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.

Naughty gifts for the naughty list

Shopping for someone who’s been put on the naughty list? Check out this list of Galena Country favorites that are sure to carry what you’re looking for.

Head to Noty Kity and shop sexy lip balms, body lotion, lingerie, massage oils, accessories and more! If you want it, Noty Kity can get it! The staff is focused on providing the best and largest variety of products and the highest level of customer service and satisfactions.

Nothing says naughty like a “whiskey made me do it” t-shirt from Blaum Bros Distilling Co. Visit the Blaum Bros gift shop and pick up a comfy tee and some tasty spirits for that special devil in your life. While there, check out the guided tour. This is not a standard 5-minute talk but, rather, a full sensory experience. Touch, taste and feel the ingredients that make Blaum Bros. spirits unique!

Chocolat‘s candies taste so good it’s bad. With more than 200 flavors of Swiss, German, French Belgian and Venezuelan chocolates their selection is so decadent they consider it “The eighth deadly sin.” As if that wasn’t enough, Chocolat’ also carries a fine selection of imported wines. Chocolat’ and wine? Yes, please!

Looking for the perfect stocking stuffer? Pick up a few gift certificates from Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape. Throw in a bottle of Kouzabel wine as a delicious bonus. Enjoy a savory martini while you shop and don’t miss the outstanding appetizer selection and sinful desserts.

Does your special someone prefer money over presents? Give them some cash to double at Nancy’s Slots! This Gaming Cafe provides a relaxing and comfortable place to play slots free from noise and distractions of a crowded bar or busy restaurant. Who doesn’t like walking away with more cash?

Thrift in the Driftless

The vintage hues of fall conjure thoughts of the good old days. Steeped in history, Galena Country is the perfect setting for antique treasure hunting. Admire ornately carved legs of an antique coffee table or, perhaps, a funky lamp with a hand-molded base. Though many items have lost their luster, they stand with glory and pride intact.

Red’s Iron Yard & Wholesale Barn offers a unique thrifting experience in Galena. The Barn stores hundreds of metal items waiting to be customized into a piece of art. The Yard, located downtown, showcases cast iron, yard décor, weather vanes and even whiskey barrels.

There’s also The Galena Antique Mall, located on Highway 20, just two miles east of downtown Galena. This mall includes more than 55 dealers selling antiques, collectibles, jewelry, furniture and vintage toys.

Galena’s historic Main Street, also known as the Helluva Half Mile, is home to Grammy’s Attic and Gustafson & Grey Ltd. These stores feature antiques, fine jewelry and unique finds.

Bookworms enjoy sifting through 30,000 quality used books at Peace of the Past! These books are surrounded by other interesting finds, including vintage advertising memorabilia and retro furniture. Speaking of retro, Tin Pan Alley carries pieces that span centuries, including art deco, mid-century modern and primitives.

Explore Elizabeth for exciting antique gems! Located just a few miles outside of Galena, Elizabeth is known for antiquing. Check out Common Cents Resale. They pride themselves in keeping the shop fresh by treasure hunting for product throughout the country. Here, you will find a large amount of furniture as well as art pieces, ornaments, crockery you name it!

While perusing new, used and antique furnishings at A Bushel and a Peck, stock up on local, and uber tasty, homemade and homegrown products. The Shop on the Hill’s antique selection fills the entire first floor of a Victorian home.

Elizabeth Grand Antique Co. promises to keep one occupied for hours on end with its 28,000-sq. ft. antique mall. Touch a piece of history at every turn and imagine the life lived at the time of its creation.

Need a bit more of a thrift fix? Check out Sullivan’s Antiques in Hanover, which offers antique and vintage furniture as well as a little bit of rock-n-roll! Antiques Etc. is a 100-year-old farmhouse in Stockton, showcasing ever-changing collections. Dusty’s Closet Antiques in Warren, welcomes shoppers to explore their 1856 brick house full of beautiful antique furniture, vintage collectibles and small gifts. Treasures await!

Best Midwestern Small Town – Please Vote!

Galena, IL has been nominated in the USA Today 10 Best – Reader’s Choice Awards for the Best Midwestern Small Town! Please help us to the top with your vote. You can vote daily until April 24, 2017. We appreciate your help! 

 

Galena is a 3 hour drive west from Chicago, in the northwest corner of Illinois. The Mississippi River defines it’s western border and is the reason for the boom in the mid 1800’s that Galena attributes to it’s charm. One-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, along with bed and breakfasts, hotels, resorts and vacation rental homes, this midwestern destination is the perfect choice for your next vacation. There is plenty to do for everyone, with 10 golf courses in Jo Daviess County, two resort communities with lakes, horseback riding, hot air ballooning and canopy tours. Kayak the Galena River, race your friends down the mountain on the Alpine Slide at Chestnut and take a Mississippi River cruise. Indulge in the tastes of Jo Daviess County with four vineyards, a distillery and two breweries. Every season holds something special with special events and fun activities.

Plan your trip at galena.org and let us know if we can help!

 

Japanese TV show shoots Illinois special, features Galena, IL

Jo Daviess County raised its tourism profile with a Japanese television program called Tabi Salad. In September 2016, the TV celebrity travel show filmed a visit to Illinois, including Galena in part two of the series. Tabi Salad is a 90-minute weekend morning show featuring a 20 minute travel segment. The Illinois Office of Tourism partnered with Connect Worldwide Japan Co., Ltd. and secured Illinois for their 4 part overseas travel show. The Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) worked with the Illinois Office of Tourism for this special road trip.

The team traveled from Chicago to Galena, IL; enjoying the views on US Hwy 20. Upon arrival the host, Ms. Aoi Yoshikura, tells viewers, “Here you will find the old-fashioned mid-western town of Galena, a 19th century mining town with a quiet pace of life where you can escape the busy city. With the old buildings just as they were, it looks like a nice place to live. It takes you back in time and you get a feel for the way America used to be.”

Ms. Yoshikura enters the charming bed and breakfast, Farmers’ Guest House, commenting that “the owner is lively and cheerful and greets you like an old friend.” She also enjoyed the accommodations, the “cute, country-style rooms, great for relaxing,” and the homemade cherry danish is a “real taste of Mid-America.”

The travel show takes viewers to a relaxing mud & charcoal facial at the Stonedrift Spa at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, before heading downtown for dinner at Log Cabin Steakhouse. The petite host enjoyed their specialty, hand-cut Allen Bros. steak, “so big, everything is big here! So tender and delicious and I ate the whole thing!”

Ms. Yoshikura took to the skies in a hot air balloon with Galena on The Fly, enjoying the panoramic views of Jo Daviess County. The footage from the balloon is stunning.

Viewers of Tabi Salad can find travel information here at galena.org!

Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB Will Shine a Light on the Destination at the 25th BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival in Chicago, IL

The Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) will be partnering with the Illinois Office of Tourism to represent the state at the Magnificent Mile® Lights Festival during its 25th anniversary celebration. The Magnificent Mile® invites visitors to kick off the holiday season with a day full of family fun. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse from the Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida will lead an unforgettable evening lighting parade down North Michigan Avenue, illuminating more than one million lights on 200 trees.  But first, on November 18-19, 2016 from 11AM – 4PM, in the consumer exposition area, Lights Festival Lane, the Illinois Office of Tourism will be using their mobile Tourism Information Center to offer attendees the Travel Illinois magazine and other statewide information.  In addition, to best showcase some of the amazing experiences throughout the state, visitor bureaus such as the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau have been invited to highlight their destinations. The CVB will be showing visitors how they can capture the moment with great places to stay, things to do, taste and see in Galena & Jo Daviess County in northwest Illinois.

The Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB (galena.org) is honored to be a part of the 25th year of this popular festival in downtown Chicago, which sees over 50,000 visitors annually. “Our partners in Jo Daviess County are helping us offer chances to win overnight packages to our destination, restaurant vouchers and more,” says Executive Director, Katherine Walker. “Stop by our booth in Lights Festival Lane at Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Avenue, to enter our magnificent giveaways and learn more about your next Great Midwest Getaway!”

The Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) was established in 1983 as a department of county government and is certified by the State of Illinois. The Bureau’s mission is to promote Galena/Jo Daviess County as the Midwest’s Premier Destination Getaway for overnight visitors. Find travel information on their mobile-friendly website, galena.org. Follow and tag the CVB in your getaway photos @enjoygalenactry on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

Find your Fairy-Tale Wedding!

 

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Pinterest is a critical tool for brides, grooms and planners to find the fairy-tale wedding these days. A board can capture the look, feel and style of your wedding and gives everyone in your crew an idea of where you’re headed. After family members told Megan Bartchlett of Bowling Green, Ohio¬†tales of elopement and destination weddings, she¬†took to Pinterest to plan her “happily-ever-after” and came across a pin of The¬†Goldmoor Inn & Dining. Megan has never been to Illinois, and had never heard of Galena and Jo Daviess County, but the images of The Goldmoor Inn really left a¬†lasting¬†impression.

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The couple both come from large families and a huge wedding that included everyone wasn’t going to work. An intimate ceremony in a gorgeous location was calling their name. A scouting trip to Galena was planned this Spring, so Megan, her fianc√© Wade¬†and their excited moms¬†made their way to NW Illinois. The historic town of Galena, the beauty of Jo Daviess County and the enchantment of the Goldmoor Inn won them over and their destination wedding was booked for June 2016!

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We wish Megan & Wade a bright future full of happiness. They’re off to a great start…their story of exploring and finding their fairy-tale is so inspirational!

Find information on wedding venues, vendors and personal touches on our Weddings Page at galena.org!
(Photo contribution: Megan Bartchlett)

International Travel to Galena!

Adventure King

Scroll through the two posts below for a look at the international¬†adventure travel to Galena feature in the Japanese magazine…Adventure King! The bottom post is from another Japanese magazine called Shukan New York Seikatsu.¬†The State of Illinois, Great Rivers Country Regional Office and the Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB were happy¬†to host these international travelers this summer, one of whom was Ms. Makiko Yamamoto¬†of Adventure King. They had an action-packed itinerary where they enjoyed tours of the Goldmoor Inn, Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., ¬†Chestnut Mountain Resort, Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, Tri-State Trolley Tour, Amelia’s Ghost Tours and the Elihu B. Washburne House.

The writers got a taste of Galena with¬†meals at Otto’s Place, Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, Vinny Vanucchi’s¬†”Little Italy” and One Eleven Main. They arrived at the¬† perfect time back in June, allowing them to take in¬†the Great Galena Balloon Race AND ride in a hot air balloon with Galena On The Fly! The travelers were able to rest during this whirlwind tour at the DeSoto House Hotel and the Ramada Hotel & Spa.

(Grab the dark gray bar on the right and scroll down to view their feature!)


You can see the campaigns to promote the State of Illinois in Japan and other countries HERE and on Youtube!

Are you a travel writer or an adventure lover on social media? Tag us in your posts (@EnjoyGalenaCtry) or contact us so we can share your experiences! Plan your adventure with us at galena.org!

photos: Adventure King, adventurekingjp on Instagram