Menu +
Subscribe to the weekender

Crystal Lake: So Much to Offer

Crystal Lake has the largest population of McHenry County and some of the most active residents.

Sparkling with bright minds and bright ideas, Crystal Lake residents have a passion for fun, knowledge, fashion, business, ecology, history and the future. Good neighbors work together with a sense of civic responsibility and an attitude of cooperation.

Get Out and Play

When it is time for some recreation and relaxation, Crystal Lake is the place to be. The city’s 230-acre namesake lake hosts activities and events throughout the year. Residents and guests swim, boat and fish from several public and private beaches. Sitting on the beach with a cool drink and the sapphire waves sparkling in your sunglasses isn’t the only way to have fun here.

America’s Cardboard Cup Regatta is held on the lake each summer in conjunction with the Lakeside Festival at the Dole Mansion. Area businesses and clubs assemble uniquely designed cardboard boats and race for fun and prizes. This year’s event is scheduled for June 28 at Crystal Lake Main Beach. Visit for more information.

Each year, the Regatta hosts more than 180 cardboard boats and approximately 5,000 spectators. Past entries have included a 700-pound castle, monster trucks, Star Wars Death Star, giant margaritas and more. Participants have come from all over Chicagoland and as far away as Germany, Australia and New Zealand. The creativity of the participants is as amazing as how long each boat will float and how wet the crews will get.

Events Galore

The 2008 Lakeside Festival brings the best of food, art, entertainment and fun to the Dole Mansion’s Lakeside Legacy Arts Park June 26-29. Visit for more information.

The Crystal Lake Gala Festival, which features a fireworks display, food, musical acts and more, will be held at Lippold Park July 3-6. Visit for more information.

Throughout town, parades are held for Memorial Day, Independence Day, Homecoming and winter holidays. The parades draw quite a crowd. For example, The Precision Lawn Chair Marching Dads marched in their first parade here just a few years ago. Now, they have a national presence.

The Johnny Appleseed Festival will be September 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the historic downtown. The celebration of fall draws thousands for a little education and a lot of family fun.

Shop Around

Everything on your shopping list can be found in downtown Crystal Lake. From Crystal Lake Avenue to Gates Street and between Walkup and Main, the charm of a long-ago market can be found. There is Kalck’s Butcher Shop (71 E. Woodstock St., 815-459-0016), Le Petit Marche (19 N. Williams St., 815-477-3296) and Mum Floral and Design (30 N. Williams St., 815-444-6867). Saturdays from June to October a farmers’ market takes place at Depot Park by the Metra train station.

Chic as well as classic clothing and accessories for all ages and sizes can be found in downtown shops. Unique gifts and jewelry can be found at Evolve (54 N. Williams St., 815-444-9905). Or, craft your own look with fabulous fabric from The Fabric Shop (21 N. Williams St., 815-459-2084).

Shabby chic, antique and traditional home décor can also be explored. Wickham Interiors (67 N. Williams St., 815-455-6202) is a great place to start. Also, if you’re feeling creative, O’Reilly’s Stained Glass Co. (58 N. Williams St., 815-444-1797) can help you with your next glass project.

Be sure to visit Heisler’s Bootery on Williams and Brink streets as they celebrate 100 years of business. The Heisler family still owns and operates this thriving, full-service shoe and boot shop.

Economic growth in Crystal Lake is nurtured by a collaborative network. The city, Downtown Crystal Lake and Main Street and the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce work together to promote local business. The “I Shop Crystal Lake” campaign begins in the fall and is designed to inspire the public to spend their time and money at local merchants close to home.

“The public knows the benefits of shopping local are just plain common sense—fuel savings and supporting local economic growth,” says Mayor Aaron Shepley. “However, in Crystal Lake we believe there are added benefits from the diverse products and services to the unique styles and custom creations available. It isn’t just good sense; it is good fun, good products and good services.”

Fine Dining

If shopping isn’t your game, Crystal Lake offers plenty of choices when it comes to dining. Downtown, you can find Georgio’s Chicago Pizzeria (75 E. Woodstock St., 815-459-8888,, some of the best deep dish pizza in the county, Finn McCools (72 N. Williams St., 815-356-1155), a friendly sports bar with great food and great views of the game, and Benedict’s La Strata (40 N. Williams St., 815-459-6500), with fresh, tasty breakfast and lunch dishes.

About town, Pablo’s Mexican Restaurant (230 Virginia Rd., 815-455-7398) serves traditional Mexican fare, The Village Squire (4818 Rt. 14, 815-455-4130) serves Greek-inspired dishes, and The Breakers (7728 Rt. 14, 815-459-9860) creates traditional Cantonese cuisine and Tiki drinks.


Training in the arts is available through many professional schools and programs. Ballet, tap and dance are taught at the Judith Svalander School of Ballet (83 E. Woodstock St., 815-455-2055) and many vocal and instrumental musical groups provide classes, practice, and performance opportunities for amateurs and professionals.

The finest in live theater can be experienced at the newly renovated Raue Center for the Arts (, which features Broadway productions, community theater, music, comedy, magic and two fine art galleries. Historically relevant, the Raue Center facilities feature an intimate 800-seat theater with the best of the past preserved and a state-of-the-art stage.

The Lakeside Legacy Arts Park ( in the Dole Mansion offers classes and studios for various mediums such as audio recording, painting, foreign language and ceramics.

Crystal Lake is also home to many higher-learning institutions. McHenry County College, Columbia College and Webster University offer associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Vocational schools that train for careers in beauty, trucking, IT, healthcare and more are available to provide a quality workforce for the future.

Crystal Lake sparkles with every facet of fine living and fun. These examples are just a drop in the bucket. Explore this wonderful community for yourself and create your own adventures and memories.

©2019 McHenry County Living. All Rights Reserved. | Cary, IL | 815.900.8522 | Site by 82 Birds

back to top