When groups want a break from cosmopolitan Chicago, McHenry event venues can be just what they're looking for. Ensconced in the rolling hills northwest of Chicago, 30 communities comprise McHenry County; all of the towns have historic downtowns (including many that are on the Historic Preservation Registry), with quaint antique and specialty shops, restaurants and museums.
The closest airport to McHenry County is Chicago's O'Hare, which is 40 miles away, but Chicago Midway is also less than an hour's drive and Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport is just over an hour's drive.
Two of the largest such districts, in Woodstock and Crystal Lake, have just completed projects to refresh their streetscapes while maintaining the historic ambience. McHenry County also contains more than 20,000 acres of conservation land and abundant water recreation opportunities along the Fox River.
Although there are no central convention venues in McHenry County, some conference center facilities that can host smaller groups include the Concorde Centre in Woodstock, which has meeting rooms to accommodate from 10 to 30 people and a 2,400-square-foot banquet hall that can handle up to 300 theater-style (150 for a sit-down dinner). McHenry County College Conference Center in Crystal Lake has a meeting room that seats 350 in upholstered-tiered seating and four smaller conference rooms. 31 North Banquets & Conference Center has a meeting room for 20 people and can accommodate 120 for a banquet. And at Loyola University Chicago Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock groups of up to 200 can hold a retreat or meeting in facilities (including a high-ropes course) set on 100 acres of prairies, savannas, woodlands and wetlands.
Four hotel venues in McHenry County also cater to meetings. The largest property, the 197-room Holiday Inn Chicago-Crystal Lake Conference Center, completed a renovation last year that included its 20,000 square feet of meeting space and can handle a meeting of up to 1,200 in its ballroom. Smaller gatherings can be staged at the 80-room Country Inn and Suites in Crystal Lake, with 1,815 square feet of meeting space; the 117-room Hampton Inn in McHenry, with 1,560 square feet of meeting space; and the 86-room Holiday Inn Express in Algonquin, which has 650 square feet of meeting space.
Off-site special events can be held in some truly special locations in McHenry County. Fans of the movie "Groundhog Day" will recognize the 400-seat Woodstock Opera House, which stands guard over the brick-paved streets of Historic Woodstock Square. The venue can include a reception or meal event of about 80 in its Stage Left Cafe. Receptions for up to 250 people can be held at another historic gem, the Sanfilippa Estate, which houses the largest collection of restored automatic musical instruments in the world, from music boxes and phonographs, to a European salon carousel that is 46 feet in diameter and the world's largest restored theater pipe organ. Other alternatives include the Raue Center for the Performing Arts in Crystal Lake, an 800-seat circa 1929 movie/vaudeville theater that has been restored, and the Gardens of Woodstock, which can host up to 90 people in indoor function space or at several outdoor locations.
Most towns in the county have truly special eateries, but four of the top group favorites are Port Edward, in Algonquin, where you can dine overlooking Fox Lake; Flatlander Market, a family-owned eatery set in an 1850s-era building in Marengo; Le Petite Creperie, a quaint bistro in the historic court house on Woodstock Square that serves classical French food; and 1776, a restaurant in Crystal Lake known for its use of local mostly organic produce and blending its own wines.