5 things to do in and around McHenry County

1. The Festival of Lights Parade in downtown Crystal Lake will step off with a full contingent of floats – and of course, Santa Claus – at 7 p.m. Friday.

The parade route will start on North Walkup Avenue, directly east of city hall, before immediately turning onto West Woodstock Street and then south onto Caroline Street. The route then turns east onto West Crystal Lake Avenue before heading northeast along Grant Street, east on East Woodstock Street and then southwest along North Williams Street.

The parade ends at Williams Street and Crystal Lake Avenue, where Santa will light the Christmas tree, according to a news release.

Santa then will be available for free visits at his Santa House through Dec. 23. The Santa House will be open for visits 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 3 p.m. Sundays as well as 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 20 to 23.

This year’s parade will not include candy distribution from the floats and spectators must remain on the curbs, according to Downtown Crystal Lake. Parking will not be allowed for the entire parade route and vehicles must be off those streets by 5 p.m. Parking is available in the public and Metra commuter parking lots.

Trophies will be announced after the parade for best use of lights, best use of music, most creative, most enthusiastic, judge’s choice and best of 2021 theme, which this year is “A Toyland Christmas.”

More information is available at www.DowntownCL.org.

2. The holiday season is kicking into full gear with the Lighting of the Square from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday in Woodstock followed by the annual Christmas parade from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The lighting ceremony – where tens of thousands of lights will illuminate the Square’s trees and buildings – will begin at 7 p.m., but festivities will kick off earlier with holiday carolers and selfie spots on top of the shopping and dining opportunities in the area. Marulli Event Co., at 121 E. Calhoun St., for example, will have a complimentary hot chocolate bar and warming station.

The event will also mark the opening of the annual Opera House Christmas Tree Walk featuring dozens of trees decorated by area organizations.

Visitors can take a stroll through the Gingerbread House Walk at the Old Courthouse, 101 N. Johnson St., and vote for their favorite. The gingerbread houses will be on display through Dec. 19.

Free carriage rides on the historic Woodstock Square will be available from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday as well as 2 to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 12. The rides are first-come, and so a line should be expected.

The Christmas parade, featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus, will step off at 2 p.m. Sunday. There is a new route this year, which starts at the Woodstock Water Works, 1313 Kishwaukee Valley Road, and travels east on Jackson Street. The route will then enter and travel around the Square before exiting on Cass and Throop streets.

For more information about the various events, go to realwoodstock.com/events.

3. The Fox Lake Festival of Lights is set for Saturday with a parade, tree lighting and the Kris Kringle Winter Market.

The market will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Community Garden Green, 17 E. School Court.

The parade will start at 5 p.m. at Grant Community High School, 285 Grand Ave., and travel down Grand Avenue. The annual tree lighting at Millennium Park and opening of the Santa Cottage will immediately follow the parade.

Questions can be directed to the village’s Parks and Recreation Department at 224-225-1404.

4. The annual Luminaria Walk through Veteran Acres in Crystal Lake starts Wednesday.

The trail is free to visit, but a donation of $1 per person or $5 per family is appreciated to support future Nature Center programs, according to the Crystal Lake Park District.

The 1.3-mile illuminated trail starts at the Veteran Acres Picnic Shelter, 431 N. Walkup Avenue, Crystal Lake, and is available from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Dec. 4. On Dec. 4, additional activities – including campfires, hot cocoa, cookies, a candy cane forest and the Encore Music Academy Carolers – will be featured.

The trail is a mixture of paved, gravel and grassy surfaces. A low-mobility trail is located around the Veteran Acres pond, and handicap parking is located at Oakwoods Lodge, 46 E. Terra Cotta Ave.

Advance registration is not required. To see whether the events are canceled due to weather, call 815-410-4475 or go to rainoutline.com.

5. Santa will be visiting the Cary Park District this Wednesday.

The free event will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Foxford Hills Golf Club, 6800 S. Rawson Bridge Road in Cary.

Children must be accompanied by an adult, and families should bring their cameras.

For more information or to register, go to carypark.com.

Would you like your event featured in this weekly feature? The first step is submitting your events to the Northwest Herald’s community calendar at shawlocal.com/northwest-herald/local-events/ where they are then considered for inclusion in this feature.