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Galena Country Vacation Bucket List

Posted on April 23, 2019 by Fallon Oldenburg

Six unique experiences you don't want to skip.

It's pretty amazing here, with endless opportunities to explore - we've compiled a list of unique experiences to tackle on your next trip (or two....or three).

Take your vacation to new heights

Peacefully float above the rolling landscapes of Galena Country on a hot air balloon ride from Galena on The Fly. This incredible ride can carry up to 13 of your closest friends, flights last about an hour and end with a champagne toast and chocolates!

Long Hollow Canopy Tours will have you soaring through the treetops at speeds up to 40 mph at heights of up to 75 feet! This 2 1/2 hour thrilling journey begins with a UTV ride through the woods to the first platform, followed with a 140-foot sky bridge and a quick jump or rappel to the finish.

The perfect place for a picnic date with a view, Horseshoe Mound Preserve is located off of Blackjack road and boasts some of the best scenes of Galena. Use the viewing scopes to see geographical mounds of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, while enjoying the stone-henge style gathering space. A lovely location for a hike with the kids, pets or alone - be on the lookout for hidden treasures amongst the trees.

Epic Events

Full of infinite opportunities, from cemetery walks to hot air balloon races to incredible parades and magical holiday festivities. There’s always something to discover in Galena Country! Check the events calendar while planning your vacation to plan accordingly. While there's fun to be had at every event, the following events made it to the bucket list.

Experience the 1860s through a Living History Encampment and Civil War Battle at Grant's Home Front Reenactment on the banks of the Galena River. Free admission to those dressed in fully scout or military uniform.

The Galena Country Fair is one of the area's most popular events, overflowing with original handmade arts and crafts, live entertainment and mouthwatering fair food. Indulge in the Gazebo Wine Garden featuring award-winning local wines and take advantage of the complimentary shuttle service available on both Saturday and Sunday.

Bringing in thousands of spectators, the Halloween Parade & Festival is something you don't want to miss. Featuring spectacular floats, marching bands, costumed participants, prizes and treats, you can expect this to be an unforgettable weekend!

Romantic, nostalgic, and magical are just a few words to describe the Night of the Luminaria and Living Windows event. Stroll down the Helluva Half-Mile as more than 40 storefronts come to life with extraordinary holiday scenes. Thousands of twinkling, candle-lit luminaria brighten streets and walkways throughout the town, making for a lovely tour on foot, shuttle or via trolley.

All things Ulysses S. Grant

Stepping onto Galena’s Main Street is like something out of a movie. Looking much like it did when President Grant strolled the streets, it's easy to see why Galena is often called the 'City that's Frozen in Time'. We've added a few historical 'Grant features' to the bucket list.

First up, the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site. The stunning, Italianate style home, was gifted to Grant upon his return home from the Civil War. With no detail overlooked, the home was fully furnished and proudly overlooks the city. In 1904, the Grant children donated the house to the city. It's is open year-round for tours and features original furnishings.

Another must-see is the Elihu B. Washburne House State Historic Site, just a block away from Grant's home. Washburne was a prominent attorney and later a popular U.S. Congressman, political advisor to Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Grant, and an ambassador to France. Visit the library where General Grant received the election night news via telegraph, that he was elected as President.

The DeSoto House Hotel, located in the heart of town was the center of Galena's social and political activities. Being Illinois' oldest operating hotel, it's dripping with history. For a true 'Grant experience', you'll want to book rooms 209 and 211, where he ran his presidential headquarters.

Take in the mighty Mississippi

Being the second longest river in the North American continent, the Mississippi River is a must-see while in Galena Country. Part of the driftless region, this captivating location is lush with rolling hills and breathtaking views for miles. Here are five amazing ways to experience the Mississippi River while on vacation.

Chestnut Mountain Resort is a premier destination to experience the river. Whether taking it all in from the dinner table, chair lift or river cruise, it's an incredible year-round adventure.

For the perfect romantic getaway, stay and dine at the Goldmoor Inn. Take your dining experience to the next level and dine at the chef's table, an intimate experience in the heart of the kitchen. Nestled along the bluffs of the river, this castle-like Inn offers an unforgettable, luxury experience.

Bring the dog, a picnic and explore sacred grounds overlooking the river at Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve. Located just 10 minutes from downtown Galena, it's an excellent location to unplug and reconnect with nature. Take some time to check out the 51+ Native American burial mounds, including one Thunderbird effigy.

Iconic Timmerman's Supper Club offers another dining opportunity with a view. Perched along the bluffs of the backwaters, Timmerman's offers a mouthwatering experience with no 'bad seat' in the house.

Just up the street from Timmerman's, is Gramercy Park. A 10-acre park located on the bluffs in East Dubuque. This site is home to 26 ceremonial and burial mounds from the Hopewell Native American culture. Journey along the walking trails while the kids explore the playground, or relax and take it all in at the overlook pavilion.

Fascinating History

Galena, established in 1826 offers many awe-inspiring opportunities, here are a few favorite facts to share and explore.

The Dowling House, Galena's oldest home, is really something to see. Nestled amongst the shopping and restaurants in downtown Galena, is a home built out of limestone, furnished with primitives and a collection of Galena pottery.

The oldest continually owned and operated Post Office in America is located on the corner of Green and Commerce St. in Galena. The building featuring Federal style architecture was constructed out of the best quality granite, shipped up the Mississippi from Nauvoo. An excellent location to send off your postcards and stop for a picture!

Another piece of treasured history is the Galena Fire Department, Illinois' oldest fire department. Once comprised of five fire companies, Liberty house No. 1, located on Bench Street, is recognizable by its bell and can be seen from Main Street. The Galena Fire Department is now located at 101 S. Bench Street and has been a 100% volunteer department since inception in 1830.

The best in the U.S.

Galena Country is not only home to some 'firsts' and 'oldest' but is also the proud home to Jail Hill Inn. Rated the #1 B&B in the U.S. and #2 in the world by Trip Advisor, this romantic, luxury stay is one you don't want to miss. Featuring a multiple-course breakfast that's loaded with delicacy and indulgences, paired up with unique features in each room, the Jail Hill Inn has many 'repeat offenders', who come to experience the exclusivity of each room.

Adventure awaits, browse the digital travel guide and let the planning begin!


Follow Historic Wheels on Stagecoach Trail through Galena Country

Posted on April 19, 2019 by Kirsten Bell

Tired of the highway? Hop off Highway 20 and take the Historic Stagecoach Trail Road through Galena Country instead! This gently curving and hilly two-lane road, originally established in the mid-1830s, flows across the scenic country landscape and is steeped in history.

Credit:@johnposhepny

What's the story behind it?

This road follows the original stagecoach route between Galena and Chicago. The stagecoach became the predominant mode of overland public transport for passengers and mail in the mid-1800s. The vehicles were called stagecoaches because they completed their scheduled routes in stages, traveling from stop to stop where tired horses could be exchanged for fresh ones and passengers could sometimes eat, rest or sleep overnight.

It lasted only a few decades, but this period in the mid-1800s had a significant impact on the region, as settlements were linked, mail was managed and the groundwork was laid for future transportation systems. As you drive along this historic path, think of the first travelers and what it must have been like. You will be traveling at a much a higher comfort level no doubt. Take in the beautiful countryside dotted with cows, enjoy the architecture and see what you can find in the local stores as you stop to stretch your legs along the way. Snap some pics and be sure to tag them with #GalenaCountry.

Nora

Take the W. Galena Road/Stagecoach Rd. exit off Highway 20, drive through Lena, Waddams Grove and continue to Nora… where Galena Country begins. Nora, once a bustling railroad community (after the Stagecoach era) is now a small village with a population of 112. A popular local hangout in this village is the Nora Bar.

Warren

This town was named after Warren Burnett, the son of Alexander Burnett who was the founder in 1843. The town of Warren began to flourish when the Old Stone Hotel was built in 1851. It served as a stopover along the crossing of two major stagecoach routes and hosted prominent visitors such as Ulysses S. Grant. Today, the former hotel serves as the Warren Community Building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A great annual Christmas event that takes place in this building is the Festival of Trees.

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 the Pecatonica Valley. The town of Warren hosts the oldest County Fair in Illinois, dating back to 1860, held in late July/August every year and the Annual Warren Pumpkin Festival in September.

Apple River Canyon State Park

As you head towards the town of Apple River, there is a 6.5-mile detour, that’s worth it… turn left onto N. Canyon Park Rd. which will lead you to the Apple River Canyon State Park. Discover incredible limestone bluffs carved by the Apple River, deep ravines, springs, streams and plenty of wildlife. This park is ideal for outdoor activities and camping in the summer. In the fall, this park puts on an impressive show of color bursts.

A little history to this area… Millville (1838) is a village that was established in Apple River Canyon but no longer exists. It became an important rural service stop along the Stagecoach Trail since Millville had a blacksmith. In 1853–54, the Illinois Central Railroad bypassed Millville, relegating it to backwater town status.

Apple River

Head on back to Stagecoach Trail where you will turn left to continue to the town of Apple River. This town was established by the Illinois Central Railroad in 1854. Surrounded by dairy farms and cornfields, a must-stop is the Thriving Thistle Market! This is a gourmet gas station! It supplies zero-ethanol fuel for your vehicle and delicious fuel for your belly! Enjoy freshly baked bread, pizza, burgers, smoothies and more! Coming soon is a brand-new Wellness Center and Bistro that will be attached to the market.

Scales Mound

Upon reaching the area of Scales Mound, the road becomes West Stagecoach Trail Road. Turn left onto N. Elizabeth Scales Mound Road for a detour to the town of Scales Mound, where 90% of the town buildings are on the National Historic Register. Just north of here is Charles Mound. At 1,235-feet, it is the highest point in the entire state of Illinois. (Note: it is on private land and not open to the public). Scales Mound has a fitting motto… “At the Top of Illinois.”

If you prefer to skip the town of Scales Mound, continue on Stagecoach Trail Road until you get to W. Council Hill Rd. on your right, where you can take a detour to an interesting place called Council Hill Station. Travel on W. Council Hill Road to North Hill Road where you will take a left. This is a unique and historic 1850s general store and railway station which has been transformed into a watering hole and music venue. Ruins of a woolen mill, barn, and silo can also be found on the property.

From here, as you continue on North Ford Road to get back to Stagecoach Trail Road, you will pass the Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery. This is a great stopping point! Here you can relax on the comfortable wrap-around deck of the charming farmhouse turned tasting room, and soak in the gorgeous views of the vineyards. If you don't have enough time on your hands, you could wait until you reach Galena, where they have a tasting room downtown. How convenient!

Galena 

Arriving at the southeast corner of Galena marks the end of the Stagecoach Trail Road. The trail ends near the 1854 John Westwick Foundry. Ironically, 1854 is the same year that the railroad came through and the old stagecoach line began fading away.

As the Stagecoach Trail Road enters Galena, it rapidly transitions into Field, Claude and Meeker Streets. Just after the bend in Meeker Street, turn left onto N. Main Street. This historic Main Street is a major attraction in the area and has been dubbed the “Helluva Half-Mile.” It’s lined with more than 125 independently owned stores housed in beautifully preserved buildings that date back to Galena’s days as a booming 1800s lead-mining town. Steeped in history, 79% of the town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Grab a bite to eat at one of Galena’s renowned restaurants before you check in to your accommodation. Check out the official visitors guide for ideas on things to do and sites to see, such as historic sites, outdoor activities, tours, art galleries/studios, and more!


#GalenaCountry by the numbers

Posted on April 12, 2019 by Fallon Oldenburg

Discover more to love about Galena Country

It doesn't take a mathlete to know that there are numerous reasons to fall in love with Galena Country. Here are just a few fun numbers to note and explore on your next visit to this historical mecca of the Midwest.

One-of-a-kind restaurants Come hungry. With more than 57 unique dining opportunities, you'll want to create a 'restaurant bucket-list' for future visits! Partake in an intimate dining experience at the ‘chef’s table’ or take in the views while perched along the bluffs of the mighty Mississippi River. Either way, this vacation dinner date is one you’ll never forget.

More golf courses than stop lights Unlike most of Illinois, this captivating location is lush with rolling hills and stunning waterways, making it an ideal location for not one - but nine gorgeous golf courses. Hit them all and fine-tune your techniques with 189 birdie opportunities throughout Galena Country.

Lucious Wineries  Appreciate the craft of wine-making with a taste and tour of Galena Country's award-winning wineries. Whether you visit one or all four, you're sure to discover flavors and pairings that will be the talk of your next dinner party!

Shopper's Paradise Whether shopping for yourself or gifting, one thing is for sure - the unique shopping experience that Galena Country has to offer is like no other! Have a blast treasure hunting in more than 135 independently owned boutiques!

The most popular vacation destination in Illinois In early 2019, Cosmopolitan named Galena, IL the most popular vacation destination in the state! "A small town with a lot of heart, Galena is known for its charming 19th-century buildings and proximity to skiing, hiking, zip lining and anything else you want to do to get out of the city for a change."

Calling all Anglers Throw in a line to catch a variety of six different species of fish! Boasting two lakes and three rivers, there's no shortage of fishing opportunities here.

It's gorgeous here For real. All. Year. Round. With an average temperature of 83 degrees in the summer and 36 inches of snowfall in the winter, not only is the area immersed in beauty but also abundant in outdoor adventure! Ski, paddle, hike, bike or zip-line your way through Galena Country!

11 Amazing Locations #GalenaCountry is home to 11 distinct cities, towns and villages, offering infinite opportunities for memory making! Take the scenic route and venture off to explore Galena, East Dubuque, Elizabeth, Stockton, Warren, Apple River, Scales Mound, Nora, Menominee, Hanover, and Woodbine.

The first step in planning your vacation is booking your stay and browsing through the official 2019 Visitor's Guide.  


Mother's Day Getaway to Galena Country

Posted on April 5, 2019 by Kirsten Bell

Just one day to thank Mom for her superpowers? No way! Mom has sacrificed her waistline, she’s spent countless hours cheering you on at sports practice, she even dried your tears, time and time again, after crash-landings that she warned you about - not to mention mom’s taxi service.

So, how should you thank her? Get her to Galena Country of course, and make a weekend of it! It’s the gift of an experience and we’ve got you covered, from tasty brunches to outdoor activities!

But first, brunch Galena Country offers fantastic brunch spots that will “wow” mom! Take in remarkable views of the Mississippi River while enjoying brunch at Chestnut Mountain Resort or brunch at Timmerman's Supper Club. How about a traditional brunch at The Desoto House Hotel, steeped in history since it is Illinois’ oldest operating hotel. Brunch at Stella's Cafe & Catering, known for its beautiful original tin ceiling and artful ambiance is always a treat! Now, if you decide to have brunch at Eagle Ridge and Spa,… yup you guessed it, you could treat mom to a spa treatment afterwards.

The gift of “me” time Speaking of spa treatments… what better gift to give mom than a bit of pampering? Galena Country is a great place to unwind and is home to highly-skilled, full-service spas. Whether it’s a quick Mani, a full body massage or a complete make-over, she is in for a treat!

Mom’s shopping paradise What mom doesn’t like shopping?! Galena’s 19th Century downtown boasts a Helluva Half Mile of more than 120 independently owned stores featuring clothing, jewelry, specialty items, collectibles and more. There is no shortage of restaurants to keep you going along the way. Don’t forget the many charming shops scattered throughout the rest of Galena Country. Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Co. is a treasure trove for antique enthusiasts, Anchors & Arrows, features home decor, functions as a hair salon and houses re-purposed / 0up-cycled antiques, and Beautifully Berkeley Bouquets & Home, an intimate florist, features many one-of-a-kind designs and unique pieces that will pique mom's interest.

Does mom like to stay active? No problem! Spring is the perfect time to take a brisk walk on Galena Country’s many miles of hiking trails and capture the natural beauty of its parks and trails. See a whole new side to Galena from a kayak or canoe on the Galena River with Fever River Outfitters. They also hire out e-bicycles which you could use to explore the town of Galena. How about an adrenaline rush? Soar high above the mountain’s peak at Chestnut Mountain Resort and get an eagle’s perspective of the Majestic Upper Mississippi River Valley on the Soaring Eagle Zip Line. Cuddle goats while you strike a yoga pose at Original Goat Yoga, Galena. Need more? Ride 6 zip lines on a 2.5 hour guided canopy tour at Long Hollow Canopy Tours offering spectacular views!

The History-Buff mom If mom loves history, she may just move to Galena Country after this visit! For a quick overview of the rich history in the area, take a historical trolley tour of Galena with Galena Trolley Tours or Tri-State Trolley. These tours will include a visit to the famous Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site and a demo at the The Old Blacksmith Shop. You will find another little gem just outside the town of Elizabeth – Apple River Fort State Historic Site. The fort comes to life on the weekends through demonstrations, hands-on activities, and conversations with interpreters garbed in 1830s style dress. Click here for even more Historic Sites and museums.

Give mom something to wine about She sure has listened to a lot of whining, hasn’t she? It’s her turn… Galena Country is home to four wineries, presenting some of the finest, local award-winning wines in Illinois. Stop in for a tasting, take in the beautiful scenery and enjoy a tour to learn about the wine-making process. Two of the wineries, Massbach Ridge and Galena Cellars have their own tasting rooms situated on Main Street if mom prefers not to wonder too far.

Special bonding time with mom A very thoughtful way to end your stay in Galena Country would be to grab a bottle of local wine, stop in at Galena River Wine & Cheese for some gourmet cheeses, sausages, pates, etc. and head out to Horseshoe Mound Preserve for a sunset picnic. This 40-acre preserve is one of the most scenic properties in all of northern Illinois, with views across three states.

Mom will never forget this Mother’s Day getaway… you may even find her talking about it every year with a wink and a nudge, hinting for a return visit. Book your accommodation now before it's too late!