Things to Do in Boone County

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Boone County Museum of History

The mission of the Boone County Museum of History is to stimulate interest in Boone County history through education, research and preservation of artifacts and archival materials. With exhibits updated on an annual basis, the museum truly offers something for everyone.

Come see the newly renovated interactive gallery of local flora, fauna and geology in the Melvin and Mildred Banks Gallery of Boone County Conservation. Other features of the museum include a variety of horse-drawn vehicles, as well as antique cars including the first Plymouth that rolled off the Chrysler assembly line.

Your visit to the museum will include a midcentury modern living room featuring artifacts and information about Judi Ford’s Miss America win, and a reproduction Victorian parlor. The museum also highlights the history of National Sewing Machine Company, a 1950s diner, and even a complete two-story 1840s era Boone County pioneer cabin.

The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Plan your next event in the Grand Gallery, or stop by the Research Center and Community Classroom to browse the archives!

Edward’s Apple Orchard

For the past 50 years, thousands of guests from across northern Illinois flock to Edward’s Apple Orchard to enjoy a taste of autumn. Visitors can pick apples, pumpkins and raspberries; visit the Apple Barn to shop for a number of fall treats; or enjoy lunch at the Cider Mill. And don’t forget to take home a dozen tasty cider donuts. The Apple Orchard is open from late August through Thanksgiving.

Lindberg Pumpkin Patch

Under new ownership in 2015, this pumpkin patch has a little bit of everything. Families can enjoy old-fashioned wagon rides, a petting zoo, face painting and hands-on classes like taffy making and pumpkin carving. The patch also hosts one of the largest pumpkins in the world, standing at over 10 feet tall. The cafe and bakery serve classic autumn treats like caramel apples and pumpkin pies. There are also plenty of special events throughout the fall season.

McEachran Homestead Winery

As the only winery in Boone County, McEachran Homestead offers a unique wine tasting experience for visitors and local residents alike.

The McEachran Homestead was settled in 1857 by John McEachran, the great-great-grandfather of Herb Greenlee, the current owner. McEachran immigrated to northern Illinois from Scotland and settled in what was known then as the Argyle Scottish Settlement. The McEachran Homestead is officially recognized by the State of Illinois as a Sesquicentennial Farm.

Since the winery opened, the vineyard has doubled to 1,000 vines, which includes 19 varieties of grapes, over two acres of property. The original farm of 160 acres has been expanded to 285 acres with corn and soybeans as the main crops. Eleven acres are dedicated to 19 varieties of grapes, raspberries and fruit trees, all of which are meticulously tended, then handcrafted into cold-climate grape and fruit wines. The winery is open year-round.

Tours are available for guests to learn about the different types of wine varieties and how viticulture and production aspects influence the flavor of McEachran Homestead’s wines. Tours also offer insight into the pruning, tending and nurturing of the vineyards and surrounding gardens. Groups can sample a variety of cold-climate grape and seasonal fruit wines made on-site.

The Keen Age Center

The Boone County Council on Aging provides a variety of programs to older adults and their caregivers that help enrich and improve their quality of life. Programs include public transportation, medical car escort, nutrition, outreach, in-home care, computer lab, information and assistance, education, recreation, Memory Café, Dementia Friendly Community and volunteer opportunities. The council’s headquarters is the Keen Age Center, 2141 Henry Luckow Ln., which serves as headquarters for the professional staff and volunteers for all services provided by the organization, as well as a recreational and meeting site for older adults and caregivers.

Poplar Grove Airport and Wings & Wheels Museum

Pilots from all over the world stop at a small airport in Boone County for the chance to step back in time and enjoy grassroots aviation. Visitors come from nearly every state in the country, as well as Europe, South America, Asia and Australia. In 2016, there were even visitors from China and Russia.

The Poplar Grove Airport is a privately owned, public-use airport that was started in 1972 by Dick Thomas, a retired dairy farmer. When Thomas died in 1994, his son and daughter-in-law, Steve and Tina, bought the airport, which was home to 40 airplanes, a flight school and a maintenance shop.

This led to the development of Bel-Air Estates Fly-in community in 1997. Four years later, the lots were sold out. Today there are 100 homes with airport taxiway access, 40 without access and 39 townhomes. Over 400 airplanes are based at the airport, which has a thriving flight school and a nationally recognized maintenance facility. In 2015, it was named the top Privately Owned Airport in Illinois. In 2017, Steve and Tina Thomas were inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame.

In 1997, an interest in vintage aviation led to the creation of the Poplar Grove Aviation Education Association and the Poplar Grove Vintage Wings & Wheels Museum. The education association is a nonprofit organization developed to preserve early transportation artifacts and promote education in the transportation fields. It is funded through memberships, sponsorships and donations. In 2019, the museum, along with the EAA Chapter 1414 based at Poplar Grove Airport, received the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame Spirit of Flight Award.

This pre-World War II museum focuses on the aviation and automobile industries as they grew together in the early 20th century. Exhibits feature vintage airplanes and automobiles. The floor layout changes up to three times a year to accommodate seasonal exhibits and to keep the layout fresh.

The museum is currently involved in a joint project with EAA Chapter 1414 to build a from-scratch, planes-built flying replica of the 1918 Curtiss Jenny 4ND aircraft. It is scheduled for completion in 2020, and the work in progress is open to museum visitors. In 2018, the museum youth group, Youth Exploring Aviation for ages 15-20, completed a 10-year project restoring a 1941 Aeronca Chief with the oversight of the museum’s restoration team. This plane was originally owed by aviation pioneer Fred Machesney, and had one time been owned by our airport founder Dick Thomas. It is now airworthy and back in the air.

A new exhibit opening in June 2019 features Dick Thomas along with Fred Machesney and the contributions these two men made to the aviation community in northern Illinois. Another exhibit features the growth of the airline industry with a special collection of vintage stewardess uniforms.

The museum is open Thursday through Sunday, April through September, as well as by appointment. Field trips for students, summer camps, lectures and tours are available throughout the season. A variety of fundraising events are held, including a Detective Dinner in October, a holiday wine tasting in November and Santa at the Museum in December. In August, the airport hosts a fly-in/drive-in pancake breakfast sponsored by the Poplar Grove Lions Club, which is the Lions’ biggest fund-raiser every year.

Service Clubs

An integral part of Boone County is served by Fraternal, International and local Service Clubs: 4-H Club, Belvidere Lions Club, Belvidere Noon Rotary Club, Belvidere Women’s Club, Boone County Gardeners of America, Coon Creek Casters, Cosmopolitan Club, I.O.U. Club, Moose Club, Poplar Grove Lions Club, VFW Club and ZONTA Club.