Some people say that Galena, the tiny former mining town founded in 1826 in northwest Illinois, seems like it’s stuck in time. That’s one of the main reasons it’s such a popular weekend respite for Chicagoans and Iowans, especially history buffs. More than 85 percent of the town nestled on the Galena River — a tributary to the Mississippi — is included on the National Register of Historic Places, including the home of its most famous resident, President Ulysses S. Grant. Galena is also an antiquer’s dream, boasts a charming main street and is dotted with lavish historic mansions that now operate as bed and breakfasts. But fans of modern luxuries like to visit Galena, too. Foodies come for the fine restaurants and wineries, and the rolling hills and picturesque countryside are enjoyed by golfers who love the world-renowned courses at Galena’s swanky resorts.
The Perfect Galena Weekend
Day One: Spend your first day exploring downtown Galena. Start by browsing the shops on Main Street and stopping at the Galena History Museum to learn about the town’s rich past and see some Civil War artifacts. After lunch, continue your step back in time by visiting some of Galena’s many historic homes and sites, especially the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site and Dowling House, the town’s oldest building. Too many choices? Let the experts be your guide (literally) and take one of the organized tours that leave from the Old Train Depot Visitor Information Center. Complete your history lesson with a trip down an old mine shaft at the Vinegar Hill Historic Lead Mine & Museum.
Day Two: Today is all about the great outdoors. Get up early and head to Eagle Ridge Resort to start the day with a scenic balloon ride over Galena’s rolling hills. Next, it’s tee time on the resort’s flawless championship golf courses (the North Course is open year-round, weather permitting). Golf not your thing? Go for a horseback ride, or bike or hike the scenic trails here. In warmer months, rent a kayak, pontoon or paddle boat to while away a few hours on the Galena River. End the day at one of the area wineries with a tour of the vineyards or just a relaxing wine tasting.
Day Three: Whether you’re an arts and architecture buff or not, take the 75-mile drive to Spring Green to be mesmerized by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen summer home. Select among guided tours that take you inside the house, along the hillside or through the entire estate. After learning about one of the country’s greatest designers, explore some fresh talent on the drive back by stopping at the galleries and studios in the rural communities surrounding Galena.
Learn more about this itinerary with our Galena Attractions.
–written by Judy Sutton Taylor