15 Things to Do

on the Fox River Valley Bike Trail

Looking for a nearby escape that includes equal parts action and leisure? Behold the Fox River Valley Bike Trail. This scenic bike route is located just a 45-minute drive west from Chicago and is perfect for spirited cyclists interested in exploring local culture.

Plan a long weekend to explore the entirety of the 65-mile trail, where you'll meander through serene forest preserves and stop to explore fun, charming downtowns throughout five destinations along the path. You'll fall head over heels for Aurora, Geneva, St. Charles, Elgin Area and McHenry County, IL by the end of your trip, especially if you follow our recommendations for some of the top things to do along the Fox River Valley Bike Trail in each of these scenic and spectacular destinations. In other words, we've done the planning for you, so just sit back and enjoy the ride!


A bicycle trek through the Fox River Valley can be done without a car at all. You can get to any of these destinations via Chicago's Metra system (bikes are allowed on Metra). You can see Metra maps and schedules here.

And here's a fun fact: It's possible to switch back and forth over the river since the trail extends on both sides. Not only is it possible, it's encouraged. Be on the lookout for bridges and signs that lead to auxiliary trails and detours through neighborhoods, and for your best bet, thoroughly map out your journey before you start. We've noted on which side of the river each destination sits to make mapping your expedition as easy as possible. So, are you ready to roll?

Let's ride.

We begin our Fox River Valley Bike Trail adventure in Aurora, the southernmost destination on the trail, but it is possible to begin your journey in McHenry County on the north end of the trail, or anywhere in between. Just a heads up, if you start in McHenry County, it's called Prairie Trail- a little insider knowledge for you.


Aurora Area Convention & Visitor Bureau
Aurora is the southernmost destination on the Fox River Valley Bike Trail, and an easy place to start—accessible by car or Metra (the Aurora station is on Metra's BNSF Railway). Once you're in Aurora, head to McCullough Park, where the trail starts. If you drive, you can leave your car parked here. Check out these three fun things to do in Aurora along the bike trail to kick off your journey; and find more details on Top Things To Do and See by Bike on a Weekend Getaway in Aurora.

1. Visit Downtown Aurora

East side | Downtown Aurora

Dedicated bike lane opening bike racks yarn bomb gardens
Downtown Aurora is a super cool stop along the trail, thanks in large part to the popular Two Brothers Roundhouse, where you can sip a craft beer or artisan coffee, located adjacent to the equally popular RiverEdge Park. The bike trail runs right through the park, giving you the opportunity to get lost in concert tunes at the park's music pavilion or check out the kayakers and canoers taking off from the boat launch. You also could start your trek on the Fox River Valley Bike Trail on the first Friday of any given month, when the local culture comes to life in downtown Aurora. From 5 p.m. to midnight, downtown businesses collaborate for First Fridays and open their doors to art, dancing, food, fun and community.

2. Visit Red Oak Nature Center

East side | 2343 S. River Street, Batavia

Visit Red Oak Nature Center
Ranked one of the best nature centers in Illinois, Red Oak Nature Center is located along the bike trail in Batavia, just north of Aurora. Take a breath and a moment to view river wildlife, migratory birds, and the wooded shorelines and islands from the center's observation deck, or discover how the natural world cycles from one season to the next at the "Sense of the Seasons" interpretive exhibit. The Wildlife Room features a 500-gallon turtle and fish habitat, along with new habitats for frogs, salamanders, snakes and more.

3. Experience Kiss the Sky

West side | 180 1st Street, Batavia

Experience Kiss the Sky
Cycle two and a half miles north and cross to the west side of the Fox River to explore Batavia's engaging downtown. Make a stop at Kiss the Sky, a locally owned record store, music venue and thrift shop founded in 1996 by two long-time friends who shared a passion for music. On Saturday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to noon, you can enjoy an area artist's live performance while sipping gourmet coffee and chatting with fellow music enthusiasts. Browse vinyls at the record store or swing by the attached Cloud 9 Thrift Shop to peruse books, candles and gently loved clothing. Next-door, consider exploring the art galleries at Water Street Studios, or ride two blocks north to the Batavia Depot Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to learn about railroad history. Refuel with lunch, ice cream and shopping at the nearby eateries and boutiques before you head back to the bike trail.
Upcoming events in Aurora


Geneva Illinois Chamber of Commerce
Less than three miles north of Batavia is Geneva, a destination known for its postcard aesthetics and famous local festivals. The Fox River winds through this small town, and the bike trail is easily one of the area's highlights. Here are three things to do along the bike trail to get a feel for life in Geneva.

4. Tour the Fabyan Villa Museum

West side | 1511 S. Batavia Avenue, Geneva

Tour the Fabyan Villa Museum
Initially dubbed "Riverbank," this eccentric estate along the Fox River acted as a country retreat for Colonel George Fabyan and his wife Nelle away from their Chicago home. After Frank Lloyd Wright remodeled the original farmhouse in 1907, the Fabyans made the villa their permanent residence and acquired 300 more acres. Learn about the Fabyan legacy and marvel in the beauty of the pair's villa and Japanese gardens during a 45-minute public tour of the Villa Museum, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in May through October.

5. Shop and Dine in Geneva's Historic Downtown

West side | South 3rd Street, Geneva

Shop and Dine in Geneva's Historic Downtown
Charming Victorian-style homes and historic buildings house more than 140 specialty shops and eateries in Downtown Geneva. Cycle along State Street to Third Street, parking your bike at one of the "art sculpture" bike racks, to visit one-of-a-kind shops. Relax and rest as you discover whimsy and magic and indulge in wine, chocolate and ice cream. Endless options await your palate from local eateries and neighborhood pubs to award-winning restaurants with American and international cuisine.

6. Stay for a Festival

West side | Downtown Geneva

Stay for a Festival
Thousands of visitors come to Geneva for four popular annual festivals sponsored by Geneva Chamber of Commerce. Free entertainment, distinctive food choices and family-friendly happenings define Geneva's events. Check out the Swedish Days Festival in June or the Geneva Arts Fair in July. Raise your glass at the Festival the of the Vine in September, or embrace the holiday spirit at the Christmas Walk and House Tour in December.
Upcoming Events in Geneva


Greater St Charles, Illinois
Two and a half miles north of Geneva is Greater St. Charles, IL, which includes the beautiful surrounding areas of Campton Hills and Elburn. Greater St. Charles, IL is a destination that the Chicago Tribune ranked in its top 10 area towns for fine dining, arts and entertainment, recreation opportunities and unique shopping. Experience all there is to love about Greater St. Charles, IL in these three to-dos along the Fox River Valley and Great Western Bike Trails, highlighting the area's food, culture and green space.

7. Sight-Do Historic Downtown St. Charles, IL

East side | 15 E. Main Street, St Charles, IL

Grab a Bite at Smitty's On the Corner
Located in the heart of Downtown St. Charles, Smitty's on the Corner is the perfect place for you to jump of of the trail and have a “grab and go” gourmet sandwich and homemade soup. Enjoy your meal and take in the city jewels surrounding you, including the iconic Arcada Theatre and Hotel Baker, both on the National Register of Historic Places, and the St. Charles History Museum, which offers exhibits, education and a great line of St. Charles branded souvenirs for sale. Just a few short blocks away from Smitty's is Giant Fox Valley, where you can stop in for any needed cycling gear.

8. Browse Townhouse Books and Cafe

East side | 105 N. 2nd Avenue, St Charles, IL

Browse Townhouse Books and Cafe
This endearing establishment rests in the heart of the Century Corners Shopping District just east of historic downtown and is reminiscent of literary cafes in London or Paris. Park your bike and grab a cappuccino or homemade dessert to fuel up before you continue on the trail. While you wait, browse the stacks, which include a delicious selection of authors in multiple genres, including children, non-fiction, fiction and history.

9. Cruise Through Pottawatomie Park

East side | 8 North Avenue, St Charles, IL

Wander Through Pottawatomie Park
The forest preserves in this park have remained unspoiled since the Pottawatomie tribe of Native Americans inhabited the area in the late 1800s. Bask on the banks of the river in the pavilion or park, jump in on a game of sand volleyball or, in May through October, take an afternoon sightseeing trip aboard the Fox River Queen or St. Charles Belle II on a St. Charles Paddlewheel Riverboat Cruise. Aboard one of the distinctive boats, characterized by their bright red paddlewheels and open decks, you'll learn about the area's history as you relax and take in peaceful views of the Fox River's scenic shoreline. You could also admire the river valley's lush landscapes over a round of 9-hole golf at the park's Pottawatomie Golf Course. The course is designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
Upcoming events in Greater St. Charles, IL


Northern Fox River Valley - Elgin Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
From the park in St. Charles, you'll cycle for six miles up to Elgin, the hub of 9 the towns that make up the Northern Fox River Valley. Known as the "City in the Suburbs," Elgin's museums, well-equipped parks and burgeoning arts scene make it a fabulous place to explore along the bike trail. Check out these three things to do as you cycle through the Northern Fox River Valley.

10. Explore the Fox River Trolley Museum

West side | 365 S La Fox Street, South Elgin

Explore the Fox River Trolley Museum
Cycling along the river allows for extraordinary vistas of trolleys that run parallel to the bike path. To get an up-close look and educational experience about the cars, make a stop in South Elgin at the Trolley Museum. You'll glimpse a period when the electric trolley car was part of everyday American life, and you can even ride the museum's genuine old-time car for a 4-mile round trip along the banks of the Fox River. The museum runs special events throughout the year as well.

11. Attend an Event in Downtown Elgin

East side | Downtown Elgin

Attend an Event in Downtown Elgin
Elgin's Gail Borden Public Library hosts a constant stream of events ranging from Elgin Symphony Orchestra performances to lunch hour film screenings to classes like "Brewing by the River: Beer 101." Drop in during the day to cool off from your ride, or for a lively evening, head to Festival Park for Elgin's Grand Victoria Casino's Summer Concert Series or a family-friendly movie in the park. If you're an art enthusiast, in August, the City of Elgin collaborates with the nonprofit organization, Art for All, to host Art & Soul on the Fox, a juried art festival that has live music, kids' entertainment and food trucks.

12. Stop by Dundee Depot and Farmer's Market

East side | 319 N. River Street, East Dundee

Stop by Dundee Depot and Farmer's Market
Open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays in May through October, the Dundee Farmer's Market features antiques and collectibles, food and in-season produce, plants and flowers, jewelry, soaps, yard art and more. And on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., shop at the Farmer's Market for items like locally grown food, horticulture products and plant-based items, oils and vinegars, bread and sweets, local meats and eggs. Enjoy this weekend treasure in East Dundee, or drop in for themed weekday evenings in the summer months. Themes include Motor Mondays where various models of old cars adorn River Street, and Wine Down Wednesdays in collaboration with The Uncommon Palate Specialty Food.
Upcoming events in Elgin


Visit McHenry County
Just a 5-mile ride from Dundee is McHenry County, where you can wrap up your journey on the northernmost portion of the Fox River Valley Bike Trail. As the trail veers away from the banks of the Fox River and meanders through the prairies of McHenry County the name of the trail changes to the Prairie Trail. This area is an expansive destination that includes 30 communities, six of which you explore directly off the Prairie Trail.

13. Experience Algonquin

West side | Algonquin

Experience Algonquin
In Algonquin, dine riverside at Port Edward Restaurant, family-owned and operated for more than 50 years. Touted as "one of mid America's most unusual restaurants," the eatery is known for its seafood and old-world atmosphere. Head to Scorched Earth Brewing Company, named from the prairie fires that were native to the area, for after-dinner drinks... While you're there, order a pint of "Sweetie Pie", a summer seasonal brewed with local strawberries and rhubarb, or "Hickster," an American cream ale. Get a good night's rest at Victorian Rose Garden Bed and Breakfast with its wrap-around porch and grand piano. Wake up to the smell of the lodging's homemade breakfasts, which will give you the energy you need to continue on your journey.

14. Play at Three Oaks Recreation Area

West side (off the trail) | 5517 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake

Play at Three Oaks Recreation Area
Located a little more than five miles north on the Prairie Trail is gorgeous Crystal Lake, home to the Three Oaks Recreation Area. This gravel mine turned recreation area offers water activities including kayaking, swimming and wakeboarding. Take a standup paddleboard (SUP) yoga class for something interesting, fly a kite, or play Frisbee with friends on the banks. Stop for lunch and shopping in Downtown Crystal Lake, and don't miss the farm-to to table cuisine at Duke's Ale House.

15. Head to Glacial Park

West side (off the trail) | 6313 Harts Road, Ringwood, Illinois

Head to Glacial Park
As you continue your journey along the Prairie Trail, visit Glacial Park, the Crown Jewel of McHenry County Conservation District. This sprawling nature preserve nestled in Ringwood, Illinois harbors 40 state endangered and threatened plant and animal species. Once there, hike through the diverse landscapes that include glacial kames, savannahs, bogs, tall grass prairies and more. To enhance your visit, stop at the Lost Valley Visitor Center in the geographical center of the park. Consider having dinner at Paisano's in Richmond and spend the night at The Inn at Lake Elizabeth to rest for your next day's adventures. Make sure to visit Main Street Coffee Company for a local honey latte and organic pastry to keep you energized before hitting the trail for the ride ahead.
Upcoming events in McHenry County


For more information throughout the region click on the destination below.

Aurora Area Convention & Visitor Bureau Geneva Illinois Chamber of Commerce Greater St Charles, Illinois Northern Fox River Valley - Elgin Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Visit McHenry County
foxvalleyillinois.com Illinois - Are you up for amazing?