Illinois Itinerary: Historic Quests for Sojourners
The Itinerary at a Glance
There’s big history in McHenry County… literally. Begin the journey with a visit to a 10-foot-tall Abe Lincoln at the 1860s Dole Mansion and finish with the whirling glitz of a fully-restored 1890’s Eden Palais French Carousel at the Sanfilippo Estate.
4 Unique Experience on This Trip
- Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole Mansion
- Downtown Crystal Lake
- Raue Center for the Arts
- Historic Woodstock Square
Duration: 2 Days
This Itinerary is Ideal For: All
Day 1 – Crystal Lake
Start the day at the Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake. Take a tour. Learn to paint. Check out some sculptures. Maybe plan a culinary demo, improv class or private concert. Affectionately referred to as “the Dole” by locals, this 12-acre arts education center is set in a Civil War-era mansion overlooking the lake. The architectural masterpiece is designed to stimulate artistic and historic senses. And don’t miss a photo-op with the 10-foot-tall sculpture of Abraham Lincoln carved from a burr oak tree that once grew on the mansion grounds.
Stop for lunch at da Baffone Cucina Italiana. This culinary gem is family-owned. Sample Old World recipes made with fresh ingredients while sipping wines from around the world. It’s the best of Italiana without renewing that passport. Group dining available.
Before hopping back on the motorcoach, take an hour or two to explore the one-of-a-kind shops in downtown Crystal Lake. Pick up an eco-friendly toy at Marvin’s Toy Store. Buy a bottle of olive oil at The Olive Tap. Get ideas for a quilting project at Material Girl. Browse the crystals and Tibetan bowls at Evolve. Or shop one of McHenry County’s oldest, continuously family-owned stores, Heisler’s Bootery. They’ve been in business since 1908.
Board the bus in time for afternoon tea and a tour at the Colonel Palmer House. This Greek Revival and Federalist-style brick home was in built in 1858 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Grab dinner at Duke’s Alehouse, offering locally-sourced menu items and a group dining area.
Catch an evening performance at the Raue Center for the Arts. Opened in 1929 as El Tovar, the Raue Center was once home to “talkies” and vaudeville performances. Today, the Raue Center brings contemporary, vibrant performing arts to a state-of-the-art stage while retaining its historic charm.
Day 2 – Woodstock – Barrington Hills – Union
Head over to the Historic Woodstock Square for a tour of the Opera House. Built in 1889, this theater features an interior that is modeled after theaters in the grand showboats of the time. This is where Orson Welles developed his theatrical talents and fell in love with the stage.
Take time to browse the boutiques and historic buildings around the cobblestone streets of the square. Guided and self-guided walking tours available. Don’t miss Ethereal Confections, a bean-to-bar chocolatier whose menu includes strawberry, rose petal and pink peppercorn chocolate bars and Salted Karma truffles. Stop in Read Between the Lynes, an independent bookstore that also offers souvenirs and an old-fashioned candy counter. Or schedule a private wine tasting at Green Box Boutique.
Enjoy lunch at the Woodstock Public House, located on the bottom level of the Old Courthouse Arts Center on the square. The building, constructed in 1857, served as the McHenry County Courthouse until 1972. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the courthouse also houses an art gallery. An original jail cell still remains in the restaurant.
Time for a relaxing 40-minute drive (we suggest showing the movie Groundhog Day, filmed in and around the Woodstock Square, on the ride) to the crown jewel of McHenry County attractions: the Sanfilippo Estate. This private estate, open only for select tour groups, features fully restored and operational antique music machines, an 8,000-pipe theater organ and an 1890 Eden Palais French Carousel. The estate appeals to music lovers, engineering geniuses, history buffs and anyone with a taste for glitz, glamour and eccentric collections.
Want to add-on even more historic adventures? Take time to tour the McHenry County Historical Society for an interactive step back in time where you can stand in the 1843 Gannon log cabin, watch a re-enactment at the 1885 Perkins Town Hall (in June each year), sit in the desks of the one-room 1895 West Harmony School or see the 1898 Riley Methodist Church. Many of these buildings are on their original sites and can be found throughout the county. Or, visit the Illinois Railway Museum, the largest operating demonstration railroad in America, where you can feel the rumble of a 1918 steam locomotive, watch (and ride on) a shiny and sleek Zephyr roll through the countryside or hop aboard a mid-century streetcar.
Quality, national-brand hotels with group rates and free bus parking are available.