The tiny town of Galena, located in northwest Illinois, Things To Do In Galena IL, is home to many impressive historic tourist attractions and a few interesting architectural gems. It was once a major steamboat hub and mining town, located just a short distance from the Mississippi River and surrounded by rolling hills and fertile farmland at main st.
While the decline in demand for lead contributed to its long decline, it is now a popular tourist destination in Illinois due to its abundance of well-preserved historic houses and beautiful old buildings.
Surprisingly, the Galena Historic District contains over 800 such properties, including the former residences of famous figures such as Ulysses S Grant and Elihu B Washburne.
Other activities in Galena include visiting the numerous idyllic natural areas nearby. ‘The City That Time Forgot’ is well worth visiting for its rich history, heritage, and culture, with a variety of excellent shops and restaurants to try at the main st.
List Of 10 Things To Do In Galena IL Today
1. Thunder Bay Falls
Thunder Bay Falls, one of the area’s most beautiful natural sights, is just a short drive east of Galena cellar. The wonderful waterfall is located along the shimmering Smallpox Creek, just a stone’s throw from Lake Galena cellar, in a very scenic and secluded location.
The white waters of the falls, which flow down a spillway from a nearby reservoir, contrast beautifully with the lush undergrowth and trees on either side. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the waterfall from a scenic overlook, which also includes a pleasant picnic area of galena country.
Because it is such a beautiful location, many couples come here to take engagement photos or wedding photos with the magnificent falls in the background. Thunder Bay Falls is very easy to visit and is located next to some truly charming countryside with some great hikes nearby at downtown galena.
2. Horseshoe Mound Preserve
The idyllic Horseshoe Mound Preserve, located just southeast of town, offers divine views of not one, not two, but three different states. It was only opened in 2014, but it has some beautiful grounds to explore, with pretty and peaceful paths winding around.
The historic hill, one of several massive mounds in the area, is topped by some superb Stonehenge-esque stone markers that align with the summer and winter solstices. Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the Galena River Valley and Mississippi River from its scenic summit, with Iowa and Wisconsin visible on clear days.
In addition to its breathtaking views, the preserve has some fantastic hiking trails lined with informative plaques about the region’s history, geology, and nature.
3. Old Market House
The Old Market House, which boasts some brilliant brickwork and a grand Greek Revival style, was built in 1845 to serve as the city hall. It was once the heart of town, but it now houses a variety of interesting exhibits and cultural events, as well as the Galena Area’s Welcome Galena Center.
Aside from serving as the city’s civic Galena center, the building also housed farmers’ market stalls, which helped pay for its upkeep. There would also be many stalls set up in the market square in front of it, with locals buying and selling their wares.
Visitors to the Old Market House can learn about it, as well as Galena’s fascinating history and heritage, by perusing the various artifacts, artworks, and exhibits that are scattered throughout. It is located in the heart of the business district, just west of the Galena River.
4. Galena Cellars Vineyard
Galena Cellars Vineyard has won numerous awards for its outstanding wines and grapes since it first began pressing and producing in the early 1970s. It is well worth a visit if you want to sample some of the area’s local produce; it is located just a short drive northeast of Galena river trail, surrounded by rolling hills and fertile vineyards.
Every year, the wonderful winery produces a significant amount of wine from its specialty grapes, with 40 varieties available for tasting and purchase. The farm, which has been owned and operated by the Lawlors for three generations, has a lovely wine cellar, barrel and bottling room, as well as a tasting room for you to explore.
Visitors can sample some delicious wines paired with either cheese or chocolate after taking a tour of the vineyard. There is also a charming cottage where guests can stay overnight, as well as a gift shop where you can purchase some excellent wines to take home.
5. Washburne House
The historic Washburne House is a sight to behold, with its lovely portico and pearly pillars. It was built for and named after local lawyer and politician Elihu Benjamin Washburne, and it features stunning Greek Revival architecture as well as numerous interesting artifacts.
The stately home, which dates back to 1845, has plenty of fine rooms for you to tour, complete with period pieces and fantastic furnishings. Its lovely library, where Ulysses S. Grant received the news that he had been elected President in 1869, is especially noteworthy.
Visitors to the historic house learn about Washburne, who was a close friend and advisor to both Grant and Abraham Lincoln, in addition to admiring the age-old artifacts and architecture at Galena River Trail.
6. Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort, perched on a prominent ridge overlooking the Mississippi River, has snow-covered slopes and a snowboarding terrain park for visitors to enjoy. Because of its proximity to Galena, it is a popular tourist destination with a variety of winter and summer outdoor activities.
Since its inception in 1959, the Eagle Ridge resort has grown steadily, with cozy cafes, ski shops, and a large lodge opening alongside an indoor pool and hot tub area. In addition, there is a mini-golf course and zipline to try out in the summer, as well as numerous scenic hiking trails and mountain bike paths to explore.
The main reason everyone comes is for the snowy slopes, which have 19 runs for visitors to ski and snowboard down. Served by several chairlifts, these descend nearly 150 meters in total, with halfpipes, jumps, and rails in its terrain park of Eagle ridge resort.
7. Galena Trolley Tour
Aside from wandering around on your own, a Galena Trolley Tour or Galena Cellars Winery or Massbach Ridge Winery of the town’s scenic streets and neighborhoods is a great way to learn about its history and architecture. The tours are a fun and family-friendly experience in which you ride around in red trolleys reminiscent of San Francisco’s famous cable cars.
The fantastic tours take you past all of Galena’s top tourist attractions while teaching you everything you need to know about history, heritage, and culture along the way. Along with stopping to photograph significant landmarks and historic homes, you’ll learn about some of Galena’s former residents, including Ulysses S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals.
While Galena’s Historic District is full of eye-catching architectural gems, the hills and valleys surrounding the town offer some spectacular views.
8. Grant Park
Grant Park, located just across the Galena River from the historic heart of town, is a beautiful place to spend some time. It has lovely views of Galena and beautifully landscaped lawns with magnificent monuments strewn about.
The lovely park, named after Ulysses S. Grant, features a striking statue of him as well as some fascinating cannons used during his Civil War campaigns. Various plaques and displays that teach you about the park’s history and its many monuments line its pleasant paths and attractive flowerbeds.
On top of that, there’s a charming pavilion and fountain, as well as a basketball court and playground. It is very easy to access and makes for an ideal picnic spot because it is connected to the historic center by a footbridge.
9. Galena/Jo Daviess County Museum
The excellent Galena/Jo Daviess County Museum, located right in the heart of town, dowling house variety of interesting and interactive exhibits. Its artifacts, artworks, and archaeological discoveries provide an intriguing look at Galena’s history and heritage, as well as its scenic surroundings.
The museum is dowling house in a charming Italianate mansion built in 1858, and its numerous galleries and rooms cover topics ranging from Ulysses S. Grant and the Civil War to Galena’s port and mining history. Other sections of the museum focus on the region’s nature and geology, as well as the Native Americans who first inhabited the area.
This wonderful museum, which first opened in 1938, is a must-see for anyone interested in history because of its extensive collection of all fun things Galena.
10. Ulysses S. Grant Home
The Ulysses S. Grant Home, one of Galena’s most important attractions, is located just across the river from the town center. The handsomely furnished house, now a museum and memorial to the former general and US President, was given to the gallant general in 1865 for his role in the Civil War.
The historic home, built in 1860, has some lovely Italianate architecture, with balustraded balconies extending out over a lovely porch. There are many delightfully decorated rooms to tour inside, most of which still feature the Grant family’s furnishings and period pieces.
Although Ulysses S. Grant only lived here for a few years before being elected President in 1869, the National Historic Landmark is well worth visiting for the insight it provides into General Grant’s famous figure.
FAQs About Fun Things To Do In Galena IL
Is Galena IL worth visiting?
Galena was once a prosperous mining town that dried up, became a ghost town, and is now almost completely restored. Galena is the best place to visit on a regular basis, thanks to its steep rolling hills and 85 percent historical buildings, as well as the charming attitude of the locals.
How long is Galena Main Street?
Galena’s “Helluva Half Mile” on Main Street There are over 125 shops and restaurants on Galena’s Main Street in total. This small section of town is home to fantastic town staples such as candy and ice cream shops, spas, boutique stores, great restaurants, and even wine tasting rooms.
Is everything open in Galena IL?
Galena is now open! This includes everything from lodging to retail, dining, and events! * Please check the status of all planned destinations and attractions on Facebook, their website, or by calling ahead of time.
Why is Galena Illinois so hilly?
During the ice age, the glaciers that flattened most of North Native American did not encroach on Northwestern Illinois and the surrounding areas to the north and west. As a result, the Mississippi River Valley’s hills, valleys, and bluffs have been preserved, making it one of the most scenic areas in the Midwest.