Little Lake County parents are active, mobile and always seeking adventure! Sometimes we even traverse outside of our fair county to find family entertainment beyond our borders. Due to popular reader demand, we introduce “Little McHenry County,” a monthly column dedicated to finding fun with our neighbors to the west, written by McHenry County Moms in the know. Explore and enjoy!
Living in Illinois, nobody is more ecstatic than parents of young kiddos when Elsa’s spell is broken, we get the opportunity to break out of jail and park season begins!
An area known for its convenient yet rural natural beauty and kid-friendly amenities, McHenry County boasts a multitude of scenic and easy playgrounds to take those kiddos and release some pent-up winter energy.
Below are a few of the best and most unique that my four kiddos and I have found in McHenry County. Check them out!
1. Veteran Acres, 431 N. Walkup Rd, Crystal Lake
It’s hard to find a park that checks off all of the must-have parent boxes better than Veteran Acres. Newly renovated equipment, a fantastic splash pad, adequate shade including a large pavilion, several surrounding picnic tables, clean and convenient bathroom facilities and playground equipment to keep the whole family entertained make this an easy choice for an afternoon in the sunshine. Add to that the gorgeous views of the pond from the playground, the beautiful and abundant hiking trails with wildlife spotting, bridges, a plethora of photo opportunities and even an indoor nature center if you need a break from the heat — well you have hours of fun at your fingertips. Warning, you may stay here longer than you originally anticipated …
2. Main Beach, 300 Lake Shore Drive, Crystal Lake
“I want to go to the Park!” “I want to go to the Beach!” Lucky you, sibling fights are settled for today. At Main Beach, you can have your park and beach it, too. Located on beautiful Crystal Lake, this park features a unique wooden play area, with amazing hide-and-seek and make-believe opportunities for the kids to really use their imaginations. Balance beams, a mini-zip line and musical chimes also provide some interesting and different play options. Once the kids tire of the playground, bring your sand toys and explore the beach. A concession stand and nearby bathrooms make the experience seamless. Lifeguards are on duty at the beach Memorial Day through Labor Day, and numerous kid-friendly boats are available for rent. Please note, there is an entrance fee during these busy months. $1 for residents, $4 for guests of residents, free ages 3 and under or after 5 p.m. This is also the location of Crystal Lake’s free weekly Tuesday night music concerts in the shell as well as monthly Friday movie nights in the park during the summer.
3. Deicke Park, “Discovery Zone,” (Pronounced dye-key) 11419 S. IL Route 47, Huntley
With features that go above and beyond what the “typical” park offers, Deicke specifically caters to autistic and special needs children and is fun for all. This park is fully and securely fenced in and is highly interactive with many sounds and stimuli, offering features such as a play town, including the famous Dairy Mart (of which the “real” version is located across the street and would be the ideal place to grab a bite to eat or a freeze after your visit), the police station, jail, school, and barbershop. A sand pit with running water, a fire truck, a school bus, an awesome musical area, a train crossing, a car that makes sounds and a huge chalkboard provide hours of entertainment. There are also basketball courts with different hoop heights, so bring a basketball to get in the game. And then there is the rest of the park including a fishing pond, another playground area with a 90-foot super slide, and Stingray Bay Aquatic Center to explore …
4. Cornish Park, 101 South Harrison Street (and Algonquin Road), Algonquin
Also known as the “Clocktower Park” (because of the clocktower and fountains at the entrance. Note: you will not see Marty McFly here …) this attraction is located on the Fox River and offers pretty views, fishing, a quaint gazebo, picnic tables, clean bathroom facilities, and even a little bit of Algonquin history amidst the playground equipment and sand pit. Recently renovated, this is a great spot to tire the kids out for a couple of hours before putting them in the stroller and enjoying the short walk to the shops and restaurants of historic Algonquin. Please note, this park requires parents to keep a close eye on their kiddos as there is no fence and it is located on the river. Although fun for all ages, it is best suited for children ages three and up.
5. Emricson Park, 900 W. South Street (or 1313 Kishwaukee Valley Road, 2 park entrances), Woodstock
The catch-all park of Woodstock, Emricson is the place to go for a day of nature and fun. There is a 1.4 mile trail that can be extended to 2 miles through the park, which will start the day with some great exercise, and the fun continues from there. This park has a very large toddler play area (which is off to the left if you enter the park via South Street; look for the colorful castle-like playset.), yet has three distinct playground areas to fill any child’s park craving. Located in a beautiful setting, there is plenty of room to run wild. Bathrooms are locked in colder months, but clean port-o-potties are still available if necessary. The Woodstock Water Works public zero-entry pool is also located in Emricson. And if you still have energy left, just head down South Street for a couple of miles and you are practically at Woodstock Square, the beautiful historic downtown where Groundhog Day was filmed. But that’s a post for another day. But that’s a post for another day. But that’s a post for another day.
Now get out there and enjoy this weather before it starts snowing again!