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Summer Traditions Begin in McHenry County

McHenry County Conservation DistrictSummer's here and things are heating up - what better time to enjoy a weekend getaway in charming McHenry County: one of the Chicago area's premier summer escapes.

Enjoy fun in the sun at one of our outdoor destinations, like the McHenry County Conservation District - this outdoor heaven offers visitors more than 24,000 acres at nearly 30 public sites to hike and bike along beautiful prairie trails. Or, check out one of our famous farmer's markets, loaded with fresh foods and produce, grown and prepared right here in McHenry County.

Looking to beat the heat, instead? No problem! Take your pick from theaters, museums, and shopping - McHenry County has plenty of opportunities to cool off from that hot summer sun.

As you can probably see, more sun means more fun in our corner of the world. From kayaking to tasty summer treats, there's plenty of the great outdoors to keep you busy all summer long - don't miss out on this amazing weekend destination. Get your summer on in the one and only McHenry County.Sting Ray Bay

The Perfect Summer

Summer is filled with "must-dos" - activities so essential that to miss one would mean to miss the summer itself. We want you to experience the perfect summer with this list of the ultimate summer stops in McHenry County. Check it out!

Take a Dip

Challenging your own buoyancy is a must for a healthy summer. In McHenry County, you'll never have to miss out on your seasonal dip. Crystal Lake Park District BeachesThe Crystal Lake Park District Beaches are the perfect spot for a splash. Grab your towel and floaties and hop in. Or if you're out with that special someone, grab a paddleboat for a little romantic cruising. Too many monster movies got you scared of the lake? No worries. Drop by the Stingray Bay in Huntley, and enjoy everything from sand volleyball to diving boards and lap pools. No matter how you like your swim, you can find it in McHenry County.

Have something a little faster paced in mind? Head over to The Quarry Cable Park and Grille! Located in the Three Oaks Recreation Center in Crystal Lake, The Quarry is McHenry County's premiere wake boarding park. Want a smoother ride? Rent a paddleboard from Alpine Accessories and cruise around the 33-acre North Lake at Three Oaks Recreation Area.

Catch a Summer Flick

They don't call 'em summer blockbusters for nothin' - summer isn't the same without a little Hollywood fun. Fortunately, McHenry County has several great theaters to catch that movie you've been waiting for. Harken back to the early days of film at the Woodstock Theater - Classic Cinemas. This theater holds fast to its past, complete with a historic marquee. The Woodstock Theater was also featured in the film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Located in Woodstock. For those looking for modern comforts, grab your ticket and popcorn at the AMC Lake in the Hills 12. This movie spot is everything you've come to expect from the 21st century movie theater experience, including reclining seats.McHenry Outdoor Theatre Located in Lake in the Hills. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, grab a blanket and head over to the McHenry Outdoor Theater. Located in McHenry. This classic drive-in theater plays all the summer blockbusters as well as plenty of film favorites from the past. McHenry Outdoor Theater suggests arriving no later than 7:30 to ensure quality parking spots.

Summer Savories

There are plenty of ways to get your foodie fix in McHenry County, but when temperatures rise, only one food will do. From baseball games to cookouts, the hotdog is the quintessential food of the American summer. McHenry County is loaded with great hotdog joints to satisfy your craving. Swing by Pops Corn Crib in Crystal Lake to experience a local favorite. This little food shack serves more than just hotdogs -- try the handmade popcorn balls or the classic Frito Pie. Or grab a dog from Dog n Suds, located in Richmond. This fine local fare still offers carhop service, in a wonderfully restored 1950's drive-in. Cruise up any Friday night in the summer to enjoy some of the finest classic cars. Also in Crystal Lake - Portillo's is a northern Illinois institution. With amazing Chicago dogs, as well as juicy burgers and their signature Italian beef. Portillo's is a must for those looking for the true Chicago experience. But the best dog is found at none other than Tommy's Red Hots - voted "Best of the Fox" by McHenry County's own residents. With locations in Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills, McHenry and Woodstock, Tommy's has been serving great hotdogs since the 1980's.

  • Need a frosty dessert to cool off after lunch? Check out one of our tasty local dessert shops.
  • Mellies Chocolate and Company: Located in Crystal Lake. Grab a couple scoops of cold dairy goodness, a batch of chocolate dipped strawberries, frozen yogurt and so much more.Dairy Mart
  • Riverside Chocolate Factory: Located in McHenry. Cool off with something a little different at Riverside. Along with great chocolates and ice cream, guests can try one of their amazing chocolate or vanilla sodas - some might even say they're the best around.
  • Happy Jack's Sandwich and Ice Cream Shop: Located in McHenry. The name says it all. This is a happy place, full of - you guessed it - sandwiches and ice cream. Happy Jacks first opened in 1977, and they've been working the ice cream business ever since.
  • The Freeze, located in Crystal Lake, The Dari, located in Hebron, and The Dairy Mart, located in Huntley: If you want to hangout with the locals, there's no place better. These places are where you'll wait in line with little league teams after the big game, where grandmas take grandkids to talk about the good ol' days and where the kids keep coming back to, long after they're grown. Just grab a cone, plop on a bench and watch traffic go by.

The Great Outdoors

McHenry County Great OutdoorsThe summer is a great time to get out and see the natural beauty of McHenry County. Hiking, boating, fishing: summer's the time to try them all. From prairies and trails to rivers, lakes and marshes, enjoy all the wild, natural beauty of the county.

Try biking McHenry County Conservation District's many trails located throughout the county. Enjoy the smell of the trees as you walk or cycle along the wooded paths of the Prairie Trail*, Hebron Trail, or the H.U.M. trail. You can even hop on the Prairie Trail right from Metra's Union Pacific/Northwest Line stop in Downtown Crystal Lake*. Forgot to pack your bike? Rent one at The Bike Haven in McHenry*. Were you hoping for a little fishing or kayaking during your stay? Try Chain O'Lakes State Park, located in Spring Grove. The 2,793 acre state park and adjoining 3,230 acre conservation area borders three natural lakes, and the Fox River which connects another seven lakes. Or venture through Moraine Hills State Park, located in McHenry. The Fox River is on the park's western border with great spots to kick back and drop a line in the water. Click the links to check out all the available activities in our state park and conservation district.

Summer Events in McHenry County

If it's summertime, you can count on a few events to keep you excited. Check out our events section for an expanded list of the season's bests, or our Summer Events Guide if you are looking for a full list of festivals!.Harvard Milk Days

Harvard Milk Days: Held in June in the self-proclaimed "Milk Center of the World," Harvard Milk Days is the longest running festival in Illinois celebrating - what else - dairy farming! Don't forget to stop and get your picture with Harmilda, the famous fiberglass cow that stands at the junction of US Highways 14 and 173. Located in Harvard.*

Fun Fact: Harmilda's name came from HARvard MILk DAys, and she's featured as one of the offbeat tourist attractions on

Lakeside Festival: This July festival is a great way to get a "taste" of the McHenry County experience - from local food to local musicians, all in one place. Located in Crystal Lake.*

Lake in the Hills Rockin' Rib Fest: This isn't your neighbor's backyard BBQ. This is for the serious BBQ rib fan, where the big boys (and girls) go to taste some of the best finger licking ribs in the Midwest. Held in July in Lake in the Hills.

McHenry County Conservation District

Fiesta Days: It can be difficult to describe Fiesta Days - after all, what can you say about a family-friendly festival that has had musicians such as Ace Frehley, formerly of KISS and Stephen Pearcy, from Ratt? Located in McHenry.*

Full List of Events

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