Galena, named for the mineral mined by Native Americans, is a lovely little town in Illinois with loads of history.The Galena Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which encompasses 85 percent of the city of Galena and includes more than 800 properties. Galena’s population rose from 200 people in 1821 to 10,000 in seven years due to the first major mineral rush — 21 million pounds of lead were mined in Galena during that time. The city then developed into the largest steamboat hub on the Mississippi River and became home to Ulysses S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals. Galena was a city that once surpassed Chicago in population, if you can believe it, but due to the success of railroads, river transportation suffered a massive decline.
Today, more than one million annual visitors walk these storied streets, consisting of three gorgeous successive tiers on a hillside — Main, Bench, and Prospect streets.
What to do:
Learn about the art of distilling through Blaum Bros. Distillery, which is owned by two brothers named Matt and Mike. The 45-minute tours highlight the making and tasting of handcrafted spirits and cost $10 for adults. That’s unless your name is Gus and you can prove it with two forms of ID — then the tour is free.
Shop at a number of boutiques and antique stores downtown on Main Street, visit a few art galleries, take a historical tour, and don’t forget to visit General Grant’s home up on the hill, across the river.
Pop into Devour Café on Main Street. The espresso is good, of course, but the big draw here is the owner/operator Ryan Dies. For the price of a cup of Joe, you’ll also get a passionate Galena history lesson from this friendly man, who can be called a barista, artist, chef, and baker.
Where to stay:
Slobo and Birgit Radin have created a magical experience at the Goldmoor Inn, an 18-room manor-style bed and breakfast situated on 21 acres high above the Mississippi River Valley. However, it’s still close to Galena’s historic sites, shopping, vineyards, breweries, and distilleries. Guests can also choose to stay in one of the two romantic log cabins or one of the three cottages on the property. No matter which you choose, each well-appointed luxury suite includes a king sized bed, a fireplace, a two-person whirlpool tub, and an in-room kitchenette with a dining table.
The Goldmoor Inn has been inducted into TripAdvisor’s 2015 Hall of Fame, and it’s easy to see why. “We’re thrilled by this honor because the award is based on the many positive experiences our discerning guests have enjoyed and then shared with the worldwide TripAdvisor audience,” said co-owner Birgit Radin.
While enjoying a lovely in-room breakfast with a view of the Mississippi River Valley and the sounds of long rolling freight trains in the distance, you’ll also see birds chirping right outside your window, which makes you feel like you’re in a Disney movie. Don’t be surprised if the birds carry red silk ribbons and start decorating the trees while singing their song.
For a truly unique behind-the-scenes experience, dine in the kitchen at the chef’s table or stay in the Chef’s Room — guests get to walk through the hustle and bustle of the kitchen to reach their luxury accommodations.
Where to eat:
At the Goldmoor Inn, when a meal is created by a friendly and warm Peruvian chef (and former pro fisherman) like Chef Carlos Valdez, the food simply tastes better. Valdez formerly served as Chef de Cuisine at Grillhouse by David Burke and he has also cooked for the Dalai Lama and His Majesty King Abdullah II.
“We were insistent that the chef we brought to our inn would be dedicated to bringing our guests inventive, accessible, and truly fresh cuisine, and Carlos’ own vision meshed with our ideals to perfection,” said owner Slobo Radin. “He is inventive, attentive to our guests’ palates, and he’s an incredible talent added to our team.”
For New Year’s Eve at the Goldmoor Inn, enjoy a five-course epicurean menu created by Chef Valdez that includes a bottle of Chandon sparkling wine, party favors, live entertainment, and dancing for about $135 per person.
Galena is the ideal picturesque destination for a girls’ weekend full of wine and cocktail tasting and shopping or for a romantic weekend with your special someone. History aficionados, foodies, wine enthusiasts, architecture buffs, and nature lovers will find that Galena hits the spot.