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. Completing the magic scene is this year’s Wedding in a Window, where a lucky winning couple will marry, for all to see, right on Main Street.

 

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 offers 30 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 Avery Guest House, 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 Escapeand 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. 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.

Navigating galena.org

The new galena.org offers an easy-to use layout that helps the visitor to Galena and Jo Daviess County in NW Illinois. We’ll take you through the highlights that make it easy for you to plan your trip and find the fun once you get here! Use your desktop computer, tablet or smart phone to easily navigate the site.

equipment-rentals

The first thing you’ll see when you open galena.org is the top navigation bar across the top of the homepage.

Explore:

  • Use this to view our Interactive Map to find businesses in the area you are traveling or view Jo Daviess County at a glance to get your bearings.
  • Get a complete directory of Businesses under the category you are searching. This section breaks it down and makes everything easy to find.
  • Read and view our online magazine, The Galena Country Journal, featuring local business owners. Find new editions seasonally! More info below.
  • Get updated and current information on our destination on our blog, The Insider’s Guide to Galena & Jo Daviess County.
  • Businesses have submitted their printed brochures, download and print from our Online Brochure Rack if you love to have paper in hand!
  • Get a the feeling of the county under the FAQs section and view videos to learn more.
  • Sign up for our current sweepstakes to win a trip to Galena & Jo Daviess County!

HORSE-LIVERIES

Things To Do:

  • This section breaks down everything you need to find fun in Galena & Jo Daviess County! From our Events Calendar to see what’s happening while you’re here to our Cuisine section to fill that craving with the local flavors.
  • What’s it like here in the Fall? Click The Seasons to see!

_MG_7507

Places to Go:

  • We’ve put the spotlight on the communities of Jo Daviess County. Antique shopping in Elizabeth? Find out where to eat, shop and stay as well as an overview of the community. Going to a wedding at Oak Hill Weddings? Find out what’s around you by clicking Apple River!

Where to Stay:

  • Our lodging properties are unique and many are one-of-a-kind! We’ve broken it down by the type of lodging you are looking for, plus you can click a community under Places to Go to find one in the area you’re planning to stay.
  • Colorful, large photo galleries, business info including website and social media channels make it easy to connect to a business and make a choice. Click the “Book Now” tab when you’ve made a decision for a quick link to their reservation page!

Plan Your Trip:

Meetings:

  • Bus tours and meeting planners can use this section to find lodging, restaurants and attractions that accommodate large groups.

KalinBrian-1594-CREDIT-PRIMAVERA-STUDIOS_OakHillWeb

Tie The Knot:

  • Brides and grooms can find the resources they’re looking for when planning their wedding in Galena and Jo Daviess County!

You’ll also see our “Where to Start” buttons on the home page that help you find what you need fast!

Our next section is the Galena Country Journal, our online magazine. The first issue features history in the area with a look into the landscape, attractions and historical activities. Nancy Breed of the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum tells us about the Driftless Area and what put Galena & Jo Daviess County on the map. Wendy Heiken talks about living in a historical bed & breakfast and tells us about the reenactments that take place in Jo Daviess County. Amelia Roth has built a business on highlighting the colorful stories of the area with Amelia’s Ghost Tours, Vineyard Tours and Pub Crawls.

As you scroll down you’ll see boxes featuring our blog, the packages offered by businesses in the area and our Events Calendar. You’ll also see our Instagram feed @enjoygalenactry and a link to our digital Activity Guide. Page through to get even more ideas!

The Explore Jo Daviess County links to a map that gives you a great perspective of where the communities are located in relationship to the Mississippi River, the rest of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Using the Events Calendar:

You’ve booked your trip! Once you get here use our Events Calendar to find the fun activities happening during your stay!

  • Click the Calendar tab at the top of the page.
  • Choose the month of your visit for an overview of events.
  • Want a piece of paper to hold in your hands? You have two options!
    • Click the Print icon on the top right of the calendar.
    • Click the “Print Weekly Things to Do” for events happening Thursday to Wednesday each week.

Have any questions? Contact us!

 

Travel Illinois

COVER-WEB

Go to EnjoyIllinois.com to download a digital version or order a print version¬†of the Spring/Summer issue of Travel Illinois! You’ll find travel information for what-to-do and where-to-go all over the State, with a great feature on a Galena Getaway on page 54!

Photoshoot_Sept2015

Remember this photo in our Instagram feed from Sept. 2015? Our executive director snapped it in the early morning hours of the photo shoot with the EnjoyIllinois crew!
IL-Tourism

The whole state is promoting this new travel magazine, which highlights the amazing destinations in Illinois. Get your copy today!

A Family Celebration

Plan your family celebration at galena.org! When October hits we start the sprint towards the holiday season. If¬†you feel rushed and busy it takes away from the quality family time you want from these¬†holidays. Here¬†are some Insider Tips¬†to enjoy this time of year and focus on what’s important to you.

1. Rent a vacation home so that everyone gets to be on vacation and cleaning up doesn’t fall to the hosts! (Robert Johnson Rental Homes pictured)

Front1

2. Choose a resort or hotel so that everyone has something (or nothing!) to do and no one has to cook. (Stonedrift Spa pictured)

GalenaExtras-09FinalLgJPG

3. Order in! We have many options for you…from a private chef, a caterer or dinner-to-go from your favorite restaurant. (Fried Green Tomatoes, Tuscan Mac-N-Cheese¬†pictured)

FGT_Tuscan Mac n Cheese

4. Is it just the two of you, but you want the feeling of coming home? Book a bed & breakfast, the innkeepers have a knack for thinking of everything when it comes to your comfort. (Susan Steffan of Farmers’ Guest House pictured)

11406436_10153393260320856_60903873680108566_o

5. Stock up on the local flavors, wine from our four vineyards, spirits from the distillery, seasonings, garlic, olive oil and treats from Galena’s Main St. shops and the shops all over Jo Daviess County.¬†(Rigopoulos Grove Extra Virgin Olive Oil at Galena Canning Co. pictured)

12027637_892197777538504_874639666514185399_n

  • Let us know if we can help you plan your family getaway at galena.org.
  • Request free travel information HERE!
  • Also use our Events Calendar to plan activities for the whole family to enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Family-friendly Tips

Traveling with kids is a great time to bond as a family and spend quality time together. Time is precious and you want to make sure your vacation is fun and action-packed. Here are some tips to help you plan the perfect getaway in Galena, IL & Jo Daviess County!

Where to Stay: There are options for every budget, here are some ideas to get you started. Use the Where to Stay tab at galena.org or our Activity Guide to find the right fit for you!

1. Country Inn & Suites (Galena): The indoor water park and complimentary breakfast make this a great option for families. Plus, Culver’s and Emmy Lou’s Diner are in the front yard! Stockton’s location is pet friendly and has an indoor pool!
2. LeFevre Inn & Resort: Feels like home in this comfortable resort. You’ll enjoy the outdoor pool, pond and panoramic views. Close to shopping in Galena, the Alpine Slide at Chestnut Mountain Resort & Horseshoe Mound Preserve.
3. Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa: High end amenities in the hotel or maybe a rental home or condo suits your needs. The indoor/outdoor pool, lawn chess and paddle boats make this a popular option.

ER Exterior 01

photo by UnPosed Photography

What to Do: Keeping busy, but not overdoing it is the name of the game! Use our Family Friendly Outdoor Recreation tab for more great ideas!

1. Rent a canoe at Fever River Outfitters to get up close & personal with the turtles in the Galena River.
2. Head out to the Shenandoah Riding Center for a trail ride through the beautiful Galena Territory.
3. Climb the rocks in the Gathering Circle, follow the clues along the trails and take in the views at Horseshoe Mound Preserve.

Photo Oct 02, 9 29 42 AM

What to Eat: Let’s face it, it’s vacation…sweets and ice cream make the day extra special!

1. Bugaboo’s (Warren, IL) Step back in time to an old fashioned Main St…indoors! Plan on lunch or dinner and then dig into an ice cream sundae. You may even see the barber shop in action!
2. Three Sisters Sweet Shoppe (Elizabeth, IL) Delicious, homemade cupcakes and treats, ice cream and charming decor. Sit on their outdoor patio and wave as the traffic goes by, enjoying small town life.
3. Great American Popcorn Co. (Galena, IL) Enjoy a sample when you walk in the door, then stock up on delicious popcorn mixes, candy & soda. Don’t forget an ice cream cone before you go…maybe Superman or Zanzibar Chocolate?

Dave Lewis-May2015_lowres

What to See:

1. Walk through the Planetary Studies Foundation Earth & Space Museum where you’ll see items from NASA, meteorites and fossils!
2. Tour the living history at Apple River Fort  State Historic Site in Elizabeth and learn the story of the Blackhawk War.
3. Watch the experienced blacksmiths forge custom tools at The Old Blacksmith Shop in Galena, IL.

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!