Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Marengo, IL

  • Published 2023/05/27

Marengo may not be a popular tourist destination, but it is shaping up to be a quaint little spot.

It is a tiny city in Illinois’ McHenry County. According to the 2020 census, the population is less than 8,000!

Marengo’s former name was Pleasant Grove, after a grove of trees in the town. The name was then changed to the present one in memory of the Battle of Marengo.

It is an essential stop along the U.S. Grant Memorial Highway, an arterial highway that runs from Dubuque to Chicago.

As a result, this small city has tons of hotels, restaurants, and options to entertain people on their journey.

Marengo also offers a couple of things to do that are unique to the place yet exciting!

Learn about the Majestic History of Trains at the Illinois Railway Museum

View of the Illinois Railway Museum

Carlos Yudica /

Illinois Railway Museum is a unique addition to the museum scenario in the United States.

What makes it special are the displays of trains and cars, some of which are in operation. An even more unique thing about the museum is that it is the largest in the U.S.

Train at Illinois Railway Museum

Carlos Yudica /

The location is 10 minutes away from Marengo. But the short trip will be worth it as you can explore steam locomotives, electric cars, and powerful diesel on display. A little education plaque accompanies these locomotives, which are fascinating to read.

Along with these exhibits, you can also ride a selection of historic trains on the museum demonstration railroad. As you can imagine, that is one of the main reasons behind the Illinois Railway Museum’s popularity.

Other facilities include a gift shop, book store, a diner, a children’s playground, and a free-of-cost parking area!

Explore the City’s Best Recreational Space, Marengo Park District

Travel on the Indian Oaks Trail to reach Marengo Park District, the most gorgeous recreation area in the town.

A government agency runs the site, which was specifically designed to maintain the parks and offer fun activities for the people.

It also has a building on-site that acts as a clubhouse and a center for all activities.

These activities are divided into categories based on age; you will find programs for seniors, adults, and children. These include games, leagues, yoga classes, dance workshops, and summer camps for children.

It also offers a few places for rent, such as on-site rooms, a kitchen, soccer and baseball fields, and park shelters.

The Indian Oaks Park, famous for its trails, playgrounds, and disc golf, is on the premises—and available for rental.

Marengo Park District is a precious space of the local community, and it will be your favorite, too, after visiting!

Bowl the Sadness Away at Glo-bowl Fun Center

Glo-bowl Fun Center stays true to its name, as it is a center full of fun!

It stands tall on 101 Franks Road, offering activities like bowling, arcade and adult video games, and dining.

There are as many as 16 bowling lanes, with the center allowing 6 people per lane. The center also serves snacks and drinks, from chicken wings and pizzas to ice cream and soda.

The center also conducts leagues twice a year, which are even more fun than you imagine!

The arcade has a unique selection of games suitable for children and adults. You can also try your luck at the Trio Grill’s video slot machines.

This brings us to Trio Grille, the highlight of the Glo-bowl Fun Center. They offer indoor and outdoor dining—you can sit anywhere to enjoy their delicious food.

With a friendly staff, fun times, and pocket-friendly rates, this place has become a go-to for locals and now tourists too!

Visit Coral Woods Conservation Area to Spend Time with Nature

Coral Woods Conservation Area has historical and environmental significance.

This conservation place is one of the eight oak woodlands in McHenry County that are still standing. As you can see, it is home to the area’s history and ecology.

The area features century-old red and white oaks spread over 770 acres. It also has sugar maple groves, the largest in the County.

The woodlands are open to visitors throughout the year. In spring, the entire place is teeming with wildflowers, while in the autumn, the orange-red-yellow nature gives a picturesque setting to be in.

The area offers three trails: The Sugar Maple Loop, Hiking and Ski Trail, and Nature Loop.

You can go cross-country skiing in winter, have a picnic at the reservable shelter, and go birdwatching.

Coral Woods Conservation Area gives a feeling of mystery and magic you must experience!

Get a Taste of Marengo’s nightlife at Miss Kitty’s Saloon

Miss Kitty’s Saloon is a dive bar where you will see a mix of tourists and locals from neighboring villages.

Don’t be fooled by the exterior of the building—the inside is full of wildness and fun!

The bar is located on E Grant Highway and offers a great alcohol selection, a beer garden, and even games.

Some of these include pool tables, slot machines, and darts and bags. The bar also conducts activities like paint n’ sip, karaoke, and celebrations!

Live music is a frequent affair, with recurring and new bands adding their unique sound to the atmosphere.

Miss Kitty’s Saloon also offers sweatshirts and tank tops displaying their classic cowboy kitty logo.

The blend of stimulating music, excellent cold beers, and friendly bartenders gives you the ultimate bar experience!

Shop for Some Unique Souvenirs at Bulldog Antiques

Ever since its grand opening in 2016, Bulldog Antiques have attracted more than 7000 visitors!

You must be thinking—what’s so special about this shop? It is a place full of antique and eclectic trinkets.

Here, you can find anything, from furniture and kitchen essentials to tools, photographs, and small items.

This collection belongs to Chuck Follett and Don Rose, friends turned business partners. Chuck and his wife love to collect antiques, while Don is one of the Board members of the McHenry County Historical Society.

Their collaboration resulted in Bulldog Antiques, which exhibits a fully customer-oriented service. In fact, they are also willing to find unique items you are searching for.

The shop is not always open; moreover, they are only available through appointments throughout winter. So, if you do want to visit, plan accordingly!

Give your Artistic Side a Voice at Artzilla Studio

Artzilla Studio first started as an online gallery, connecting global artists across the world to promote different art.

The founder, Jacqueline B. Leson, decided to open her first physical location. And the home of her online space to be Marengo.

Along with the usual online presence, it packs a variety of exciting events and activities for the Marengo residents.

You can participate in the art club, let the kids enjoy the studio time segments, and attend art camps.

You can also book a session for you and your toddlers to be creative together. The studio helps enhance this time through DIY projects, painting supplies, and learning toys.

The space is best for planning family outings and friendly hangouts, even if you are not artistic at all. Because, at Artzilla Studio, you will never be judged on how you express your creativity!

Enjoy the Scrumptious Menu of Niko’s Pointers Saloon

Niko’s Pointers Saloon’s tagline is ‘Where Marengo goes for great food’. And the motto couldn’t be more right!

This restaurant was established almost a decade ago and is a top choice even for the nearby cities.

It is family-owned and operated, with the owners, Jimmy and Rose, being hospitable, friendly, and helpful.

The ambiance is rustic and outdoorsy, with a long counter in front of the alcohol display, stuffed animal heads, and dim lights.

The menu is vast, with a variety of appetizers, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and pasta. The drinks selection is just as interesting, featuring cocktails, alcohol on tap, cans, and bottles.

You can try your hand at video gaming, as the restaurant also offers a handful of gaming machines.

There is live entertainment, happy hours, specials, and much more. So, make your way to Niko’s Pointers Saloon for an exciting, food-filled time!

Visit Illinois’ Special Moraines at Marengo Ridge Conservation Area

It’d be a shame to not visit one of the most treasured places of McHenry County—Marengo Ridge Conservation Area!

The site gets its name from the on-site glacial hallmark called Marengo Moraine. It features rocks, sand, and gravel and happens to be one of the steepest moraines in Illinois.

Spread over 800 acres of space, it is the most stunning tapestry of oaks, hickories, spruce, sumac groves, and aspen.

The place is interspersed with many trails of varying distances. The Kelly Hertel Nature Trail lets you walk among the trees and over streams racing to the Kishwaukee River.

Another popular walk is the Long Hiking Loop, which is over a mile long. If you wish to continue the loop, it melts into the Kelly Hertel Nature Trail for a combined hike.

This area is a great choice for winter skiing, group hangouts, private events, and picnics. Most people sought this out for stargazing, for which you get an exclusive campground.

Spend a Relaxing Time with Your Family at All Seasons Orchard

All you have to do is travel a total of 10 minutes of distance to reach this heavenly place—All Seasons Orchard!

Located in Woodstock, this place is an apple orchard, a corn maze, and a pumpkin patch all in one.

The apple orchard has more than 10 varieties of apples growing on over 11,000 trees.

You can also pick pumpkins from the patch, which are free to use for baking and decorating. Another highlight is the Corn Maze, spread over 10 acres of space, with well-made pathways and two bridges.

These pumpkin patches and Corn Maze are part of the Barnyard, a space featuring more than 30 activities. There are many activities here, some of which are bunny village, tube slide, bee observation station, hay maze, and goat bridge.

All Seasons Orchard also offers a few food outlets. You can gobble up a meal at the Country Kitchen or have a quick bite at the Country Concession.

Visiting during the fall festival will also let you experience their exciting farm market!

Test your Golf Skills at Marengo Ridge Golf Club

It was in 1963 when a family of five decided to build a golf course in Marengo.

They transformed an old farm between Harmony Hill Road and U.S. Route 20 into one magnificent golf club. The result was Marengo Ridge Golf Club!

You get to play on two nine-hole golf courses set against a picturesque natural backdrop.

These courses are challenging yet fun, promising an exciting golf experience.

If you want to practice golf, the club has a 20-station practice range and a bunker.

The club offers a Pro Shop, which is a one-stop shop for all things golf.

You can also enjoy sandwiches, snacks, and beverages at the on-site bar & grill.

If you’re a golf person or simply want to try it out, don’t forget to visit Marengo Ridge Golf Club.

Enjoy a Quiet Time and Good Food at Café 20

Tucked away on the E Grant Highway is this warm little food stop named Café 20.

The outside is charming enough to lure you in. How so? Because it is styled like a Norwegian wooden house, painted in pastel shades of white and green.

The inviting appeal oozes from every corner of the café, which features wooden fixtures, glass adornments, and lively flower vases.

Sit down here to gorge on a delicious menu of soups, sandwiches, wood-fired pizzas, seafood, and steak! You can wash it down with beverages such as Coke, tea, coffee, root beer, or juices.

Café 20 is open from Tuesday through Saturday, with Sunday and Monday kept closed for private events.

The owners are active on their Facebook page—you can check the latest news and menu changes to plan your visit accordingly!

Other things to do nearby

Soak in the Local History at Woodstock Square

View of the Woodstock Square

Teemu008 from Palatine, Illinois, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Woodstock, the county seat of McHenry, has a pretty interesting history—something no visitor should miss out on!

You can experience that in the majestic Woodstock Square, located in the downtown area.

It is one of the treasured places listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Only two structures are standing, which is evidence of its history and Victorian architecture. These are the Old McHenry County Courthouse, built in 1857, and the Woodstock Opera House of 1889.

Cafe at Woodstock Square

Cosmo1976, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The courthouse houses an art gallery, restaurants, a pottery shop, and a museum. As for the opera house, it is still a thriving place for performing arts and events.

The square is lined with exciting shops, restaurants, cafés, and businesses. Right in its heart is a big public park featuring gazebos and war memorials.

Woodstock Square also hosts fun events and festivals throughout the year.

So, don’t forget to visit the place for good food, fun shopping, and, if you’re lucky, to attend exciting events!

Get your Adrenaline Pumping at Escape Quest

Escape Quest is where you can escape the world to go on thrilling quests right near Marengo.

The location is Crystal Lake, and it is half an hour away from the city.

Here, you can access two exciting rooms—Tiki Island and Speakeasy. The first quest is set on a mysterious island, while in the next, you are part of a mafia gang!

They have designed the rooms with the utmost care, making them the right amount of difficulty to escape. As a result, visitors only have good things to say about this establishment!

These rooms allow 4-8 people, meaning you can go with a large group and enjoy!

If you’re alone or just in a small group, you can get paired with other people to fit the requirement. But the mystery is so consuming that it is never awkward.

Enjoy the Peaceful Vibes of Sunset Park

Sunset Park is the best choice if you’re looking for a quaint escape out of Marengo for a day.

The distance is a little over 20 minutes, but the park will make the journey worth it.

Earlier known as Concord Miller Park, it is a place to relax with your friends and family.

The park has many amenities, such as baseball fields, basketball courts, and tennis courts.

It also features an impressive skate park, a playground, as well as a handful of picnic pavilions.

You can also enjoy the seasonal facilities, like the splash pad and ice-skating equipment.

But don’t be fooled by its relaxing vibes; it is also a hot spot for lively events. In fact, Sunset Park is a proud home for events like Summer Sunset Festival and the Rockin’ Rib Festival!

Final Thoughts

From a globally connected art studio to a lively and family-friendly dive bar, Marengo is a town full of surprises!

But what binds these seemingly different attractions is the fun atmosphere and the sense of community unique to the village.

So, if you ever want to stop by a travel spot that feels peaceful and homey, Marengo is the way to go.

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