Every year, families across Chicagoland come to nearby McHenry County to fulfill cherished holiday rituals. The Currier & Ives countryside and picturesque villages provide the perfect backdrop for Christmas traditions. The weeks around Thanksgiving and Christmas are full of festivals and events.
Check out VisitMcHenryCounty.com, and plan a weekend excursion. Here are a few ideas:
Relish a rare opportunity to tour the Sanfilippo Estate's Place de la Musique during the Second Annual Christmas Concert series, Friday, Dec. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 9. Organist Dave Wickerham will command the 8,000-pipe Sanfilippo Wurlitzer Theater Organ in this magnificent home and museum, which houses the world's largest collection of fully-restored automatic musical instruments. Choose from a Friday evening concert and tour, a Saturday concert with dinner, or a Sunday concert with brunch. These events sold out quickly last year, so reserve your seats now at Place de la Musique's website.
McHenry County Theater Offerings
Enjoy quality theater here at less than Broadway prices. Treat the entire family to the Woodstock Musical Theatre Company's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Nov. 23-Dec. 2, and the Judith Svalander Dance Theater's presentation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet, Dec. 8-16, in the Woodstock Opera House. For a new twist on an old holiday favorite, see the Williams Street Repertory's It's a Wonderful Life - A Radio Play, Nov. 23-Dec. 15, and the Berkshire Ballet Theatre's rendition of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet, Dec. 22-23, both at Crystal Lake's Raue Center for the Arts.
The town of McHenry will get you into the holiday spirit early at the annual Christmas Walk & Parade the weekend before Thanksgiving. Gather in Veterans Park at dusk on Saturday, Nov. 17, for the lighting of the city's Christmas tree. Afterward, enjoy street vendors, carolers, store specials and a friendly holiday vibe throughout downtown McHenry and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov 18. The parade is a motorcycle procession, which rolls out at 12:45 pm. Motorcyclists need only bring their bikes and unwrapped toys to enter. In December, kids ages one to five and their parents are invited to share either breakfast or lunch with Santa in downtown McHenry on Tuesday, Dec. 18. Reservations are required at this site.
Crystal Lake's holiday season begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, with Santa's arrival in the town's gala nighttime Festival of Lights Christmas Parade, which features more than 50 parade units, floats and bands.
Woodstock's Lighting of the Square at 7 p.m. Nov. 23, announces Christmas with thousands of sparkling lights illuminating the Victorian architecture and trees in Historic Woodstock Square and Opera House. Santa arrives in Woodstock at 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 25, in a Christmas Parade around the Square. Stay afterward for milk and cookies with the jolly old elf. Enjoy free horse-drawn carriage rides around the square 4-8 p.m. Fridays and 3 to7 p.m. Saturdays from Nov. 23 to Dec. 22. And, see dozens of beautifully decorated Christmas trees that deck the halls of Woodstock's historic Opera House, Nov. 24 through Jan. 1.
Richmond's annual "Christmas of Yesteryear" shows off the charming Victorian village on Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1. Santa arrives at 5:30 p.m. Friday for the tree lighting in Stevens Park and stays to greet the kids. On Saturday, enjoy wagon rides, carolers, refreshments in the shops, a cookie walk and craft fair.
In Union, hop aboard a magical train ride through the winter countryside for a visit with Santa Claus and his elves in the Toy Workshop at the Illinois Railway Museum's Happy Holiday Railway Celebration, 1 to 6 p.m. weekends, Dec. 8-16. Santa will have gifts in his sack for good boys and girls. Reservations required at www.irm.org.
Huntley’s Christmas on the Square will be held Dec. 3.
Forget mega-malls and big-box stores with their long lines. You'll love Christmas shopping in McHenry County villages all done up in lights and greenery. Woodstock's 1890's town square is as close as you'll get to a Victorian Christmas. Check out the boutiques in downtown Crystal Lake for unique gifts, and stroll the Riverwalk in McHenry. You'll find bargains galore at the Huntley Outlet Center, especially during the After Thanksgiving Sale, Nov. 23-25, and you'll be Santa's helper shopping the 80 stores and restaurants of Algonquin Commons.
All Snug in Your Beds
You'll have visions of sugarplums when you tuck into one of McHenry County's charming B&B's, where you'll be treated royally to a good night's sleep and a sumptuous breakfast. Check in to a family-friendly hotel for a swim in an indoor pool after a frosty day of Christmas rituals.
For more info on lodging, dining and shopping, phone the McHenry County Convention & Visitors Bureau toll-free at 888-363-6177 or visit the visitors bureau website.