In order to provide a one-on-one experience for tour planners, Visit Lake County is featuring its annual familiarization tour in mid-October called “Hidden Treasures, Country Pleasures II.” It is a sequel to the successful 2010 Fam Tour co-hosted with McHenry County.

Volo Auto Museum

Volo Auto Museum

The tour starts at the Volo Auto Museum and Volo 5 Malls owned by the Grams brothers. The sleepy town of Volo is a quick pass-by on Route 12. However, its museum is often misunderstood and not to be missed. The young and young-at-heart will enjoy the movie, vintage, celebrity-owned and one-of-a-kind cars within the many buildings. Tour groups can take a ride on the new trolley that covers the museum grounds and provides access to the vault that houses the “Cars of the Rich and Famous.” The true gem inside is the first and last car that Princess Diana rode in on her tour of the United States.

During the month of October, tours of the Volo museum will take a more seasonal turn, highlighting the haunted barn and “shadow man” that apparently still roams the grounds. The Grams family has had quite a few documented sightings, including some documented by the Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab. For a less hair-raising activity, shoppers in the group may opt to visit Volo 5 Malls, filled with antiques and treasures.

A trip down Route 12 should include The Nut and Candy House in Wauconda. This quaint store has bulk candy and nuts in large barrels and provides a free sweet stop for travelers.

Long Grove Historic Village

Long Grove Historic Village

A charming favorite in Lake County is Long Grove Historic Village. Unique shops and restaurants nestled along cobblestone walks make this area a popular tour group stop. The village boasts many seasonal festivals such as Chocolate, Strawberry, Apple, World’s Fair, Art & Wine and Octoberfest. However, tour groups will find that the less busy days in town are more desirable for the serious shopper. Visit Lake County provides scavenger hunt ideas, culinary stops or hands-on activities. Or they can just sit by the fountain and people-watch or sit at the beautiful bar in Village Tavern to rest weary feet. A photo opportunity at the only covered bridge in Lake County is a must.

A short drive from the shopping area is Valentino Winery and Vineyards, the only winery in Lake County. Encounter a true “Rudy Valentino” and his passion for making award-winning wines right in his home. Tours includes a walk through the vineyard, wine tasting and Rudy’s enthusiasm for wine pairings.

Dinner is at Chessie’s/111 Grille in the historic Ice House Mall in Barrington. Visitors are greeted by friendly staff and walk past the former Barrington train depot (inside the restaurant) to the train car for a unique dining experience. The food and service are great and often paired up with a trip to the Sanfilippo Estate, also known as Place de la Musique, in Barrington Hills. This 44,000-square-foot home houses unique music machines, Tiffany lamps, the world’s largest indoor pipe organ (8,000 pipes) and a full-size antique carousel nearby. This tour is not to be missed and is truly a hidden treasure waiting for your group to experience.

Overnight guests can choose from charming B&B’s, limited-service and full-service hotels, and resorts that offer golf, sandy beaches on Lake Michigan, indoor waterpark fun, spa getaways and world-class theater.

Long Grove Confectionery

Long Grove Confectionery

The next day starts on a sweet note – chocolate! The Long Grove Confectionery is Lake County’s own chocolate heaven with its factory tour and shopping. Learn about the Mangel family’s early beginnings and the current confectionery that makes the famous Myrtles®, chocolate-covered strawberries, novelty treats and seasonal favorites. Groups that travel during the summer usually bring a cooler on board the motorcoach for those cherished chocolate souvenirs.

Many visitors pass by Lambs Farm along I-94 not knowing what a true treasure they are missing. Celebrating 50 years of support to the developmentally disabled, this village is truly a unique stop. Groups are greeted by staff to explain the mission and encourage them to visit the Pet Shop, Thrift Store, Bakery and Country Inn for a meal stop. Every purchase goes back to the community, which provides a loving quality of life for its residents. In October, Lambs Farm hosts the annual Barn Burner BBQ, a Kansas City BBQ-sanctioned event, right on the grounds. The scent of barbecue sauce and grilled meat is intoxicating to passersby; the event is open to the public.

The newest treasure in Lake County is North Shore Distillery in Lake Bluff. The only craft distillery in Illinois is owned by a local couple dedicated to producing unique and flavorful spirits. Meet “Ethel” the still and partake of drink and product samples. Full-size drinks and products may be purchased in the tasting room.

A drive up to Old Mill Creek and the Wadsworth area leads to Tempel Farms, which has provided graceful performances by the Lipizzan stallions during the summer and tour & training sessions during the off-season. Afterwards, groups choose to dine at Savanna House Restaurant, located on the Waukegan Savanna. Its Southern-style cooking is a favorite with groups. Owner Mary Bennett worked in Door County, Wisconsin for over a decade and has mastered the Door County Fish Boil that is featured on Saturday nights.

Gold Pyramid House – Jim Onan and Jayne Nordstrom

Gold Pyramid House – Jim Onan and Jayne Nordstrom

The Gold Pyramid House is one of those stops where visitors stand (or sit) in awe. During the pyramid craze of the late 1970s and early ’80s, this home saw up to 10 tour groups a day. The family took a break for awhile and decided to just live their lives. However, all that traffic paved the way to an amazing Egyptian art collection, fully stocked gift shop and complete replica of King Tut’s tomb, right on their property. Tours given by the family provide a glimpse into living in a pyramid and the notoriety that comes with it.

Lake County, Illinois is a great mystery tour destination and features enough to do for two to three days. With a close proximity to Chicago and Milwaukee and I-94 running right through it, this area provides many options for tours. Over 20 itineraries feature such themes as garden, mansion, holiday, military, culinary, movie sites, spooky and student. Staff services are free and cover accommodations, meal stops, attractions, shopping and more. Personal site tours are available upon request and an annual Fam Tour is usually planned for late summer to early fall.

Visit Lake County is a proud member of Tour Illinois and American Bus Association. For tour planning assistance, please contact Jayne Nordstrom, Group Tour Manager, at 800- 525-3669 or jayne@lakecounty.org.