Located in the rural Midwest, there is a two-acre plot of land, officially established in the 1840s. The town of Woodstock began in the middle of this picturesque square, with a jail and courthouse that remain intact there today. If you find yourself strolling around the colored brick sidewalks, there are charming privately-owned shops and unique restaurants.
There’s the faint music of the historic Opera House’s current production cascading down unto the promenade. The Victorian architecture is prominent and transports you to a different era, a simpler time. The Woodstock square is a rural undiscovered gem to its residents and visitors, and a place they go to experience seasonal and cultural events unparalleled in McHenry county.
Inside the old courthouse is an Arts Center, with an art shop gallery that is open Thursdays through Saturdays, all the artwork displayed is also for sale. There are often art shows held there, and submissions are usually open to all artists, and especially local residents. The upcoming show in June is called “To Be Heard,” and is a national exhibition that is open to all different types of media. Joe and Kathleen Isacson, two local artists, are the curators and have produced shows at the art center multiple times before.
The Stage Left Café also supports the arts in the square. Directly connected to the Opera House, it’s open during performances and afterwards for concessions as well as hosting its own live performances. The café is also available for rental to the public, for parties, meetings or other private affairs.
A farmer’s market is held on the square in the summer as well as through the winter. The winters farmers market runs from November through April on every Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The hours change for the summer adding an extra day on Tuesdays, keeping the same hours. The market is a producers only market, meaning that everything sold there must be grown or made by the sellers. The merchants include those who sell baked goods, jewelry and crafts, fresh produce and plants and herbs among other things. On select Saturdays there is also free live music from local bands and musicians to accompany your shopping.
One of the most anticipated events of the year at the square is Groundhog Days held January 31st through February 3rd. This year marks the 26th year since the iconic film with Bill Murray, “Groundhogs Day” was shot in Woodstock. People come from near and far to experience the event. They are even joined by actors from the actual movie. It begins with Woodstock Willie, the local groundhog, emerging to make a prediction about the coming spring. Many of the events held throughout the week are free to attend, including a walking tour of locations from the film and a free showing of the movie at the Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theatre. There is also a groundhog wood carving competition and a kickoff celebration with live music among many other happenings that fill the week with celebrations and tributes to the film.
If you have a sweet tooth, Ethereal Confections is an independently owned chocolate shop and cafe, where the owners pride themselves on one hundred percent organic ingredients and made from scratch items. At the shop they offer chocolates, small plates, coffee and tea as well as hand crafted cocktails. There are events are hosted on site like chocolate pairings and community classes.
The Opera House is one of the oldest operating opera houses in the country. Its red and white brick exterior paint the square with a majestic charm. Inside, the performing arts center hosts productions all year long. From theatre and dance to comedies and lectures, it hosts four performing arts companies who call the building home. A selected musical movie is presented there monthly with five-dollar tickets. For the month of March the movie musical will be “Hairspray.”
Talking to a local McHenry County resident, Asta Walsh, she explains how she and her family enjoy the square. “We try and keep up to date with the events going on, because there is always something to do” Walsh said. “My family loves walking around the Square when it’s warm out, but during Christmas the whole area is lit up and decorated so beautifully. The best part is there’s always free events to attend, and with a family of four, we really appreciate that”.
For McHenry County residents, the Woodstock Square is home to locally owned businesses, is a purveyor of the arts, and hosts a myriad of events throughout the year. For more information about the Square and what to do there: visit