Visitor’s Guide to Galena, Illinois

Once a wealthy lead mining town in the 1800s, Galena, Illinois is beloved by history buffs, nature fans and romantic retreat seekers.

When the mines petered out, Galena fell into a sleepy decline—its saving grace. Today, history-rich Galena is thriving, known as “the town time forgot.”

Historic hotels and B&Bs abound here. For centrally located accommodations, stay at the DeSoto House Hotel, in operation since the 1850s. Noteworthy are its large, Victorian-decorated guestrooms. The comfortable Northwoods-themed Stoney Creek Inn is ideal for families and kids under 17 stay free with an adult. The beautiful Cloran Mansion Bed & Breakfast is a relaxing place for a romantic getaway, with included benefits like a 6-course country breakfast..

It’s hard to ignore the shops along Main Street. Poopsie’s is a spunky boutique full of unique art, gifts, jewelry and goofy games. Peace of the Past antique shop has 30,000 used/collectible books and old treasures from art pottery to coffee tins. The Galena Canning Company has samples of old-fashioned jellies, jams, sauces, salsas and hot sauces so flaming they make grown men cry—yep, that hot.

Local favorite Cannova’s Pizzeria dishes up fresh thin-crust pizzas. Fritz and Frites is a tasty French-German mash-up bistro—order Wiener Schnitzel, Mussels Provençale, or both! Diners interested in romantic fare should make reservations at the intimate Perry Street Brasserie, well-regarded for its elegant entrees.

Climb up the high school steps for a breathtaking view of Main Street and the river below. These are the steep concrete stairs spied from Main Street. They lead up to the old Galena High School, now condominiums.

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The brick Italianate Ulysses S. Grant Home was given to General Grant in by the city of Galena in thanks for his service in the Civil War. His family enjoyed the home for 3 years before Grant was called to move to another home—the White House—when he became the 18th president of the United States. Drop by the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum to get a taste of the lively 19th-century era river town. Peer into a real lead-mining shaft, see a replica of Grant’s 1860s leather goods shop or even Grant’s cigar.

The rolling hills and waterways of Jo Daviess County invite exploring. Gear up for your travels and get ideas on where to go at Fever River Outfitters, where you can rent (even try and buy) canoes or kayaks, bikes and scooters, wetsuits, and snowshoes or skis. Reserve one of their leisurely trips along the Galena River—canoes/kayaks and supplies included.

 

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Golfers shouldn’t miss Galena’s scenic courses nestled in rolling hills–try Eagle Ridge or Black Hawk Run Golf Club in nearby Stockton. Tour the vineyards or sample 40 different award-winning Illinois-grown reds, whites and fruit wines at the Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery.

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If time allows stop by to visit the restaurants, galleries and shops in nearby Dubuque, Iowa. For more information, head to Galena.org.