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Rediscover the Road Trip in Galena Country

Posted on September 22, 2022 by Siena Miller for Galena Country Tourism

Follow roads less traveled through the captivating Driftless Area

Enjoy the nuances and showstoppers during a leisurely drive where natural and man-made worlds meet. What you’ll encounter - mile after mile - is geologically and aesthetically spectacular.

Welcome to the Driftless Region - 20,000 square miles in four Midwestern states that Ice Age glaciers bypassed many thousands of years ago. The slow slithering of ice (at least one mile thick) bulldozed much of the Upper Midwest, changing the landscape forever. But not here. See the unspoiled beauty by cruising for the joy of it or with a specific destination in mind. Consider the following trio of options:

U.S. Highway 20

Highway 20, a 3,365-mile east-west thoroughfare, links Boston, Massachusetts, with Newport, Oregon. The small but lovely stretch northwest of Galena is a mix of woodsy thickets, gently rolling hills and farmland.

Let’s start with East Dubuque. Hungry? Broasted chicken, burgers, pizza and a Friday fish fry reel ‘em in at Frentress Lake Bar & Grill. Their plentiful outdoor seating, next to a marina, is the perfect spot to watch the sun set. Or climb a bluff top for Sunday brunch, a steak dinner or cocktails at Timmerman’s Supper Club, known for expansive Mississippi River views.

Walk the trails at 10-acre Gramercy Park, open dawn to dusk on a riverfront bluff. At this Illinois Natural Heritage Landmark you’ll find a couple dozen Native American burial and ceremonial mounds.

Thumser’s 19th Hole, a short jog up Highway 35, both entertains the family (with a mini-golf course) and fills them up (with kid-friendly fare).

Take a 90-minute tour of Berning Acres, a large dairy farm with 400 cows near Menominee; the visit ends with ice cream! Seasonal, two-day camps teach kids to make dairy products from scratch; they play games and tackle simple farm chores, too.

Settle in for the night at the warm and welcoming Farmer’s Guest House, conveniently located right on Highway 20 in Galena.

Blackjack Road

Look for an entrance sign to Horseshoe Mound Preserve and follow a long gravel road uphill. Mowed paths lead hikers through the 150-acre property, and on a clear day you’ll enjoy views reaching to three states. The panoramic vistas alone are worth the visit, but then there are interpretive displays, a butterfly habitat, a fairy door at the base of a tree to entice the kids and a “council ring,” where chunky slabs align with solstice sunsets.

A little farther south, the eight-mile, crushed-rock Galena River Trail connects to a hiking-biking trail for overnight guests at LeFevre Inn & Resort, full of countryside charm. Find Goldmoor Inn for a gourmet dinner for two or blufftop overnight.

Enjoy a stroll along the trackbed of a retired railroad route at Winston Tunnel State Natural Area. Although the 1888 Winston Tunnel closed long ago, it is still a fascinating site in breathtaking surrounds. Nearby, Chestnut Mountain Resort offers adventurous outdoor activities - zip lines, skiing, and more - to engage all ages.

Venture from Blackjack Road for a few quick side trips. That includes Blanding Landing (for fishing, birding, picnics, camping and silent sports - canoeing to hiking), the apple trees of Orchard Landing (which has a grass runway for planes) and Fergedaboudit Vineyard & Winery (pair sips by the flight of full glass with assorted chocolates or cheeses). A couple more turns of the wheel deliver you to Hanover, where Sulcana sells CBD and THC wellness products made with crops from licensed Midwest farms.

Stagecoach Trail

Turn the clock back to the mid-1800s and imagine what it was like to see this part of Illinois from a horse-drawn carriage en route to Chicago. Cross the Galena River and notice the cattail marshes, hilltops, ravines and farmland. Sprinkled throughout the drive are colorful quilt squares painted on the sides of barns.

Stop for a wine tasting and patio view at Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery. Find laid-back Council Hill Station - the only business that remains from an 1854 European community - for acoustic music, a large beer selection, historic buildings and ruins frozen in time.

Get acquainted with Scales Mound: The entire village - a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places - sits at the highest point in the state at 1,235 feet and is said to be “At the Top of Illinois.” Jalapeño peppers earn a starring role in buns, cornbread and a specialty burger at Southside Hornet Pub & Grille, a Scales Mound eatery. Cool it down with a deep-fried Oreo sundae or boozy grasshopper ice-cream cocktail for dessert.

The river might appear peaceful, but a bigger story is told at Apple River Canyon State Park, site of the frontier town of Millville until flooding destroyed it in 1892. Today the area is known for trout fishing, nature trails and dozens of campsites.

2 More to Explore...

There’s no end to the beauty of Galena Country. If you have more time to explore, consider these additional scenic drives:

Elizabeth Scales Mound Road

You may find yourself wishing this lovely drive, winding through the hilly countryside, was longer, but the stops are also worthwhile. Shop two floors of antiques and local goods at A Bushel & A Peck. Book a guided trail ride at Shenandoah Riding Center, a short drive from the main road. Tour a reconstructed fort at Apple River Fort State Historic Site. Time your visit for one of the fort’s special events to experience living-history demonstrations.

Highway 20

Love the links? Check out a fine, affordable option for all skill levels at Woodbine Bend Golf Course, surrounded by farmland, and then dine on specialties like Cannery Row Stew (a saucy combo of shrimp, clams, scallops and lobster, over pasta).

Indulge in other ways too. Merchandise at Nature’s Treasures, Woodbine, is a rich tribute to art and gemstones. Expect eclectic, fun women’s clothing and accessories - made in the USA - at Savvy Scavengers, Stockton. Don’t miss the chance to stroll Stockton’s historic downtown to marvel at the town’s colorful collection of murals.

Galena Country transports people to another time and place to enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences and adventures. Some historic, some timeless, and some brand-new, but always original! Browse the latest Visitors Guide for more ideas on how to enjoy good times and find your comfy lodging here


Things to do after five during the week in Galena Country

Posted on September 16, 2022 by Kirsten Bell

Are you thinking about taking a midweek vacation to Galena Country but wondering if there will be anything to do, let alone after 5 p.m.? Well, pack those bags, there is more than enough to keep you entertained and the best part is, where will everyone else be? Waiting for their weekend vacations of course! Take advantage of this novel idea and profit from less crowds.

Outdoor Activities

Naturally, enjoying the outdoors with others is fun, but if you’re looking for an experience that feels a little more solitary, visiting parks and trails midweek can be rewarding! Hike with entertaining goats, race down an alpine slide to the banks of the Mississippi, soar high on a zipline, or enjoy a friendly round of mini golf.  

Alpine Slide at Chestnut Mountain Resort  Horseshoe Mound Preserve
Buehler Preserve  Lil' General Mini Golf
Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve Schurmeier Teaching Forest
Galena Gateway Park Soaring Eagle Zipline at Chestnut Mountain Resort 
Galena River Trail Valley of Eden Bird Sanctuary
Gramercy Park Wapello Land and Water Reserve
Galena Historic Walking Tour  West Street Sculpture Park
Hoof It Goat Treks Witkowsky State Wildlife Area

Shopping

Galena Country's charming and independently owned storefronts will keep you shopping the entire day, but no need to stop there; the following stores are open after 5 p.m. Enjoy extra elbow room while browsing delicious eats and treats, clothing, homeware, specialty items, and more. Every Thursday night, live music along Galena's Main Street will serenade you while you shop. 

Anchors & Arrows Home Decor Store  Galena's Kandy Kitchen 
Botanicanna Galena River Wine & Cheese
Candy Carnival  Great River Market Grocery Store
Country Crafts & Sports Noty Kitty
Elements Fan Zone  Poopsie’s
Emerald Buddha Tattoo Verilife Cannabis Dispensary
Gabby's Gifts  

Entertainment

Finally, there are some fun events that take place during the week that are typically targeted toward locals, such as trivia nights, weekly car shows, and live music - join in! How about a ghost tour or haunted pub crawl (if you dare) or enjoy a delicious wine tasting or Magic show!  

Amelia's Ghost Tours Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape Live Music 
Chris McBrien Psychic Medium Pecatonica Tap House - Thursday Nights Trivia
Cruisin' Thursday's Car Show PT Murphy Magic Theatre
Galena Cellars Tasting Room  Stockton Murals
Haunted Galena Tour Company Thursday Night Live Music on Galena Main Street
Matthew's Haunted Pub Crawl   

Midweek Travel Tip:

Dining is generally less busy during the week, and you could even be seated right away; additionally, you might even benefit from midweek restaurant deals such as burger night at Millennium Bar & Marina on a Thursday night! Pay just $1 for a burger with the purchase of any beverage.

Galena Country transports people to another time and place to enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences and adventures. Some historical, some timeless, and some brand-new, but always original! Browse the latest Visitors Guide for more ideas on how to enjoy good times and find your comfy lodging here


Workcation in Galena Country

Posted on August 22, 2022 by Siena Miller

The workcation—a getaway from home that mixes livelihood, rest and fun—is a hot vacation trend with prospects for personal and professional rejuvenation. That’s especially true in Galena Country, whose beautiful location inspires and invigorates. Myriad diversions nurture the mind, body, soul and appetite. So pack a laptop and leave behind the distractions or rut of wherever you usually labor.

Work away from work—with coworkers for team building, family to mix business with pleasure—or a solo sojourn to simultaneously relax, re-energize and reward yourself. Make basecamp at a spacious villa, a suite at an inn, a homey bed & breakfast or a resort with wide-ranging amenities. Galena Country has a generous spectrum of accommodations, crisply appointed motels and hotels and Airbnb/VRBO listings. From there, the pursuit of happiness is all up to you.

Turn Back Time

History is rich and revered in Galena, where 85% of buildings are in a National Register Historic District. Navigate downtown hills on foot and peruse historical markers, or take a seat on a narrated tour of the past through Galena Trolley Tours.

Among the architectural highlights: the 1865 Ulysses S. Grant Home, a state historic site outfitted with all of its original furnishings; the 1826 Dowling House, the oldest Galena house, which was built with limestone and used by fur traders; the 1897 Old Blacksmith Shop with working forges and a gift shop; and the 1855 DeSoto House, the oldest continuously operating hotel in Illinois, which also includes the Generals’ Restaurant.

Maneuver the 37-mile Stagecoach Trail between Galena and Warren, imagining what it was like to travel long ago in a horse drawn carriage en route to Chicago. Picture-perfect hills, ravines and farmland await. Apple River Fort State Historic Site is an interpretive center that recognizes an 1832 Black Hawk War site. Come night time, delve into the area’s spine-chilling history through Haunted Galena Ghost Tours or Amelia’s Ghost Tours.

Mealtime

Cravings for good food are satisfied easily and in endless ways, regardless of whether you seek something quick/casual or leisurely/gourmet. Hearty Log Cabin Steakhouse, open and sizzling since 1937, is Galena’s oldest restaurant. The famous crab Louie salad and slow-roasted Reuben sandwich have stayed on the Market House Restaurant menu since opening in 1982. Visit Stella’s Café for breakfast, plus homemade breads and soups.

At Otto’s Place, the garnish-laden Bloody Mary is a specialty, as is vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free fare. Mud Run Beer Company in Stockton, serves a saucy menu of barbecue and grinds brisket into burgers. Add a craft brew to your order, like Living the Dreamsicle, a cream ale with an orange sherbet flavor.

Blufftop Timmerman’s Supper Club in East Dubuque, serves scrumptious steaks and seafood with expansive, unmatched Mississippi River views. In Warren, Chubz Pub and Grub delivers live music with tasty, casual fare and the occasional frosted cinnamon rolls by the pan. At Wally’s Pizzeria, yummy mac salad goes fast when offered by the pound.

Making Time Fly

Explore the parks and conservancies of Jo Daviess County, where trails range from paved and easy to all-out challenging. For the daredevil in you, check out the downhill mountain biking trails and skiing options at Chestnut Mountain Resort. Ziplines are a big deal at Long Hollow Canopy Tours, but so are obstacle courses, rappelling, sky bridges, ladders and treehouses.

You choose the degree of difficulty. Rent kayaks, paddleboards, electric bicycles and fishing guides at Nuts Outdoors. The outfitter can help plot your perfect escapade. For a gentler adventure, Galena Goat Yoga blends play time and exercise.

Or go clubbing on the county’s 10 golf courses—all with gorgeous settings. Think that’s magical? Add a show at P.T. Murphy Magic Theatre for a different definition of show-stopping fun.

Carve out the Time

In the art studio of Marie’s Wood Carving in Stockton are sculptures of wildlife and small household items. Browse, buy or learn the basics of wood carving; three-hour classes are taught to children and adults.

Good things come in small communities elsewhere, too. Consider Elizabeth! Village Treasures sells unique home decor, holiday items and gifts. Enticing at Common Cents Resale are vintage cool furniture, clothing and decor (proceeds support a nonprofit hospice). For the broadest mix of gallery and boutique shopping, head to Galena’s Historic Main Street, where more than 125 independent businesses—most within a half mile—stock edible, wearable, artistic and eclectic items.

A keen souvenir is a bottle of something made locally, so bask in the area’s abundance of wine tastings. For starters, sip within view of robust vineyards at Massbach Ridge, or simply swing into its downtown Galena tasting room. Galena Cellars Winery is another two-location operation, where you can add a quiet overnight at its rural location.

Break Time

Start the morning with a fresh cup of joe from Trolley Depot Coffee and Tea Company, or take one of their classes in brewing. Choose from over 100 coffee flavors at Mean Bean Coffee Roasters, or sample artisan pastries at Kaladi’s Coffee Bar. Prefer a pub stop? Nurse a cocktail at Green Street Tavern at DeSoto House Hotel, where a sleek hardwood bar sets a history rich tone, as do framed photos of long-ago Galena.

For a roadhouse edge, find Cajun Jack’s Bar and Grill, where libations wash down traditional Southern dishes—think crawfish boils, biscuits and gravy. For a multi-stop intro to local spirits, take Matthew’s Haunted Pub Crawl, a downtown Galena walking tour that mixes local history and paranormal lore. And since cannabis is legal in Illinois, count Verilife Dispensary among the reliable, licensed spots with informed staff to explain products for medical and recreational use.

Time for Fun

When it’s quittin’ time for work, Galena Country doesn’t disappoint, especially on Thursday evenings during warmer weather. Walk Galena’s Main Street from 5 to 7 p.m. during Thursday Night Live in Galena, a free-to-see showcase of performing musicians and visual art.

Every last Thursday, enjoy Live at the Plaza, a family friendly, free-to-attend event featuring regional musicians, performers, food and drink. In downtown East Dubuque, Cruisin’ Thursdays are 4 to 9:30 p.m. Gearheads should check out the unique and classic muscle cars and vintage vehicles along Sinsinawa Avenue with a backdrop of free music every fall.

There's a lot of places out there, but there's nowhere like us! Book your stay and let the planning begin with a browse through the digital visitors guide.


6 ways to Unwind in Galena Country

Posted on August 15, 2022 by Emily Tepper

We all need a little R&R now and again. In fact, most of us probably don't get enough time to ourselves to re-charge those batteries. Here are a few top ways to refresh with a retreat to Galena Country.

Spa Day

There’s nothing better than spending the day relaxing, sipping champagne, and being pampered. Treat yourself to a relaxing spa day at one of these incredible spa and wellness centers:

Galena Day Spa Stonedrift Spa at Eagle Ridge Resort
Indulge Day Spa  The Well Spa  
Knot’s a Problem Therapeutic Massage and Wellness Studio Thriving Thistle Wellness Center
Renew Salon  

If you’re interested in something a little more intimate, consider booking a stay at a lodging property that offers on-site massages. Check out: Jail Hill Inn, Goldmoor Inn, Farmer’s Guest House, the Inn at Irish Hollow, Aldrich Guest House, Le Fevre Inn and Resort, and Lamberson Guest House.

Baaaa-Maste

Whether you’re into outdoor yoga, indoor yoga, or even yoga with goats, we’ve got you covered! Check out all of Galena Country’s options for a fun and fit experience. Galena Goat Yoga is perfect for animal-loving groups looking for an unforgettable activity. For more traditional yoga enthusiasts, check out Awake 4 Yoga for pop up, private, and group yoga.

The Great Outdoors

Unplug and reconnect with nature by spending some time outdoors. With incredible terrain, Galena Country offers many opportunities to explore! A serene walk or hike in one of the many parks and trails, a leisurely bike ride along the Galena River Trail, or peacefully paddle your way down the Galena River. All are great options to relax and disconnect from the stresses of everyday life.

Libations

Taste and tour your way through the county at alluring wineries, a distillery and craft breweries. Consider booking a wine tour or take a scenic drive to explore the lush landscape of the driftless region. If you’re interested in live music at a local establishment, or perhaps a sports bar, check out these ideas for pubs and nightlife.

Golf

Nothing beats a relaxing round on one of Galena Country’s eleven golf courses. The rolling hills of Northwest Illinois provide a memorable and unique golfing experience. Check out Woodbine Bend's links-style golf course, Lacoma Golf Club in East Dubuque, Galena Golf Club and The General at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa.

Cozy up and Relax

While exploring the corners of Galena Country, be sure to pick up some of your favorite beverages to bring back to your room. Sit back, relax with a glass of wine while taking a bath or reading a good book. Galena Country is rich in offerings for a relaxing time with your friends, family, or by yourself. Start planning your retreat with a stress-free browse through the visitor's guide and booking your stay.


Plan a Midweek Getaway to Galena Country!

Posted on July 22, 2022 by Emily Tepper

Take a break from the daily stress of balancing work life, home life, and personal "you time" to regain sanity. It's a no-brainer, trade that morning alarm clock for a midweek refresher to Galena Country! Book the perfect getaway with this three-day itinerary. 

Day 1

Make a pit-stop in Stockton for an early lunch at Stella's Cafe' & Catering. Take time to strike a pose in front of the murals; a stop into Sweet Alice's is the perfect cure for a sweet tooth! Make your way to Elizabeth for some retail therapy at Elizabeth's Grand Antique Co.Village Treasures, and Common Cents Resale. Arrive in Galena just in time to check into accommodations, followed up with a savory dinner at the General’s Restaurant. Discover a different side of Galena's history on a tour with the Haunted Galena Tour Company, or quench your thirst on Matthew's Haunted Pub Crawl. Pollish off the night with drinks and live music at Miss Kitty's Grape Escape.

Day 2

Begin with a hearty breakfast at Otto’s Place - be sure to ask about the quiche of the day and try a piece of warm, homemade coffee cake. Stroll across the Galena River for a fresh cup of locally-roasted brew from Galena RoastersTrolley Depot Coffee & Tea Co.The Mean Bean, Kaladi's Coffee Bar or Big Bill's Sandwich and Coffee Bar. Discover more than of 125 independently owned boutique shops, galleriesattractions and eateries nestled into Galena's Historic Main Street. Whether you fancy yourself a foodie, fashionista, or history buff - Main Street is a treasure-hunting paradise! Next up, lunch at The Market House Restaurant, followed up with wine tasting at the Massbach Ridge Tasting Room. Learn about gourmet wine pairings made from locally-grown grapes, then stop over to the Dowling House for a little history before dinner. Enjoy a scenic drive along historic HWY 20 to East Dubuque for a delicious meal at Timmerman’s Supper Club, perched along the bluffs of the Mighty Mississippi River. Be sure to finish off dinner with a hand-blended grasshopper! If it's a Thursday, take advantage of Thursday Night Live, or if it's the end of the month, Live at the Plaza! Feast your eyes and ears every Thursday night from 5-7 p.m. on historic Main Street, with live music and art from incredible local and regional performers.

Day 3

After hitting the snooze-button, fuel up with breakfast at Victory Cafe in Galena, a leisurely morning walk along the levee and up to the Ulysses S. Grant Home for a tour. Take the scenic route home, this time via Stagecoach Trail, grab a delicious smoothie at Thriving Thistle in Apple River and a bite to eat at Chubz Pub & Grub or Wally's Pizzeria in Warren.

With Galena Country only being a few hours' drive for many - it's the perfect getaway at any time! There's a lot of places out there, but there's nowhere like us! Book your stay and let the planning begin with a browse through the digital visitors guide.