Start a new holiday tradition by visiting McHenry County

From press release

MCHENRY COUNTY, Ill.—“So this is Christmas, and what have you done?” If that line from John Lennon’s 1971 hit has you pulling your hair out over a holiday “to-do” list, it’s time to de-stress. This year, try focusing less on what you expect of the holidays, and more on making them truly memorable for you and your family.

For starters, plan a weekend escape to the Currier and Ives countryside of McHenry County, Ill. Historic villages sparkling in the snow provide a perfect backdrop for family traditions.

Christmas shopping

You’ll love Christmas shopping in Woodstock, a National Trust “Distinctive Destination.” Its unique and beguiling character, highlighted by its 1890s town square and downtown historic district, is especially breathtaking this season. Stroll through boutiques in downtown Crystal Lake, or hunt for holiday bargains at Prime Outlets in Huntley, where 50 brand-name outlets offer everyday savings of 35-65 percent.

You can shop 80 stores and restaurants in the attractive outdoor Algonquin Commons. And be sure to check out the new Riverwalk in McHenry. While there, choose wines for holiday entertaining at Corkscrew Point, where you’ll find the largest collection of Illinois wines in the state.

Christmas tree farms

Pack the kids in the car on a quest for a perfect Christmas tree. Nothing says Christmas like a fresh evergreen, and McHenry County has lots of family farms where you can cut your own. All provide saws, and all will shake and bale your tree for the ride home.

At Richardson’s Tree Farm near Spring Grove, take a tractor-drawn wagon ride through a 75-acre forest of spruce, pine and fir. Select your tree, and then enjoy fresh donuts and hot cocoa in the heated barn, where a large assortment of wreaths and holiday decorations await. A visit to Oney’s Tree Farm near Woodstock is a return to old-fashioned tradition. Take a horse-drawn wagon ride into fields of spruce, fir and pines. Choose the perfect tree from eight different organically-grown varieties, and enjoy Oney’s famous cinnamon rolls with hot chocolate in the heated holiday decorating center.

Holiday events

Be sure to check out the many holiday events scattered throughout the county. Nov. 22, see an amazing example of community involvement in the town of McHenry’s Toys for Tots Christmas Parade & Downtown Christmas Walk. Beginning at 1 p.m., more than 300 motorcyclists will deliver toys to area needy families. Shop quaint downtown stores, enjoy trolley and horse-drawn hayrides, and conclude with the 5 p.m. lighting of the community Christmas tree at Veterans Park.

Both Woodstock and Crystal Lake jump-start the season at 7 p.m. the evening after Thanksgiving with downtown happenings that are sure to get you in the spirit. With a flip of the switch, Woodstock ushers in the season with thousands of lights illuminating the Victorian architecture and trees in Woodstock Square. At the same time, downtown Crystal Lake welcomes Santa in a dazzlingly-lighted nighttime Christmas parade.

Enjoy a musical version of Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol in the historic Woodstock Opera House, Nov. 28-30 and Dec. 4-6. Enchant yourself and the kids at Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet in Crystal Lake’s Raue Center, Dec. 19 and 20.

For something really different, embark on a magical train ride through spectacular holiday light displays, and visit with Santa Claus and his elves in the toy workshop at the Illinois Railway Museum’s Happy Holiday Railway in Union. Trains depart several times on Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 5-20.

Make it a weekend tradition

There is enough going on in McHenry County between Thanksgiving and Christmas to easily turn your holiday outing into a family weekend tradition. And if you live in Chicago, many events, shopping and dining venues, as well as bed-and-breakfasts and hotel accommodations in McHenry County are accessible via Metra. For comprehensive train schedules, go to

For restaurant, hotel and bed-and-breakfast suggestions, phone the McHenry County Convention & Visitors Bureau toll-free at 888-363-6177. For links to events, shopping venues and Christmas tree farms, visit

From the October 28 – November 3, 2009

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