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.

A Wine Lover’s Weekend

Do you have a wine tracking app? Do you take notes of your favorite sips and must-try bottles? Add a Wine Lover’s Weekend to Galena, IL and Jo Daviess County to your wine-lovers bucket list! Here are our suggestions for taking it all in…

wine_web

2016 Wine-Lovers’ Events:

Wine Lover’s Weekend – March 18-19

Let your palate savor a weekend of wine, spirit and beer tastings in Galena. The Grand Tasting offer wines from all over the region, presented by the winemakers themselves or knowledgeable representatives. Purchase Grand Tasting tickets here…

Great Galena Balloon Race – June 17-19

More than 100 wines to sample in the big tent. Enjoy live music and watch the balloons fly and glow.
Tickets are $25 each (SOLD OUT),¬†sponsored by Family Beer & Liquor. Learn more…

CorklessGalena_evening

Corkless Galena – June 25

Taste regional wines with Galena as your backdrop, outdoors at Depot Park in Galena. Elegant wines made from American hybrid grapes will be showcased in the afternoon and early evening. Selections of wines represent unique wines produced by family owned Northern Illinois Wineries. In addition to Wine Tastings, there will be an art exhibit, light snacks available, and music. Learn more…

Galena Cellars Fall Harvest & Art Festival – September 24

Purple feet, paint brushes, and lots of fall harvest fun for the whole family! Artists in the vineyard will give live demonstrations and have art for sale, free family activities such as pumpkin painting and horse-drawn wagon rides, our FAMOUS annual grape stomp, and of course, WINE TASTING! Live music by Fever River String Band and amazing food highlight the festivities. Noon – 6pm. Learn more…

Stomp_web

Massbach Stomp – October 1 (pictured above)

“Jump in FEET first and stomp grapes till you are purple! Celebrate a successful harvest with us in the vineyard.” Live music, food truck, corn hole and views of the picturesque countryside! Learn more…

galena-cellars

Nouveau Wine Festival – November 18-19

Inspired by European traditions, celebrate the release of Galena Cellars’ latest Nouveau by attending one of the special luncheons of the day, then watch as the revelers parade down Main St. in Galena, making deliveries of the new wine. Parties go on into the night at several local businesses and hotels. Learn more…

Local Vineyards:

Jo Daviess County presents the finest local award-winning wineries and vineyards in Illinois. Indulge in one of Galena Country’s four wineries, and enjoy a day of learning about the talent of wine making and specialty wine tastings. Stop in for a tasting and a tour one of Jo Daviess County’s award-winning wineries. Stay a while with a bottle of your favorite wine, cheese and crackers.

Galena Cellars_web

Galena Cellars Vineyard (pictured above)

The Lawlor family, with more than 30 years of winemaking experience, proudly offers tours and tastings of 40 award-winning wines. Tour the vineyard and enjoy the scenery on Ford Rd. and then check out the tasting room on Main St. in Galena. Learn more…

Massbach Ridge Vineyard & Winery

Sample award-winning, estate-grown wine while enjoying the breathtaking Jo Daviess County hills. Open daily, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., year round. You can also taste their wines in their tasting room on Main St. in Galena. Learn more…

Rocky Waters Vineyard

Experience the spectacular view, taste wines from their locally grown grapes, relax on the deck, and enjoy some wine. Open year-round. Learn more…

Fergedaboudit Vineyard

A boutique winery located in a scenic valley in Hanover. Specializing in dry-red-bold wines from their picturesque vineyard. Open seasonally. Learn more…

Buy & Taste:

Shop and stock up on favorites or plan a night out to experience the local flavors, Galena & Jo Daviess County have a lot to offer wine fans.

Jamie’s Wine Studio of Galena

Intimate wine and martini bar and fine wine shop. Unique selection of wines, spirits, and gift items. Saturday wine tastings. Learn more…

Miss Kitty’s The Grape Escape

Wine/martini lounge, craft beers. Live music Friday, Saturday, and Quiz Show Sunday. Bloody Mary bar. Gourmet apps until last call. Learn more…

Fried Green Tomatoes

Prime steaks, fresh scallops and homemade lasagna paired with a Wine Spectator award-winning wine menu. Outstanding service and atmosphere. Half price bottles of wine every Friday! Learn more…

Goldmoor Inn & Dining

Simple elegance describes this dining experience. Unmatched Old World decor, diverse wine cellar, premier service complements our chef’s creative cuisine. Learn more…

ETown_wine

E-Town Coffee (pictured above)

Great atmosphere with hearty, homemade bites for breakfast & lunch. Check ahead for wine tastings and stop in to shop! Learn more…

Unique Wine Adventures

Hike the Vines

Every Saturday beginning 12/12/15 through 2/20/15, Noon & 2 pm Snowshoe the vineyard and enjoy the sparkling new snow! Then, warm up next to the fireplace and enjoy a glass of wine in the vineyard tasting room. Book through Fever River Outfitters.

Scooter to the Vineyard

Scooter to Galena Cellars Vineyard‚ imagine scootering on gorgeous remote country roads to the Galena Cellars Vineyard. Ride with our small group, take a vineyard tour, taste some wine, and kick back on the wicker furnished veranda. After you’ve indulged in the essence of the lush green countryside we’ll drive you back to town. $75 person includes scooter rental, wine tasting, and shuttle transportation back to Galena. Advanced reservations are required. Weekday trips are $75 per person, for groups under 8 persons and require a reservation made a minimum of 48 hours in advance.

Countryside Tours

Visit three of the areas very best vineyards. Enjoy local wines and beautiful views. All while traveling Galena’s rural Countryside. Tastings are included! Learn more…

 

10 Favorite Things About Jo Daviess County Series – #1

Molly’s Ten Favorite Things About Jo Daviess County

We asked local mom, teacher and business owner, Molly McGovern-Mensendike to share what she loved about Jo Daviess County!

1. Hands down, we have the best views of hills and greenery with historic downtown architecture tucked into the hillsides. I need to stop myself sometimes to take it all in and not overlook it with my busy lifestyle. In my opinion, the best view in Jo Daviess County is scenic overlook, just outside Elizabeth. I don’t think I’ve ever driven by when there wasn’t someone stopping to take a picture.

scenic overlook_text
2. I teach at one of the best public schools in Illinois, River Ridge CUSD 210. Our teachers and staff care about our students and provide them with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in their careers and as citizens. The schools in Jo Daviess County are THE best in my opinion. The small-town feel with the highly educated teachers and staff makes for incomparable educational opportunities for our students in Jo Daviess County. Tootin’ my own horn here!

3. The interesting people of Jo Daviess County are friendly and unique. I’ve only known the townspeople to be friendly and wave as you go by, even when they don’t know your name. Take a cruise down a country road and you’ll see what I mean. AND, there are so many artists and musicians, too. I love to drive through downtown Galena and hear the music being played in the small park and see the artists working in their storefront windows.

4. The rural area provides the inhabitants and visitors an abundance of produce and baked goods at local farmers’ markets. A great example would be the produce crates that Groezinger Produce Farm provides upon request. The Elizabeth Farmer’s Market is on Friday night so you can pick up your needs as the weekend begins. I like to get my pumpkins and corn from Dittmar Farms at this one!

groezinger produce basket_text

5. Geocaching. This is an activity that all, young and old, can enjoy. Download the geocaching app, and watch the video of how it works. Then, wherever you are, you can geocache. I find it works well if I have been running a ton of errands and want to reward my patient kids with an activity! It takes a bit of navigation and some searching!

geocaching_text

6. You cannot comprehend the magnificence of Galena’s Halloween parade unless you have experienced it. My favorite part is the blowing of the hot air from the hot air balloon baskets driven through the parade. Oh, the warmth they bring…

7. Country Fair weekend in Galena that coincides with the Autumn Craft Fair in Elizabeth at River Ridge High School is my favorite of all the fall weekends. I have nostalgic memories of growing up in Galena and experiencing the caramel apples at the fair. The crisp apples and the crisp fall air are two things that bring comfort to my soul.

8. For a small town, Stockton’s 4th of July celebration is my favorite. The chicken that is grilled at the park is well worth the wait. There’s always a great band with afternoon music and a fabulous show of fireworks at dusk. This is my family’s go-to spot to celebrate Independence Day!

Stellas_text

9. Restaurants, restaurants, restaurants. I may be a little biased as I have a brother for a chef. I of course love his restaurant, Stella’s Café and Catering, with the ambiance of the historic building and the homemade soups and breads, the fresh salads and homemade dressings. Yum! My all-time favorite place for steaks (the only steak I ever eat without A1 sauce) and Bloody Marys is Galena’s Log Cabin Steakhouse. If you dine there, you MUST get the saganaki as an appetizer. Elizabeth’s Small Town Saloon is a great lunch destination for a burger and a beer. Their spicy ketchup is to-die-for. I mean, I crave this stuff like I were nine months pregnant.

10. The small towns in Jo Daviess County are full of activities and festivals. Galena’s Living Windows and the lighting of the luminaria really make Christmastime magical. All in all, I make it a point to try something new. For instance, this year, Elizabeth is hosting the Midwest Garlic Fest and I am dying to try it out!

Savvys_text

Molly McGovern-Mensendike was born in Galena, IL and currently resides in Elizabeth, IL with ties to all of the communities in Jo Daviess County. She opened Savvy Scavengers with her mom in November of 2006 in Galena. It’s a “boutique for the eclectic woman’s style offering clothing, shoes, purses, and jewelry.” They like to think of it as a place where both a mom and daughter can shop together. They’ve expanded their business to include another location in Stockton, IL and opened Stockton Floral & Gifts, along with Sweet Alice’s candy shop. In addition to these entrepreneurial pursuits Molly teaches high school English at River Ridge where her students “are forever engrained in her heart.”

Stay tuned for more favorites in our blog series!

 

Where Can I Sit Outside With a Cocktail?

A vacation really feels like a vacation when you can sit outside and relax with a cocktail. We’ve made a list of some great spots to enjoy the beauty of Galena & Jo Daviess County and some local cuisine!

 

Gobbies_outdoorphoto by Gobbies Sports Pub & Eatery

1. Gobbies Sports Pub & Eatery (Galena) Spacious and beautifully decorated courtyard where you can sink into one of their outdoor sofas and enjoy the weather!
2. Sunset Grille at Chestnut Mountain Resort (Galena) Panoramic views of the Mississippi River, savor the sunset while enjoying great food and drinks!
3. The Corner Tap (Stockton) Every Saturday from April through October they have a Steak Fry in their outdoor patio area. Look for live music updates and free Buffalo Wings on Friday nights!
4. The Cove Bar & Grill (Apple Canyon Lake) Overlooks the Midwest’s premier golf course, The General, and there’s a good chance you may catch sight of a hot air balloon!

The Covephoto by The Cove Bar & Grill

5.  Green St. Tavern in the DeSoto House Hotel (Galena) People-watch on the patio while taking a break from shopping on Main St.
6. Woodstone Restaurant (Galena Territory) Overlooking the Midwest’s premier golf course, The General, where you just might catch a hot air balloon flying overhead!
7. Mid-Town Marina (East Dubuque) Casual dining on the Mississippi River. Watch the boats coming and going and nearby wildlife.

Midtown Marinaphoto by Midtown Marina

8. JJ & Freddie’s (Stockton) Stop at the Gateway of Jo Daviess County on US Hwy 20 and grab a bite to eat outdoors, watching the activity of Stockton.
9. Campeche (Galena) Listen to live music and the bubbling fountain as you sip your margarita under the stars!
10. Vinny Vanucchi’s (Galena) The patio is nestled in the historic building’s courtyard next to a cobblestone road. Sit under the colorful umbrellas and enjoy the music of the street performers nearby!

Stargazing in Galena & Jo Daviess County

Mark Dierker_Bear Dancer Photography

photo: Mark Dieker of Bear Dancer Studios – “Orionid meteor over The Castle near Elizabeth, IL”

One of the first things you’ll notice besides the beautiful landscape of our Driftless Region are the dark skies overhead. Any time of year, on a clear night you’ll see the sky lit up and spot many if not all of the familiar constellations.

Aurora Lights in Illinois

photo: Shane Smith Photography – The Northern Lights from the Overlook in Elizabeth, IL

Galena & Jo Daviess County have wonderful lodging options where you can relax and enjoy the night skies like Hawk Valley Retreat and Cottages.¬† Rent a home or condo from Rosebud Rentals or take it easy around the campfire at Marcotte’s Family Motel.

You can also plan a night dining outdoors under the stars this summer. A few restaurants with outdoor seating to note are…The Sunset Grille in Chestnut Mountain Resort with views of the Mississippi River, The Cove at Apple Canyon Lake and Mid-Town Marina in East Dubuque. (Call ahead for summer hours!)

Horseshoe Mound_stargazing

Stargazing Circle at Horseshoe Mound Preserve

We encourage you to take advantage of one of our county’s treasures and go stargazing with Dr. Paul Sipiera and his wife Diane Sipiera of the Planetary Studies Foundation Earth & Space Museum.¬† Dr. Sipiera was a professor of astronomy and geology at William Rainey Harper College for 27 years and now resides full-time in the Galena Territory. His main research interest is in studying meteorites, which lead him to Antarctica seven times.¬† His writings have been published in Meteorite Magazine and Popular Science, as well as contributions to numerous scientific journals. He’s written over 29 non-fiction books for children. Diane has a background in education for NASA and the Field Museum in Chicago, IL.

The Sipieras invite you and the whole family to Apple River Fort¬† for an evening of stargazing. Bring a camp chair, blankets and your own telescope if you have one. The team at PSF bring the big telescopes for you to use and they’ll teach you how to use the one that’s been sitting in the corner all these years! Snacks and bug spray are encouraged, no alcohol please.

May 1, 2015 from 7-8pmPlanetary Studies Foundation Earth & Space Museum РElizabeth, IL РINTRO TO NIGHTTIME SKIES: Come to this wonderful lecture about what you can see in the nighttime skies for the season. Come learn about the beauty of Virgo and how she influenced farmers for hundreds of years. Learn how to get prepared for the summer season of stargazing. Afterwards, come into the PSF’s Starlab Planetarium for the wonders of the universe. Tour of museum is included. (cost: $5)

larrypav's telescope 8.21.03

Stargazing with the PSF at dusk

The most ideal nights to look at the moon and stars are before the first quarter of the moon cycle, when the Milky Way is visible and the moon isn’t too bright. Stargazing sessions are held once a month starting in April and continue through October, from sunset until around 11pm…they’ll stay later if good things are happening in the skies! Plan ahead & join them for the meteor showers in August & October!

Stay tuned to our Events Calendar for exact dates or contact the Planetary Studies Foundation Earth & Space Museum for details!
***We’ll update this post as more information comes available!