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Washburne House | © WikiCommons
Washburne House | © WikiCommons

10 Reasons Everyone Should Visit Galena, Illinois

Picture of Elizabeth Newhart
Elizabeth Newhart
Updated: 12 December 2016
Galena is a tiny town in the upper northeast corner of Illinois, just eight miles south of the Wisconsin border and about 15 miles east of Dubuque, Iowa. Despite its small size, it packs a major punch. Tourists love visiting for the town’s unique preservation of 19th-century buildings and several historic sites. Read up on what else makes Galena a top Midwest travel destination and discover why it deserves a place on your must-see bucket list. 

Chestnut Mountain Resort

In the winter, there’s no better place in Illinois for skiing. With 19 trails and more than 220 acres of fun, Chestnut Mountain Resort is perfect for the family all year round. Their winter activities can’t be beat, but be sure to come back in the summer for river cruises, ziplining and bike riding at this mountain resort. With over 100 luxurious rooms, indoor pools, saunas and on-site patio dining, it’s the best place to enjoy a vacation filled with both active sports and laid-back relaxation for the entire family. 

Chestnut Mountain Resort, 8700 W Chestnut Mountain Rd, Galena, IL, USA +1 800 397 1320

Bring on another foot of snow this weekend! #rafaadventures #chestnutmountain #snowday

A photo posted by Dreu Willis (@dreuwillis) on

Shopping on Main Street

The historic Main Street in downtown Galena is a shopper’s paradise. It’s the premiere destination for visitors to see the town’s 19th-century aesthetic, as all the storefronts are quaint, colorful and representative of a different era. Most of the retail options are one-of-a-kind boutiques and specialty stores, so any presents bought in Galena are sure to be unique.

Main Street, Galena, IL, USA

Shoppin 'til I drop in this beautiful little town 😎

A photo posted by Emily Eichstadt (@emily_eichstadt) on

Ulysses S. Grant Home

Civil War hero and 18th United States president Ulysses S. Grant first moved to Galena in 1860 to work at the small shop in town owned and operated by his family. Upon returning to Galena from war in 1865, local residents gifted him and his family a fully furnished home on the southeast side of town. They didn’t stay long once Grant was elected president in 1868, only returning occasionally for visits. Today guests can tour the building – restored to its late 19th-century grandeur – and view much of the Grants’ original furniture and possessions which remain in the home.

Ulysses S. Grant Home, 500 Bouthillier St, Galena, IL, USA +1 815 777 3310

Getting some history.

A photo posted by anne-marie (@indiangypsy) on

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co.

On the other side of the spectrum, Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. is practically brand new to the Galena area. Cofounders and brothers Matt and Mike discovered their shared passion for whiskey, quit their respective careers and set out to open a distillery with no formal training. It’s become quite the Galena destination, and customers can enjoy browsing the house brand or taking guided tours of the facility. The Blaums have expanded beyond whiskey and now distill their own branded vodka, gin, moonshine and more.

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., 9380 US Hwy 20 W, Galena, IL, USA +1 815 777 1000

Probably our favorite tour so far. #blaumbrothers #gettogalena

A photo posted by Mollie {Glitter & Grass} (@mollieboersma) on

Casper Bluff

For a relaxing return to nature, check out the trails through Casper Bluff. It offers some of the best possible views of the Mississippi River, whether iced over or bathed in rays of sunshine, and its 85 acres are also home to 51 burial mounds that can be seen from the pathways. The area is popular with hikers, bikers and active folks alike.

Casper Bluff, 870 South Pilot Knob Road, Galena, IL, USA +1 815 858 9100

Peace✌ #enjoyillinois

A photo posted by Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB (@enjoygalenactry) on

Galena Historical Society and Museum

The joint Galena–Jo Daviess County Historical Society is housed just off Main Street in central Galena, showcasing exhibits to educate the public about the history of the county. Their building includes a specific Ulysses S. Grant museum as well general Galena history. Visit or attend one of their events throughout the year, such as their Historic Homes Tour, Cemetery Walks or Galena in Maps.

Galena Historical Society and Museum, 211 S Bench St, Galena, IL, USA +1 815 777 9129

Always a highlight for visitors the video "Through Lincoln's Eyes" located in The Military Hall on the second floor of the museum.

A photo posted by Galena Historical Soc & Museum (@galena_history_museum) on

Horseshoe Mound

A recent addition to the Galena nature scene was the opening of Horseshoe Mound in 2014. Located on the eastern side of Galena, this 40-acre greenspace includes several hiking trails, but it centers around the mound, from which you can see panoramic views of Galena, Dubuque and the river. It’s a beautiful place to photograph or simply spend the day outside.

Horseshoe Mound, 1679 N. Blackjack Rd., Galena, IL, USA +1 815 858 9100

Washburne House

This Galena home was built in 1843 for local attorney and politician Elihu Washburne, who occupied it with his family in 1882. It has been preserved as a state historic site thanks to its impeccable Greek Revival style, complete with four tall columns on the front facade. The building is open to the public and can be enjoyed through self-guided or organized group tours.

Washburne House, 908 3rd St, Galena, IL, USA +1 815 777 3310

Washburne House | © WikiCommons

Washburne House | © WikiCommons

Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery

Three generations of the Lawlor family have been a part of Galena Cellars, named the number one winery in the state of Illinois for 2016. The family operates three locations, encompassing the main vineyard on acres of farmland on the outskirts of Galena, a Galena Cellars Wine Tasting Room on downtown’s Main Street, and another tasting room in suburban Geneva, Illinois. The original winery churns out more than 60,000 gallons of wine per year and sells more than 40 different wine varieties.

Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, 4746 N Ford Rd, Galena, IL, USA

#winetasting #gettogalena

A photo posted by Bridget Mitchell (@bridgetwyski) on

Old Market House

Since 1845, Old Market House has served the Galena community. The city originally built it with the purpose of using it as a town center and enclosed farmers market, though it was largely home to city meetings, offices and all kinds of vendor shopping. In the 1950s the building underwent extensive renovations to restore it to its former glory, and today it’s regarded as a state historic site and is used as the official Galena Welcome Center.

Old Market House, 123 N Commerce St, Galena, IL,USA +1 815 776 9200

What a great weekend to be in Galena. Hope you are all enjoying your summer! #GetToGalena photo by @kmerin17

A photo posted by Galena, IL (@visitgalenaorg) on