Top Things to Do in Galena | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Galena

On the Galena River in northwest Illinois, this town’s century-old buildings now house shops and restaurants. Beyond Main Street, find water sports, golf and other active outings. Check out our guide for what to do, where to eat and where to stay.

What to do

Amelia's Galena Ghost Tours Entertaining guides lead bus tours past Galena’s greatest haunts. Things get real at The Ryan Mansion, where visitors head into the library for ghost-hunting instruction.

Blaum Brothers Distilling Company Tour the distillery at the town’s sole maker of hard liquor, and prepare for some serious taste testing. Hellfyre, a vodka infused with hot peppers, is devilishly good.

Casper Bluffs Self-guided tours of the 85 acres reveal burial mounds, a 1,000-year-old Thunderbird effigy mound and migrating birds.

Fever River Outfitters Rent kayaks, canoes or stand-up paddleboards to float down the Galena River, or get bikes or electric bikes to explore the area.

Fever River Outfitters

Fever River Outfitters

Galena and U.S. Grant Museum Peer into an 1830s lead-mine shaft, measure yourself against a life-size photograph of President Lincoln, and view the Vicksburg flag (hand-sewn by women supporting Civil War troops).

Galena Cellars Winery and Vineyard A restored 1840s granary downtown has a wine-tasting room and wine patio; head 7 miles east of Galena to the vineyard for tours and tastings.

Galena's Kandy Kitchen Saltwater taffy fills wood barrels, and handmade chocolates dot this family- owned shop known for Pecan Georgies—homemade caramel with pecan halves dipped in chocolate.

Galena Trolley Depot Narrators introduce visitors to Galena’s historical sites and homes on 1- or 2.5-hour tours.

The Great American Popcorn Company The selection of unique flavors includes Freakin’ Hot, Louisiana BBQ, Kitchen Sink and Cinnamon Toast. Sweets for sale include jellybeans, chocolates and fudge.

Long Hollow Canopy Tours Six ziplines and a 140-foot sky bridge provide adventure through the forest about 10 miles southeast of Galena.

Long Hollow Canopy Tours

Long Hollow Canopy Tours

Massbach Ridge Winery and Tasting Room The downtown location pours a variety of estate-made wines; drive to the vineyard 25 miles southeast of Galena for vineyard and winery tours. Massbach Ridge Winery on Facebook

Mississippi Palisades State Park About 30 miles southeast of Galena, the 2,500-acre park caters to picnickers, campers and hikers. Fifteen miles of trails lead to overlooks with bird’s-eye views of the Mississippi, rock formations and wooded ravines.

Mississippi Palisades State Park

Mississippi Palisades State Park

Old Market House The former city market, built in 1845–46, serves as a visitors center and displays 1,500 artifacts related to Ulysses S. Grant.

Rocky Waters Vineyard South of Galena in Hanover, the winery makes Wild Turkey Blush and Tower Red. Check out the view from the deck.

Shopping More than 100 boutiques line historical Main Street and side streets. Look for Balinese bamboo wind chimes at Beyond the Horizon, dinner-party fare at Galena River Wine and Cheese, and artistic clothing at Earth’s Treasures. 

Main Street.

Downtown Galena

Ulysses S. Grant Home A tour of the 19th-century Italianate house gives insight into post-Civil War life in Galena and Grant’s life.

Washburne House See how the 1843 Greek Revival-style home of Elihu Washburne, a congressman who advised President Lincoln, reflected the owner’s success.

Where to eat

Embe Eatery and Lounge The candy bar martinis taste like dessert, but that didn’t stop us from ordering hot rum-soaked bread pudding, too.

Fried Green Tomatoes Dine on creative Italian dishes like wild mushroom and kale ravioli with walnuts. And don’t overlook the crispy namesake appetizer.

Fritz and Frites The split-nationality menu consists of French and German favorites: Fritz fans can load up on schnitzel, spaetzle and sauerbraten; on the Frites side, there’s escargot, baked Brie, pâté and tuna nicoise.

Fritz and Frites

Fritz and Frites

One Eleven Main Beer- cheddar fondue makes a great starter for an evening of upscale American fare—from burgers to walleye.

Otto’s Place Cafe and Lounge Breakfast all day means indulging in treats like banana bread French toast.

Vinny Vanucchi’s Little Italy House specialties like Nana Lu’s meat lasagna were inspired by co-owner Deb Coulter’s grandmother, who always seemed to have a pot of sauce on the stove.

Where to stay

Chestnut Mountain Resort Come to this spot 9 miles south of Galena for Mississippi River views and family- friendly activities. Zip down a 2,050-foot-long Alpine slide, glide on the Soaring Eagle zipline or cruise the Mississippi.

The Cottage on Lake Galena Fireplaces in the living area and bedrooms make for a cozy stay in this log cottage. The porch and outdoor hot tub take advantage of views.

Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa Outdoor enthusiasts will find golf, horseback riding, bicycling, kayaking and hot-air balloon rides on the 6,800-acre property. Lodging includes 80 rooms in the inn, as well as 200-plus villas and homes.

Goldmoor Inn Indulge like royalty during a stay in suites, cabins and cottages. Some rooms overlook the Mississippi, and the two-story turret suite sets the mood for romance. The inn also serves some of the finest meals in the area.

The Inn at Irish Hollow On a 500-acre property 9 miles from Galena, the inn has five opulent cabins and two plush suites in the main building that was once a general store.

The Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel The spacious rooms, some with patios and whirlpool tubs, don’t feel particularly Irish. But the inviting Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub and Grill was designed and made in Ireland.

Jail Hill Inn The six lavish suites inside this masterfully restored brick building (once the county jail) include Kohler rain showers, gas fireplaces and plush Turkish cotton bathrobes.

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