Country roads are the best way to enjoy the winter season. McHenry County is an ideal winter destination, offering unique experiences for anyone seeking to bring family and friends together this holiday season.
If it's outdoor fun you seek, McHenry County has what you need. We've long been a staple for winter sports enthusiasts, with everything from cross country skiing to snowshoeing and snowmobiling. McHenry County Conservation District is the place to be if you're hoping to take in some beautiful scenery.
Holiday shopping on the horizon? You won't find the big box shopping culture on these roads. What you will find are unique shops with one-of-a-kind gifts and treats for those special people in your life. Spend a little time in one of our specialty boutiques, stop by one of our handmade artisan candy stores or find the next Christmas hit at Marvin's Toy Store. When it comes to holiday shopping, McHenry County has it covered.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Magical holiday events, upscale dining and a vibrant arts culture tip the scale to make McHenry County one of the Chicago area's best winter escapes. For more information and weekend getaway ideas, keep reading or check out our virtual interactive visitor guide.
Make Some New Traditions this Year.
Choose an itinerary and make your winter a success.
The winter season is all about traditions that bring family and friends together. Here in McHenry County, we help families and friends alike create exciting new traditions and sweet, lasting memories. Check out a few of our sample itineraries for the winter season.
Can't Miss: Cut down your own Christmas tree. This is certainly a great chance to bring the family together for the holidays. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, growers in McHenry County, Illinois harvest more fresh Christmas trees than anywhere else in the state, with a total of 12 tree farms. Consider swinging by Richardson Christmas Trees in Spring Grove for their U-Cut Christmas Trees. Enjoy some complimentary fresh baked donuts and hot chocolate while you take a free wagon ride out to the farm. Or check out Oney's Christmas Tree Farm, located in Woodstock. It's the oldest and largest tree farm in Illinois and boasts some exciting family favorites - from pony rides to a visit with Mrs. Claus. When you're done saying "what's up" to the Claus clan, feel free to do some Christmas shopping or stop by the bakery for some fresh-made goodies.
The Right Eats: If you're looking for a great family stop, check out Nick's Pizza and Pub in Crystal Lake. Voted one of the best family stops by "Best of the Fox," this cabin-esque dining experience, offers a fun setting, wonderful service and of courseâ€¦ awesome pizza, including gluten-free options. In addition to pizza, their menu features a little something for the whole family, with some additional beverage options for adults. If you're looking for a cool dinner option that's sure to keep the whole family content, Nick's Pizza and Pub is sure to be a hit.
Stop and Shop: Both the young and the young at heart love chocolate. What better way to kick-off your shopping excursion than with a stop at Anderson's Candy Shop in Richmond. Named among the best candy makers in the country by Los Angeles Times and Consumers Digest, Anderson's Candy Shop has been in the candy business for four generations. The Anderson family began making chocolates back in 1919, and not much has changed since then. Specializing in gourmet chocolates, every piece of Anderson's Candy is handmade with the best ingredients, right here in McHenry County. Next it's off to Marvin's Toy Store.*Located in Downtown Crystal Lake, Marvin's makes it a point to support products and companies that are "future-friendly" - for the environment, the community and the children. You won't find any video games or advanced electronics here... just safe, unique toys and gifts that spark the imagination. Oh, and did we mention they're a ton of fun?!
- Morkes Chocolates on the Huntley Square. Morkes offers a unique experience for guests, as well as stocking stuffers with a personal touch. For groups booking in advance, Morkes holds candy making parties and classes. Go behind the scenes to see how gourmet chocolate is made while getting some tasty souvenirs for the return trip.
- Illinois Railway Museum (IRM) in Union. Always a hit, IRM is America's largest railway museum and features the Happy Holiday Railway during weekends in December. Take a ride on a train as you visit Santa Claus, himself! Tickets are $12.00 per person.
Fun Fact: McHenry County actually has 6 gourmet chocolate shops to choose from.
The Culture Seeker
Can't Miss: If the arts are a must for you, check out the winter lineup at Raue Center for the Arts* in Downtown Crystal Lake*. 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. Another cornerstone of our little patch of culture is the Woodstock Opera House* located on the historic Woodstock Square. Sometimes referred to as the "Jewel of McHenry County," it hosts magnificent events, 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 will feature 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.
Fun Fact: Woodstock played host to the shooting of the 1993 film "Groundhog Day." The Opera House as well as several other sites throughout the town can be easily recognized in the film. Various tributes to the film as well as festivals have been erected throughout the town in honor of this movie classic. For more information, click here or check out "Groundhog Days" in our Events section.
The Right Eats: 1776 in Crystal Lake is a culture seeker's dream. This eclectic neighborhood restaurant specializes in great wine, locally sourced food, gluten-free dishes and wild game. They've been hailed by Chicago Magazine as being one of the first and best innovators of wild game cuisine in the entire Chicago Metro area. Or you might consider trying the Green Peapod in McHenry. This trendy Thai restaurant offers a clean, fresh atmosphere, healthy portions and exciting menu options. Bubble tea is a unique favorite of its patrons.
Stop and Shop: What would culture be without a little shopping? Pop into Ethereal Confections in Woodstock, one of the most eclectic candy shop experiences Illinois has to offer. If you've been waiting for a candy shop that compliments your moustache and bowler hat combo, this just might be the place for you. Ethereal offers a unique handmade chocolate experience that doesn't just stop at candies. Maybe you're feeling like a Chocolate Kissed Raspberry Latte or maybe you were hoping for something a little stronger, like the Journeyman Bourbon & Single Origin Dominican Republic Chocolate. From desserts to beverages, you can take your pick. The confections cafe also features a full beer, wine and spirits menu, as well as locally roasted coffees from Conscious Cup, cheeses and pre-defined pairings. After you get your sugar rush, dash on over to Green Box Boutique in Woodstock. This fun, little shop offers earth-friendly fare that make unique gifts for family and friends, including fashion items, bath and body products, and even beer and other treats!
The Winter Adventurist
Can't Miss: The start of winter means the beginning of even more adventures in McHenry County. In fact, we're a prime stop for adventure seekers during the winter months. The McHenry County Conservation District manages over 25,000 acres of open woodlands, wetlands and savannas, and offers a range of winter sporting possibilities for visitors, including snowmobiling and cross country skiing. You can also head over to Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove to catch a glimpse of some serious ski jumping. Norge is the oldest, continually operating open ski club in the country, beginning back in 1905. They host national ski jumping championships during the autumn and winter months including an International Ski Jumping Tournament in January.
The Right Eats: If you're seeking an adventure in McHenry County, you need some adventurous food - or should we say ''epic'' food. Epic Deli in Johnsburg is exactly what the name implies. These seriously huge, and seriously awesome, sandwiches keep you energized during your adventures. And don't forget to indulge in some delicious desserts! These guys pride themselves on making unique, creative cuisine, like their Dorito Corn Dog or their Deep Fried S'more Sandwich.
Stop and Shop: Alpine Accessories, located in Lake in the Hills, is the perfect stop for an adventure seeker. This shop offers an abundance of winter sporting equipment. And if you're just in the market for a rental, Alpine's got you covered there as well.
Too much for one day? Why not settle down for a long winter's nap and see visions of sugarplums when you tuck into one of McHenry County's charming B&B's or family-friendly hotels. Enjoy a sumptuous breakfast or a quick dip in the indoor pool after a frosty day of winter adventures. McHenry County has ACCOMODATIONS to satisfy anyone's overnight needs.
Winter Events in McHenry County
While other communities close up shop during the winter cold, McHenry County comes out in full force. And a winter visit to McHenry County isn't complete without enjoying one of our great holiday events. Here are just a few of the exciting events to consider during the winter months.
Victorian Christmas: Woodstock - Beginning Thanksgiving weekend, enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas in Woodstock. Listen to the carolers sing as you bask in the glow of the festival of lights atop a horse-drawn carriage. If Christmas spirit is your goal, there's no better place to find it than in McHenry County.
Nutcracker: Enjoy this Christmas classic at two great locations. The Raue Center for the Arts, as well as the Woodstock Opera House, will be hosting Tchaikovsky's classic holiday ballet. This is an event you won't want to miss. Tickets are availble on line or at the theater's box offices.
Groundhog Days: January 28 - February 2. In 1992, Woodstock played host to the filming of the classic "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray. Since that time, the community has gathered each year to celebrate this legacy, in what has come to be known as "Woodstock Groundhog Days." During this time, visitors can enjoy free showings of the film, walking tours of its featured sites, as well as a host of other themed activities. If you love the movie, Bill Murray or just a good time, you'll find what you're looking for during Groundhog Days.
*Located right off Metra's Union Pacific/Northwest Line.