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10 Things To Do in the Fox River Valley

Oct 18, 2018 Outdoors & Regional

An aerial view of the Fox River, during fall

On the western outskirts of the Chicago metropolitan area sits an idyllic valley region nestled snugly along northern Illinois’ Fox River.

Extending from the village of Antioch in the north to beautiful Ottawa in the south, the Fox River Valley is a picture-perfect northern Illinois destination, home to outdoor adventures, rural escapes, chic shopping districts and vintage 19th-century downtowns.

Let’s take a look at 10 awesome things to do in Illinois’ Fox River Valley.

1. The Fox River Trail

A group of people cycling along the Fox River Trail, amid woodland trees

Journey through 32 miles of lush biking, hiking and cross-country skiing trails along the eponymous Fox River. Stop for a break at trail highlights like Carpenters Dam, Fox River Shores, Tyler Creek, Voyageur Landing, Shoemaker Nature Center and Fabyan Forest Preserve.

2. Fox River Trolley Museum

A group of old trolleys outdoors on tracks at the Fox River Trolley Museum

You’re already on the Fox River Trail, so why not make a pit stop at the Fox River Trolley Museum? Celebrating more than 100 years of electric trolleys, this museum offers original electric trains and cars traveling a three-mile circuit along the scenic Fox River. And of course, lots of photo ops with classic trains.

3. Buffalo Rock State Park

Kayaker in Buffalo Rock State Park.Buffalo Rock State Park may be small, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t big things to see. Known as the Effigy Tumuli, the park’s five giant earthen sculptures (in the shapes of a snake, turtle, catfish, frog and insect respectively) are the major draw for this Fox River Valley adventure.

4. Farm Dinners at Heritage Prairie Farm

A photo of plates lined along a dinner table with flowers in the middle

A dining experience like no other, the farm dinners at Heritage Prairie Farm have been a local tradition since 2007. Once a month, guests are treated to a decadent five-course meal served family style with lots of live music and a just-right shabby-chic ambiance. Each course is specially prepared using the best fresh ingredients from the onsite organic farm and introduced live by the master chef himself.

5. Chain O’Lakes State Park

Sunset over the water at Chain O Lakes State Park in the Fox River Valley

As the busiest inland recreational waterway in the United States, it’s safe to assume there’s a lot to love about Chain O’Lakes State Park. With nearly 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline, Chain O’Lakes State Park has the largest concentration of natural lakes in Illinois. Its 200 acres of restored natural prairieland make it a perfect home for native wildlife. Ideal for boaters, anglers, hikers, bikers and generally anyone who likes to be around lakes.

6. Stade’s Farm and Market

The exterior of the red barn-like Stade's Farm and Market in McHenry

Pick-your-own everything at Stade’s Farm and Market. The ultimate handpicked experience, venture into the fields at Stade’s Farm and Market for everything from strawberries and raspberries to beets, broccoli, pumpkins and so much more. In the fall, entertain the kiddos at the Farmtractions Theme Park, open weekends through October.

7. Fox Valley Winery

Racks of wine bottles on display at Fox Valley Winery

Enjoy small lots of hand-crafted and award-winning wines at Fox Valley Winery. Tastings are available every day and they even host some special events throughout the year, so keep your eyes open!

8. McHenry Outdoor Theater

Drive in theater in mchenry

As one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the United States, McHenry Outdoor Theater treats movie-lovers to a blast of nostalgia. Soak up a first-run double feature with the summer’s latest blockbusters or roll up during the fall for their Fall Throwback Series. Delicious snacks and an affordable ticket price make McHenry Outdoor Theater a perfect night out.

9. Tangled Roots Brewing Company


Taste the flavors of the Fox River Valley at Tangled Roots Brewing Company. As a true Illinois Made maker, Tangled Roots uses locally-harvested ingredients to create a one-of-a-kind microbrew experience that pairs perfectly with their locally-grown farm-to-table restaurant.

10. The Fox River

A man in a bright yellow shirt cycling on a path next to the Fox River

No Fox River Valley list would be complete without a nod to its namesake waterway. Whether you paddle, fish, boat or sunbathe, you haven’t experienced the Fox River Valley until you’ve experienced the beauty of the Fox River.

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