Galena is a beautiful historic town in the northwest corner of Illinois. On the other side of the Mississippi River from Iowa, this adorable town has rolling hills, levels of streets in its downtown area and some of the best iced lattes I've ever tasted. From luxury bed and breakfasts to alpine slopes, there is something for everyone. The views are spectacular and it almost feels like a step back in time. Galena has been a long-time favorite getaway for Chicago area natives but it's also a great vacation spot no matter where you call home.
Founded officially in 1841, Galena found success when the upper Mississippi Lead Mine District was established and it became a central trade destination for steamboats along the Mississippi and Galena Rivers. With the influx of business, many local businesses and architectural landmarks were built. One of those landmarks includes the DeSoto House hotel where both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas once spoke. The property still stands today as a full-functioning hotel. The town eventually saw a decline in business and population as lead mining went out of business and alternate routes and means of trade were discovered but the history is still evident today in a destination that is naturally, architecturally and culturally beautiful.
PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP
Deciding what to pack is honestly one of the most stressful parts of traveling. Being spontaneous in travel is great and I highly recommend it but I also like to have a general idea of what kind of activities I'll be doing. There are a lot of wineries and breweries in Galena and the surrounding area. There are also a lot of hiking trails and outdoor activities for the more adventurist types. For the culture driven, downtown Galena has plenty of shops, museums, historical buildings, mansions and more to discover. The weather is typically beautiful but it's still the midwest and seasons can get extreme. With that said, I highly suggest looking at the weather forecast. It might not be spot on but the temperatures will be about right and it will help you determine whether to pack heavy or light with clothing. I'd recommend packing a very comfortable pair of walking shoes because while driving through Galena is pretty easy, it's much easier to take it on foot plus you'll be able to see much more from your feet than your car. I also recommend carrying your trip over into the regular week. Weekends are great and there are a lot of events but weekdays are much less crowded downtown. It's honestly a complete different experience.
5 FUN FACTS
* 85% of Galena's buildings are in the National Register of Historic Districts
* The first people to really settle in Galena were the French in the 1600's
* Galena has so many hills, valleys and bluffs because the glaciers that flattened most of North America during the Ice Age didn't touch the northwestern part of Illinois
* Galena was once home to 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. His family home is a historic site open to the public today
The oldest building in Galena is the Dowling House which was built in 1826
Of all the many fantastic elements Galena has to offer, the scenery is definitely one of the best. This is a great destination to leave work and stress behind you and completely decompress. The amount of wildlife in the area is incredible as well. I saw my very first (and second and third) American Bald Eagles while I was visiting. When you start venturing out of the city and towards the more remote bed and breakfasts, you might even find a deer outside your balcony.