5 winter activities that don’t require snow
No snow? No problem! So what is there to do if skiing and ice skating aren’t in the cards? Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t act according to the plan but no worries, we’ve compiled a list of winter activities to take your mind off those no-snow winter blues.
Winter Hikes – If you are itching to get outdoors how about a winter hike? Galena has plenty of nature preserves that are well worth visiting. The winter months are a great time to explore trails and admire wildlife, you may even see a bald eagle or two. A winter walk in the woods will reconnect you with nature.
Magic Show – Take time to book a reservation with Galena’s master magician PT Murphy. With his slight of hand and mischievous sense of humor PT will will mystify you to believe! Located in the heart of downtown Galena, this intimate magic show will have you forgetting about the snow in no time.
Wine & Spirit Tastings – Blizzard or mild temps, wine and spirits are always a good idea. Massbach Ridge Winery and Galena Cellars both have tasting rooms located on Main Street and with no icy roads to worry about you might want to plan a drive out to Galena Cellars country vineyard for a full tour. Don’t forget about Blaum Bros. Distillery located off Hwy 20, take a tour of their distillation area and barrel room or stop in for a bottle or a cocktail!
Geocaching – Have you tried it? Geocaching is a fun outdoors activity that the whole family will enjoy, even in the winter. Grab your coat and GPS and start exploring the many geocaches hidden amongst Galena’s historic downtown. It’s a great way to view the city from a different angle, as you search for hidden treasures in surprising places.
President Ulysses S. Grant’s home is open year-round. It was opened to the public in 1904 and a majority of the furnishings are original. Tour this home Wed.-Sun., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Reserve your 2016 New Year’s Eve dinner spot
2016 is almost over! Celebrate the new year with a delicious dinner and Champagne at one of Galena’s finest restaurants. Book your reservations today. These hotspots are selling out fast!
Goldmoor Inn – How about a specially prepared chef’s choice meal at one of Galena’s luxury lodging properties? Book your New Year’s Eve dinner reservations at the Goldmoor Inn and enjoy a prix fixe meal, live music, party favors and Champagne toast.
Fritz and Frites – Enjoy a romantic dinner for 2 with German and French cuisine and an award-winning wine selection. This bistro is the perfect setting to welcome in the new year with the one you love.
Perry Street Brasserie – Dine at one of the top 100 restaurants in the U.S., Perry Street Brasserie. This is the place to go for a unique dinner featuring organic, in-season products and exquisite flavors.
Woodstone Restaurant – The Woodstone Restaurant offers seasonal cuisine using local ingredients and has an extensive wine and craft ale list. Book your intimate New Year’s Eve dinner for 2 before reservations are full!
Fried Green Tomatoes – Ring in the new year with outstanding service in an inviting atmosphere. This iconic restaurant is the place for steak, fresh scallops and homemade lasagna.
One Eleven Main – Enjoy a made-from-scratch meal sourced with local ingredients. One Eleven Main is dedicated to supporting local farmers, artisans and food purveyors and you can taste the passion in their food. Celebrate the new year with a delicious dinner in this delightful restaurant located in the heart of downtown Galena.
Naughty gifts for the naughty list.
Shopping for someone who’s been put on the naughty list? Check out this list of Galena favorites that are sure to carry what you’re looking for.
Head to Noty Kity and shop sexy lip balms, body lotion, lingerie, massage oils, accessories and more! If you want it, Noty Kity can get it! The staff is focused on providing the best and largest variety of products and the highest level of customer service and satisfactions.
Nothing says naughty like a “whiskey made me do it” t-shirt from Blaum Bros Distilling Co. Visit the Blaum Bros gift shop and pick up a comfy tee and some tasty spirits for that special devil in your life. While there, check out the guided tour. This is not a standard 5-minute talk but, rather, a full sensory experience. Touch, taste and feel the ingredients that make Blaum Bros. spirits unique!
Chocolat‘s candies taste so good it’s bad. With more than 200 flavors of Swiss, German, French Belgian and Venezuelan chocolates their selection is so decadent they consider it “The eighth deadly sin.” As if that wasn’t enough, Chocolat’ also carries a fine selection of imported wines. Chocolat’ and wine? Yes, please!
Looking for the perfect stocking stuffer? Pick up a few gift certificates from Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape. Throw in a bottle of Kouzabel wine as a delicious bonus. Enjoy a savory martini while you shop and don’t miss the outstanding appetizer selection and sinful desserts.
Goldmoor Inn Gets It “Just Right”
With its vantage point overlooking the Mississippi River, the Goldmoor Inn is a luxurious and romantic hideaway that strikes a perfect balance. It’s located fairly close to nearby Galena, but it’s just far enough to offer a sense of seclusion. The ambience is not casual, but neither is it pretentious. The price is not inexpensive, nor is it too expensive. The cuisine is both accessible and exceptional. In short, it is just right.
This eighteen room bed and breakfast showcases what can be done when you partner a beautiful location with excellent staff and innkeepers who are passionate about hospitality. My husband and I had the opportunity to enjoy this romantic spot for a weekend, and we could not have been more impressed. At every turn we kept saying “they are spot on. They know exactly what they’re doing. This is just right.”
“They” are owners Slobo and Birgit Radin. Each has twenty-five years in the global hospitality industry, spanning three continents, and their longevity and experience shows. Birgit focuses on guest services and management of the Inn, and Slobo shares his expertise in the food and beverage side of things. From our interactions with them it felt they were perfectly suited for their appointed roles.
Goldmoor Inn’s decor is quintessential charm, with hand-carved wood and Old World luxury. Some of the pieces in the common areas actually are from the Old World, and if you ask Birgit she’ll share which are personal heirlooms. The rooms themselves are arranged in groups, and each group has its own communal seating area that’s particularly good for reunions and wedding parties.
Each room is decorated individually, but they all share a full suite of amenities. They’re definitely set up for romance, with king beds, two-person whirlpool tubs, comfortable robes, fireplaces, and a dining area so you can have your breakfast (or dinner) brought to your room, if you choose. There’s also a mini-kitchenette with refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, and wet bar.
It was the little touches that impressed us the most, because the whole experience is made up of little touches that, combined, create an ideal getaway. Silly little things like a black washcloth for makeup removal had me gushing. It’s embarrassing to leave a white washcloth marred with mascara and foundation; offering a black towel is a considerate touch. So, too, is the towel warmer. I don’t care how hot it is outside, having a nice, warm towel when you step out of the shower feels luxurious.
The whirlpool tub with the provided milk bath is another aspect that’s just right. It truly is built for two. Just be careful about how much of the bath bubbles you use…I wouldn’t recommend using the whole bottle – not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
What I would recommend, heartily and vigorously, is dining in their restaurant for dinner. The restaurant is, as Mike Blaum of Blaum Bros. Distilling said, the best you can find in a wide radius. Dining in the Goldmoor Inn is a marriage of the comfort found at a family-owned bed and breakfast and the fine dining you’d expect from a couple with the experience and resumes of the Radins.
It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
Their chef is Carlos Valdez, a native of Peru who has cooked for the Dalai Lama and was chef de cuisine at the Grillhouse by David Burke in Schaumburg. The menu is comprised of dishes like Beef Wellington and blackened salmon, charcuterie and crab cakes. Everything that came out of that kitchen, just like everything we experienced at Goldmoor Inn, was just right.
Our meal began with pickled vegetables. Nothing special, right? Oh, so wrong. They cleansed the palate, but they were more than just a utilitarian beginning to the meal. They were an amuse-bouche. I wish they sold them in jars. (Mr. Radin – please?)
We then “began” our dinner with the Goldmoor Salad, which they split for us in the kitchen (of course). We chose the Roasted Tomato Sherry Vinaigrette for the artisan lettuce, cucumber, roma tomatoes, carrots, crostini, candied walnuts and crumbled Purple Haze goat cheese. With each bite we exclaimed “how did he do that?” It was not too sweet, or tart. It was perfect. It was just right.
I chose the Herb Crusted Tagliata Steak Brochette as my entree, which was served a perfect medium-rare with a glossy demi-glaze, and my husband chose the double-seared pork chop with a black cherry and sherry wine reduction. Each was accompanied by roasted vegetables. These, too, were perfect, and Slobo explained that Chef Valdez cooks each vegetable separately because they roast at different rates.
Then there were the potatoes. I selected the gratin potatoes. These were just layered slices with cheese, but they were the most perfectly prepared gratin potatoes I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. We heard another diner wonder loudly what in the world the chef had done to create these pockets of pleasure. Most gratins are messy masses of starch; this was a layered symphony of distinct notes.
We concluded our dinner with citrus cheesecake for me and caramel apple bread pudding for him. No elaboration needed.
The next night we elected to watch the sunset over the Mississippi and then have a light dinner sent up to our room. The sunset, like everything else at the Goldmoor, was magical, especially when viewed from comfortable couple-sized Adirondack chairs with footrests. They thought of those, too.
The Goldmoor Inn offers comfort, romance, fine dining, and beautiful views. It offers relaxing in a whirlpool, drying off with a warm towel, and lounging in your bathrobe in front of a fire. It offers an exemplary experience that is…just right.
Goldmoor Inn is located at 9001 W Sand Hill Rd, Galena, IL 815-777-3925. Check for wonderful packages including spa, golf, and equestrian getaways.
Original blog post by Theresa Carter for The Local Tourist on 9/29/2016.
Getting the lead out in Galena, Ill.
My On the Go column is just that, pictures and thoughts pieced together while traveling both for business and pleasure. Recently on a quick trip to northern Illinois, I decided to take a different route home via U.S. Highway 20.
Here is a fact I doubt many know. Highway 20 is the longest road in the United States at 3,365 miles. Both 20 and U.S. 30 were designated to crisscross the states with the designation of the “0” in the route number.
From Boston to Newport, Ore., this scenic road is considered the Northern route and follows the footprints of settlers as Western expansion took place. Generally it coincides with port cities or bridges, also very important in crossing the Missouri or the Mighty Mississippi.
On this venture, I was in for a pleasant surprise, stumbling upon a town that local folklore refers to as “The Town that Time Forgot”.
With a population of just under 3,500, Galena, Ill., is a town rich in history. It’s named for the mineral “Galena” which was mined in the area along the Upper Mississippi River Valley.
Located in the corners and referred to as the Tri State area of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, this robust little city boasts over 1 million visitors a year. The winding main street with nearly 100 businesses and attractions is rich in architecture and heritage with row after row of storefronts mirroring 150 years as a “Boomtown” and riverboat port. Today over 1,000 buildings in this city are registered on the National Historic Society.
Strolling along the shops takes you back in time and one may feel as if you are on a movie set. And in fact you are, as the popular Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams” filmed scenes there.
Growing up in a small town in Nebraska, I find nostalgia comes easy. In fact, it’s even evident in my writing or stories. I find it hard to understand sometimes what is termed “Modern, Progressive and Advanced” may also be defined as “Expensive, Excessive and eventually Extinction.”
In its peak in 1850, Galena was residence to 14,000. In 1865, the town presented a home to Ulysses S. Grant in honor of his service after the Civil War. Grant moved back to work in his father’s leather store in Galena.
Near this time, as mines ran out, the land or homestead act and gold was struck in California, Galena started its decline. Still a popular port city and with the rich soil in the rolling hills, agriculture saw the city through the early 1900s. And like many towns in the 1950s, grain and livestock carried them into the 1980s.
Galena went through the rise and fall of a mining town. As a farming community in the 1980s, survival wasn’t easy.
Small town survival looms in the horizon for many rural settings. Cell phone and Internet shopping at the push of a button, along with large retail stores and strip malls everywhere in larger cities, have all but eliminated rural business.
Tourism can often revive regions and towns. Such is the case with Galena, which in 1980 started a campaign to protect its history and preserve the architecture of the many buildings. Planning and foresight, or in this case, retrospect saved this town from becoming a ghost town.
And if you’re wondering as to what the mineral galena is, for which this town is named, galena is an ore, or lead sulfide or simply just called lead. And in this town’s history, “Getting the lead out” has proven fateful.
But then again, everyone likes a comeback story.
It’s fall sale season, and if there is anything I can help with, let me know. I will be attending many production sales in Nebraska and the surrounding states in the coming months. Look for this column for sale averages and comments.
Original blog post by Chris Beutler on Sept., 28 2016
A long weekend in Galena
Labor Day has come and gone. A sign that summer is ending and that fall is just around the corner! Today’s Weekend Snapshots post is a recap of my long weekend in Galena. Make sure to link up your weekend snapshots at the bottom of this post!
Josh’s anniversary gift to me this year was a long weekend away to Galena, Illinois. We heard about Galena years ago and could not get the little European town in the middle of the Midwest out of our minds since. When Josh told me we were going there, and that he was driving the six hours each way, I was so excited!
We packed up our bags.
And hit the road! We were in for some truly gorgeous views. Galena is as beautiful as everyone claims. And Nebraska has definitely made me soft as I was totally unprepared for some of the hills. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a highway that has mountains on either side of it.
We stayed at The Irish Cottage and it felt like stepping into a storybook. I literally felt like I was in Ireland!
They had a gorgeous library filled with Irish authors.
And a seriously awesome pub with live music each night and fresh cheese curds. One of the perks of being so close to Wisconsin.
Josh treated me to a couples massage at their spa and it was beyond heavenly. I didn’t realize how much tension I was holding in my upper back until I wasn’t anymore.
Downtown Galena is absolutely gorgeous. It’s located on the river and has what feels like a mile of storefronts. We had so much fun popping into all the stores and picking up some cute things to remember our trip by.
I love how old the city and its buildings are. Where I grew up in Pennsylvania was like this and it reminded me a lot of home.
I love this photo of us. I can’t believe we’ve been married three years!
Also, how cute are these Shanore earrings? It felt like the perfect time to wear my shamrock earrings and show my Irish pride.
One of Galena’s must-dos is to tour Blaum Bros Distilling Co. As someone who has been dragged on a lot of booze tours with Josh, this is one of the first I really enjoyed. The tour guide was funny, knowledgeable, and kept the tour moving. Josh loved the tour too and is now a big fan of their spirits.
We also went to see a magic show by P.T. Murphy. This was another Josh pick that I was a little skeptical of, but oh my gosh you guys this show was amazing! I loved the intimate setting and getting to see the magic up close and personal. P.T. Murphy is an amazing showman and his tricks seriously blew me away.
We capped off our trip with dinner and this gorgeous view at Eagle Ridge Resort. The food was great and the view made me feel like I had stepped into the most picturesque summer camp. It was the perfect way to toast a wonderful summer and get excited for a great fall.
Monday we started the drive back to Omaha. We took a detour to Wisconsin to pick up some squeaky cheese curds. They were so good! Between Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska, we were in four states on Labor Day. It was a great Midwest road trip home!
Original blog posted by Her Heartland Soul on Sept., 6, 2016
A family’s Galena discoveries
Galena is a delightful location for a little family getaway. The town is historic and picturesque. There is plenty to do and explore yet the pace is relaxing.
|Located in a historic building, Otto’s Place served up fresh and hearty meals.
We started both of our mornings in Galena at Otto’s Place for breakfast. Otto’s serves up a range of options for breakfast including sweet, savory, hearty and light. Of course, I ordered up my perennial fave mushroom and spinach omelette upon spying it on the menu. My meal was delicious and enough to fuel me most of the day. Otto’s inhabits a historic building constructed in 1899 and displays local art on the walls. We loved the proximity to the Galena River Trail for a little walk after breakfast.
After our first Otto’s breakfast, we headed to the U.S. Grant Home for a tour which I reviewed earlier in the series. Then, we ambled downtown absorbing the historical ambiance, admiring old buildings and running into a U.S. Grant or two.
|Sweet temptations found at Galena Kandy Kitchen which has been crafting candy since 1974.
Galena invites visitors to wander through interesting stores, explore local makers, swirl local wine and spend a day or two just being in the moment. Of course, our first discovery–or rediscovery–indulged our chocolate addictions. We made a beeline for Galena Kandy Kitchen, a confectionery crafting temptations since 1974. My husband visited Galena Kandy Kitchen as a child adding a little family history to the adventure. Of course, a sweet treat was a must and I absolutely loved the dark chocolate sea salt caramel. Inside, you will find a large range of candy temptations AND made in U.S.A. puzzles and toys.
|Pottery creation in action at Pinder Pottery.
Throughout town, we discovered local artists. Galena Metal Artworks is an inspirational shop providing a showcase of garden, landscaping and home decor art crafted by local artists. Pinder Pottery sometimes treats visitors to pottery demos right in the front window. Unfortunately, Pinder Pottery was not open during our visit but I look forward to exploring in the future. Other artists included painters, photographers and more.
|The Old Market House in Galena was constructed in 1845-1846.
While wandering, we stumbled upon the Old Market House which was constructed in 1845-1846. The Market House once sheltered vendors and shoppers that gathered in the city’s business district. Today, the Market House provides visitor information and contains an interesting collection of Grant memorabilia. An added bonus–a nice place to sit and play some checkers! May through October, the Galena Farmers’ Market thrives on the lawn of the Old Market House each Saturday 7AM-12PM. Lovely to see the area once again provide a place for residents to peruse and purchase local goods.
|Root beer sampler for a little fun!
Exploring in the summer heat warranted a cool drink. We stepped into Root Beer Revelry to appraise the root beer selection. In addition to root beer, we were surprised to find cream sodas and other novelty sodas. Root beers are on tap for a cool draft. The shop features a root beer sample which we of course could not resist! For $3, we sampled decent portions of 5 root beers on tap. Root Beer Revelry also has cool bottles of root beer ready for weary travelers! Cool, crisp refreshment!
We also enjoyed perusing Galena Candle & Bath Company featuring handmade items and the ability you pour your own candles. Of course, a stop at Galena Canning Company is a must where visitors journey through local Chef Ivo’s foodie creations including dressings, sauces, condiments, jams, jellies and more.
For dinner, we LOVED Fritz and Frites. Fritz and Frites features both French and German food. The restaurant has a refined feel but casual enough that our daughter felt welcome at an early hour. Delicious and the type of treat you expect to find on a vacation! I had the sauerbraten with red cabbage and spatzle. Fabulous!
|Abraham Lincoln gave an 1856 from the balcony of the DeSoto House.
After our dinner, we took another walk after dinner taking in some more Galena history included the DeSoto House where Lincoln gave an 1856 speech. Also downtown is Galena’s oldest house, the Dowling House built in 1826.
|Constructed in 1826, the Dowling House is Galena’s oldest.
Galena is full of so many treasures providing for a splendid family getaway. Friendly and relaxed, we felt immediately at home. We enjoyed our explorations and are eager to return and experience more of what Galena has to offer!
Original blog posted by A Little Time and a Keyboard on Aug. 30, 2016
Too much fun
Why…. Yes I do!
Isn’t that what this whole road trip is about after all? Okay, maybe not the whole trip was about me shopping for yarn but…
From June 6th – June 9th I was in Galena, Illinois with my mom and sister. We were given a three night stay in the Queen Anne Guest House as a Mother’s Day gift from my father.
Not only was this our mom’s first time to visit Galena and her first stay in a B&B, it was also our first ever mother-daughter trip. We had the best time together.
This is my Mom at breakfast. Just out the window to the left we had a visitor every morning.
Miss Kitty belongs to the owner but lives outside due to potential allergies of guests. She sure wants to come in and join the party though. I gave her some love every day as we went to and fro. While we’re still on the subject of food in Galena…
The options are seemingly endless and delightful. They have fabulous steakhouses, pizza joints and bar and grill type restaurants. There’s Asian food, Greek food, Seafood, fine Italian dining
and a Good Ole Mom and Pop Diner on a corner. Plus I always find delicious vegetarian fare for myself when I visit. Galena is also rich with history. It’s the home place of President Ulysses S. Grant. Everywhere you look your eye lands on beautiful old buildings.
There are lots and lots of stairs because, unlike most of our flat state of Illinois, Galena is very hilly.
Now back to that Yarn Shop…
I always make a beeline for this place of heaven on earth the moment we hit Galena. As a matter of fact, when Amy, the owner of Fiber Wild first opened a few years ago, I just happened to be in Galena celebrating my birthday with my husband. I was so excited to find that there was a Yarn Shop in town all of a sudden. And it really was all of a sudden. She was literally setting up shop on her first week there. I’m just so thrilled to see that she’s still open for business every time I return. There are people in this world who keep walking in a certain direction down a certain street because they smell the undeniable aroma of food. For me… It’s Yarn…
I promise you… some things in this world speak to me, other things call my name. Yarn however, I Smell. On this trip I purchased three different yarns that are all new to me. In my next post I will give you my review on the one I’ve worked with so far, making the cabled fingerless gloves from my last post.
One last thing I have to say that I love about my trips to Galena is this… For a tiny town in Illinois with a population of 3,361 to have the appeal it does to so many different people amazes me. I love catching snatches of foreign languages on the breeze as I walk up and down the streets. I also enjoy watching other people being happy and observing how they express themselves. I like getting glimpses of how they live, what makes them feel beautiful and how they relate to this big vast world we live in. So many things can be seen in a small tourist town. This was my favorite thing on this trip to Galena.
Disappointingly, I never saw the owners of this wonderful van. No doubt they were off having too much fun.
Original blog posted by Rose Petal Tea on 6/6/16
Jump-start your summer with this 4-day itinerary
Jump-start your summer with a weekend full of adventure during Memorial Day weekend. For many of us, Memorial Day means school is out and summer vacation officially begins. Grab your travel buddies and plan a vacation to Galena to celebrate the season. Here’s a 4-day itinerary missing only one thing… you!
Spend Friday immersed in history and wowed with impressive architecture. Explore the historic Elihu B. Washburne House where President Ulysses S. Grant spent his election night. After a walk through Washburne’s home, a tour of Grant’s home is in order. See his original furnishings and tour his property and other historic buildings. Have your camera ready to snap a picture of the amazing Bernadine’s Stillman Inn located steps away from the Grant home. Now a bed and breakfast, the Inn has exquisitely preserved the French Italianate details, which date back to 1858. Next up is The Belvedere Mansion & Gardens. Inside, visitors will find Victorian furnishings, Liberace’s estate items and the famous green drapes, as well as artwork, from “Gone with the Wind.”
Saturday is for tasting and touring. The Galena Area is home to multiple wineries, including Massbach Ridge Winery & Tasting Room, Fergedaboudit Vineyard & Winery and Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, all of which offer tours and tastings. Wine isn’t your thing? How about a cold craft beer or fine spirits? Blaum Bros. Distillery offers daily tours, tastings, a gift shop and even a specialty cocktail bar. The Galena Brewing Co. is a microbrewery, featuring brewery tours, tastings, brewpub menu, gift shop and live entertainment.
Celebrate Sunday Funday outdoors in one of Galena’s beautiful parks. The Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation maintains breathtaking nature preserves. Plan a picnic lunch on a preserve and enjoy Mother Nature at her finest. Spend the afternoon hiking, biking or even kayaking your way through the scenic landscape of Northern Illinois. Fever River Outfitters can hook you up with bike and kayak rentals. Chestnut Mountain Resort offers mountain bike rentals and Segway tours through the woods overlooking the Mighty Mississippi River.
Between the historic homes, tasty tours and picturesque parks, the weekend has proven to be one for the books. Don’t let your last day in the Galena Area fizzle out. It’s time to shop ‘til you drop and eat your heart out! Galena’s 1800s Main Street was voted as the nation’s Best Shopping on Main Street experience by ShopOnMain. More than 101 mom ‘n’ pop shops tempt visitors with boutique shopping, incredible antiques and gourmet foods. End your Memorial Day shopping spree with a sit-down meal at one of Galena’s fine restaurants. Enjoy a glass of wine and unwind as you recap your weekend with friends over a delicious dinner, a perfect ending to a perfect weekend.
Looking for more travel ideas? We’d love to help you plan your trip. Give us a call or e-mail us! 815.776.9200 – email@example.com
Stand-up Paddleboarding the Galena River, Illinios
Galena is quickly becoming our home away from home in Chicago. We recently traveled back for another glorious weekend which included a nice balance of leisure and outdoors. This trip we did a paddle with Fever River Outfitters and I had my first experience with Stand-Up Paddleboarding
With our first trip to Galena being a resounding success, we were eager to return now that we had a little more ground-level knowledge about the place. Our first trip to a new destination is mostly about making a list of things to return to. Towards the top of our “Northwest Illinois List” was a gentle paddle down the Galena River.
Galena is a favorite destination for many of us busy Chicagoians. Accessible and rather posh, its perfect for long weekends and getaways. The comparatively rugged scenery of the northwest fin of the state starkly contrasts with the common idea that Illinois is flat and uninteresting. One could easily into several thousand feet of elevation gain and loss if on a bike. Hiking opportunities abound too. I’ve thought of it as New England Scenery meets Midwestern Nice.
A unique experience to be had in this part of Illinois is on the Galena River. In the late summer, the river looks serene and unassuming. Tall levees on either side would point towards a different story in the early spring. Nevertheless, the river remains in a very natural state which starkly contrasts the Chicago River we are used to.
I’ve never been stand up paddleboarding before but Dee is a tremendous fan. Being a yoga teacher and a lady quite fond of all things water, she took to stand up paddleboard yoga as a way to combine her favorite things. We rented through Fever River Outfitters and has a nice 4 hour trip up and down the river.
Initially we headed north past most of the iconic sights of Galena. The town’s golden gate bridge instantly came into view and towered over our little paddleboards. Clearly the river gets quite high as the bridge looked strongly built- like it could withstand a tremendous amount of force from a spring river. Towards the right, the famous Grant Park and all of its Civil War era relics were nicely framed.
Grant Park who’s famous lettering was washed away in a major flood. Of course, somebody’s Eagle Scout Project was restoring this sightly location!
The river bottoms out quite easily in some sections so it is prudent to paddle slowly as to not break a fin. The fever river, namesake of our outfitters, came in to view too. We worked our way up it a ways before getting in to too shallow of water.
After passing under the second pedway, we were soon clear of the city and in a wilder part of the river. If there was a current, we could hardly detect it and we effortlessly paddled onwards. SUPing isn’t as labor-intensive as kayaking but it is more of a full-body workout. Going at a gentle pace involves both upper and lower body posture and poise which isn’t difficult to learn. Being that Dee was an experienced SUP-er and yogi, she quietly out-paddled me.
Outside of town the trees and flora close in and the river seems just about as wild as it has ever been. Horseshoe mount looms overhead and the rugged landscape of this part of the state is clearly appreciated. We saw a few other intrepid paddlers on our trip but for the most part we were alone. This late in the summer, the river was teaming with life and a cacophony of noise from insects and birds. Such a pleasant noise to hear when one is used to the roar of downtown Chicago!
At some point we turned around and half-floated/half-paddled our merry way back through Galena. Had we more time, we would have liked to have made it to the Mississippi River about 4 miles away. We did paddle about another half a mile down the river from our starting point and further appreciated a waterway in its natural state.
I’m used to the “dawn to dusk” long distance kayak paddling trips which usually involve more effort than appreciation of scenery. I admit I’ve long made fun of standup paddleboarding as a fake sport but this trip I really came to like this pasttime. Its a less intense way to experience the river but still we felt we burned enough calories to enjoy more food downtown. I’ll sheepishly admit that I was even a bit sore after 4 hours of paddling, something Dee will never let me live down.
We found another way to explore our new-favorite getaway! I’m sure we will be back in the fall.
Blog originally posted on Sept. 26, 2015 by Quincy Koetz
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