, Lacombe County is filled with rolling undulations the locals call the sunset hills. Perch on any ridgeline in the early evening and you’ll be staring straight into the face of the Rocky mountains as the sun winks goodbye over their peaks and leaves the patchwork of croplands below them in a rosy blush. For a landlocked place, water is abundant. Lakes in the county include Lacombe, Gull, Sylvan, Gabriel, Alix and Buffalo. The latter is part of a provincial park featuring narrows for camping plus kayaking, windsurfing, boating, fishing and swimming. Blindman and Red Deer rivers also draw kayaking, boating and fishing enthusiasts.
When it comes to fishing, this area is famous not just for the opportunities to angle but also for also being the home of the World’s Largest Lure. Finding a giant roadside attraction is always a great way to add fun to a road trip. This one is located at Len Thompson Pond in the city of Lacombe. Emblazoned with a forty foot long yellow and red five of diamonds, the lure is a replica of the Len Thompson Lure Company’s most iconic brand. Headquartered in Lacombe, the company has produced lures, handmade in Canada, since 1929. Family owned, they support local fish and wildlife conservation efforts so future generations can enjoy outdoor pursuits and nature through a unique partnership with Lacombe’s Blindman Brewing.
Since 2015, Blindman Brewing has helped forge Alberta’s microbrewing industry with a community ethos that sets them apart as much as the award-winning tastes of their beers. The Len Thompson company agreed to lend their emblematic branding to the can of a namesake Five of Diamonds Blindman beer in return for royalties to support fish conservation and the stocking of six local lakes and ponds. Another community contribution of the brewery is the recent renovation of their taproom. The welcoming space brings the light and airy feeling of lofty Prairie skies and Parkland aspens inside to be enjoyed year round. With 24 beers on tap and their own restaurant called Local Taqueria, they serve Alberta produce in light Mexican food to complement their brews.
With about 125 craft breweries in Alberta now, downtown Lacombe eatery, Cilantro and Chive keeps a rotation of 25 Alberta on tap. Patrons can also enjoy their famous Caesar’s with towering toppings like double decker, thick and juicy cheeseburgers. Favourite suppliers for owners Rieley Kay and Kim Solik include Scholings potatoes, MSW Farms’ grass-finished longhorn beef, bison, elk, pork, chicken and eggs, S4 and Doef’s greenhouses’ produce, Broxburn tomatoes, West Gimlet Farms Yak and Deep Roots garlic. The cornucopia of local produce available here stems in part from Lacombe’s stellar agricultural history.
WHERE TO EAT
Family-owned convenience store and deli located in Alix, as well as an ice cream shop. Hungry for poutine? They’ve got it. More into salads? They have those too. Beat the heat with some ice cream? They’ve got soft serve, hard ice cream, even ice cream cakes!
The cutest little stop in Bentley, Alberta! Enjoy delicious Birdy Coffee (roasted in nearby Red Deer) or teas, as well as an assortment of delicious baked goods. It’s the perfect spot for a quick stop on a road trip, or enjoy a break from the car on their patio. They even have some new handmade popsicles for the summer season!
A Dutch store and coffee shop near Gull Lake. While the current owners have been running this spot for 15 years, the original store opened way back in 1905. Renowned as Central Alberta’s source for all manner of Dutch treats, cheeses, homestyle pies and Dutch specialties like the frikandellen and croquettan, made using local ingredients from just down the road. And yes, you can most definitely buy wooden shoes there, too.
Other Places to Visit
Spanning much of the Central Alberta area north of Red Deer, Lacombe County has a myriad of places to enjoy delicious eats. Read Karen Anderson’s story, Eat Life to the Fullest in Lacombe County, for other eateries and foodie hotspots throughout the area.
WHERE TO PLAY
On the eastern side of Lacombe County, the Visscher family grows 30,000 garlic plants, and no, not all garlic is the same. They grow more unique varieties like Tibetan, Bogatyr, Georgian Fire, Baba Franchuk and more. Through the summer months, you can purchase other products including pickled garlic, black garlic, herb mixes and other local and unique goodies from their farm store.
Both a working farm as well as a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Mountain Bluebirds, Tree Swallows and other native cavity-nesting birds. Conservation education is also a big part of our offering, with a nature book repository, a Visitor Centre with nature-based exhibits, demonstration Naturescape gardens and educational programs for all ages on a variety of nature-based topics.
A family-run commercial apiary and farm that’s making a name for itself as a hub of community spirit. The retail shop has a fresh honey tap and beeswax products, as well as a variety of other local products from small businesses. From there, you can see right into the extraction facility, which also houses local markets throughout the year to help other small businesses in the off-seasons. They also happen to be a full scale bison ranch, with 120 heads of bison (owned by Lorne’s aunt and uncle at Frontier Farm), and other farm animals including goats, chickens, horses, and more!
Hulleman Farms is a dairy farm, country store, market garden, sunflower u-pick and more! The country market expansion began this summer to provide new opportunities for visitors to become familiar with the farming process. Take a guided tour through the market garden, and learn about the modern dairy farm including the milking process. Then head to the store to try some delicious products including their children’s 4-H beef, preserves, cheese, pork, lamb, and much much more.
ABOUT LACOMBE COUNTY
Located on the QEII corridor, Lacombe County is located approximately 120 km from Edmonton and 160 km from Calgary. The County stretches 100 km east to west along Highway 12 from prairie fields to Boreal Forest and is home to many lakes – large and small.
Agriculture is the single largest land use in our municipality, representing 95% of the County by area. In recent years, Lacombe County has seen significant growth in agribusinesses in Lacombe County. From greenhouses to canola crushing to craft malting & brewing, to specialty farms and country stores selling local products – we are here to support your value-added agricultural venture.
Lacombe County also boasts a variety of recreational amenities: beaches, lakes (Sylvan Lake, Gull Lake and Buffalo Lake), trail systems (including a portion of the TransCanada Trail), parks, natural areas, ski hills, and golf courses. Visit Lacombe Regional Tourism for an in-depth look at the area, local events, and activities. www.lacombetourism.com. Our urban partners highlight a rich and interesting part of Alberta’s history, as well as delicious and unique restaurants, shops and breweries. You’ll definitely need a few days to explore all that Lacombe County has to offer!!