Laid back in Lacombe County: Get back to Alberta’s roots

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Mirror is the place to find for antiques, garden treasures, cinnamon buns and craft beer

Join ZenSeekers as we go on expedition across the #BoomTownTrail. Learn more on what several communities across this region have in store. You’ll find inspiration and education to explore Alberta via our #BoomTownTrail expedition hub.

Jeremy Derksen

Mirror is place where you have to slow down, take your time and appreciate the finer things of rural living, like heirloom furniture, hardy vegetables, bright flowers, horse riding, fresh homemade baking and downhome rural Albertan hospitality.

Driving into Mirror it’s hard to imagine that this little hamlet in Lacombe County was once a contender for the title of provincial capital. Since the old Imperial Hotel burned down in 2016, the skyline is rather underwhelming. Fewer than 500 people reside there today.

But don’t let that deceive you — there’s more to Mirror than meets the eye. And yes, pun fully intended. The small towns and rolling prairies of Lacombe County reflect an Alberta that is too often forgotten in the rush of modern daily life. The pace is different here, tied more to the land and seasons than to smart phones and deadlines.

Enjoy the #BoomTownTrail this summer. Plan your trip to Lacombe...

The diversion of the railway north to Edmonton may have dashed Mirror’s hopes of becoming the seat of government, but it may now lay claim to a new title, as the antique capital of Alberta. 

It began simply enough as a hobby for Grace Smith, the proprietor of Gracie D’s Antiques. “It was a family tradition,” says Smith. “My grandmother had some antiques when I was a little girl, so it kind of became my quest to find items like hers when she was gone. I guess I found a few.”

Five years ago, she opened Gracie D’s Antiques. “In the beginning they were all special and I had a hard time parting with them,” she recalls. “‘Oh no, I can’t sell that.’ I had to learn to separate myself.”

It wasn’t long before the shop ballooned into a compound taking up several lots with 14 themed buildings in all and outdoor displays as well. Among her favourites over the years, Smith has acquired a number of pieces once owned by the late James Gadsby, one of Mirror’s most infamous (and beloved) early residents who made his reputation as an outrider for the Jesse James gang.

Just 10 minutes down the road in Tees, you’ll find another side of Alberta heritage - its agricultural roots. Greenhouses and gardens are everywhere. Stop in at Willow Lane Flower Farms for strawberries in July; find lush perennials, annuals and floral arrangements at PJ’s Plantations; or discover one-of-a-kind handcrafted garden decor and learn about plant arrangement and care at Tranquility Greenhouse.

And of course, there’s the rodeo grounds. As the social event of the season, the Tees Rodeo in August gives people from the county an opportunity to gather and celebrate the country lifestyle and catch some local talent in action.

Photographer: Jeremy Derksen

Summer and small-town rodeos are a big thing in Alberta. In Mirror, you can catch a slice of rural heritage watching talented riders and ropers. 

As the dust settles and the sun sinks toward the horizon, I sit on the porch swing in front of one of the guest cabins at Morris Meadows and take stock. Off in the distant fields, cows graze, swallows flit among the willows and the grass bends ever so slightly with the breeze. A lone truck trundles down a gravel road. 

Had fate (and the railroad) taken a different turn, things might be different in Alberta today. Mirror might have become the booming capital, and Edmonton the distant outpost. There may be those who wish it had turned out that way, but I’m sure glad it didn’t.

If You Go

Learn to commute the classic Alberta way, with a riding lesson at Extreme Stables.

Head to The Whistle Stop restaurant for burgers, fresh homemade pie and the day’s local gossip. Also, Mae’s Kitchen for soups, sandwiches and her popular cinnamon buns. 

The Mirror Museum features well-researched collections on the history of the railroad in Alberta, aerial views of the hamlet and collection showcasing life in the Boomtown era.

Lacombe’s award-winning Blindman Brewery has over 20 taps with selection ranging from classic ales and stouts to sours, saisons and foeders.

Experience the #BoomTownTrail - learn more about Lacombe County start planning here.

#ExploreAlberta with Travel Alberta who has an entire section of their website dedicated to travelling the #BoomTownTrail.

Make it a road trip - discover seven destinations brimming with unique experiences - start here by visiting ZenSeekers’ #BoomTownTrail expedition page.

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