Whether it’s spotting an eagle while hiking trails along the Mississippi River or catching a show performed by master magician PT Murphy, Galena Country offers up activities to put smiles on every face in your family.
Read on to find out why this northwestern Illinois gem should be the next place to visit on your family vacation destination list.
1. Be natural. If the name of your family’s game is nature, there’s no shortage of outdoor spaces to visit. Head to Apple River Canyon State Park, which is an ideal spot for boating, camping, hiking and fishing. There’s also Horseshoe Mound Preserve, where you can hike, bird-watch and picnic while learning about local geology and taking in picturesque views of the area. Or if you’re looking for a place to enjoy a nice bike ride, head to the 9 mile Galena River Trail. If you’re bringing your pets, don’t worry! All of the spots mentioned above are pet-friendly.
2. Pet an alpaca. If anyone in your family is an animal lover, they’ll want to make a trip to Adventure Creek Alpaca & Goldendoodle Farm. The alpacas, which call the farm home, are quiet, regal animals that are friendly to people, making this a great option for families with smaller children. You can meet Quincy the alpaca, who happens to be a TV star or take one of these gentle creatures for a walk. And as the farm’s name implies, there are also goldendoodles (a hybrid breed of dog that’s a blend of golden retriever and poodle) to ensure that you get your puppy love fix, too.
3. Make a little magic. “How did he do that?” Whether you’re 13 or 93, that’s the question you’ll be asking yourself throughout the 65-minute show delivered by Galena’s master magician, P.T. Murphy. Murphy, known for his personal style and mischievous sense of humor, believes in magic, and his goal is to leave you feeling mystified and inspired. The location for the show, an intimate 24-seat theater— located in the heart of historic downtown—only contributes to the fascinating experience. Shows are offered Wednesday through Sunday, and advance purchase of tickets is recommended.
4. Travel back in time. History runs deep in Galena. For example, your kids can get to know Grant—Ulysses S. Grant—that is. Yep, one of Galena’s most famous faces was Grant, whose family moved to town one year before the Civil War. Before the war, the top Union general, and future president, worked at his father’s leather goods store, Grant & Perkins. At the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, you can tour Grant’s home, which was given to him by a group of Galena citizens after the war.
Another option for a lesson is in history is to visit Apple River Fort State Historic Site, a Black Hawk War landmark. In 1832, Black Hawk and his warriors attacked the fort. Today, you’ll find a reconstruction of the long-vanished fort (completed in 1997 and modeled after findings from a 1995 archaeological dig), where Black Hawk and the early settlers’ stories are shared. The site is open year-round, Wednesday through Sunday.
5. Spin your wheels. Work smarter, not harder while navigating Galena’s hilly landscape and rent an electric bike from Fever River Outfitters; this a good option and fun activity for people 18 or older. These easy-to-ride bikes allow you to glide down one of the area’s many trails or visit destinations such as the four wineries located in Galena Country. Rentals are available for two-hour increments.
6. Take a hidden hike. Burn a few calories while checking out some of Galena’s lesser-known hikes. For example, there’s the 230-acre Winston Tunnel State Natural Area, where you can find the historic Winston Tunnel, which was completed in 1888 for the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad. Although the tunnel is closed to the public, the area is a great spot to view a little history in the midst of nature. Or visit Galena’s 4-acre Linmar Gardens, which are situated on natural limestone outcroppings that overlook the town. Here, your family will find water features, a small mine replica and an exquisite sunken garden situated in the ruins of one of the first African-American churches in Illinois. Last but not least, take the family to the West Street Sculpture Park, where they can wander through an outdoor gallery of more than a dozen large steel sculptures created by award-winning local artist John Martinson. You’ll see sculptures including two 40-foot towers and a giant TINKERTOY. The park is open year-round, and there’s also an on-site studio where Martinson is often working.
7. Try the trolley. Give those tired feet a rest and take a Galena Trolley Tour. Choose from a one-hour nonstop tour of Galena’s Historic district or a 2 ½ hour tour of homes, including admission to Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, Belvedere Mansion and Dowling House.
8. Sleep and swim. No trip is complete without a little swim time. Your kiddos will be beyond content with the pools at hotels, such as Ramada Galena Hotel & Day Spa, which offers a catch and release pond, indoor pool, whirlpool and fitness room; Stoney Creek Inn, which offers complimentary breakfast, an indoor pool and fitness center; Country Inn & Suites By Carlson in Galena and Stockton, offering complimentary continental-plus breakfast and an indoor waterpark featuring a 72-foot waterslide, whirlpool and wading pool/frog waterslide; and Best Western Designer Inn & Suites, which offers an indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub, in-room fireplaces, and complimentary hot breakfast.