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Galena Country Vacation Bucket List

Posted on December 23, 2020 by Fallon Oldenburg

It's pretty amazing here, with endless opportunities to explore - we've compiled a list of six unique experiences that you don't want to miss! We understand that during the pandemic some of these expereineces are not possible, however... it doesn't stop you from dreaming and planning for the brighter days ahead: 

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.

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 when planning your vacation. 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 Galena's Historic Main Street 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 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 from which 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. Here you will take your dining experience to the next level 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, have 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.

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. 

Start planning a trip today by browsing the latest Galena Country Visitors Guide and be sure to book your accommodation early!


Pop the question in Galena Country

Posted on October 9, 2020 by Fallon Oldenburg

© Orangeanchor Photography

From breathtaking views and romantic eateries to hot air balloon rides and magical winter celebrations, Galena Country has everything you need to pop the question in the setting of your dreams. Consider one of these dreamy locations for an unforgettable marriage proposal.

Say 'Yes' to Fresh

The lush landscape of Galena Country provides a beautiful backdrop for any proposal. A romantic sunset picnic with a bottle of wine at Horseshoe Mound Preserve is sure to get rave reviews. If you're staying in The Galena Territory, the Thunder Bay Falls are a lovely option. Or in Apple River, atop the bluffs or along the river at Apple River Canyon State Park are locations that include a romantic scenic drive! Galena's Grant Park offers many proposal-worthy locations and landmarks, not to mention the breathtaking town perched along the hillside! Take a stroll along Main Street or overlooking the city, atop the Green Street Stairs during golden hour!

A Rehearsed Dinner

Rich in historically amazing eateries, you'll want to indulge in the fine dining of Fried Green Tomatoes, Log Cabin Steakhouse, or Fritz and Frites Bistro. For dinner with a view, check out Highlands & Lounge 289 at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa or Timmerman's Supper Club, The Goldmoor Inn, or Chestnut Mountain Resort - all showcasing priceless views of the Mississippi River.

Enchanting Accommodations

A romantic getaway is a perfect time to further your love story! Galena Country’s award-winning, luxury lodging properties offer an intimate and romantic setting for just the two of you. Consider indulging in Jail Hill Inn, Aldrich Guest House, Lamberson Guest House, Inn at Irish Hollow or Hawk Valley Retreat as your home-away-from-home. Whether you choose to lodge immersed in mother nature, amidst history, or in the heart of downtown Galena, this vacation is one you'll never forget!

'Head over Heels' Experiences and Events

Book a private flight and propose on a hot-air balloon, among the vines of a local vineyard, or at one of many epic events. Consider happenings with a more romantic flare such as the Night of the Luminaria and Living Windows, Holiday Fire in the Sky, Corkless in Galena, Great Galena Balloon Race, or Galena Cellars Fall Harvest Festival.

In Galena Country, we know the importance of taking the time for the things that matter most. Whatever the location, make it meaningful, personal, and don't forget to use #GalenaCountry on those snaps! Begin planning the next chapter by booking your stay and checking out the digital visitor's guide.


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.

Warren

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.

Elizabeth

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!

 


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.


6 Ways to enjoy the outdoors in Galena Country

Posted on July 22, 2020 by Kirsten Bell

Galena Country’s rolling terrain along the Mississippi River creates a natural playground for outdoor relaxation, whether you want to go-go or go slow. Here are some fresh-air fun ideas. Image credit: @tatserur

1. Alpine Slide, Boat Cruise, Segway Tours and more

Chestnut Mountain Resort is situated on a wooded palisade overlooking the Mississippi River and offers an array of outdoor activities! Race down 2,050 feet of the terrain-tailored Alpine slide track to the banks of the Mississippi. Soar high above the mountain peak on the Soaring Eagle Zipline for an awesome perspective of the river. Enjoy a Mississippi River Cruise to learn about the surrounding wildlife and history of the area. Go on an adventure off the beaten path on a Segway Tour over 220 rolling acres of mountain terrain or take in the beauty of the mountain by bike along the trails. The Mini Golf & Disc Golf courses offer hours of fun and challenges all levels.

2. Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, and E-biking

Fever River Outfitters allows you to explore Galena Country via land or water by offering a wide selection of rental equipment such as kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, electric bikes, and road bikes. Enjoy the freedom of exploring on your own, or opt for a guided adventure. Nuts Outdoors supplies a full fleet of electric fat tire bikes for you to explore Galena Country’s hilly terrain with ease.

3. Ziplining Through The Trees

Find your wild at Long Hollow Canopy Tours. Glide through Tapley Woods on 6 zip lines, rappel down platforms and cross the 140-foot sky bridge. The tour begins with an enjoyable UTV ride through the trees to the first platform. Reach speeds up to 40 mph and heights of 75 feet. The course gets progressively longer, starting with shorter zip lines and ending with 3 zip lines over 700 feet long. Guides will share their knowledge on the plants and animals of Northwestern Illinois during your tour!

4. Goat Trekking

Reconnect with nature and with some really fun companions at Hoof It Goat Treks! While walking through native prairie and forest, baby goats (kids) will keep you company and play around you as you walk the paths. If you’re not up for a walk, enjoy a play date with the goats on the porch instead, or bottle-feed the kids (when applicable) before relaxing beside a bonfire under the stars!

5. Hiking, Birding, Fishing and exploring Parks & Trails

Hike or bike your way through parks and trails surrounded by breathtaking sights and rich history of prairies, forests and effigy mounds in Galena Country. Enjoy a day of fishing from one of the beautiful lakes, rivers, and creeks or grab a bird guide and binos to explore the many bird species in their natural environment.

6. Golfing 

Galena County is one of the Midwest’s premier golf destinations. Choose from 11 different courses for a memorable golf experience. Picturesque nine-hole layouts and challenging, world-class championship courses provide the perfect fairway to suit your level of play. If you need to brush up on your skills… take up a state-of-the-art golf lesson with Nathan Studtmann Golf!

For more outdoor activities, popular attractions and lodging options, browse the official Galena Country visitors guide.