The first city in Kane County — and the one-time windmill capital of the world — is now a vibrant community highlighted by a high tech research lab and a scenic Riverwalk along the Fox River
Just as a windmill uses nature to create energy, this western suburb along the Fox River known for its windmill-making history has a natural energy that’s reflected in its places and people.
From services specializing in different forms of wellness to popular events run by corps of volunteers to a world-renowned high-energy laboratory, Batavia is a community of more than 26,000 residents with its own distinct vibe, making it an intriguing place to live and visit since its settlement way back in 1833 as the first city in Kane County.
Get Wind of This
A hundred years ago, Batavia was known as the Windmill Capital of the World and was home to six leading manufacturers that, in their heyday, churned out hundreds of windmills each year and shipped them all over the world.
Mill around . . . the Batavia Riverwalk, near the site of windmill factories that put Batavia on the map in the 19th and early 20th century, where you’ll see seven original windmills that were made in this town, from a colorful red, white and blue wooden windmill to steel versions of the wind machine. Celebrate Batavia’s ties to the humble windmill at the annual Windmill City Festival in mid-July or patronize one of the many businesses with the word “windmill” in its name.
Try a real Dutch treat . . . located just north of town, in neighboring Geneva. The nearly 70-ft-tall Fabyan Windmill is an icon of this community. Constructed in the 1850s, it now graces the grounds of the Fabyan Forest Preserve. Yes, it still turns and yes, you can tour it by appointment or as part of a public tour.
Water — in the form of the Fox River — is at the heart of Batavia and there are many ways to enjoy it. The river cuts through downtown as part of the Tri-Cities area that also includes Geneva and St. Charles.
Kayak or take a paddleboat ride . . . in the warmer months on the Fox River.
Run or cycle . . . along the Fox River Bike Trail. Stop and smell, or at least look at, the flowers when they’re blooming in a wildflower sanctuary at the east edge of the Riverwalk. At this time of year, the trail makes for a great cross-country skiing path after a fresh snowfall.
Skate away the winter blues . . . at the Depot Pond if it’s been cold enough for a deep freeze and conditions are safe.
Celebrate and be festive . . . at the river’s edge at one of this community’s many events held along the scenic Riverwalk, including concerts and festivals like Cocktails in the Park and a chili cook-off in the summer.
Feel the Power
Harness a different kind of energy at the famous Fermilab energy research facility that offers public tours on Mondays and the first Sunday of the month. Tours by appointment are available as well.
Accelerate your knowledge . . . through an eclectic lineup of events offered at Fermilab, including an art and lecture series, various educational and ecology programs, and exibits at the gallery. You can even kick up your heels a bit — classes are held regularly on Scottish and English folk dancing as well as international folk dancing and barn dancing.
Spot some bison . . . on a dedicated bison pasture on the campus of this 6,800-acre site, which also includes trails, birdwatching spots, fishing ponds and a dog training area.
Did we mention high energy? That extends to the many fun-focused events held in Batavia throughout the year, put on by various organizations including Batavia MainStreet, the Batavia Chamber of Commerce and Batavia Park District.
Get through winter with some farm-fresh goodies . . . at the indoor Batavia Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings at Bar Evolution, which sets up a Bloody Mary and mimosa bar and an omelet station for the occasion.
Combine fitness and food . . . with the Race to the Market, a 5K held on the first day of the outdoor Farmer’s Market.
Find a deal or make a deal . . . at the city-wide garage sale held every May.
Share a communal meal . . . at the Batavia Farm to Table Dinner event in August that spotlights locally sourced foods. Still hungry? Nosh on dishes from local eateries at the Taste of Batavia around Labor Day — save some room to bid on a homemade pie at the pie bake-off.
Cheer on your favorite wiener dog . . . at the annual Oktoberfest in the fall, while you down some German food and beer.
Roll a pumpkin . . . at the Batfest event around Halloween that also includes a costume contest, parade and downtown trick or treating.
Eat, Drink and Relax
Discover some local gems amidst Batavia’s restaurant and shopping scene.
Keep it casual . . . at Bernie’s Bully Dogs and at Bulldog’s Cellar Bar & Grill. At both popular spots you’ll see how the bulldog — the mascot for the local high school — is another visual icon in Batavia. And if you’re in the mood for authentic Argentine casual fare, recently opened is family owned Bocaditos Café, with house-made empanados, sandwiches and salads to go, and seating for just 12.
Get some retro flair . . . with your diner fare — including huge pancakes and a Big Daddy Skillet — at Daddio’s Diner. Or see why the baked apple pancake is locally famous (it was the subject of a “Chicago’s Best” television show feature) at Apple Villa Famous Pancakes.
Stop in for a bite . . . as you try a flight of house-smoked bacon to go with your local craft beer at River’s Edge Bar & Grill, which also puts on special beer dinners throughout the year. Knock back an Old Fashioned or martini at Bar Evolution, where you can listen to live entertainment and munch on elevated bar food. Tap into new types of brews, including unique varieties like a smoked Weiss beer, at the hometown Energy City Brewing.
Make a night of it . . . as you hit the notes of the many wines at Acquaviva Batavia — produced at the Acquaviva Winery in Maple Park — that pair well with the Italian dishes and seafood specialties on the menu.
Pick your seafood . . . and pair it with other ingredients of your liking at the Cajun-inspired Crabby Boil.
Get dinner and a show . . . at Pal Joey’s, which opened a second location in Batavia in addition to its original site in nearby West Chicago.
And that’s not all . . . Sample the goods at other establishments in Batavia, including Briana’s Pancake House, East China Inn, Crosstown Pub & Grill, Gammon Coach House and Wilson Street Tavern.
Shop, Shop, Shop
In downtown Batavia small businesses and family owned enterprises work hard to offer shopping choices worthy of larger towns and suburbs.
Remember why you love bookstores . . . at The Book Shop, a charming independent book shop that carries lightly used and new books for your reading pleasure.
Pick out a sparkler . . . or other special jewelry at K. Hollis Jewelers on Randall Rd. Remember, Valentine’s Day is coming up soon.
Find your best look . . . at Six + Cypress boutique, which has a booming online business in addition to its brick-and-mortar location in Batavia. Get a jump on prom season or wedding season at Special Occasions on the Avenue (in this case, Batavia Ave.), with a variety of unique dresses to buy and tuxedos to rent.
Give new life to vintage materials . . . at Red Hive Market, which offers a host of up-cycled, salvaged and vintage pieces and offers hands-on workshops so you can DIY.
Be Well, Do Good
If Batavia is the “energy city,” it also has a certain aura around health and wellness. Stick to a New Year’s resolution to live better at places that specialize in health and wellness, like the Healing Arts Metaphysical Center, Balance Wellness Group and Power Moves Yoga, among other spaces and places here.
Seek a respite from winter’s harshness . . . at The Salt Escape, with salt therapy that can clear toxins from the body and warm you right up.
Browse healthy products . . . for a healthy, socially conscious lifestyle at The Tea Tree shop, offering a range of teas, essential oils and other goods, along with classes and special events. Housed in a historic building, it’s a relaxing spot to stop for a cup of tea, too!
Take a once-a-year opportunity . . . to check out many resources for health and wellness at the annual WellBatavia Festival in June, spotlighting dozens of human and environmental health services and attended by local experts and activists in the fields of health and environmental science.
See the goodness in people . . . that’s evident in examples throughout Batavia, like the Peace on Earth sign created by the owner of a local barber shop and put up by the Batavia Park District every holiday season on the Donovan Bridge. Learn more about or support Mooseheart, a residential childcare campus established by the Moose Lodge more than a century ago to help children who have lost parents or are struggling in an unhealthy home environment.
Learn Something New
Art and culture are alive and well in Batavia, with plenty of opportunities to expand horizons and discover new interests and talents.
Read into it . . . at the Batavia Public Library which was first established in 1882 and now sits atop a hill overlooking the Fox River. Grab an espresso drink or savor a hot cup of soup at Chapters, the indie coffee bar and café in the foyer of the library. Or sit for a spell in the library’s delightful reading garden in the summer months.
Get the scoop on local history . . . at the Batavia Depot Museum, housed in a train depot that’s been a Batavia fixture since 1854. Learn about the museum’s plans to double its space, as the Batavia Historical Society looks to the future.
Appreciate the arts and artisans . . . who create it at various galleries in Batavia, including Water Street Studios and pop-up events throughout the year at various spots in town as part of the Artisan Collective Batavia.
Sit back and enjoy a show . . . at the Batavia Fine Arts Center, including a staging of “Love Letters” featuring Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross (you might remember them from the 1980s sitcom “Family Ties”) on Feb. 7. See the classic “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” at the Albright Community Theatre Company, which will also be staging productions like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grille” in the upcoming season.
Family matters in the neighborly town of Batavia, with several spaces and places designed for children to enjoy.
Let loose the kids . . . or bring out your own inner child at the Funway Ultimate Entertainment Center, which started as a go-kart destination back in the late 1950s. Break out of winter cabin fever with a slew of indoor activities, including bowling, laser tag, bumper cars and roller skating. When it warms up, head to the Funway “backyard” for a round of bumper boats, mini golf, basketball or batting at one of the site’s cages.
Ignore the snow and wind chill . . . and plan ahead for a heck of a summer with a trip to the sand-bottomed Hall Quarry Beach run by the Batavia Park District. Jump or slide on the water features or just float around the water or lay on the accompanying beach.
Step up to the green . . . when it’s green again at Settler’s Hill Golf Course. Or try a game of disc golf at the Batavia Park District’s disc golf course at the West Main Community Park.
Take a hike . . . and view animals and nature at Red Oak Nature Center, run by the Fox Valley Park District.Edit Module