In Chicago’s upscale northwest suburbs, Buffalo Grove is around 25 miles from the Chicago Loop.
This village of 40,000 had a population of just 1,500 in 1960, but has a long history going back to the Potawatomi people and a German dairy farming community that cropped up in the 1830s.
Buffalo Grove is often named among the best places to live in Illinois, and has fabulous public amenities at well-appointed parks, nature preserves and golf facilities, as well as one of the top summer farmers’ markets in the area.
Close by you’ll find a multitude of small but worthwhile attractions, from a whimsical mini golf course to a winery, indoor karting track and farm stand that bursts into life in the fall.
1. Long Grove Confectionery Co.
Established in 1975, the Long Grove Confectionery Co. is famed for its handcrafted chocolates.
The most beloved of these is the Pecan Myrtle, salted and roasted pecans topped with handmade caramel and milk chocolate, part of a huge range, from chocolate-covered pretzels to classic caramels.
The business was initially based at a quaint shop and candy kitchen in Long Grove, but, to meet demand, it soon had to move production to a sizable facility in Buffalo Grove.
You can visit this factory to see an amazing variety of delectable sweet treats being made. The tour starts with an informative video about the brand’s history and of course there’s a free sample for every guest.
In Long Grove the company maintains a store at the original production site.
2. Raupp Memorial Museum
For anyone curious about Buffalo Grove’s origins and development, this fantastic local history museum is an essential starting point.
Surrounded by conifers and hardwood trees in the namesake park, the Raupp Memorial Museum holds more than 3,000 artifacts relating to the village’s history.
The main exhibit offers a complete chronology, covering the native Potawatomi people, the German farming families that settled here in the 1830s and the growth of the village as a suburb in the 1950s and 60s.
A second, interactive gallery recreates local businesses and amenities from the 1880s, including a school, saloon, store, pharmacy and barber shop. There’s also a third space for temporary exhibits, focussing on specific topics, from women’s suffrage to local art.
3. Mike Rylko Community Park
Numerous amenities are clustered around this public space on the banks of Buffalo Creek, by the intersection of Deerfield Parkway and McHenry Road.
A summer favorite for younger families is the Spray ‘n Play, one of the largest splash pads anywhere, with more than 20 sprays, water toys and fountains, complemented by a picnic area.
On the south side is the Golf Dome, one of the top public indoor golf facilities in the country, with a 75-yard driving range and putting green in a temperature controlled environment.
Elsewhere you’ll find the park district’s ultramodern fitness center, along with a sprawling skatepark and a little nature reserve by the creek.
4. Buffalo Grove Farmers’ Market
Sunday mornings, June through October, there’s a well-attended farmers’ market in the parking lot at Mike Rylko Park.
The sheer choice at the Buffalo Grove Farmers’ Market is impressive, with 30+ vendors on a given week.
You can shop for an ever-changing array of fruit and vegetables, flowers, farm-raised meats, flowers, cheese, eggs, a wealth of enticing baked goods, jams, honey, fish, nuts, pet supplies, salsas, and a great deal more.
It’s impossible not to work up an appetite here, and you’ll often find vendors for anything from filled pancakes to acai bowls, tamales and tacos.
5. Didier Farms
One reason to look forward to fall in Buffalo Grove is for Pumpkinfest at nearby Didier Farms.
In the last week of September and all of October you can visit this farm, dating back to 1912, for pumpkins and gourds in an array of sizes and colors, as well as pony rides, hayrides, camel rides, a craft area, mini zoo and delicious food from homemade donuts to corn dogs and Johnsonville brats.
Earlier in the year the farm has a greenhouse selling flowers and vegetables in spring, and also offers a changing variety of produce and homemade treats from the farm stand all summer long.
Didier Farms is especially known for its sweet corn, but also grows green beans, a host of different hot and sweet peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, patty pan squash and a great deal more.
6. Valentino Vineyards & Winery
Winemaking may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Chicago suburbs, but there’s a 20-acre estate just a couple of minutes away in Long Grove.
This is the foremost vineyard and winery in Chicagoland, growing 20 grape varieties for a large selection of wine.
The whole process, from harvest to crushing, fermentation and aging (in French and American oak barrels) takes place right here. May through December, Friday to Sunday you can swing by for tastings and purchases, or to take a tour of the vineyard and winery.
7. Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve
Managed by Lake County Forest Preserves is an extensive 408-acre sweep of restored nature just west of Buffalo Grove. From as long ago as the 19th century this land was a farm, continuously worked until the late-1970s.
Since then the native tallgrass prairie has been allowed to return, in a landscape of scurrying creeks, wetlands and a reservoir where fishing is permitted.
Some 5.5 miles of trails for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing weave through the preserve. Look out for the stunning array of grassland birds, among them eastern meadowlarks and bobolinks.
8. K1 Speed Buffalo Grove
This indoor karting brand has locations across the United States, including two in the Chicago area. K1 Speed recently opened a branch in Buffalo Grove, boasting two tracks.
Both of these have been intricately designed for a mix of speed and technicality, offering tight, twisty sections with lots of opportunity for overtaking.
If you haven’t visited a karting track for a while you’ll be shocked by how high-tech the experience is, and this goes right down to the karts, which are European-built with eco-friendly electric motors.
K1 Speed caters to corporate events and parties, and runs a host of leagues, cups and themed nights.
If you just want to get behind the wheel you can pick an Arrive & Drive session, with a mandatory briefing session for first-time racers. And for spectators there’s the Paddock Lounge and Restaurant, overlooking the two tracks and offering a diverse menu and drink selection.
9. No Escape Room
Buffalo Grove’s first ever escape room attraction has proved a big hit. Designed for teams of 2-9 people, No Escape Room requires a whole gamut of talents, but also plenty of teamwork and collaboration.
The puzzles require logic and math skills, but are also engagingly visual and tactile for a fun, if fraught 60 minutes.
There are three physical themed rooms to solve, but also four innovative VR rooms, in which you still have to interact with your teammates.
Among the virtual challenges, you’ll need to get away from a creepy hospital, escape a Medieval tower without falling prey to dragons or get away from an ancient underwater temple.
10. Des Plaines River Trail
Just past the east side of Buffalo Grove, the Des Plaines River makes its way southwards on a 133-mile journey to form the Illinois River, a tributary of the Mississippi.
There’s a trail hugging the river for almost the entire length of Lake County, winding through a green corridor with 12 forest preserves for a total of 31.4 miles.
This gravel path is ideal for bicycling, hiking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing in winter, and there are also numerous places to launch a canoe or kayak in summer.
Much of your hike will be in the shade of oaks, hickories and maples, and you can look out for native animals like beavers, turtles and herons as you go.
11. Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area
Close to Buffalo Grove, the Des Plaines River will take you past another preserve with an interesting past.
This 552-acre space conserves one of the best examples of a northern flatwoods forest, a habitat native to Northern Illinois.
In the first half of the 20th century, this was a weekend getaway for a number of wealthy families who built a series of log cabins here.
This was followed in 1942 by a refined country house for the prominent businessman Edward L. Ryerson.
You can discover the preserve’s unique ecology on 6.5 miles of trails, while the LEED-certified Welcome Center (2006) is a model of green architecture, hosting a range of public programs and nature-oriented exhibits.
12. Par-King Skill Golf
With a history going back to 1955, this famous miniature golf course can be found just east in Lincolnshire.
Par-King moved to this location in 1977 after making headlines for its highly elaborate hole design.
Today you’ll find two 18-hole courses, with no fewer than 19 moving obstacles along the way and seven water holes to contend with.
You’ll come across a model Sears Tower, a Mount Rushmore, a loop-the-loop, Statue of Liberty and even a roulette wheel on the final hole.
13. Willow Stream Park
This gorgeous community park brims with amenities and also hosts a series of outdoor concerts in the summer.
One summer mainstay is the Willow Stream Pool at the north end, with a lap pool and wading pool, both featuring zero-depth entry, along with a slide.
Close by is the park’s 9-hole disc golf course, kept in perfect condition, along with facilities for soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball and tennis.
The park has a whole network of walking trails and a superb playground for smaller members of the family.
14. Buffalo Grove Community Arts Center
If you’d like to check out the creative talent coming out of Buffalo Grove, keep an eye on the schedule at the Community Arts Center, run by the village’s park district.
Opened in 2014, this is a multipurpose facility, with a fine theater/auditorium, exhibition space in the main hallway and a series of rehearsal/multipurpose rooms.
The center is home to Big Deal Productions, the park district’s theatre company, with an exciting program of plays, musicals, cabarets and concerts.
15. Buffalo Grove Days
The biggest annual public event in Buffalo Grove takes place across the Labor Day weekend, packing a carnival, musical entertainment, arts and crafts, fireworks, great local food and all kinds of other fun.
Accompanied by an opening parade, the Buffalo Grove Days carnival kicks off on Thursday, running through to the following Monday, with tons of rides and games at Mike Rylko Park.
Friday through Sunday there are nightly concerts, while the climactic fireworks presentation is always a highlight on the Saturday night.