10 Reasons Winter is actually the best time to visit Galena Country

 

Whether you look at winter as a time for outdoor adventure to embrace the elements or a call to head indoors for cozy relaxation and family downtime, Galena offers the perfect winter escape. From a couple’s retreat to a family vacation, from skiing to sleigh rides, from candlelit hikes to Winter Carnival, from romantic dinners to wine tasting, here are the 10 reasons winter is the best time to visit Galena, Il.

1. Chestnut Mountain Resort 

It doesn’t matter if you’re an avid skier or a novice, you should hit the slopes during the winter at Chestnut Mountain Resort. With 19 runs ranging from beginner to expert, you can move on to the next challenge or stay in your comfort zone. For snowboarders, the Farside, Chestnut Mountain’s own 7-acre terrain park named the top Midwest Snowboard Park by Transworld for 3 consecutive years, has its own triple-chair and surface lift with more than 25 rails and jumps. In fact, it’s the largest terrain park in all the Midwest. Group ski lessons for children are broken into two age groups, 4 to 6 or 7 to 12, with all-day or half-day options and snowboarding available for ages 7 and older. A toddler daycare program is also available. And when hunger hits, no need to leave the area. Mountain Top Cafe is located just off the bunny slope and has everything from pizza to cheese fries and a salad in between.

Many rooms at the resort offer slopeside views and visitors enjoy the indoor pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, game room and two on-site restaurants. Sunset Grille, overlooking the upper Mississippi River Valley, provides a stunning view, with menu offerings from sandwiches to steaks and a wide assortment of seafood. Make plans to come back in summer and eat out on the 1,400 square foot dining deck. The Summit is an upscale sports bar where you and your friends can eat, drink and watch the game together.

 

2. The Nordic Center at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

For other winter activities, Eagle Ridge Resort’s Nordic Center has a 1.5-mile skating pond for that authentic outdoor ice skating experience. Or maybe a winter wonder sightseeing expedition is more your style? You can explore the snow-covered countryside when you cross-country ski or snowshoe over the Center’s 7 miles of groomed trails.

 

 

And for the kids, there’s nothing more fun than sledding over their golf course at the famous 18th hole. All equipment is available for rent from Fever River Outfitters. And for a truly different winter experience, try skijoring! While standing on skis, you’ll be pulled by a horse, a dog (or dogs) or a motor vehicle. This way, your friends back home will truly be jealous of your adventures.

 

 

Take advantage of the long Presidents Day Weekend and come for Winter Carnival at Eagle Ridge. The Nordic Center activities will be available plus an assortment of carnival fun, including pony rides, wine tasting, ice turkey bowling, snow painting, live music and more.

 

3. Nature Reserves

The Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation works to protect the land near Galena. Casper Bluff is one of the areas under their protection and worth a visit if just for the scenic views of the Mississippi. But the real star here is not the view but, rather, the archaeological finds found on this 85-acre site. Fifty-one burial mounds from the Aiken Mount group, a culture that lived nearly 3,000 years ago, rest on these grounds. Hiking trails provide information kiosks, helping visitors find their way to the mounds and vistas along the way. On select winter dates, they light up the night with a luminary hike via snowshoes or skis 4:30-8:30 p.m. It’s free and complete with bonfire. No reservations needed unless renting equipment.

 

 

Eighteen acres just north of Galena is Buehler Preserve, another JDCF property and a popular place for visitors and their pets for hiking and camping. Comprised of hilly woodlands and flat planes with the Galena River cursing through, you can picnic, fish or enjoy a day of quiet bird watching.

For a peaceful trek through the countryside, visit the Galena River Trail. At just 3.5 miles the trail is perfect for families going cross-country skiing or a snowshoe hike with views of the Galena River and bluffs.

 

4. Night of the Luminary & Living Windows 

December 10, Galena comes alive with more than 5,000 candle-lit luminaries throughout the town, marking the annual Night of the Luminaria. Adding to the excitement is Galena’s own Living Windows, where anyone from Santa to full choruses, to elves hard at work might be seen living the moment, right in a storefront window.

 

5. Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides

Travel the scenic trails of The Galena Territory in style when you reserve a horse-drawn sleigh at Shenandoah Riding Center. Rides are approximately 1 hour, complete with bonfire and hot cocoa, and provide the perfect treat for families, friends or even a special group event. Reservations required.

 

6. Helluva Half-Mile 

Shop Main Street with more than 101 unique mom ‘n pop shops offering everything from crafts to vintage clothing to fine chocolates. The purchase you make for yourself or a loved at one of these specialty shops will be something you’ll find nowhere else.

 

7. Dining on Main Street

Whether you’re looking for farm-to-table or gluten-free fare, or just a really good sandwich, Galena Country offers amazing dining establishments with a full range of culinary choices. There’s breakfast with atmosphere in the four-story atrium found in The Courtyard Restaurant at DeSoto House Hotel, great ethnic options, such as Campeche Restaurant, or romantic dinners for two at Fried Green Tomatoes or Log Cabin Steakhouse, two iconic Galena restaurants. From fine dining to intimate cafes and coffeehouses, personal service, fine food and good wine, including locally-produced Galena wines, reign in Galena.

 

8. Wine, Beer and Spirits 

Galena’s award-winning wineries are open year-round. Named Best Winery in the State of Illinois in 2016 by Yahoo Travel, Galena Cellars offers more than 40 varieties of wine. Stop by their main street tasting room, located in a historic 1840s granary building, or take an easy ride to their vineyard, just 6 miles out of town, for a tour and tasting. November tours are Friday through Sunday and, from December-March, tours are available Saturdays only.

 

 

Massbach Ridge Winery also offers visitors the ease and accessibility of a tasting room right in downtown Galena, as well as their beautiful vineyard where they specialize in growing grapes hardy enough to withstand temperatures of -30F or more. Ask to sample their St. Pepin, displaying “a whiff of citrus and cuts with a spray of green apple.” Hop in the car for a pretty drive out to Hanover and check out Rocky Waters Winery and Fergedaboudit Winery. With stunning scenery and delicious flavors, these two vineyards are a must-visit.

 

For beer lovers, Galena Brewing Co. offers a full microbrewery experience from tours to tastings to dining and live entertainment and Pecatonica Beer Tap House is hoppin’ (pun intended) with seasonal brews and great company. But if a martini or shot of whiskey is more to your liking, visit Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. for daily tours and tastings of the premium spirit of your choice – whiskey, vodka, gin and more – produced right in downtown Galena.

 

9. Cozy B&Bs

Named the B&B Capital of the Midwest, Galena is proud to offer a variety of warm and intimate places to stay. Check into an historic 1800s bed & breakfast right in town, such as Abe’s Spring Street Guesthouse, and you’ll be just steps away from Main Street. Here you’ll get all the conveniences of home, complete with breakfast in the morning, dessert and coffee at night and your own key to the house. Other B&Bs, such as The Felt Manor Guest House, are situated in the hills, offering a beautiful view of Galena from above. And all of these private residences and inns offer their own style of historic charm, breakfast and personalized service, along with great suggestions of where to go and what to do in the area.

 

10. Nightlife and Festivals

When night comes and you want to know where to go, enjoy live music venues, such as The CornerstoneMiss Kitty’s Grape Escape and Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub & Grill. For family fun, make it a night out at P.T. Murphy Magic Theatre, an intimate 24-seat theatre where the magician dazzles his audience with optical illusion tricks and a mischievous sense of humor. There’s no need to head down to New Orleans to partake in the Mardi Gras festivities.

 

 

Meet and greet New York Times Best Selling Authors during LitFest. Visit Historic Turner Hall during Whiskey Weekend and sip more samples from more than 100 Whiskeys. The city hosts its own Galena Mardis Gras where the entire Helluva Half-Mile shuts down for the celebration. Bring your best masks and necklace beads and join the restaurants and bars that open their doors for the event. Other annual events to look forward to are St. Patty’s Day (town comes alive with a 5K run, parade and pub crawls) and Wine Lovers Weekend, the largest indoor wine tasting event where you can sample from more than 300 vendors.

Winter Holidays in Galena Country

Make your plans now for a Holiday Getaway or Family Celebration in Galena Country! Nothing puts you in the spirit faster than a genuine country Christmas with Galena’s garland-lined Main St. Whether you choose a romantic Bed & Breakfast, a resort with all the amenities or book a rental home or vacation rental to bring the family together, you can enjoy these “Christmas in the County” events and activities during your stay!

  • Elizabeth

  • Warren

  • Galena

  • Stockton

  • East Dubuque

Galena

Nouveau Weekend: November 17-18, 2017. Calling all wine lovers–epicureans of all levels! Join us as we celebrate the French-inspired tradition of Nouveau previewing a sampling of the vintage from the fall harvest.

Miracle on 34th Street Radio Play: November 9-12, 2017, 7-9 p.m. (Sunday show at 2 p.m) In this lively performance, the audience becomes the studio audience for the radio station “WGCA” in scenic Galena. “Miracle on 34th Street” is a heartwarming holiday story, entertaining for the whole family. Tickets available at the Desoto House Hotel, at the Center for the Arts, online at www.GalenaCenterForTheArts, or at the door. Best to get tickets in advance, as this show sometimes sells out.

Festival of TreesNovember 25, 2017, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. The 6th Annual Festival of Trees will kick off the holiday season on Saturday, November 25 in the DeSoto House Ballroom in Galena from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The Festival of Trees is a public display of spectacular one-of-a-kind designed holiday trees, wreaths, and other holiday items sponsored and created by local artists, organizations, and businesses. Admission is free.

Old-Fashioned Christmas in Galena: November 25, 2017. Enjoy the garland-draped shops along Galena’s Main St. and watch as Santa is escorted to the Old Market House by carolers and festive floats! Start of Santa’s Arrival: 5:30 p.m., Lighting of Tree: 6 .pm.

Holiday Fire in the Sky: December 2, 2017. Enjoy the evening sky as it comes alive with fireworks to kick off the holiday season in downtown Galena. Live carolers, hot cocoa, bonfire and more!

Taste of Christmas Progressive DinnerDecember 2, 2017, 5-8 p.m.Join the members of Best of Galena as they open their Bed and Breakfasts for this annual event. Your evening will include appetizers, main course, and desserts, which will all be served at a different location. A wonderful opportunity to visit three different locations, meet new friends and start off your holiday festivities. Reservations required. To reserve tickets and for more information, contact Lorraine via email at info@belleairemansion.com.

Night of the Luminaria & Living Windows: December 9, 2017. The streets, steps, and sidewalks of Galena will be lined with nearly 5,000 candle-lit luminaries. Living Windows is when the storefronts come alive with holiday vignettes, sure to bring a smile to any Grinch. Stay tuned to learn how to vote for your favorite Living Window with a chance to win a free overnight in Galena!

Want to take a tour? 
Tri-State Trolley will be offering 45 min. Night of the Luminaria tours at 5, 6, 7 and 8 p.m. for $15.
– Enjoy a romantic, Night of the Luminaria heated shuttle bus tour with Amelia’s and a candlelit tour of the historic Ryan Mansion for $18. Shuttle Departs right behind the Desoto House Hotel. Tours run on the hour beginning at 5 p.m. and finish with a guided candlelit tour of one Galena’s most famous homes, the Ryan Mansion.

Mistletoe Stroll Holiday House Tour: Saturday, December 9th and 16th, 2-4 p.m. Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Galena invite you to tour historic inns all lavishly decorated for Christmas. From traditions of the past to current day decor, each inn is unique and the experience should not be missed. Sample each inn’s favorite holiday cookie. See website for a list and map of participating houses. No reservations required, you may begin your tour and purchase tickets at any of the houses listed on the website. Tickets are $10 per person, children under 12 are free.

Tip: Plan a romantic dinner for just the two of you, try Perry St. Brasserie or Fritz & Frites for an intimate setting with a European flair.

Elizabeth

Christmas in Elizabeth: Decemner 2, 2017, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas with the Village of Elizabeth. Tour the 1876 Banwarth House & Museum decorated for the season, check out the caboose and ten operating model trains at the Chicago Great Western Railway Depot Museum, and visit Santa. While you are there, partake in the living history demonstration at the Apple River Fort and more. There will be a Christmas concert, craft show, soup & bake sale, Christmas Tree decorating contest, Santa Dash – 1-mile fun run and many stores open late with Christmas bargains and discounts.

In cooperation with the Elizabeth, IL Chamber of Commerce annual event, “Christmas in the Village‚” the Apple River Fort State Historic Site will provide holiday atmosphere with seasonal music and host baked items and small home-made gifts sale at the Interpretive Center (311 E. Myrtle St.). Costumed history interpreters will also participate in interactive impressions and activities.

Tip: Get a latté or bottle of wine at E-Town Coffee and make sure there’s time to stroll through Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Mall.

Stockton

Stockton Christmas Walk: December 1, 2017, Stockton‚ holiday tradition, this year’s theme is “A Candy Cane Christmas.” Start the season with a Christmas tree lighting on Friday evening at 6 p.m. On Saturday, December 2, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., stroll from store to store and shop, visit Santa, ride in a horse-drawn wagon ride and have some delicious nibbles in the downtown shops. Meet the newly crowned Little Jack Frost and Miss Merry Christmas! Find more information on their Facebook Page!

Tip: Stop into Sweet Alice’s for a treat then shop for gifts and holiday decor at Stockton Floral & Gifts. Warm up in Stella’s Cafe & Catering with a blooming tea and fresh bread.

Warren

Warren Christmas Walk: Enjoy the Festival of Trees in the charming & historic Warren Community Building (Old Stone Hotel), starting November and ending January 1, 2018. Stroll through town to see the decorated snowmen contributed by local businesses and holiday decorations. Santa will arrive in a parade on Monday, December 5 from 4:30 ‚ 7:30 p.m. Stroll through town and sample the treats and refreshments provided by participating businesses, don’t forget to register for door prizes!

Tip: Stop in to Bugaboo’s for a great meal in their charming Main St. diner and Pecatonica Beer Co. for a local brew!

East Dubuque

Candlelight Christmas Walk: November 25, 2017, starting at 2 p.m. Join us for an old-fashioned Christmas gathering in downtown. Greet Santa at the fire station, create a Christmas craft and enjoy cookies and milk. Participate in the Candlelight Walk to the Christmas tree lighting and decorating. An optional donation of a canned food item for the Food Pantry, located at the East Dubuque Fire Department, 183 Sinsinawa Ave., East Dubuque, IL.

More Ideas

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Photo credit: Henry Matthiessen III of Stoned Art Studio, East Dubuque Lions Club, Sweet Alice’sShenandoah Riding Center

Ring in the New Year

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There are so many ways to ring in the New Year in Galena & Jo Daviess County! Cozy up in a quiet B&B, choose an inclusive package at a resort or hotel or gather up your family or friends in a vacation rental home. All of these choices will provide the perfect setting for a festive New Year!

Here are some of our ideas, let us know on Facebook or Twitter if we can help you customize your visit or answer any questions.

Breakfast at Jail Hill Inn (@halcraftem)

Breakfast at Jail Hill Inn (@halcraftem)

The luxurious Jail Hill Inn, just steps from Galena’s Main St. Dine at a European-style bistro, Fritz and Frites Bistro, and then jump into the live music & festivities at The Grape Escape, Gobbie’s or The Cornerstone. When you wake up you can enjoy a bubble bath in spa-like bathrooms of the Jail Hill Inn and a gourmet breakfast. Galena has excellent choices for cuisine and nightlife, including a special NYE event at Galena Brewing Co.!

Goldmoor Inn & Dining

Goldmoor Inn & Dining

The Goldmoor Inn & Dining offers a New Year’s Eve package that includes a gourmet meal, dancing and bubbly. Wake up to fantastic views of the Mississippi River, breakfast in the dining room or delivered to your suite, then treat yourself to spa services. A quiet retreat to get away from the busy city, but close enough to enjoy the charm of Galena and the surrounding communities and Chestnut Mountain Resort is just down the road.

The Nordic Center at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

The Nordic Center at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in the Galena Territory has options galore for families, couples and a group of your friends. A family party at the Inn, the Nordic Center for winter fun and the indoor pool will make a festive family getaway. Guests over 21 can enjoy dinner and dancing in the ballroom at the Inn or maybe a prime rib buffet at The Woodstone is more your speed! There is something for everyone, with lots of amenities, including Stonedrift Spa and lake views with the potential for eagle sightings. Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa offers rooms at the Inn, condos & villas and vacation rental homes with up to 5 bedrooms.

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Ski at Chestnut Mountain Resort

Ski under the lights at Chestnut Mountain Resort and then fuel up with three different dining options on the property. Relax in the pool after a day on the slopes and enjoy the sunset over the Mississippi River while enjoying a cocktail from the bar. Don’t miss the fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve!

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Stockton Bowling Lanes

Stay at Country Inn & Suites – Stockton for it’s prime antiquing location in Jo Daviess County. Trips to Warren, Elizabeth and Hanover are easy from Stockton, with a lot to see and do along the way. Dinner and a monster skillet cookie sundae in a log cabin at JJ & Freddie’s will be just what you need after a day of “hunting!” There’s also a well-maintained bowling alley from the 1940’s that will really be a treat!

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A traditional Irish snug at Frank O’Dowd’s Pub

Toast in the new year in a traditional Irish snug at Frank O’Dowd’s Pub. Dinner, live music, Irish dancers and a festive crowd make this a great spot to celebrate. Head upstairs to your room in the Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel after enjoying some pints!


Take a Cab! Call A to B Cab Company to drive you to and from celebration destination from your lodging property. Do you have a group staying at a vacation rental home in the Galena Territory? Log Cabin Steakhouse and Fried Green Tomatoes will pick you up, just make sure to call ahead for availability. Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa also has a shuttle to Chestnut Mountain Resort and downtown Galena, again, call ahead for availability.

This is just a sampling of what’s available! Check our Events Calendar and explore galena.org for more options. Enjoy Galena Country on your next getaway and best wishes to you in 2017!