First, visit the grounds of the Wandering Tree Estate, the home of the "Train Lady," Elaine Silets. You will see two very large and elaborate model railroad layouts. The Gloree and Triumphant Garden Railway runs on over 10,000 square feet of land. Large G Scale trains pass through bridges and over waterfalls. See the Japanese Garden that grows thousands of begonias and is complemented by a charming gazebo overlooking the lake.
Then head inside into the Harvey Silets Memorial Chicago Model Railroad Museum. This intimate indoor train museum has O Scale trains that run through a city of Chicago replica. You can expect to find Union Station, a drive-in theater, the Chicago skyline, the underground "L" subway system, Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, a hidden missile silo and so much more.
Our nearby group lunch suggestion is Onion Pub & Brewery built from recycled timbers that pre-date the American Revolution. The Barrington facility is perched on a restored gravel quarry. Starting as a brewery making Wild Onion beer, the business grew into a showpiece of craftsmanship inside and out. The menu is created with the same commitment to freshness and quality, using as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible. The Great Hall is anchored by a large timber farm cathedral ceiling that overlooks a beautiful 11-acre lake. Settle in for a delicious lunch, accompanying brews, lively conversation and amazing views.
From the pub to the castle - Bettendorf Castle. Get an intimate glimpse of medieval in the Chicago suburbs open from May-October. The extraordinary, one-of-a-kind Gothic-style castle established in 1932 hosts grounds tours and features dozens of magnificent mature oak trees, landscaping that overlooks towers, turrets, a moat, a drawbridge, a dungeon, fountains and spacious yards. Each vantage point from the highlights above offer a unique view of the castle. The current residents tell you the history of how Teddy Bettendorf took 36 years to build this castle by hand. The blueprint of his masterpiece was inspired by his homeland castle of Vianden, Luxembourg. The stones are all locally gleaned from stone, quarries, farmers fields and the excavation of Lake Julian.
All this touring can make one thirsty. Well, we have a brewing company named after a castle in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland: Flesk Brewing Company. A trip to the castle by the family patriarch left an impression. The sons of the patriarch studied and sampled beer until only the best was created. And you can sláinte with unique brews such as Train Line, Other Brother, Canary in the Coal Mine, Behind the Ivy, Ramona and more. The Barrington brewhouse is located in the historic Ice House Mall.
Also residing in the Ice House Mall is an area-favorite, Chessie's Restaurant, where dinner can be conveniently arranged in the train car. Just another tribute to the train lines that run through Barrington. Delectable fare, impeccable service and a relaxing evening to end the day before heading home or to your local hotel. We can make several suggestions including the Hampton Inn & Suites Deer Park, Four Points Sheraton in Buffalo Grove, Chicago Marriott Lincolnshire Resort and others depending on your preference.
The next day, visit the extraordinary Sanfilippo Estate (home of the Fisher Nut Company family). It's a castle in its own right, 44,000-square feet of amazingness highlighted by orchestrions, the world's largest indoor pipe organ and a restored European carousel trimmed in gold. You really need to see it to believe it. Groups can now decide on the classic tour or the new wing featuring the son, Jeffrey's extensive perfume bottle collection and complete 1800s general store.
Your group lunch suggestion is at Franco's Pescheria in Lake Zurich, a local fish market, restaurant and raw bar. This intimate dining experience features only the freshest fish and Venetian family recipes.
Then, stop by for a Shakespearean-themed pint just a walk away at Roaring Table Brewing Company. Enjoy the long communal tables or couches with brews such as Brief Candle, Gose with Passion Fruit, Lighted Windows on the Snow, Lost in the See Through and so much more. The Lake Zurich brewery hosts trivia nights, food trucks and yoga on a regular basis, plus craft nights with painting and wreath making.
In the evening, catch a concert at North America's oldest outdoor music festival: Ravinia Festival in Highland Park (with Ravinia Brewing Co. nearby to wet your whistle), a favorite or new musical at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire or unwind at the hotel.
Should you wish to extend your tour, we suggest a trip to the Bristol Renaissance Faire where you can party like it's 1574. The faire boasts a beautiful 30-acre site with open-air stages featuring sword fighters, minstrels, jesters and more. Those who trek back in time to old England have the opportunity to meet Robin Hood or Queen Elizabeth. All entertainment is included with the price of admission and is open on weekends from early July-Labor Day weekend.
You'd never know that you'd find such a range of unusual culture and history north of Chicago. Let Jayne assist you with the tour that best fits your special interest group.