Fall Guide to Galena, Illinois: Top 7 Things to Do
When the summer heat starts to make way for cooler temperatures, you begin to anticipate a few, beloved fall traditions such as football season, scarves and a certain fall-inspired latte. You can also expect a beautiful, colorful backdrop here in Galena Country and plenty of must-do activities to keep you busy.
While it’s hard to choose just one activity or event, here are a few fall favorites in Galena Country:
1. Go Outside
It is highly recommended to spend time outside to see the gorgeous variety of fall hues. Hiking one of the five trails in Apple River Canyon State Park is an excellent way to see the changing colors and you can also opt to picnic, camp or fish along the Apple River. Another scenic spot for outdoor enthusiasts is the Galena River Trail. This trail is perfect for taking in the views by bike, foot or kayak. This 8-mile (one-way) route offers plenty to see, including local flora and fauna and some of the best bird-watching in the region. Prefer to be a little more passive in your sightseeing? Try the Mississippi River Cruise, where you can see the native wildlife, historical points of interest and stunning riverscapes that will have you planning a return trip.
2. Ride the Streets
Take your touring full throttle by hitting the Stagecoach Trail on a motorcycle! Retrace the original stagecoach route that ran in the mid-1800s by beginning your adventure in Nora, just 30 miles east of Galena. If cycling is more your speed, venture 10 miles outside city limits to Council Hill Station, an original 1850s general store and a railway station that has delicious food and live music. It’s the perfect place to give your legs a rest, fuel up, so to speak, and head back to Galena. Four-wheel aficionados can also explore the roads in Galena. Ride down to East Dubuque for Cruisin’ Thursdays in August and September to see the hottest rides made in 1985 and earlier, catch a glimpse of the Mississippi River and possibly win a prize at the event.
Farmers markets can lessen the distance between you, fresh fruits and vegetables but there is no substitute for picking it yourself, and fall is a prime time for the DIY harvesting of seasonal staples. Dittmar Farms in Elizabeth is popular with both locals and visitors. You can pick pumpkins and apples and test your navigation skills in the corn maze. But if your family wants some quality time with farmers, visit Ehrler Ranch. At Ehrler Ranch, you can tour a working farm, have a picnic, play near the creek or enjoy a hayride. However, animal lovers might wish for an entirely different farm experience. Four miles outside of Galena is the Adventure Creek Alpaca and Goldendoodle Farm, where 45 secluded acres and 12 historic log cabins await you. You can even walk the alpacas and Goldendoodles!
The cool, crisp breeze is perfect to pair with a refreshing glass of wine and the Galena area is home to several wineries. Fergedaboudit Vineyard & Winery in Hanover offers live music all throughout autumn and the gorgeous views of fall will have you raising a glass with every glance. You’ll also find Rocky Waters Vineyard & Winery in Hanover. This 25-acre, family-owned winery offers a 1-hour tour and has an amazing deck that offers panoramic views of the lush greenery. Massbach Ridge Winery in Elizabeth is another excellent winery. You can even work off a few of those liquid calories at the Massbach Stomp or dance them off during one of the live concerts. And if you’re looking for all things fall in one place, look no further than the Fall Harvest & Art Festival. Presented by Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, you’ll enjoy grape stomping, art vendors, pumpkin decorating, plenty of food and, of course, lots of wine.
5. Festivals and Events
Galena Country is filled with family-friendly events that you’ll want to mark your calendar for. Mallardfest is a favorite local tradition that has vino from nearby wineries, a fish fry, a parade, kids’ activities, music, a home football game and fireworks. If brews are your drink of choice, raise your stein and attend Oktoberfest. Besides plenty of beer, Oktoberfest has food, kids’ games, polka lessons, a costume contest and the ceremonial tapping of the keg.
Fairs are another national pastime that you’ll find here. The Galena Country Fair and Autumn Craft Fair attract families from all over. Both fairs provide plenty of activities, food, entertainment, crafts and much more. Antique lovers flock to the 50th Annual Tour of Historic Homes Sept. 23-24. During those 2 days, five private, historic homes are open for tours, along with an 1858 Barrows mansion for a peek into the past. But if your fall revolves around pumpkins, visit downtown Warren for the 45th Annual Warren Pumpkin Festival. This festive day includes an antique tractor pull, a parade, carnival rides, games, food and a special performance by the 144th Army Band.
Galena Country also offers plenty of sophistication for art lovers. Taking place Oct. 14, the Twenty Dirty Hands Pottery Tour is a self-guided tour, where visitors can visit popular pottery and sculpture studios. Some of the studios offer special events and exhibits that day. If you can’t attend the Twenty Dirty Hands Pottery Tour, try the ARRT Drive, where you can rub shoulders with the region’s top artists while viewing their stunning work inside their creative studios. While you’re exploring the art scene, visit the art galleries on the Helluva Half Mile that will provide you with hours of viewing pleasure.
7. Scary Good Time
It would be remiss not to include one of fall’s biggest holidays – Halloween! If you’re over 21, join the rest of the crowd for the annual Haunted Pub Crawl. During this pub crawl, you tour with Galena’s No. 1 storyteller and visit three haunted pubs while hearing all about the ghostly and ghastly history. But if you’re in the mood for a real scare, Shenandoah’s Fear Forest should be on your list. Set in a real forest rather than a haunted house, the moonlight guides participants on a tractor-pulled hayride complete with creatures of the night and creepy crawlers.
And, of course, thousands of people visit Galena each year for the Halloween Parade & Festival. This spooky celebration brings a crowd of ghosts and goblins to the enchanting Main Street. During the 2-hour parade, attendees enjoy decorated floats, local marching bands, copious amounts of candy and the occasional fire burst!