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Two lanes of color in Galena Country

Posted on September 16, 2020 by Kirsten Bell

The air is cool, with just a little chill to let us know a new season is at hand. The leaves are tinged with red, brown and gold as they slowly desert their branches to create an attractive mosaic of color below. What better way to watch this transformation of nature called fall, than to take a drive through Galena Country.  

Before you get started... take a stroll amongst historic cannons and monuments in Grant Park. This will definitely set the tone for the rest of your trip. With the heart of Galena as your backdrop, watch leaves dance their way to the carpeted ground and listen to the crunchy footsteps that you take. Cross the pedestrian bridge to downtown Galena and don’t forget to look back at the beauty left behind. Ready to hit the road? Let’s go…

Galena's Historic Main Street

Head north down the historic Main Street of Galena. This main attraction is lined with more than 125 shops and restaurants, one after the next. There are no chain stores here. It’s all about the unique, local independent shops and beautifully preserved red brick buildings that date back to Galena’s days as a booming 1800’s lead mining town. Steeped in history, 85% of the town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Stagecoach Trail

At the end of Main Street, continue on to the historic Stagecoach Trail via Field St. This road follows the original Galena-Chicago stagecoach route, passing scenic farms and near the highest point of Illinois. This pleasant, winding drive will take you through valleys dotted with small farms and dairy cows. The road, framed by a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and yellows passes the Galena Cellars Winery & Vineyard, a great stopping point. Turn left onto Ford Road and follow the signs. Here you can relax on the comfortable wrap-around deck of the charming farmhouse turned tasting room, and soak in the gorgeous fall colors of the vineyards.

Council Hill Station

Leaving Galena Cellars, turn left onto N. Ford Road and continue as the road veers to the right onto N. Hill Road, leading you to Council Hill Station on the right. This is a unique and historic 1850’s general store and railway station which has been transformed into a watering hole and music venue. Ruins of a woolen mill, barn and silo also sit on the property.

Apple River

From Council Hill Station, journey onto W. Council Road. This road will lead back to Stagecoach Trail and the Town of Apple River. This town was established by the Illinois Central Railroad in 1854. Surrounded by dairy farms and corn fields, a must stop is the Thriving Thistle Market. This little gem offers freshly baked bread, pizza, burgers, smoothies and more! Most ingredients are grown in their own backyard.


Continue traveling east on Stagecoach Trail until you reach the town of Warren, named after Warren Burnett, the son of Alexander Burnett who was the founder. Pop into Dusty’s Closet Antiques, a small- town antique shop featuring antique furniture, vintage collectibles and a small gift selection. Craft beer enthusiasts will love visiting the Pecatonica Beer Company. Enjoy a selection of cold brews and experience the regional flavors of Pecatonica Valley.

Apple River Canyon State Park

From Warren, take Route 78 south and turn right onto E. Canyon Road. This road leads you to the Apple River Canyon State Park, featuring limestone bluffs, deep ravines, springs, streams and plenty wildlife. Brace yourself for a feast of fall colors. Step out, gather a heap of leaves and throw them in the air for the perfect Instagram shot.


Exit the park on Scout Camp Road traveling south. When you reach Highway 20, travel west towards Elizabeth and Galena. You will travel through beautiful country scenery as the road swirls and winds its way to Elizabeth. Sit back, relax and enjoy the view of the multi-color magic that surrounds you. Speaking of views… a perfect way to experience the wonders of fall is to overnight at The View Motel in Elizabeth. Soak up the beautiful countryside scenery that this motel overlooks. While you are here, visit the Black Hawk War landmark called Apple River Fort State Historic Site for an intriguing history lesson. If you are into antiques, don’t miss the Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Co., a 28.000 sq. ft., antique mall that is sure to have what you are looking for. From here, your drive back to Galena is only a 15-minute drive, so make the most of the last bit of golden hues, vivid pinks, red and crispy earthen browns - a tapestry of fall.

Bonus - Blackjack Road

Just in case you didn’t get enough color under your belt, here is a bonus drive for you… From Galena, take Route 20 eastwards and turn right onto Blackjack Road. This rural road twists and turns, offering breathtaking views, many of which are of the beautiful Mississippi River Valley. This is a perfect road for a motorcycle ride. There are many pull off spots for picture taking along the way. You will find Chestnut Mountain Resort nestled amongst the hills. This resort boasts an array of amenities, accommodation and activities, but the views are what are so impressive. Sit on their outdoor deck perched high on a bluff overlooking the Upper Mississippi River Valley – here you will find all of the fall color that your heart desires.

Explore what there is to do and see in Galena Country by browsing the latest Visitors Guide and choose from great lodging options or your overnight stay!

Take your pick in Galena Country

Posted on September 14, 2020 by Danny Lee for Galena Country Tourism

It doesn’t get more fresh than straight from the farm!

Patricia and I were literally chest deep in Red Delicious, Gala, Honey Crisp and Fujis, the sweet, sharp apple scent combining with cider, warm apple donuts and other products as we surveyed the overloaded tables at Orchard Landing Apple Farm in Hanover, south of Galena. And Orchard Landing (take that name seriously; you can actually fly your own plane in) is just the beginning. The rolling hills all around are thick with the heartland’s trademark farmers markets, u-pick fields, roadside produce stands, wineries and a full menu of farm-to-table restaurants.

Early to midsummer is strawberry time at Terrapin Orchards. We like to make our own preserves using Terrapin’s AC Wendy, Jewel and big, unique-tasting Cabot varieties of berries. They offer discounts on pick-your-own rates when you bring your own containers, so we really stock up on the flavorful red morsels of deliciousness. But we don’t mind sharing Terrapin’s four acres of strawberries with all the families who just come out for an afternoon of fun and teachable moments —“You like strawberry shortcake, kiddos? This is where it starts.”

Not long after the end of berry season, the first apples begin to come in, and the farm store is full of their enticing scent. We start in the store but always plan a picking expedition or two to really bask in the orchard’s late-summer atmosphere, buzzing with cicadas and alive with birdsong.By fall, the baskets are full of sweet-tart Zestars, a special variety of extra yummy Gala, Wolf River, Gold Russet and, something new, Evercrisp. This is when making a choice between apples gets to be difficult, but it’s a great problem to have.

When it comes to deep roots, the folks at Dittmar Farms & Orchard have had plenty of time to grow them; they’ve been farming the same ground since 1854. Visit in the fall or try the growing-season field trips to see some of what goes into producing the great food and fun of autumn.

My wife’s favorite is the summertime sweet corn at Dittmar. For me it’s September and October’s cider, hayrides, pumpkins and corn maze. They even have a gourd-launcher that sets the kids to squealing with laughter as the plump Muscats, the bumpy Marina de Chioggias, the Kabochas and other varieties of gourds go arcing through the air, some even bursting with a satisfying, wet, PUH-LOP on impact with the ground.

But we both love finding a sunny hillside spot or a tree to sit under on the outskirts of one of the town’s farmers markets for a quiet picnic of our own, stocked with the delicious munchables offered there in such abundance. And abundance really is the key-word when it comes to Galena agritourism. In an area already famous for its history, scenic vistas, heartland tradition of hospitality and lively festivals and events, the chance to sample the harvest of fun and food is something not to be missed.

Written by Danny Lee for 

There's so much more to explore in Galena Country, browse the latest visitors guide to learn why this area is #ForeverOriginal

Pedal & Paddle in Galena Country

Posted on September 4, 2020 by Kirsten Bell

You’ve experienced the shopping, wine-tasting, delicious dining, and historic trolley tours but have you ventured outdoors for a different perspective of Galena Country? You'll find us running, hiking or biking up hills, or paddling on the water and we’ve got the equipment to do it! The following outfitters make it easy to reconnect, reenergize and explore nature in Galena Country.

Fever River Outfitters and Nuts Outdoors

Make some waves: Hire a canoe, kayak or a stand-up paddleboard from either of these awesome outfitters and glide down the historic Galena River. This river, once crowded with barges full of lead ore and steamboats is now a serene setting offering beautiful views of the charming city of Galena. The river meanders through lush vegetation on wooded hills, around attractive bluffs and you’ll be met by a wide variety of wildlife including Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. Test the waters on your own, rent a 18" long party board for 10 friends (from Nuts Outdoors) or take a guided tour.

Reel in memories: Have you ever tried fishing by kayak? Rent an Old Town Predator angler kayak from Fever River Outfitters for a stable and comfortable fishing experience. Drift, pedal, or paddle through a 225-acre private lake while pulling in small & largemouth bass, catfish, and walleye! Let one of the local guides from Nuts Outdoors take you to some of their favorite fishing holes to hook some big Catfish, pull some smallmouth bass out of local streams or help you get some trophy-sized Tiger Muskie.

Pedal it out: Whatever your bike preference… electric, road, fat tire or tandem, you’re set for an awesome bike ride! Ask for a kid’s tow-behind trailer for a family ride! Cruise the streets of historic downtown Galena or through Galena Country’s rolling hills in the countryside to the Galena Cellars Vineyard. Upon your arrival, the prize is a tasting of their award-winning wines!

If you’re looking for more of a work-out, immerse yourself in nature as you explore the wooded Galena River Trail. The 8.8 mile crushed-limestone trail runs parallel to the Galena River as the name suggests. Cyclists pass through tunnels, a wetland, patches of wildflowers along limestone cliffs and bridges over streams. If you complete the stretch, you will ride alongside the Mississippi River and reach the foot of Chestnut Mountain Resort. Take the chair lift to the summit for a refreshing drink while overlooking magnificent views of the Mississippi.

Check out the array of outdoor activities offered at Chestnut while you’re there including the Alpine Slide, Soaring Eagle Zipline, Mississippi Cruise, Segway Tours and more! Fever River Outfitters offers adventure packages which include these activities.

Millennium Bar & Marina

Tucked away in a Mississippi Slough in East Dubuque, Millennium Marina offers 3 types of kayaks. Hire a sit-in, sit-on-top or tandem kayak or try a paddle board. Take in the gorgeous surroundings as you glide along the Mississippi River backwaters, or head out into the channel. Unleash your curiosity and float wherever you choose, they will also take care of the loading and unloading for you. End off your adventure off with tasty home cooking and specialty drinks while you sit back and enjoy live entertainment!

Don’t forget to bring your four-legged sidekicks with you to Pet Friendly Galena Country for this fresh air fun! Explore even more things to do and see in Galena Country while browsing the latest Visitors Guide and choose from the great lodging options!

Thursday Night Live in Galena

Posted on August 28, 2020 by Fallon Oldenburg

Stepping onto Galena’s Main Street is like something out of a movie. Looking much like it did when President Grant strolled the streets, the buildings are now home to more than 125 independently owned businesses.

Available Sept.3- Oct. 8, there’s no better time to explore Galena’s charming downtown. 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. Situated right on Main Street, safely enjoy the unique talents of these artists while making your way in and out of exquisite boutique shops, galleries and eateries.

Galena Country transports people to another time and place to enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences and adventures. Some historic, some timeless, some brand-new... but always original.

Have a farm-tastic time in Galena Country!

Posted on August 18, 2020 by Kirsten Bell

Corn, crops, and countryside, oh my! Have you ever toured a farm? Petted a cow? Enjoyed a hayride? Stomped grapes? Or watched a tractor harvest its crops? Well, get to Galena Country and experience all that and more.

You know you’re in the Midwest when the cornfields are endless and the pastures are sprinkled with classic red barns and bellowing cattle. To deepen your understanding and strengthen your appreciation of the land, Galena Country has the perfect spots to explore.

Terrapin Orchards Terrapin Orchards believes that if you’ve never had a farm fresh strawberry, you’ve never really had a strawberry! Pick your own delicious bursts of goodness or grab a bag of pre-picked berries. The strawberries have a red juice filled center, instead of the unripe white pith that we have come to view as normal. Be warned… children who wear a white colored shirt to pick strawberries typically leave with a red colored shirt and a huge smile! Strawberry season starts in early June and runs through to mid-June. Apples are king at Terrapin! Anticipated to be ready to munch on by September, the variety of apples and pears available are picked at the peak of perfection. One of the favorites is the first apple to ripen... the Zestar! Offering the perfect blend of sweet and tart in a beautiful crisp, red and green striped fruit, the Zestar doesn’t disappoint!

Orchard Landing Where can you find apple trees, airplanes and mini donuts? At Orchard Landing in Hanover. Yummy doesn’t begin to describe this extraordinary farm stand experience. It’s not only a visual treat with a large orchard, a grass runway for planes and a cute airplane hangar that doubles as the shop, it’s loaded with goodies from doughnuts, apples and dried cherries to syrup, jellies and honey mustard. The drive out (or fly in?) is lovely and it’s just minutes from the Helluva Half Mile in downtown Galena. Open August to mid-November, grab some pumpkins and enjoy any of nine varieties of apples as they come into season. Plan on flying in? The elevation is 970 feet.  

Erhler Ranch Get the best look at the countryside while learning about local growers and what it takes to supply and maintain successful crops. Along with a tour, there are plenty of activities and opportunities for kids with bean bags, picnics and pony rides, as well as the chance to splash their feet in Rock Bottom Creek. Spark your kids’ love of equestrian activities with a pony ride. Led by staff, not only can you ride a pony but also learn safety basics and the fundamentals of riding. Finish the day with a hayride for an up-close look into a real-life farm. Don’t be surprised if you see a tractor in the cornfield or a rancher wrangling cattle. These are just the normal day-to-day operations at Ehrler Ranch.

Dittmar Farms Although summer has just arrived, fall and Halloween will be here before you know it. With this in mind, experience your new favorite fall season getaway with the best place for corn, pumpkins and the ever-frustrating but hysterical corn maze! Just a few minutes from Galena, this farm is in Elizabeth, the heart of Galena Country! The most popular activity, besides navigating the giant u-pick pumpkin patch, is a hayride. The 20-minute excursion gives riders an opportunity to see the entire scenic span of the farm. Dittmar Farms are extremely kid- and family-friendly. Want to keep the kiddos busy for a while? They offer a 2-acre corn maze to burn off some energy with some innocent fun. End your trip at Dittmar munching on their homemade pumpkin bread and, yes, even pumpkin donuts. This farm is a must-visit.

Grapes are a crop, too Witness the wine-making process from the field to bottle and enjoy a tasting at one of Galena Country’s four vineyards. These wineries are set among the beautiful countryside in charming historic towns. Enjoy award-winning Illinois wines and during the fall season, you can even stomp grapes at one of the harvest celebrations.