Winter Escape to Yesteryear in Galena, Illinois

Winter sunset in Galena, IL

Trade today’s stresses for the charms of yesteryear with a quick getaway to picturesque Galena, Illinios, a three-hour drive from Chicago. With 85 percent of this quaint, tiny town listed as a national historic district, visiting is like stepping back to a calmer time. While the eclectic shops, spas and wineries make for a fun girlfriends’ getaway, guys and couples will also be tempted to make a winter trip for the skiing, romantic suites and hip new distillery.

Blaum Bros. Distilling Company

Stop here on your way into town to warm up with some whiskey and set the pace for a relaxing retreat. This two-year-old distillery, owned by a pair of Chicago-area brothers, is modern, cozy and completely unpretentious. Take the 45-minute tour to learn about the difference between vodka and gin, the glory of white oak barrels, and why their copper kettle is called Chester (hint: the brothers are movie buffs). Or just sink into the leather sofas or belly up to the copper bar for cocktails with a kick. The New Belly Fitz is a refreshing mix of gin, lemon, simple syrup and lavender bitters. Blaum Bros. Hellfyre vodka is spicy — infused with jalapeños, habaneros and black peppercorns — yet fabulous in a hot chocolate, Bloody Mary or chocolate martini. If you can’t get enough of Blaum Bros.’ tipples, don’t distress. Their spirits are sold in the Chicago area at Binny’s and Whole Foods. To put your own mark on some bottles, participate in a “labeling party,” where volunteers spend an evening at the distillery labeling new bottles. 9380 U.S. Highway 20 W, Galena, 815-777-1000

Blaum Bros. Distilling Company in Galena, IL
Photo courtesy of Blaum Bros. Distilling Company.

Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site

No visit to Galena is complete without a stop at the home of Civil War hero and 18th President of the United States, Ulysses. S. Grant. Tours of the handsome brick home with original furnishings, including Grant’s favorite green velvet chair, are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the winter. Entertaining guides bring history to life with quips like, “The South was easier to conquer than the in-laws.” 500 Bouthillier St., Galena, 815-777-3310

Ulysses S. Grant home in Galena, IL
Photo by Cortney Fries.

Main Street

Much of your time in Galena will be spent strolling the charming downtown Main Street, popping into art galleries, antique shops, toy stores, boutiques, restaurants and drinking establishments. Indulge in a sweet treat at Stam Chocolate, where they boast their fine European chocolate is better than any you’ve ever tasted. For dinner, the intimate Perry Street Brasserie and Italian steakhouse Fried Green Tomatoes garner great reviews. Perry Street Brasserie was even named one of the Top 100 Best Restaurants in America by OpenTable’s 2014 Diners’ Choice Awards. Make sure to request reservations in advance. After dinner, head to Galena Brewing Company to sample some of their 12 beers on tap. Live music lights up Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m.

Scenic Views

Take in the rolling hills and tri-state views at several scenic stops. Casper Bluff and Horseshoe Mound offer spectacular lookouts over Iowa, Wisconsin and the Mississippi River.

Chestnut Mountain Resort

This Illinois skiing and snowboarding paradise, with 19 trails for beginners to experts, sits high on the hills above the Mississippi River. The resort’s slope-side rooms with gorgeous views, two delicious dining options, and indoor pool, sauna and Jacuzzi make it the perfect escape to help you hit your refresh button. 8700 W. Chestnut Mountain Road, Galena, 800-798-0098

Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena, IL
The view from Chestnut Mountain (Photo by Cortney Fries.)

Goldmoor Inn

If you’re hoping for special time with your sweetheart, the Goldmoor Inn is a beautiful bed and breakfast reminiscent of a castle in the countryside. Suites, cottages and log cabins all feature king-size beds, whirlpool tubs and fireplaces, perfect for cozying up after a cold, winter’s day. Savor a chef-prepared breakfast and sensational views of the Mississippi River in the dining room or in the comfort of your room. Relax and unwind in accommodations that have earned TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for the past five years in a row. Special packages, such as the “Stay Three and Ski Free” and “Bald Eagle Winter Flight Package,” are available. 9001 W. Sand Hill Road, Galena, 815-777-3925

Goldmoor Inn in Galena, IL
Photo courtesy of Goldmoor Inn.

Otto’s Place

For brunch, you can’t go wrong with Otto’s Place, a café and lounge nestled next to the train tracks, blocks away from the bustle of Main Street. Their healthy home-cooked dishes, like sweet potato hash and flaky quiche, are great ways to start the day. As your meal is being prepared, read about the restaurant’s colorful history. While the original Otto was never able to open his own restaurant, the couple behind Otto’s Place has brought his dream to life with an inviting atmosphere and mouthwatering dishes in this lively little café. 100 Bouthillier St., Galena, 815-776-0240

Otto’s Place in Galena, IL
Photo by Cortney Fries.

Mardi Gras Celebration

Visit Feb. 6 for a parade with beads galore, restaurants featuring Mardi Gras-inspired appetizers, ice and snow sculpting and a Masquerade Ball.


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