Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in McHenry, IL

  • Published 2023/03/24

McHenry County, Illinois, is surrounded by natural waterways and lakes.

It has a long history as a central agricultural and recreational hub.

The Fox River, various lakes, and its proximity to Chicago made it a popular vacation spot in the 1920s.

Recent decades have seen substantial development and urbanization, but the county’s western parts are still largely rural and agricultural.

McHenry is ideal for starting or growing a family.

McHenry has a lot of attractions; you can pick between rural areas and riverside settings.

Here are the best things to do in McHenry, Illinois:

Go Boating at Moraine Hills State Park

Marsh land at Moraine Hills State Park

Brian Woolman /

Northeast Illinois has a beautiful recreational paradise called Moraine Hills State Park.

Moraine Hills State Park is located in a picturesque area of Illinois, three miles south of McHenry.

It is a popular destination for outdoor adventure and educational experiences.

Marshes and lakes comprise more than half of the park’s 2,200 acres.

Birds at Moraine Hills State Park

Wildnerdpix /

There are various opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hunting, hiking, boating, fishing, and picnics.

In addition, there are almost ten miles of trails where you may see various plants and animals.

The park runs along the eastern bank of the Fox River and overlooks the McHenry Lock and Dam.

Trail covered with snow at Moraine Hills State Park

Wildnerdpix /

The river is popular with photographers, birdwatchers, eagle watchers, and anglers.

Lake Defiance, a 48-acre body of water in the park’s center, is one of the few glacial lakes in Illinois left in a relatively calm, near-natural state.

The park is located at S River Rd, McHenry, Illinois.

Beautiful flowers at Moraine Hills State Park

Martha Marks /

Catch the Latest Flick at McHenry Outdoor Theater

If you’re looking for retro entertainment, check out McHenry Outdoor Theater, one of Illinois’s last proper drive-in theaters.

McHenry Outdoor Theater is a classic drive-in that shows new releases and has a picnic area, a playground, and food and drinks stalls.

The McHenry Outdoor Theater is open from June to October.

Bring the kids and head off to the theater, where you can see two films for the price of one.

Nothing is more quintessentially American than a night under the stars to see a blockbuster.

You can rent a radio from the theater’s box office or tune your car radio into the same FM channel to listen to the movie.

In addition, you can get burgers, hotdogs, pizza, hot pretzels, nachos, and ice cream from the concession stand.

They are located at Chapel Hill Rd, McHenry, Illinois.

Play Golf at Chapel Hill Country Club

Chapel Hill Country Club provides golfers with breathtaking views and a competitive course.

The course’s 18 holes carry golfers over gently undulating terrain, past groves of towering trees, and around tricky, compact greens.

The course boasts one of the most tranquil locations in Mchenry County.

Since its opening in 1969, Chapel Hill Country Club has been a favorite among golfers in the area.

This par-70 course is 6,103 yards long.

The enormously long par five at hole 17 is a popular spot for golfers looking for a thrilling test of their skills.

Chapel Hill Country Club takes great pride in its outstanding golf, facilities and attentive and friendly service.

Enjoy a round of golf with your friends when you visit McHenry.

The course is located at N Chapel Hill Rd, Mchenry, Illinois.

Catch Fish at West Beach Park

McHenry is home to West Beach Park, a 1.4-acre park at the southern tip of McCullom Lake.

West Beach Park is accessible through Shore Drive and offers fishing, a playground, parking, and a picnic area.

It has a beautiful lakeside setting with plenty of seating options.

It’s a fantastic spot for a family fishing trip.

West Beach Park has a great view of McCullom Lake.

This 244-acre lake in northeastern Illinois is only about four feet deep on average and nine feet deep at its deepest point.

Many minor parks, notably West Bech Park, provide shoreline access.

McCullom Lake has substantial largemouth bass and channel catfish population.

Hundreds of tiny yellow bass and perch are also present.

The lake is usually suitable for fishing, but the summer and fall seasons can be challenging due to the abundance of aquatic vegetation.

Join the Fun at Twisted Limits Escape Rooms

Twisted Limits Escape Rooms is the place to go if you want to do something different and fun with your pals.

Twisted Limits Escape Rooms offers fun and intriguing escape rooms.

The goal of an escape room is for a group of people to work together to solve a series of puzzles and escape the room within the time limit.

The atmosphere is tense but fun, and there is nowhere to hide until the mystery is solved.

You have 60 minutes to complete the challenges in a room filled with hints, puzzles, and intriguing stories in Twisted Limits.

You can pick from three experiences in groups of two to eight people.

Join the fun at W Elm St, McHenry, Illinois.

Stroll along the McHenry Riverwalk

Pathway at McHenry Riverwalk

Dwatling98, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The McHenry Riverwalk connects the various areas of downtown McHenry along Boone Creek, from Green Street to Riverside Drive and the Fox River.

McHenry Riverwalk is a pedestrian and bike path that runs along the river and connects the city’s riverside restaurants, bars, and nightlife hotspots.

Take in the picturesque scenery and stop by some shops along the riverwalk.

There are many great things to do in the Riverwalk area, including eating at one of the many fine dining restaurants, taking a stroll along the river, and watching a movie.

Experience some of McHenry’s vibrant nightlife by walking down the riverfront.

It is located at North Green Street, McHenry, Illinois.

Hit the Target at Twisted Limits Axe Throwing Lounge

Prepare your battle axe for an exciting throwing game at McHenry’s Twisted Limits Axe Throwing Lounge.

Located on N. Richmond Road, McHenry, Illinois, Twisted Limits Axe Throwing Lounge features 12 lanes featuring digitally projected end grain board targets.

Players will be charged based on their time in the lounge, which ranges from 60 to 90 minutes to two hours.

The axe-throwing game is suggested for participants aged 18 and over.

However, a darts game is available for younger players.

They use a Collins 1.25-pound single-bit hunting axe with a 14-inch wood handle.

The 36× 36-inch digitally projected target boards are made of end-grain wood blocks.

There’s no need to fear.

Everyone receives a thorough safety briefing and learns proper axe-throwing technique before picking up an axe.

The lounge works hard to ensure the safety of all operations by adhering to rigorous procedures.

Kayak with Friends at Petersen Park Beach

Petersen Park Beach is located on the east side of the large McCullom Lake.

Summers in McHenry may get hot, so take frequent breaks to cool down.

With its crystal clear lake water, Petersen Park Beach is ideal for cooling off on a hot day.

If you don’t like swimming, you may rent a boat or kayak.

Petersen Park Beach features a designated swimming area, a 5+ WiBit Inflatable Variant, a shaded beach area, canoes, kayaks, power paddlers, and more.

Boat rentals are also available when the temperature rises above 68 degrees.

There is also an expansive grassy space, picnic tables, a sand volleyball field, and a playground for the kids.

Non-residents must pay a very nominal fee to enter the beach.

Visit the beach at Petersen Park Rd McHenry, Illinois.

Enjoy Nature at the Stickney Run Conservation Area

McHenry County Conservation District oversees the 568-acre Stickney Run Conservation Area, a haven for numerous species of flora and fauna.

The conservation area is home to several native bird species, including jays, herons, woodpeckers, and hawks.

This area was formerly home to a flourishing apple orchard.

Eleven varieties of apples are picked throughout the year and kept in cool, dry storage rooms.

The Mosgrove Cemetery, which dates back to the middle of the 1800s, is one of Stickney Run Conservation Area’s most exciting features.

The family of John and Jane Mosgrove are buried in their private pioneer cemetery, as indicated by the tall central stone.

However, many unmarked graves are in the cemetery.

Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and reconnect with nature.

A short boardwalk leads to a charming area in the marsh.

Stickney Run Conservation Area is at State Park Rd, McHenry, Illinois.

Watch the Boats at Stratton Lock and Dam

View of Stratton Lock and Dam

Martha Marks /

Stratton Lock and Dam connects the Fox River in northern Illinois to the Fox Chain of Lakes.

Stratton Dam’s gates were completed in 1939, while the boat lock was built in 1960.

Its Fish Tales Concessions sells food and drinks and rents out bikes and boats for anglers.

The Stratton Lock and Dam sees an average of about 17,000 boats during the boating season.

You can relax and watch the boats sail past on a beautiful day.

Enjoy the dam from the comfort of the observation deck, rows of chairs, and picnic tables on the east side.

You can find them at State Park Rd., McHenry, Illinois.

Have a Picnic at Veteran’s Memorial Park

Veteran’s Memorial Park is near the Fox River and features a row of war memorials.

A great picnic spot in the park often buzzes with young people and their families.

It has a clean and modern restroom, a spacious gazebo, swings, and a modern playset for kids.

Veteran’s Memorial Park hosts the famous Pearl Street Market on Thursday evenings throughout the summer.

In addition to the market, there will be a series of free concerts in the park’s central pavilion.

Their picnic shelter can be rented for parties and other events.

Kids will enjoy the playground near the north end of Broad Street.

The park is located at Pearl St, McHenry, Illinois.

Take a Hike at Knox Park

McHenry is home to Knox Park, a public green space that spans 34 acres.

Enjoy a relaxing hike at Knox Park’s 2.1-mile trail with an elevation gain of around 167.3 feet.

The park has a skate park, softball fields, soccer fields, a tennis court, and a swimming pool.

It’s a beautiful place to take the family on these lovely summer days.

Let your kids enjoy their stay in the playground.

The pool is well-maintained, features diving boards, and is supervised by friendly and efficient lifeguards.

You will love the fabulous pavilions and tree-lined picnic areas.

Knox Park is located at 201 S. Green St., McHenry, Illinois.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Catch Fish at Chain O’ Lakes State Park

Motor boats at Chain O' Lakes State Park

Martha Marks /

Chain O’ Lakes State Park is a small boater’s heaven with its nine interconnected lakes.

Bring your kayak along for a relaxing paddle across the lake.

The Chain O’Lakes is a popular fishing destination due to its abundance of valuable fish species like bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, catfish, walleye, and more.

Chain O’ Lakes State Park was established in 1945, spanning McHenry and Lake counties in northeastern Illinois.

There are also four trail networks and seven picnic spots in the park.

Sand cranes at Chain O' Lakes State Park

Martha Marks /

You can spend the night in a family cabin on a hillside surrounded by trees and fantastic forest views.

In addition, you should check out the Stanley Schoolhouse, a historic one-room schoolhouse, a nature center, a beach, a campsite, and picnic shelters.

Visit them at Wilmot Rd, Spring Grove, Illinois, 25 minutes from McHenry.

Play More Golf at Woodstock Country Club

Woodstock Country club features one of the best nine-hole golf courses in the United States.

Founded in 1916, Woodstock Country Club in McHenry County has continuously served its members for over a century.

Woodstock Country Club’s golf course is a terrific option for members.

It is a relatively short but challenging course.

The club’s golf course was designed by Thomas Bendelow, one of the best golf course designers in the United States.

Woodstock Country Club is the place for a memorable lunch or dinner.

They are located at Country Club Rd, Bull Valley, Illinois, 15 minutes from McHenry.

Explore the Volo Auto Museum

The Volo Museum has a world-famous collection of cars, planes, trains, and boats from Hollywood.

Built on the site of an 1800s farm, the world-famous Volo Museum is home to many of the farm’s original structures and 60 acres of land filled with extraordinary treasures.

In 1960, it opened as a showroom for hundreds of classic and collector automobiles that rotated regularly.

It features 45 displays and 10,000 mechanical wonders for visitors of all ages.

In addition, they’ve just introduced some fantastic new attractions, such as Jurassic Gardens, the Titanic Experience, the Fast & Furious Collection, the Ford vs. Ferrari Display, and more.

There are also over 300 antique sellers and a large military museum, a crime museum, a torture museum, Disney exhibits, and retro arcade games.

The museum is located at Volo Village Rd, Volo, Illinois, 12 minutes from McHenry.

Final Thoughts

McHenry’s rural charm and natural surroundings are its best features.

You can also stroll along its historic downtown and enjoy the area’s charm.

Enjoy the best things to do in McHenry, Illinois.

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