Where’s the sense of adventure in buying everything online this holiday season? Put down your phone and start planning a shopping experience you can actually enjoy. We’ve mapped out 101 local stops that are sure to produce great gift ideas and a fun outing – even when this year becomes Christmas past.
Stay and Play in Crystal Lake
Where to Start: Williams Street, downtown
Where to Park: Your best bet will be the 4-hour lots at the corner of Brink and Grant streets, or down by the railroad depot (free on weekends and after 4 p.m. on weekdays). Williams Street is convenient, but it fills up quickly.
Start the day with a warm drink at Taste of Benedict’s or a good brunch across the street at Benedict’s. Just a few doors down, explore the kitschy home decor at Yours & Meyn before heading to the end of the block, where you’ll find antiques, gourmet chocolates and La Bellissima, a specialist in well-fitting women’s undergarments and other clothing.
Pass Raue Center for the Arts, which offers gift cards good for tickets to any of its upcoming shows, including live comedy, musicals and plays, and tribute bands.
South of Brink Street, you’ll find ladies’ boutiques, a bookstore and numerous specialty shops, including Heisler’s Bootery, a family-owned shoe store. Duck into Marvin’s Toy Store for a wide selection of children’s toys, cultivated especially for young minds and discerning parents. Next door, Kitchen Outfitters sells a variety of kitchen gadgets and food-related products. Nosh on the Saturday demonstration. Just across the street, Out of the Box offers a wide selection of quirky gifts and seasonal items.
By now, you’re getting hungry. Head to the end of the block and the classic diner vibe at Olympic Cafe, or brave the elements and cross the tracks to Duke’s Alehouse. Afterward, grab a growler and some beer swag at Crystal Lake Brewing Co.
Stroll the Woodstock Square
Where you start and where you end is entirely up to you – so long as you’re on the Woodstock Square. There’s plenty of parking at the Square, but there’s also good spillover parking at its periphery.
Your best bet is to start in the Square’s northwest corner, with a steaming cup of hot chocolate at Ethereal Confections. The bean-to-bar chocolatier serves up warm drinks and delicious chocolate creations inside its new cafe.
Next, head down the block to specialty retailers like Interiors Anew (antiques), The Bike Haven (cycling gear and equipment), M.D. Trains (model railroading) and Silver Prairie Natural Soap, where product is made from goat’s milk.
Hang a left on Main Street for gift cards to Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theatre and grab lunch at D.C. Cobb’s, which boasts a menu of more than a dozen inventive burgers, among other dishes. You’ll also want to stop at the ever-quirky The Backdrop for some truly one-of-a-kind gifts.
Cut through the beautifully decorated park in the center of the Square and make a beeline for the Woodstock Opera House. Gift certificates are always available for the Opera House’s many plays, performers, lecturers and more.
Double Yolk Cafe, next door, provides a nice brunch option. Afterward, stock up on toys and gifts for children and the family bookworm at Read Between the Lynes. The homegrown book store also has a large candy counter that serves warm drinks.
Wrap up at Material Things Artisan Market, where artist Ken West crafts quirky glass pieces and sells work by numerous regional artists.
If you’re willing to make more stops, head north on Ill. Rt. 47 and visit Rosie’s Gluten-Free Sweets at the far-north end of town. As its name suggests, the bakery specializes in treats for sensitive diets.
On Lake Avenue, near Ill. Rt. 47, Roscoe Woodstock Antique Mall carries an extensive array of antiques sold by local dealers.
Worth the Drive
The Bramble Patch
Based in the homey, Swiss-inspired town of New Glarus, Wis., The Bramble Patch specializes in Polish pottery and homemade maple syrup. The store is in good company, with a number of unique retailers on the block.
This family-owned fine outerwear company, located in the Elmhurst City Centre, has been selling fashionable looks for almost 90 years. Don’t let its name fool you; this store carries much more than fur.
If you’re already in the city, drop by the Old Town neighborhood and this specialist in top-brand cosmetics. Or, avoid the traffic and head to Arch’s sister store in downtown Rockford.
Based in downtown Huntley, this old-school furniture shop specializes in American-made (often Amish-made) items built to last. It carries plenty of decor options to complement.
Located in rural Maple Park, this winery serves up award-winning vintages that mix Italian and Midwestern flavors. Take a tour, join the wine club, and stay for dinner.
A Luxe Experience in Barrington
Three distinct zones in the greater Barrington area offer an upscale shopping experience – but only one of them fully supports locally owned, boutique stores. Hit them all in one day (if you dare) and shop ‘til you drop. These destinations are great for the in-and-out type of shopper.
Downtown: Search for your ski-loving family member at Viking Ski & Patio, along U.S. Route 14, before making your way into the heart of downtown. A stop at M.J. Miller & Co. is well worth it, if your loved one admires fine jewelry, straight-from-the-source gemstones, giftware and timepieces. Stops at Angeline, Anderson’s Candy Shop and Gnarly Knots Pretzels are a must. Warm up at the Ice House Mall, where you can browse through boutique stores and dine in an old rail car. Then, head west to Norton’s USA, where every product in store is made in America.
Deer Park: Located between Lake Zurich and Palatine, this enclave of casual shopping features numerous big-name national retailers and a number of luxury brands, including Williams-Sonoma, Harry & David and Dry Goods.
Arboretum of South Barrington: Though it does carry numerous national retail stores, such as L.L. Bean and Kriser’s Natural Pet, this outdoor shopping area’s real strength is evening entertainment, with selections such as the iPic dinner/movie cinema, an axe lounge and numerous ethnic cuisines.
In-and-Out Shopping in St. Charles
There’s fine dining aplenty downtown – great for the foodie in your life – but you’ll also find a number of specialty retailers scattered throughout the city. Must-stop locations downtown include Rocket Fizz (a giant candy store with old-time candies and a wall of obscure soda pops), Town House Books (new releases and a cozy cafe), Dick Pond Athletics (activewear/running gear) and Arcedium Coffeehouse (a cafe that also sells its home-roasted coffee blends).
Along with the city’s humming nightlife are several entertainment destinations that make for a great day trip or date-night activity:
Arcada Theatre (downtown): Hosts big-name tourng acts, often from decades past.
Kane County Flea Market (Randall Road): A flea market that truly fills every corner of the county fairgrounds.
St. Charles History Museum (downtown): Rotating displays tell stories from local history. The gift shop has plenty of hometown tchotchkes.
Pheasant Run Resort (far east side): A 250-acre resort with numerous activities, from an in-house theater and comedy club to a relaxing spa and an escape room on the resort’s replica Bourbon Street.
Pottawatomie Golf Course (downtown): A nine-hole golf course where the Fox River factors into several fairway shots.
Something Offbeat in Northern Kane County
It’s easy to make a series of shopping adventures around Elgin, East Dundee and West Dundee, with lots of lunch and dinner options around. Here are some must-see shops:
Elgin Books: Carries gently used, often hard-to-find titles. 66 S. Grove Ave., downtown Elgin.
Elgin Symphony Orchestra: Gift certificates available for orchestra concerts. 20 DuPage Court, downtown Elgin.
Elgin Historical Museum: The gift shop overflows with ideas for the local history buff. 360 Park St., downtown Elgin.
Rediscover Records: Thousands of albums across all genres. 9 Spring St., downtown Elgin.
Side Street Studio Arts Lab: High-quality art gear and regular classes for youngsters. Check out Side Street’s funky art gallery next door, if it’s open. 13 Spring St., downtown Elgin.
Soulful Sparrow: Women’s apparel, jewelry and home decor, all with an element of vintage. 10 Douglas Ave., downtown Elgin.
Around the Corner Candy: Lots of choices, including chocolates and nostalgic candies. 101 S. First St., West Dundee.
River Trading Post: Museum-quality, authentic Native American art. 314 N. River St., East Dundee.
Midwest Retro: Home decor items and vintage/antique furniture, plus accessories for refinishing old pieces. 207 Barrington Ave., East Dundee.
The Uncommon Palate: Unique specialty foods, clean label foods and housewares to complement. 316-A N. River St., East Dundee.
Craft Donuts + Coffee: Small-batch, handcrafted donuts and locally roasted coffee. 124 W. Main St., West Dundee.
An All-Day Affair in Geneva
Where to Start: Third Street, around Franklin Street.
Third Street is ground zero for some of the best local shops, and there’s an amazing variety on this block alone. Pop into Graham’s 318 Coffeehouse for a warm drink, then set off. Stop in The Paper Merchant for stationery and related gifts, and try hard not to get lost at The Little Traveler, which truly has a little bit of everything.
If you’re feeling hungry, take a pit stop at one of many eateries between here and the railroad tracks. Otherwise, proceed to the Galena Cellars Winery & Tasting Room or the Berry House, where you’ll find antiques, art and gift ideas galore.
Keep going north to the Artemisia women’s fashion boutique, Harvey’s Tales bookstore (great selection of kids’ books), and modern home accents at Haven Interiors.
By now, you’re at State Street/Ill. Rt. 38. Head east and stop by State Street Jewelers, Strawflower Shop, Proud Fox Gallery and Geneva Running Outfitters. Squeeze in a trip to Mill Race Cyclery, across the river, to find bikes, related accessories and boat rentals (summer only, of course).
West of Third Street, you’ll find Kernel’s Gourmet Popcorn and About Face + Body, for all-natural skin and body care products.
Circle back down Third Street and hit Olive Mill for gourmet olive oil and Cocoon for an assortment of decor and gift ideas.
Throughout your travels, you’ll pass many dining options that will make you salivate. Bien Trucha, Niche, FoxFire and Wildwood tend to get the highest marks.