family events in galena

Insider’s Guide to 4th of July festivities in Galena Country

Independence Day celebrations in Galena Country means fun-filled days of activities for the whole family, mouthwatering BBQ’s and of course the thrill of spectacular firework displays.

Here’s your guide to navigating all of the fun leading up to and happening on the 4th of July!

East Dubuque Fireworks Family Event – June 29

Experience fun for the whole family with face painting, bounce houses, free admission to the swimming pool and delicious eats and treats. Try your luck at the raffle to win a 2019 CanAm side-by-side or $10,000! Stay and enjoy the show as fireworks light up the sky.

Elizabeth Freedom Fest – July 1

Enjoy live music by Ten Gallon Hat and tasty food and drinks, while the kids have their faces painted and endless fun on the bounce houses. The highlight of the event happens at 7 p.m. when the U.S Army Golden Knights parachute jump into Terrapin Park. The night ends with a spectacular firework display. Come dressed to show your patriotism, awards will be presented to ‘best-dressed.’

Head back to Elizabeth on July 4th to experience the Fourth of July at the Apple River Fort! Enjoy games and dancing, listen to speeches, toasts, and petitions, try Election Cake, and more!
Bring blankets and a picnic lunch. Water, lemonade, and desserts will be available courtesy of the Fort.

Hanover Days – July 3

The holiday celebration begins with the VFW’s traditional annual beef roast dinner. Explore Main Street as it comes to life with activity, food carts open at 5 p.m., and the parade starts at 6 p.m. Try your skills with the canoe race down the Apple River, and at dusk, the fireworks light up the river in a beautiful holiday tradition. Finish the evening at The Hangover Tap with live music.


Stockton – July 4

Celebrating for more than 50 years, this event is a ‘must-do!’ Treasure hunt in more than 70 vendor booths while the kids burn off some energy in the bounce houses. Experience a science stage show, kiddie tractor pull, Bingo and more! The Lions Club Chicken Dinner is a favorite, along with live music and swimming! The evening ends with a colorful burst of fireworks.

Galena – July 4

Join in on the fun at Galena’s 23rd Annual Galena Independence Day Celebration featuring live music, delicious eats and treats, and the spectacular parade down Main Street. Make your way towards Grant Park to find a place to watch as fireworks light up the sky!

The fireworks will launch from Grant Park at dusk! If you prefer a high vantage point, book a space at the DeSoto House Hotel’s Rooftop Party. Spend the evening atop the oldest operating hotel in Illinois. This top spot offers prime views of the Galena firework display. Enjoy burgers, brats, hot dogs, beer, wine and more while jamming to your favorite tunes.

Let the planning begin with a browse through the visitor’s guide and booking your stay.

Family Road Trip to Galena Country

“Are we there yet?” The greatest part of a family road trip isn’t arriving at your destination, it’s the little memories made along the way! Gather the gang, get behind the wheel and get to #GalenaCountry!

U.S. Route 20 or U.S. Highway 20 is an east-west highway that stretches from The Pacific Northwest all the way to New England and it’s the longest highway in America. It also happens to travel through Galena Country… the best place to enjoy a family road trip.

Credit: @natalie_dickinson

But first, breakfast

Just off highway 20 heading west towards Galena is the charming town of Stockton! Enjoy a delicious homemade breakfast at Stella’s Café which is housed in the beautiful W.E. White Building. Listed on the National Historic Registry, the building is known for its beautiful original tin ceiling and artful ambiance, so don’t forget to look up!

Strike A Pose!

After breakfast, it’s time to strike a pose in front of Stockton’s beautiful murals found just steps away from Stella’s. These family shots are sure to receive loads of likes on Insta! Grab some homemade candy from Sweet Alice’s for the road and take note of the cute Alice in Wonderland theme in the store.

Burn energy and cool off

If the kids need to release some energy, Kidstown Playground is the perfect place to be! If it’s a scorcher of a day… take a dip at the Stockton Park Pool.

Take a piece of Galena Country home with you!

Once you’re back on highway 20, heading west towards Galena, look out for Nature’s Treasures in Woodbine where you’ll find the most gorgeous items to remind you of your trip. Mom, you will love the organic gardening supplies, wind chimes, crystals and so much more!

Take your pick!

The kids are going to love this one! Stop at Terrapin Orchards, a U-pick strawberry and apple orchard offering a couple of hours of fun and loads of juicy and delicious fruit… mmmm!

History Lesson

Highway 20 takes you through the quaint village of Elizabeth. Time for a history lesson at the Chicago Great Western Railway Depot Museum. Watch the numerous model trains and railroads operate around the museum and step inside a full-size Milwaukee Road caboose.

Ice Cream Stop

As you depart the town of Elizabeth, there’s an adorable little candy store called the Three Sisters Sweet Shoppe. Stop for some refreshing ice cream and jump onto the giant pink chair for a great photo together… yes, the whole family can fit!

A Welcome Sight

As you continue your road trip on highway 20, notice the stunning views of wooded countryside interspersed with neat farmsteads and hilly terrain dotted with cows. This would be a good time to play “I spy”! You’ll soon reach the Long Hollow Scenic Overlook which offers breathtaking views of Galena Country’s rolling countryside… a sight for sore eyes! Don’t miss this opportunity for a great family photo!

Time Travel

Enter the town of Galena on highway 20 and take a turn onto the town’s Main Street (dubbed as the Helluva Half Mile). This street is frozen in time and steeped in history! It’s lined with beautifully restored 19th Century buildings which house art galleries, eclectic boutiques, and restaurants.

Wow the kids

Conveniently located at the beginning of Main Street is a kid’s happy place called Poopsie’s. This store is fun, funky and beyond the ordinary! The children can check out the toys, games, and books on one side of the store, while you explore the one-of-a-kind art, jewelry, home décor and other gifts on the other. Another fun toy/gift shop to explore is Gabby’s Gifts which is a little further on.

Watch Sparks Fly

Once you reach the end of Main Street, turn right and you will find the authentic 1897 Old Blacksmith Shop to your left. Treat the family to a live demo of a blacksmith forging metal the way they used to in the 1800s. The shop is also filled with original tools for you to inspect.

Say Cheese!

For rumbling bellies, there’s a delicious treat waiting for you at Galena River Wine & Cheese as you head out of Galena! Choose any type of cheese from their wide selection for a mouthwatering grilled cheese sandwich. Mom and Dad… pick out that bottle of wine to savor later on!

Mississippi Views

Have your family ever seen the Mighty Mississippi River? Hop back onto highway 20 traveling west and it will lead you straight to it! Stop at Gramercy Park in East Dubuque, a 10-acre city park overlooking the river. It’s also a natural heritage landmark, home to 26 ceremonial and burial mounds. Watch the sun go down at this beautiful site.

Dine at the water’s edge

A great way to end a fun day of family adventure is to head down to Millennium Bar & Marina, tucked away in a slough in East Dubuque. Here you can enjoy some home cooking at the water’s edge while you share your favorite memories of your road trip.

For more fun ideas on ways to entertain the family, check out the Galena Country Visitors Guide. Explore scenic overlooks, picturesque trails and cultural sites… making family memories one road trip at a time.

5 Fun things to do with the Family in Galena Country

Fun for the whole family!

While there is much to do in Galena Country, you may plan your family adventures a little different than your girlfriends’ getaway. Check out these fun things to do on your family vacation in Galena Country.

Explore the great outdoors

Boasting incredible terrain for outdoor adventure, Galena Country offers many options for a variety of skill-level and ages. Children, toddler age and up may enjoy speeding down the Alpine Slide at Chestnut Mountain Resort and finishing off with a game of mini-golf onsite or at the Lil’ General. For those more ‘serious’ golfers, make plans to hit a-round on one of eleven gorgeous golf courses.

Taking a canoe or kayak down the Galena River is a wonderful way to explore Galena. Kayaks, canoes and other outdoor equipment is available for rent at Fever River Outfitters. Galena Country is home to twenty gorgeous parks and trails, a fun option for smaller children is Horseshoe Mound, featuring hidden treasures along the trails. Pack a picnic with a gourmet grilled cheese from Galena River Wine & Cheese, treats from Kandy Kitchen, and chips and salsa from Galena Canning Company.

Outdoor adventure in Galena Country is year-round. With Chestnut Mountain Ski Resort and the Nordic Center at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, there’s enough to keep everyone occupied for hours!

Historically Amazing

To say that Galena Country is ‘rich in history’ in an understatement. In fact, even the scenic routes to Galena Country are historical. Make an educational pit-stop on the way through Stockton and stop at the Heritage Museum, the original home of Kraft Cheese! Just a few doors down is Sweet Alice’s, where you’re sure to find something delicious for the family. Take some time to snap a few pictures in front of the murals around town!

Train lovers are going to delight in the Chicago Great Western Railway Depot Museum. Across the street is another important piece of history, the Apple River Fort State Historic Site. This is the location where Black Hawk and his 200 warriors attacked the hastily erected fort on June 24, 1832. His story and that of the early settlers are told.

Heading to Galena, a visit to the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site is a ‘must-do’, along with an up-close-and-personal experience at the Old Blacksmith Shop. A trolley tour is an excellent way to ‘see the town’ and learn more about the historic homes and architecture that is adored by the community and visitors alike.

Exciting Events

The events calendar is loaded with incredible happenings! From hot air balloon races to civil war reenactments to magical holiday festivities, there’s always something to discover in Galena Country! Check out this video featuring summer events, and let the planning begin the digital visitor’s guide.

Lodging with flare

There are many great options for family-friendly lodging, but if you’re up for something more to keep the kids occupied, you may want to consider these properties. In addition to Chestnut Mountain Resort, Eagle Ridge Inn Resort and Spa offers lake views and activities, golf, swimming pool and more! Country Inn and Suites, Stoney Creek Inn, and Best Western are home to some excellent swimming options, while The Ramada and Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel feature swimming and a spa! We’re thinking of you, mom and dad!

Farm-Fun!

Agritourism offers the children a chance for hands-on experiences and fun for all ages. Seasonal favorites are Dittmar Farms and Terrapin Orchards, both featuring unique opportunities for incredible memory-making. We haven’t forgotten about the older kids, you know… the ones that you can enjoy a glass of wine with? Galena Country is home to four vineyards, all offering incredible views and delicious wine.

Parents, we’ve got you covered. Start planning today by browsing the digital visitor’s guide and booking your lodging. Questions? Email The Welcome Center at galena@visitgalena.org to help curate the best family vacation yet!

10 Reasons to visit Galena Country this winter.

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 Country offers the perfect winter escape. From a couple’s retreat to a family vacation, from skiing to sleigh rides, from a Winter Carnival to wine tastings, here are the 10 reasons winter is the best time to visit Galena Country.

1. Skiing & Snowboarding at 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.

 

2. The Nordic Center at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

For other winter activities, Nordic Center at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa 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.

3. Winter Carnival Weekend at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

Take advantage of the long Presidents Day Weekend and come for Winter Carnival Weekend at Eagle Ridge. The Nordic Center activities will be available plus an assortment of carnival fun, including balloon glows, 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. 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. For other parks and trails, check out this link.

 

 

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.

 

6. Shopping

Shop Galena’s Main Street, otherwise known as the Helluva Half-Mile. With more than 125 independently owned stores, offering everything from crafts to vintage clothing to fine chocolates, this shopping excursion is sure to keep you warm. The purchase you make for yourself or a loved at one of these specialty shops will be something you’ll find nowhere else. The towns of Elizabeth and Stockton offer even more boutique stores to pique your interest. Visit Sweet Alice’s for some sweet treats, Beautifully Berkeley for a new home-ware item or how about Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Mall for that unique treasure!

 

7. Cozy Dining 

Whether you’re looking for farm-to-table, like One Eleven Main, fine dining, like Goldmoor Inn, or just a really good sandwich, Galena Country offers amazing dining establishments with a full range of culinary choices. There’s breakfast with ambience at Stella’s Cafe & Catering, 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 wines, reign in Galena Country.

 

8. Wine, Beer and Spirits 

Galena Cellars offers more than 40 varieties of wine. Stop by their main street tasting room, located in a historic 1840s granary building. Massbach Ridge Winery also offers visitors the ease and accessibility of a tasting room right in downtown Galena. Ask to sample their St. Pepin, displaying “a whiff of citrus and cuts with a spray of green apple.” 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&B’s

Named the B&B Capital of the Midwest, Galena Country 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 Abe’s Spring Street Guesthouse, 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 time comes and you want to know where to go… enjoy live music venues, such as The CornerstoneMiss Kitty’s Grape Escape, Galena Brewing Company and 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. Experience fine dining and exceptional entertainment in a unique Supper Club atmosphere at Amelia’s Under the Lamplight Dinner Theater. Other annual events to look forward to are the Mardi Gras Weekend, St. Patty’s Day Weekend (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. Check out even more events here.

Bonus tip: 

For the history buffs out there, some historic attractions are indeed open in the winter! Keep warm in the Ulysses S. Grant Home, learn all about the history of Galena Country at these museums, and make sure that you stop by the Old Market House in Galena where you will find the largest collection of Ulysses S. Grant memorabilia in the world! It also happens to be the Galena Country Welcome Center where you can gather some more information on what to do in the area.

Explore #GalenaCountry and strike a pose in Stockton!

Hit the road and cruise out to Stockton, Illinois to find these beautiful murals waiting for your epic selfie.

 

The first mural to embrace historic downtown Stockton went up in 2016. Find at the corner of Front & Main St.

Next up is an ode to our native settlers, with this colorful mural of an American Indian by artist Chris Shannon. Find it right on Main St.

This one might not have as much detail, but there is something beautiful in the simplicity of its large singular rose. Find it right on Main St.

This stunning floral design has the perfect home on the side of a florist & home décor store. Find it on the side of Beautifully Berkeley, 101 N. Main Street.

The newest mural can be found opposite the historic Great Western Hotel, named after the Chicago Great Western Railroad that had a depot nearby. Find it on the corner of Main and E.Queen Avenue. 

8 Reasons You’ll Strike Family Vacation Gold in Galena Country

Whether it’s spotting an eagle while hiking trails along the Mississippi River or catching a show performed by master magician PT Murphy, Galena Country offers up activities to put smiles on every face in your family.

Read on to find out why this northwestern Illinois gem should be the next place to visit on your family vacation destination list.

1. Be natural. If the name of your family’s game is nature, there’s no shortage of outdoor spaces to visit. Head to Apple River Canyon State Park, which is an ideal spot for boating, camping, hiking and fishing. There’s also Horseshoe Mound Preserve, where you can hike, bird-watch and picnic while learning about local geology and taking in picturesque views of the area. Or if you’re looking for a place to enjoy a nice bike ride, head to the 9 mile Galena River Trail. If you’re bringing your pets, don’t worry! All of the spots mentioned above are pet-friendly.

2. Summer Camp on a farm. Book a unique summer sleepaway camp for the kids (ages 7-12) at The Country Experience – Amztutz Family Farm Camp. Children enjoy hands-on learning, using real-world tools to build an appreciation for the value of time and effort, a respect for life and nature, and the development of important life skills. They will also get to relax and make new friends, including furry and feathered ones… such as goats, pigs, sheep, cows, donkeys, chickens, and rabbits!

3. Make a little magic. “How did he do that?” Whether you’re 13 or 93, that’s the question you’ll be asking yourself throughout the 65-minute show delivered by Galena’s master magician, P.T. Murphy. Murphy, known for his personal style and mischievous sense of humor, believes in magic, and his goal is to leave you feeling mystified and inspired. The location for the show, an intimate 24-seat theater— located in the heart of historic downtown—only contributes to the fascinating experience. Shows are offered Wednesday through Sunday, and advance purchase of tickets is recommended.

4. Travel back in time. History runs deep in Galena. For example, your kids can get to know Grant—Ulysses S. Grant—that is. Yep, one of Galena’s most famous faces was Grant, whose family moved to town one year before the Civil War. Before the war, the top Union general, and future president, worked at his father’s leather goods store, Grant & Perkins. At the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, you can tour Grant’s home, which was given to him by a group of Galena citizens after the war.

Another option for a lesson is in history is to visit Apple River Fort State Historic Site, a Black Hawk War landmark. In 1832, Black Hawk and his warriors attacked the fort. Today, you’ll find a reconstruction of the long-vanished fort (completed in 1997 and modeled after findings from a 1995 archaeological dig), where Black Hawk and the early settlers’ stories are shared. The site is open year-round, Wednesday through Sunday.

5. Spin your wheels. Work smarter, not harder while navigating Galena’s hilly landscape and rent an electric bike from Fever River Outfitters; this a good option and fun activity for people 18 or older. These easy-to-ride bikes allow you to glide down one of the area’s many trails or visit destinations such as the four wineries located in Galena Country. Rentals are available for two-hour increments.

6. Take a hidden hike. Burn a few calories while checking out some of Galena’s lesser-known hikes. For example, there’s the 230-acre Winston Tunnel State Natural Area, where you can find the historic Winston Tunnel, which was completed in 1888 for the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad. Although the tunnel is closed to the public, the area is a great spot to view a little history in the midst of nature. Or visit Galena’s 4-acre Linmar Gardens, which are situated on natural limestone outcroppings that overlook the town. Here, your family will find water features, a small mine replica and an exquisite sunken garden situated in the ruins of one of the first African-American churches in Illinois. Last but not least, take the family to the West Street Sculpture Park, where they can wander through an outdoor gallery of more than a dozen large steel sculptures created by award-winning local artist John Martinson. You’ll see sculptures including two 40-foot towers and a giant TINKERTOY. The park is open year-round, and there’s also an on-site studio where Martinson is often working.

7. Try the trolley. Give those tired feet a rest and take a Galena Trolley Tour. Choose from a one-hour nonstop tour of Galena’s Historic district or a 2 ½ hour tour of homes, including admission to Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, Belvedere Mansion and Dowling House.

8. Sleep and swim. No trip is complete without a little swim time. Your kiddos will be beyond content with the pools at hotels, such as Ramada Galena Hotel & Day Spa, which offers a catch and release pond, indoor pool, whirlpool and fitness room;  Stoney Creek Inn, which offers complimentary breakfast, an indoor pool and fitness center; Country Inn & Suites By Carlson in Galena and Stockton, offering complimentary continental-plus breakfast and an indoor waterpark featuring a 72-foot waterslide, whirlpool and wading pool/frog waterslide; and Best Western Designer Inn & Suites, which offers an indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub, in-room fireplaces, and complimentary hot breakfast.