Destination: Downtown McHenry

A helpful daytripper’s guide to exploring our Northwest Chicagoland region.


“Hidden Gem” is a term locals often use to describe McHenry’s historic business district. Behind its rough-and-tumble facade, the area bounded by Green Street and Riverside Drive is coming alive with new businesses and lively events. Located at the juncture of Illinois Routes 31 and 120, and bisected by the Fox River, this area is especially active in spring and summer, as boats flock to its ports on their way to and from the Chain O’Lakes just north of town.

McHenry Riverwalk
Stretching along Boone Creek from Green Street to Riverside Drive, this relaxing public walkway connects busy downtown businesses, private docks and quiet townhomes. Future additions to the trail may stretch to downtown’s northernmost borders.

The Bike Haven
During the warm season, these bike experts lead regular tours around area trails and rent equipment to trail riders. If you’re a serious racer, ask about the competitive Bike Haven Race Team. 3318 Pearl St., (815) 385-4642.

Black Orchid Boutique
Geared toward women of all ages, this boutique sells locally crafted accessories and small quantities by brands like Boo Radley. Ask about hosting a private party here, which may turn into a personal fashion show. 1226 N. Green St., (815) 322-2624.

Reese’s Barkery & Pawtique
Filled with a variety of pet accessories, this independent supply store also hosts dog training classes. 1313 N. Riverside Dr., (815) 363-7297.

Blooms & Rooms
What began as a creative outlet for a longtime florist has become an enclave for local artists. Home decor is on display up front, while the back is filled with materials for regular art lessons and DIY projects. 1245 N. Green St., (779) 704-2943.

Hidden Pearl Cafe
The scents of warm baked goods, European-style coffee and light meals don’t disappoint. The cafe, which welcomes live entertainment and open mic nights, recently hosted an interactive play. 1208 N. Green St., (815) 388-0008.

Chain O’Lakes Brewery
Appropriately located in a former brewery, this new craft producer serves its bold brews every Wednesday through Saturday, and hosts theme nights such as Thursday game night and “Vinyl Tap & Pot Luck” Wednesdays. 3425 Pearl St., (815) 331-8345.

After the Fox
Locals agree that this homey pub serves up one of the best Friday fish Fries; on Mondays, enjoy a $14 steak and lobster dish. Docks are available for hungry boaters. 1406 N. Riverside Dr., (815) 344-3760.

Kiera Confections
Though Chocolate Salted Caramel is its most popular cupcake, there are plenty of other options – a baker’s dozen, in fact. Come summer, the store crafts wedding “cakes” and a new “frosty cake” – cupcakes served with ice cream and sundae toppings. 1114 N. Green St., (815) 385-4372.

Fiesta Days
For nine days straight, McHenry’s biggest summer celebration brings out all of the favorites – live music, carnival rides, 5k/10k run, motorcycle and car shows, ice cream sundaes, a craft fair and a parade. Runs July 10-19. Info: (815) 385-4300

Green Street Cruise Nights
Every Monday night from May through September, Green Street and its parking lots fill with hundreds of classic cars. There’s a different theme each week, such as Buick night, pre-WWII night and Model T night.