Great Escapes Close to Home

10 March 2015
Published in Places

Exciting getaways are closer to home than you might think! Whether you’re planning your family's spring break, a couples retreat or a weekend with friends, explore what awaits you in our guide to great escapes! 




car icon black2 = Miles from Woodstock.


pinterest logo black Follow for more getaway ideas. 







car icon black2 45 miles


Paramount Les Mis pre1

Paramount Theatre presents "Les Misérables," a live Broadway-caliber performance March 18-April 26, 2015. Photo: Tom King


The Aurora area is perfect for weekend getaways, boasting exciting events and festivals year-round. From world-class theater to opera, and every type of live music imaginable, the performances never end. 


Live sports more your style? Aurora has professional baseball, college football, USSSA-sanctioned tournaments, biathlons, triathlons and whitewater rapids.


Need some retail therapy? The Premium Outlets is sure to cure. Find impressive savings with more than 120 designer brands such as Ann Taylor and Armani. Need more of a low-key shopping experience? Young and old alike fall in love with the local charm of Sandwich's renowned antique stores, where a vintage find can bring about memories to cherish forever.


View the entire Chicago area from Fermilab’s 15th floor. Take an architectural tour that includes works by Bruce Goff, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. 


Dine at any of Aurora’s Culinary Champions or visit a real Enjoy Illinois Delicious Destination while traveling the historic Illinois Lincoln Highway. The kids will love the various waterparks and hands-on museums. Shopping and family packages available at – so hop on down and create a weekend experience that's worlds away from ordinary!


For more, visit or call 630.256.3190.





car icon black2 45 miles 


Morton Arb 520x300

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle is an amazing 1,700-acre garden of trees and other plants from around the world. 


No matter what time of year, there’s always something fun and unique going on in DuPage County. 


History: Cantigny Park (Wheaton) is a 500-acre park that features the Robert R. McCormick Museum housed in a historic mansion built in 1896, the First Division Museum with tanks, cannons and other historic equipment located on the grounds, more than 29 acres of formal gardens, picnic grounds, and a top-ranked public golf course. Naper Settlement (Naperville) is an outdoor living history museum that is a must-see for any American history buff. Graue Mill & Museum (Oak Brook) is Illinois’ only operating waterwheel gristmill. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad and now features fascinating exhibits and displays. 


Culture: Stroll through the unique Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art (Elmhurst). Thrill to the excitement of a Broadway-style live performance at the award-winning Drury Lane Theatre (Oakbrook Terrace). Enjoy a variety of performing arts at the McAninch Arts Center (Glen Ellyn) on the College of DuPage campus. 


Natural Wonders: Drive or stroll through The Morton Arboretum (Lisle), an amazing 1,700-acre garden of trees and other woody plants from around the world. Enjoy the Children's Garden, Maze Garden, 16 miles of hiking trails, guided tours, special events and more throughout their environmentally friendly and handicapped-accessible grounds and facilities. 


Shopping: DuPage County rivals Chicago for spectacular shopping. Oakbrook Center (Oak Brook) was voted Illinois’ No. 1 upscale shopping destination with more than 160 stores and restaurants. Chicago Premium Outlets (Aurora) already has more than 120 stores and is going through a major expansion. 


Dining: You’ll never go hungry in DuPage County, with hundreds of top-notch restaurants. Stop in for a tasting at the award-winning Lynfred Winery (Roselle) – Illinois’ first!


For more: Visit or call 630.575.8070.






car icon black2 22 miles



Geneva Lake is a great place to play on the water from swimming and boating to sightseeing and dining. 



Spring is here and it’s not too early to start planning your summer vacation. Whether planning a getaway for family, friends or couples, nearby Lake Geneva, Wis., is the perfect place to fulfill your summer vacation wish list. 


Geneva Lake is the most accessible body of water in Wisconsin, which means you don’t have to look any further for a great place to play on the water. The area’s four beaches provide ample opportunities for swimming and sunbathing. Boating fans can take advantage of a variety of watercraft rentals from Leatherlips Watersports, Jerry’s Majestic Marine, and Clear Water Outdoor. Guests of the Abbey Resort and Avani Spa can rent a slip in the resort’s harbor, giving them access to their own watercraft during their stay. 


The Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers a variety of tours including sightseeing, dining and historic cruises. The Mail Boat Tour is a perennial favorite as all ages get a kick out of watching the Mail Jumpers leap on and off the moving boat to deliver mail dock by dock around Geneva Lake.


Adventure seekers enjoy ziplining with Arial Adventures or Lake Geneva Canopy Tours or a hot air balloon experience with Lake Geneva Balloon Company. Dan Patch Stables at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa offers pony rides for little cowboys and cowgirls or horseback riding through acres of the beautiful Grand Geneva property for those 7 years old and older. 


Golfers can challenge themselves on championship courses including Lake Lawn Resort’s course Majestic Oaks, known for its stately oaks, deep sand bunkers and subtle undulations. The Palmer, Player and Trevino courses also await golfers at Geneva National Golf Club.  


Shoppers can also enjoy the walkable downtown filled with fun boutiques. And there are no shortage of restaurants with a view in Lake Geneva to enjoy.


For more, visit or call 800.345.1020.






car icon black2 45 miles



Take an electric streetcar tour along Lake Michigan and through downtown Kenosha.


Just a short distance away, an abundance of family fun awaits you on the Lake Michigan shore! The Kenosha area in Southeastern Wisconsin is perfect for a spring break adventure, a weekend getaway, or a summer vacation.


Kids of all ages love the free Jelly Belly Express train tour – and free candy samples – at Jelly Belly Visitor Center. Also enjoy a train of a different kind: a scenic ride aboard an authentic Electric Streetcar that travels along Lake Michigan and through downtown Kenosha. Enjoy educational and entertaining experiences at five museums – three are on the streetcar route. At the free Kenosha Public Museum, see the mammoths that were un-earthed in Kenosha County and plan to spend some time at the Field Station, where hands-on activities allow exploration of the arts and sciences. The free Dinosaur Discovery Museum holds the largest display of meat-eating dinosaurs in the country, while the Civil War Museum is one of only three venues featuring a 360-degree film experience in the country – and is the only 360-degree Civil War feature.


Learn about Kenosha’s industrial and automotive history at the free Kenosha History Center, and uncover Lake Michigan shipwreck history inside the seasonal Southport Light Station Museum. Get artsy at Alpaca Art Pottery Painting – and get active at RecPlex (home to an indoor waterpark and an ice arena) or Kenosha YMCA. During the summer months, enjoy Kenosha Kingfish baseball games, the Bristol Renaissance Faire and a climb to the top of Southport Lighthouse (ages 8 and older). 


For more, visit or call 800.654.7309.






car icon black2 75 miles


VM FamilywithFonz

Take a walk up the picturesque Milwaukee Riverwalk to pose with the “Bronze Fonz” of “Happy Days” fame. 


Looking for somewhere to take the family for a spring getaway? You’re just a short drive away from a fun getaway in Milwaukee. Milwaukee makes it easier and more affordable to get away so you can focus on the fun. Now is a great time to visit the city with two brand new museum exhibits opening. The Milwaukee Public Museum’s "Crossroads of Civilization: Ancient Worlds of the Near East and Mediterranean" opens March 15 and will feature life-size figures created in-house, like a recreation of King Tut in his chariot and state-of-the-art interactive displays. Betty Brinn Children's Museum, designed specifically for kids 10 and younger, recently opened its new "Word Headquarters" feature exhibit, an interactive pretend communications company. Discovery World continues to inspire and entertain with its interactive science and technology exhibits, and a visit to the Milwaukee County Zoo provides year-round family fun.

Come up for Cubs/Brewers games May 8-10 and be sure to join in the tailgating at Miller Park or take in pre-game fun at a brewery tour at MillerCoors or Lakefront Brewery. Add arts and culture to the mix with Broadway productions at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, including Beauty and the Beast, Blue Man Group and Book of Mormon, and be inspired by original creations from fashion designers including Dior, St. Laurent and Cardin on display at the lakefront Milwaukee Art Museum’s current exhibit through May 3.

 Foodies can begin exploring Milwaukee’s burgeoning culinary scene at the Historic Third Ward’s Milwaukee Public Market, featuring Wisconsin products, seafood, chocolates, frozen custard and more. Take a short walk up the picturesque Riverwalk, past the “Bronze Fonz” of “Happy Days” fame, to Old World Third Street, where the city’s German heritage is celebrated with legendary Mader’s restaurant and specialty shops featuring Usinger sausages, cheese and spices.

For more, visit or call 800.554.1448.



EXPO: Joining Businesses, Families

05 March 2015
Published in Places

Crystal Lake Home & Business EXPO brings local businesses, leaders and residents together under one roof to celebrate community. 


Meet 130 local businesses and organizations – all in one place – during the Crystal Lake Home & Business EXPO March 28-29 at Crystal Lake South High School (1200 S. McHenry Ave.). 


Hosted by the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce, EXPO is free to attend with fun promised for all ages. Businesses exhibit their latest products and services, with owners and employees ready to answer questions. From home improvement to financial services, education to athletics, there will be an exciting range of local businesses to explore. 



Business owners like Richard Harms of Countryside exhibit new products and answer questions at EXPO. 


Community leaders and civic organizations will also be on hand. “Children can meet someone special like your local county and state representatives, policemen, firemen or local librarian,” chamber President Mary Margaret Maule said. 


Everyone will receive some great items from local businesses, plus every 100th person receives a door prize and this year’s raffle includes a Crystal Lake entertainment package valued at more than $500; boys’ and girls’ bikes; and a Kindle, donated by In Sync Systems. 


DSC05954 2

 Organizations like Summers Academy of Dance share what makes them a unique part of the community. 


Come hungry. Café EXPO features great food from Georgio’s Chicago Pizzeria & Pub; Galloway’s Chicago Sub Shop; Pablo’s Mexican Restaurant; and Morkes Chocolates. 


>> For the latest list of exhibitors and prizes, visit Pick up a Community Guide or the new Shopping & Dining Guide at the chamber office: 427 W. Virginia St.

A Lost World Under Our Feet

07 March 2015
Published in History

An Oakwood Hills man discovers traces of life on Earth – even before dinosaurs – right under his feet.


Nothing is more satisfying than taking a trip back in time and losing yourself in the past. You only have to pretend that you have a time machine and set the dial for the time and place you want to explore. 


Let's set our time machine for McHenry County, 420 million years ago during Earth’s Silurian Period. 


fossil 4

 The first coral James Iverson found on his property in Oakwood Hills is hundreds of millions of years old.  Photo: Evan Hart


The reign of the dinosaurs was still roughly 200 million years into the future during this period, but the shallow tropical sea that covered Illinois teemed with life. Shelled animals like brachiopods, clams, snails and trilobites called this sea home. A massive coral reef that contained sponges, crinoids and bryozoans stretched from Racine, Wis., to Thornton, Ill. 


It was by accident that James Iverson, 54, ended up taking a trip to this prehistoric period, and it's a trip he can't resist taking regularly. It started right in his back yard. 


"I found my first McHenry County fossil about 20 years ago while landscaping on my property in Oakwood Hills," Iverson said. "The hexagon pattern made me think it was a fossilized bee’s nest. A trip to the local library and a couple geology books later and I had a new appreciation for what I had found. It turned out to be a piece of coral – hundreds of millions of years old. I was fascinated and hooked."


fossil 2

A brachiopod (marine animal from the Silurian Period) found in Crystal Lake. Photo: Evan Hart


Since then, Iverson has searched quarries, gravel pits, farm fields and river banks throughout McHenry County.


"I’m always amazed by my discoveries," he said. "Hidden in plain sight is a lost world of marine fossils just waiting to be discovered." 


Copy of fossil 1

Sedimentary rock found in Cary. Photo: Evan Hart


An ancient brachiopod from a quarry in Crystal Lake was followed by numerous pieces of coral discovered in Oakwood Hills, Bull Valley and Cary. Sedimentary rocks with varying layers of color and, from a much more recent time, an expertly crafted arrowhead from a Fox River Grove riverbank also made their way into Iverson's collection. 


fossil 11

An arrowhead found along the river bank in Fox River Grove. Photo: Evan Hart


"With the approahcing spring weather, I encourage others to get outside and take a trip back in time to uncover the geology of McHenry County," Iverson said. 


Helpful Resources:


Opening image: Eurypterus, a common Upper Silurian eurypteid, by Obsidian Soul. 


Animal Mandalas in Woodstock

04 December 2014
Published in People

Woodstock author and artist Wendy Piersall brings the beautiful, intricate creatures of her new book "Coloring Animal Mandalas” to life at Read Between the Lynes on December 6. You can color these pieces of art during the afternoon book signing and meet and greet. 


wendy-piersall-headshotMeet “Coloring Animal Mandalas” author Wendy Piersall from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Read Between the Lynes on the Woodstock Square and experience the relaxing art of mandalas while you’re there. “I will have an area set up at with plenty of colored pencils, pencil sharpeners and printouts from 'Coloring Animal Mandalas’,” Piersall said. 


Piersall, a Woodstock resident, has been drawing these circular, spiritual animal patterns since 2009. When her publisher, Ulysses Press, asked her to create a book dedicated to animal mandalas, she jumped at the chance. ‘Coloring Animal Mandalas’ was released in September 2014. 


The book is perfect for tweens, teens and adults. “You don't have to be artistic to enjoy or be good at coloring – all you need is an interest in the process," she explained. “Coloring as an adult is very relaxing and almost meditative. So the process of coloring is just as important as the finished product.” 



 "Coloring Animal Mandalas" was published this fall, with a flower mandalas book due next summer. 


An Artistic Journey

The book is a full-circle, “deeply gratifying” journey for Piersall. With 20 years’ experience in graphic design, she took a break from illustration 10 years ago after experiencing burnout. “It is a personal triumph for me to be able to not only get back to doing artwork again, but also to have the opportunity to work with a national publisher,” she said of her Berkley, Calif., publishing house. “I feel so blessed and honored to be able to do illustration work at all, but to have so many people enjoy my work is the icing on a very rich cake.”


Her artistic process for publication includes drawing in Adobe Illustrator. “I think my world record for fastest mandala drawn was 10 minutes,” she recalled. “Sometimes I get lucky and can make something beautiful with little tricks in the software. But that's very rare. Usually, the mandalas take between two to six hours to draw each. They take about the same amount of time – sometimes more – to color them.”


Recently, Piersall has gone back to working with paper with paint, pens and pencils. “I've always loved the feeling of having the utensils in my hands and how colors lay down onto paper,” she explained. “It always helps my creativity to break away from the screen and do art for the sake of art. I am able to capture a little of this process on my computer by using a drawing tablet, which is like an electronic pen and paper. I honestly don't think I could function as an artist without it.” 



Piersall suggests using colored pencils or fine-tip markers to color the mandalas. 


Mandalas and More

Look for “Coloring Flower Mandalas” from the Piersall-Ulysses team next summer.


She's also trying her hand at illustrating a friend's children's book. “[The book] is going to take a lot of extra work on my part because I don't have a lot of experience drawing people or scenes," she said. "So I am taking a few months to dive into some self-training so that I can work on that with her next spring.” 


Keep up with Piersall’s works in progress via Instagram, her blog and on YouTube



Creativity blooms in Piersall's studio-office at her home in Woodstock. 


Loving Life in McHenry County

Piersall and her husband and children moved to Woodstock from DuPage County just over a year ago. “We were very drawn to Woodstock and have absolutely fallen in love with everything about the area,” she said. “It’s not just the incredible scenery and beautiful historical architecture that we love – and we love that a lot. 


“The people up here are amazing,” she added. “There seems to be a thriving creative community all over McHenry County and it absolutely feeds my artistic side to be a part of it all. We had always dreamed of having a house on a lake somewhere, but now that we're in Woodstock, I honestly don't think we would ever want to live anywhere else.” 


She’s excited to be hosting the book signing and mandala coloring workshop at Ready Between the Lynes – “a great indie bookstore that loves to support local authors like me,” she said. 


“Plus it's on the Woodstock Square during the Christmas season,” she added. “In addition to all of the great shops, Woodstock also has free horse-drawn carriage rides this weekend. What's not to love about all of that?”

Amber’s Art Place at the Dole

11 November 2014
Published in Places


Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 6.27.14 PMAmbers Art Place: Art from the Heart


Amber’s Art Place brings owner Amber Larsens vision full circle to operate an all-ages space in Crystal Lake where fine arts flourish. Art is an integral part of our daily lives it is all around us and offers real meaning to life,she explained. 


Opened in October 2014 in the historic Dole Mansion, Ambers Art Place is a natural next step in Larsens journey as an artist and educator. 


She spent 20 years teaching art in District 47, then in 2008, founded Creative Artistry Fine Art School, located in a cottage behind the Dole. For six years, she built enrollment, classes, staff and scholarships. But growth meant less time for instruction. She longed to return to her roots and focus on fine arts education. The timing was perfect to open her own studio. 


DSC 0009

Ambers Art Place is a reflection of Amber Larsens years as an educator and passion for fine arts.


Fine Art and Fun

Ambers Art Place, located on the third floor of the Dole, is a reflection of Larsens years as an educator and passion for fine arts. It offers classes for every age, every skill level and every budget. Classes include Young Art (4-8), Youth Art (8-17) and Adult Art. 


Larsen also hosts special events like Adult Paint & Pour parties, art parties for children, Christmas Elf Workshop, workshops during holiday breaks, as well as summer art camps.


In conjunction with the Donna Vestal Foundation, Ambers Art Place offers 12 full-year scholarships for children ages 5-17 based on artistic merit and financial need. Our goal is to offer fine art instruction for all children,she said.



Amber's Art Place offers classes for every age, skill level and budget. 


Beyond the Studio

Larsen said its important to engage children at an early age because art is essential in human development. Art teaches creative and critical thinking skills, fine motor skills, problem solving and freedom of expression, and builds self-esteem,she said. 


And because she believes art also resides outside of her studios four walls, she offers students plein air (outdoor) art experiences, art field trips and visits to other artist studios. McHenry County is so inspiring I see art everywhere here,she said.



Amber's Art Place occupies studios 301-303 at Lakeside Legacy Arts Park (third floor, far right). 


Arts-Centric Community

Larsen, a Wilmington, Ohio, native, has found a good fit in Crystal Lake, where she, her husband and two children have lived since 1992. The community has been very supportive of the arts – they really believe in it,she said. Seeing people rally to save the Dole [in 2002] made me want to get involved.

She looks forward to partnering with fellow artist of all disciplines in the Dole/Lakeside Legacy building.



Dole Mansion, 401 Country Club Road, 3rd Floor, Crystal Lake

Call: 815.404.6520

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



More Photos: MCL Photo Gallery 

The Food Shed Co-op: Your Store

09 November 2014
Published in Food & Spirits

The Food Shed Co-op – a local grocery store where consumers are owners and decision makers – is gaining momentum in McHenry County. Learn about the perks of ownership, progress that's been made and what is still needed to break ground on the store. 


iqMmiLaltOcM0AGa7VOlkKJcTUUAVBHJkJ9YwP3lVtwIt’s only a matter of time – as well as members and cash – before The Food Shed Co-op grocery store opens its doors in McHenry County. With more than 130 owners and a rate of five to 10 new owners weekly, The Food Shed is gaining momentum every day. This news is much to the delight of folks wanting to spend their dollars on healthier, fresher, locally sourced food that is produced ethically on farms close to home. 


The Food Shed is a small part of a large global food movement and one of many cooperatives that have opened in the United States recently. Think of a food co-op as a year-round farmers market where quality control and decision-making is in the hands of consumers instead of corporations. 


So how does it work? The food cooperative model is a community-owned grocery store that will operate according to the 7 Cooperative Principals and according to what its owners want.


Two shares of stock ($100 per share) must be purchased to become an owner. Owners have a stake in what is stocked on the shelves of the Food Shed Co-op when it opens.


Making Progress

The Food Shed has made great strides in fewer than two years since a dozen residents met to discuss a community-owned grocery store. In October 2014 alone, the owners elected their first board of directors and won a $20,350 grant from the USDA to fund a feasibility/market study, which will help determine store size and exact location within McHenry County. Woodstock and Crystal Lake are being considered. 


Market study results – along with a financial analysis The Food Shed expects to have completed by the end of this year or very early next year – will provide the data to make educated decisions on narrowing down the location, how large the store should be, how much money we need to raise and number of owners needed.


The Food Shed’s goal of 215 owners by the start of 2015 is looking good. And once that goal is reached, there will be a new one until it reaches the 800 to 1000 members generally needed to get a store underway. The $1 million to $1.5 million needed to build a store comes from owner equity loans, grants, etc. It’s an exciting time for McHenry County consumers longing for control over their food choices. 



Volunteers like Ryan and Katrina Ellison (at the McHenry County Fair) are needed to help spread the word about The Food Shed Co-op.  


Bigger Picture of Co-ops

I’m involved with The Food Shed Co-Op because business as usual in regard to the environment, our food supply and consumption in general is neither sustainable nor desirable. Food co-ops like The Food Shed, on the other hand, provide the following benefits:


-A channel to take our global thoughts, joys and concerns and put them into action locally. 


-A way for families and individuals to shop for the food we need and leave a smaller footprint on the planet, compared to where we buy food now. 


-A vehicle to understanding the climate and social impacts of the foods we choose to put into our baskets.


-A way to connect communities in our increasingly disconnected world. For example, some envision the Food Shed as a destination for education (e.g., cooking classes) and a space for music, community events and group meetings. The possibilities are endless, which is why new members and volunteers are so important – to continue adding to the dialogue as we grow and eventually break ground. We hope you join us! 


For more, like The Food Shed Co-op on Facebook, call 815.315.1541 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


SCOTTScott Brix is a member of the board of directors of The Food Shed Co-op. He owns Wildzyme Bioproducts Inc., a Woodstock company that provides technical service and bulk sales of industrial enzymes and probiotics for food, beverage and nutrition applications. He lives in rural Marengo.

Local Craft Brewery Takeover

14 October 2014
Published in Food & Spirits

The McHenry County craft beer scene is flourishing, and this new crop of brewmasters is excited to share these uniquely local beers with you.

Photography and story by Rich Hacker

McHenry County is known for great food, festive gatherings and a well-centered sense of community. What better than a good, local craft beer with which to pair that reputation? With a recent surge of exceptional craft breweries in McHenry County, this pairing is an exciting reality. Enjoy the following tour of our local craft breweries and be sure to carve out some time to pay them a visit and taste for yourself:  



Wild Onion Brewing/The Onion Pub, Lake Barrington

  • What to expect: This brewpub-turned-production brewery, owned by brothers Mike and John Kainz, focuses on making great seasonal beer, giving back to the community and reducing its carbon footprint by using sustainable materials.
  • Known for: Hop Slayer, a double India Pale Ale (IPA), is the brewery’s biggest seller, and a hophead’s dream. Other favorites include the wet-hopped Otis IPA made with hops grown on site and the Drago Russian Imperial Stout, aged nine months in retired whiskey barrels (photo).
  • While you’re there: Enjoy a meal at the restaurant, bring home a growler, book a brewery tour or plan your next special event at the banquet space.


Chain O’Lakes Brewing, Downtown McHenry

  • What to expect: This brewpub and taproom owned by Curt (photo) and Linda Ames has no televisions so good conversations can flow freely, and although there is no food, patrons are welcome to bring in their own orders or have food delivered.
  • Known for: The brewery boasts: "Good beer, made here at McHenry County’s first brewery.” The most popular beers include Fox River Scotch Ale and COL’s IPA. They are bigger batch beers and are permanently on tap. Every Friday, new small batch beers (30 gallons) are delivered from tank to tap and are available until gone.
  • Meant to be: “When I was in the military, I told far too many people that I was going to open a brewery when I retired, so I pretty much had to,” Curt Ames explained.



Scorched Earth Brewing, Algonquin

  • What to expect: This production brewery also offers a homey taproom for tasting and gatherings. Although the brewery does not serve food, it occasionally collaborates with food trucks, giving patrons easy access to a meal.
  • Known for: Owner and former home brewer Mike Dallas says that he would rather be known for high-quality products than be known for one flagship beer. Head brewer, Dan Payson, describes the products as “soul beers’ – things we’re all familiar with, with a new twist.” He uses traditional methods paired with locally sourced ingredients to produce traditional-style beers.
  • Connection to nature: The name “Scorched Earth” comes from the rebirth of the native prairies in Illinois after a fire.



Crystal Lake Brewing, Downtown Crystal Lake

  • What to expect: A production brewery and taproom (photo) that invites patrons to bring their own food or order delivery.
  • Known for: Owned by John O'Fallon and Chuck Ross, Crystal Lake Brewing boasts three flagship beers. First, Slalom King Rye IPA, features a big hop aroma and firm, but not harsh, bitterness, finishing with a terrific spicy note. Second, Wake Maker Pale Ale, is a traditional American-style pale with a bold citrus hop flavor and aroma. Third, Beach Blonde American Wheat Ale, is a balanced, light ale that people new to craft beer will find very approachable.
  • Coming to a pub near you: With a dream to be served in every restaurant in McHenry County, O'Fallon says you’ll soon find Crystal Lake Brewing beers on tap at local restaurants and pubs.


Cary Ale House & Brewing Co., Downtown Cary

  • What to expect: A brewery/alehouse and restaurant opening in late November.
  • Known for: Dustin Davies, the head brewmaster and co-owner, said plans for Cary Ale House & Brewing Co. include a full-service bar stocked with wine, liquor and, of course, beer – not only their own, but other local beers. They intend to have a few staple beers on tap at all times, as well as rotating seasonal craft beers on tap at different times throughout the year. The alehouse will also feature a full menu of classic pub favorites, plus regular live music.
  • In with the new: Cary Ale House & Brewing Co. will be housed in the site of the old Cary Public House, creating a new, community-oriented downtown destination.


View MCL's Facebook gallery for more local brewery photos. 


Ride of the Zombies

21 September 2014
Published in Places

Helmet? Check. Kneepads? Check. Air in the tires? Check. Zombie preparedness kit? Check! Join area families for Ride of the Zombies – a bike ride and fun fair – Sunday in Woodstock to raise awareness for children’s sleeping disorders. 


You still have some time to prepare for Sunday, when the biters, the roamers, the walkers ­– the zombies – descend upon Grandpa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Woodstock. Who knows, maybe you will be one of them!

It’s all for fun and a good cause starting at 8 a.m. during Ride of the Zombies, a 25/50-mile charity bike ride through rural Woodstock, and then back to the farm for a fun fair until 4 p.m. There is an excellent Groupon available for riders. 

Sponsored by The Bike Connection of Schaumburg and Children’s Sleep Advocacy Foundation, the inaugural event brings awareness to the link between sleeping disorders and behavioral disorders in children. Proceeds will go to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago’s Sleep Medicine Department.

Braaains, Bike Rides and More

There are so many exciting attractions to look forward to during Ride of the Zombies, including the following:

* Games and prizes.

* Food and beverage vendors.

* Entertainment, including improv by Theatre on the Green, a mime, magic show, a face painter, Bubble Wonders, story time and a closing set by Crystal Lake band Stolen Airplane.

* Silent auction, giveaways, raffles and more.

Everyone is encouraged to dress up like zombies for the event. Prizes will be given to the best kids’ and adults’ costumes to be judged by Fantasy Festival Costume/Magic Centre of Algonquin.

You need not ride (or dress up) to enjoy the fun fair, though – come as you are! And although it’s free to enter, donations are greatly appreciated. 

Finding Connor

The Deegan family of Woodstock (pictured), particularly son Connor (left), was the impetus behind Ride of the Zombies. “In 2011, at the peak of Connor’s behavior issues, we began our journey for answers,” said Valerie Deegan, Connor’s mom and event organizer. “After having his sleep evaluated, we discovered airway restriction was having a major negative impact on his behavior.”

Earlier this year, the family began planning Ride of the Zombies as a way to pay forward the excellent service provided by the team that helped Connor, including Dr. Darius Loghmanee at Lurie Children's Sleep Medicine Department, in conjunction with Dr. Kevin Boyd, DDS at Dentistry for Children and Families.

“They gave Connor a new lease on life,” she explained. “We believe no child should suffer through a treatable disorder, so Ride of the Zombies is a great way to get the word out.”

Those wishing to volunteer can register here. If you are unable to attend, but would like to donate, you may do so here. Be sure to "like" Ride of the Zombies on Faceook for updates. 



Oktoberfest in McHenry County

28 September 2014
Published in Food & Spirits

Photo: Dan Wiegel

You need not travel to Munich to celebrate the beer, food, fun and tradition of Oktoberfest – McHenry County has you covered! Dirndl and lederhosen are optional! 


September, Fridays and Saturdays

Oktoberfest at Checker’s II, Union

Traditional German music and beer, as well as authentic German schnitzels and wursts under a big tent. TALISMAN and Freddy and Lorrie entertain.


September 7

Saufen und Spiel, Johnsburg Community Club

German for “drink and play,” this annual event features a parade, raffles, games, food, rides, music and more.


September 11

Stein Hoist at Nick's Pizza & Pub, Crystal Lake 

Nick’s is hosting Samuel Adams Brewery Co's 'Stein Hoist' from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. – test your strength in a competition to hold a 33-ounce mug of Octoberfest beer for prizes and even a trip to Germany for Octoberfest next year!

September 12-13

Woodstock Oktoberfest, Emricson Park, Woodstock WaterWorks

German food, beer and wine, live music, polka dancing, stein endurance contest, cornhole, face painting and bouncy house. Proceeds support The Rotary Club of Woodstock and the Woodstock Mozart Festival.


September 16-21

Oktoberfest, Cafe 20, Marengo

Seven days of authentic celebration with live music and German food, including bratwurst, jaeger schnitzel, Bavarian pretzels and roast chicken.


September 17-20

Crystal Lake Rib House Oktoberfest 

Live Oompa band, AYCE German buffet, Sam Adams Octoberfest beer, stein-holding contest, dirndl and lederhosen contest and more. 


September 20

Octoberfest, Chain O’Lakes Brewing Company, McHenry

Bands, craft beer (Marzen Oktoberfest Beer release), family games and more! 


September 26-27

Rauetoberfest, Raue Center For The Arts, Crystal Lake

Inaugural Oktoberfest with traditional food, music and Kinder-fest (activities for kids). Enjoy live music from  Modern Day Romeos Friday night and Die Musikmeisters Saturday night, plus others. There will be a beer garden tent at University Center (100 S. Main St.).


September 26-28


Oartoberfest at Broken Oar in Port Barrington features German food, fun, Bears tickets contest and the best local music.  


October 11

Benton Street Oktoberfest

Bags, Oktoberfest cups for purchase, MIss Oktoberfest Contest, live music and more featuring PourHouse, D.C. Cobb's, The Cabin and Town Tap.


October 24

McHenry Sunrise Rotary’s Oktoberfest, McHenry VFW Post #4600

Admission includes a commemorative event mug on a lanyard, one free sausage with fresh chips provided by the VFW, and unlimited sampling during the event. Raffles and other fundraising activities will be available. Proceeds will benefit the charitable giving of the McHenry Sunrise Rotary Club.

Did we miss any local Oktoberfests? Let us know: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Fall Fests & Fun on the Farm

28 September 2014
Published in Places



Photo: Dan Wiegel


Fall Family Fest, Cary – FREE for adults

September 6

Pony rides, petting zoo, pumpkins, hay rides, face painting and more. MCL is a proud sponsor and will see you there! 


Harvest Fest & Fair on the Square, Woodstock Square – FREE

September 21

Harvest Fest and Fair in the Square is a free, family-friendly event to be held on the Woodstock Square, rain or shine.


County Meadows, Veteran's Memorial Park, McHenry

September 21

The show will feature crafts, a farmers market, a small vendor fair and wine tasting.


Huntley Fall Fest, Deicke Park – admission on Saturday night only

September 26-28

Food, mainstage music, carnival, kids' workshop, scarecrow contest and more. 


Johnny Appleseed Festival  – FREE

September 27

Crystal Lake's largest one-day event which brings families and the community together to celebrate fall with music, demonstrations, craft fair, farmers market and the Great Ball Race. MCL is a proud sponsor and will see you there! 


Antique Tractor Show and Plow Day, Von Bergen's Country Market, Hebron

September 27

Annual antique tractor show and plow day, customer appreciation, pony rides, wagon rides, pumpkins, sweet corn, music and more. 


Cary Main Street Fest – FREE

September 27-28

The inaugural Cary Main Street Fest in downtown Cary will be an outdoor fall festival will feature local restaurants and businesses, a marketplace of vendors and artists, live entertainment and a children's area to celebrate all that Cary has to offer.


Ride of the Zombies – FREE fun fair

September 28

Inaugural family bicycle ride and family fun fair at Grandpa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Woodstock to bring awareness to the link between sleeping disorders and behavioral disorders in children. Proceeds will go to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago’s Sleep Medicine Department. MCL is a proud sponsor and will see you there! .


Cider Festival FREE

October 5

Cider Festival features musical entertainment by Charlie B and Friends, harvest demonstrations,horseshoe tournament, apple bake-off contest, bake sale, kettle corn and white elephant sale. The museum, Gannon 1843 log cabin and 1895 West Harmony one-room school are also open free all day.


Marengo Settlers' Days – FREE

October 9-13

Marengo Settlers Days will feature a carnival, parade, music, food, beer tent, baby contest, competitions and entertainment for the whole family.


Fall Fun at Volo Auto Museum

Weekends in October

Free hayrides and maze every weekend in October, plus the following “ghoulish” anniversary events: Meet Svengoolie: Celebrating 35 Years (October 4); 30 Years of Ghostbusters (October 11); 35 Years of Alien (October 18); 50 Years of The Munsters (October 25-26). 


Autumn Drive, Rural Marengo and Woodstock – FREE

October 17-19

Sixteen family farms in rural Marengo and Woodstock open to the public with antiques, arts, crafts, pumpkins and many surprises to discover along the way. MLC is a proud sponsor and will see you there! 


Terror on the Railroad, Union

Fridays and Saturdays in October

Terror on the Railroad at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union invites you to experience a haunted Halloween train if you dare!


The Haunted Square, Woodstock Square

Weekends in October

A yearly Halloween celebration of scares on the Square with Madness Manor, a giant, terrifying and interactive haunted house open weekend nights – exact operating hours, pricing and additional date information available soon. 



All SeasonsWoodstock – U-pick apples and pumpkins, corn maze, petting zoo, hayrides, bakery, market and Country Kitchen.


Cody’s Pumpkin Festival, Marengo – Homegrown fruit and vegetables, U-pick pumpkins, corn maze, corn tunnel, hayrides, barrel rides, tractor track and food/beverage.


Harms Farm & Garden Center Fall Harvest, McHenry – Pumpkins, squash, gourds, Indian corn, firewood, apples/cider, pumpkin train, corn maze, animal zoo, Nessie’s Nest and haunted walk.


Red Barn Farm MarketWoodstock – Corn mazes, a spooky house for children, farm animals, Mom's Kitchen, whimsical pumpkin figures, squash, gourds, potatoes, popcorn, pumpkins, entertainment and children’s activities.


Richardson Adventure FarmSpring Grove  – World’s largest corn maze, zip line ride, pumpkins, kids’ play area, wagon rides, ORBiting, food/beverage and picnic areas.


Royal Oak Farm Market AppleFest and PumpkinFestHarvard – Giant and ornamental pumpkins and gourds, hayrides, the Royal Oak Express, petting zoo, carousel, playhouses, Country Kitchen, apple barn and bakery.


Stade's Farm and Market Shades of AutumnMcHenry – Fun house, corn maze, barrel train, combine rides, hayrides to the pumpkin field, cattle trailer maze, petting zoo, pumpkin cannon and free live entertainment.


Tom's Farm Market,  Huntley – Pumpkins, pony rides, face painting, farm animals, corn maze, homemade fudge, baked goods and Tom's Country Café.


Von Bergen's Country MarketHebron – Pumpkins, farm animals, squash, gourds, Indian corn, mums, a corn maze, children's maze, pumpkin barrel ride, craft corner, seasonal vegetables, jams and honey.

Page 1 of 11