Creating great art takes time. Finding great art? Well, that's much simpler. If you're looking for great art and cultural attractions, look no further than McHenry County, Illinois - one of the Chicago area's most exciting arts destinations.
We're no Paris, but our art attractions have a brand all their own. You'll find plenty to stimulate your inner artiste, from our famous 1889 Woodstock Opera House - one of the sites in Bill Murray's 1992 movie Groundhog Day - to our amazing festivals - like Fair Diddley or the Woodstock Mozart Festival; and that's not to mention our incredible open studios and shops!
Whether you're looking for prints and sculptures, stimulating festivals or just a place to listen to some good music, you'll find it in McHenry County.
When it comes to the arts, we go all out in McHenry County. We do art like it's our day job. We do art in the streets. We do art in the theatres. We do art so much...we're the art-est. Check out our list of some of McHenry County's top arts attractions, then experience it for yourself.
Art Centers and Performance Halls
Even great art needs a place to call its own. Here's a list of some of our top art centers and performance halls. When the mood strikes for something great, you'll know exactly where to go.
Sanfilippo Estate's Place de la Musique
Sanfilippo is a private residence, so you can't just walk up to the door - but if you knew what it was like, you'd certainly try. Sanfilippo is more than an art center - it's a complete sensory experience. Undoubtedly unlike anything you've ever seen, Sanfilippo is known internationally for its lavish - and completely awe-inspiring - collection of restored mechanical antiques; from music boxes and phonographs to European orchestrions and violin machines, not to mention the most spectacular European Salon Carousel anyone has ever seen. This place will blow your mind. And, this isn't the type of place you can get a sense of through a picture or a video, so don't even try. You just have to see it for yourself. Sanfilippo hosts many events throughout the year, but because it's a private estate, most are available by invitation only and tickets go FAST. All tickets must be purchased in advance and guests can only arrive on specific concert or prearranged tour dates. All tickets must be purchased online through the Sanfilippo Foundation website. Located in Barrington Hills.
Did you know? Sanfilippo Estate is home to the world's largest restored theatre pipe organ. This thing gives new meaning to the term -rock the house.- Seriously, things shake. At 80 ranks, the organ is nearly a third larger than the organ at Radio City Music Hall. An opportunity to experience this instrument in person is worth the trip alone. It's hard to say many experiences are -unique,- but this one certainly is.
Woodstock Opera House*
Sometimes referred to as the -Jewel of McHenry County,- Woodstock Opera House hosts magnificent events throughout the year, including theatre, visual art, lectures and more. Without sacrificing its historical integrity, this beautiful theatre is a modern venue of the arts, located around a robust boutique shopping area. During the winter months, Woodstock features shows like -A Christmas Carol- and the -Nutcracker Ballet,- as well as other holiday favorites. Fans of the film -Groundhog Day- will likely recognize the site along with many other stops throughout Woodstock. Located on the Historic Woodstock Square.
Stage Left Café*
Located stage left of the beautiful Woodstock Opera House, Stage Left Café serves as a concessions and reception area during performances. -But what about the rest of the time?- you say. So glad you asked. Throughout the week, Stage Left hosts live performances including jazz jam sessions and other small concerts, as well as offering a chance for aspiring musicians to hop on the stage during open mic nights. Located on the Historic Woodstock Square.
Raue Center for the Arts*
If the arts are a must for you, check out the lineup at Raue Center for the Arts*. Originally opened in 1929 as a movie and vaudeville theatre to showcase -talkies- and -troupers,- this historic staple is now home to a state-of-the-art stage that hosts everyone from Grammy award winners to independent acts. It's a high-tech, but intimate setting for patrons to experience the arts. Located in Downtown Crystal Lake.
Lakeside Arts Park
Learn to paint. Check out some sculptures. Maybe take a culinary class. Affectionately referred to as -the Dole- by the locals, this incredible 12-acre park is designed to stimulate the artistic senses. Explore the arts park, and you'll find everyone from musicians to painters, and even fashion designers. But the opportunities don't stop there - with art educators right on the campus, the public is encouraged to engage their own artistic prowess and register for a class. Located in Crystal Lake.
'the Listening Room'
Located in the Lakeside Arts Park, the Listening Room was voted the -Best Place to Listen to Live Music in McHenry County- by McHenry County residents. Taking into account the needs and styles of each musician, the concert environment is carefully controlled to maximize the experience of each performance. With space for only 100 guests, the Listening Room is the perfect setting for an intimate and relaxing concert experience. Performers rotate regularly, as well as opportunities for open mic nights, and drinks are available at a cash bar.
Old Court House Arts Center*
Located inside - you guessed it - an old courthouse, this historic arts center plays host to several of McHenry County's impressive local art shows. The courthouse is a landmark of Woodstock, and gorgeous in its own right, even without the art! Located on the Historic Woodstock Square.
Art Studios and Shops
Because it's not all about just looking at great art, here's a list of some of the best studios and shops to purchase some for yourself!
Blue Eagle Pottery
Pottery is awesome. Going to a studio where it's made? That's even more awesome. Set in an early stagecoach stop, this gallery produces art that's sold and shipped throughout the country. Make sure to ask Robert, owner and artist, about Autumn Drive. Open by appointment only. Located in Woodstock.
Carriage House Pottery
Nestled somewhere inside a Norman Rockwell-like town is the charming Carriage House Pottery. This wonderful stop projects its love for handcrafted artwork into every inch of the gallery and its surroundings. Even if you don't make a purchase, you'll be glad you made the trip. Get to know owners David and Carol and they might even share a secret or two - from bread baking to roasting the perfect cup of Joe. Open by appointment or chance; and it's definitely worth taking that chance. Located in Spring Grove.
Material Things Artisan Market*
This elegant shop offers patrons unique, functional pieces from over 90 different artisans, including a number of local artists and a broad variety of mediums. Pick up any thing from jewelry and handmade journals to lamps and pottery. You may even see Ken, owner and artist, in the back making one of his art glass pieces. Located on the Historic Woodstock Square.
Blooms and Rooms Design Studio*
Featuring local female artists, Blooms and Rooms offers a vast array of art and custom silk flower arrangements to adorn your home or garden. If you're looking to improve some skills of your own, stop in for one of their fun classes or workshops. Located in McHenry.
Grace Farm Studios
Art doesn't get more natural than this. Specializing in fiber arts, Grace Farm Studios creates one-of-a-kind pieces from freshly sheered Icelandic Wool. All sheep are pastured at Grace Farm Studios, and the wool is cleaned and processed before crafting. They also produce rustic wood furnishings by utilizing nearby hardwoods that have died naturally or been damaged by storm. Located in Woodstock.
Art Parties (Festivals)
Birthday parties are great. Christmas parties are fun too! Heck, even Tupperware parties are a pretty good time. But do you ever wish someone would plan a party for no other reason than to celebrate the greatness of art? Well...we did! Check out some of our best-art parties- below!
Fair Diddley is held annually the Sunday after Mother's Day. This is a craft show for even the non-crafty types. Enjoy everything from hand-spun pottery to fine art and wood carvings as well as everything you'd expect from a hometown festival. Hosted by the Mental Health Resource League. Admission is free. Located in Historic Woodstock Square.
In McHenry County, we have plenty of opportunities to see, enjoy and even purchase fine art. If you're looking for a great way to start the weekend, stop in the 1st, 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month for fun rotating galleries and art walks.
Midwest Mozart Festival*
- Lakeside Legacy Arts Park
1st Fridays: In local vernacular, -the Dole- plays host to this exciting event. Stop in to enjoy rotating art displays with a new artist featured each month, and grab a drink at the cash bar! These intimate shows are a great way to kick off the month! While a donation of $5.00 is encouraged, entry is absolutely free. Located in Crystal Lake.
- Historic Woodstock Square*
2nd Fridays: Start at the Old Court House Arts Center to buy your Artwalk bag, then stroll around the square to enjoy fun trunk shows, boutique shopping and music on every corner. And don't miss the exciting street performances - magicians, escape artists - even a sword swallower!
- Starline Gallery*
4th Fridays: Located in a restored factory, this is one of the most popular Friday art displays in the area. Each month, this rotating gallery attracts over 600 visitors, many taking the train from the city! But don't be late - guests line up early for this one! Located in Harvard.
Music lovers flock to McHenry County to enjoy one of our biggest events of the year. Experience the power of classical music at the Midwest Mozart Festival. Hosted in the Woodstock Opera House and Place de la Musique, guests enjoy masterly performed classics from Mozart and other famed composers in a setting reminiscent of the period. The festival runs for three separate Sundays in July and August.
Art Fair at the Dole
In September, the Lakeside Arts Park hosts its annual art fair on the grounds of the historic Dole Mansion. Enjoy fine art from a wide variety of mediums in the interior galleries and tent exhibits, or take advantage of the elegant sculpture walk and other outdoor exhibits. If you're an art lover, you'll be like a kid in a candy store. Located in Crystal Lake.
Planning a drive through the country this fall? Why not make it the Autumn Drive? You'll get a lot more than a peep at some leaves on these roads, with shops all along the route from some of McHenry County's talented local craftsmen. Find everything from pottery and jewelry, to lawn decorations and restored antiques! Located in Rural Woodstock.
*Located right off Metra's Union Pacific/Northwest Line.