Best Places to Visit in Galena
Located in northwest Illinois, the small town of Galina has many impressive historic attractions and some interesting architectural gems. Nestled among hills and fertile farmland not far from the Mississippi River, this hotel was once a major steamboat center and mining town.
While declining demand for lead has contributed to its long-term decline, it is now a very popular tourist destination in Illinois due to its abundance of well-preserved historic homes and beautiful old buildings. Specifically, the Galena Historic District is home to more than 800 properties, including the homes of famous personalities such as Ulysses. S Grant and Elihu B Washburn. Other things to do in Galina include visiting the many idyllic natural attractions nearby. The “City Forgotten by Time” is a place worth visiting for its rich history, heritage and culture, with many great shops and restaurants to try.
Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in Galena and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Galena
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Galena:
1. Thunder Bay Waterfalls
Just a short drive east of Galena is the lovely Thunder Bay Falls, one of the most beautiful natural features in the area. The magnificent waterfall is located in a scenic and secluded location just a stone’s throw from Lake Galina, flowing along the sparkling Skypox Creek.
Flowing down the spillway of a nearby reservoir, the waterfall’s white water is surrounded by dense shrubs and trees on both sides. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the waterfall from the natural landscape, and there are also lovely picnic areas.
Because of its picturesque scenery, many couples come here to take engagement or wedding photos with a beautiful waterfall in the background. Thunder Bay Falls is very easy to visit, it borders some truly stunning countryside, and there are some great hikes nearby.
2. Horseshoe Mound Preserve
Located just southeast of downtown, the idyllic Horseshoe Hill Reserve offers not just one, not two, but three distinct states of sacred landscapes. Only opened in 2014, there are beautiful places to explore with its beautiful and peaceful trails winding.
This historic hill is one of several large mounds in the area with some magnificent Stonehenge-style stone markers to coincide with the summer and winter solstices. From the scenic summit, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the Galina Valley and Mississippi River and spy on Iowa and Wisconsin on clear days.
In addition to its stunning panoramic views, the preserve has some great trails to hike, lined with informative plaques about the history, geology, and nature of the area.
3. Old Market House
With its magnificent brickwork and grand Greek Revival style, the Old Market Hall was built in 1845 to serve as the town hall. Once the life center of the town, the city now hosts many interesting exhibitions and cultural events, as well as a welcome center in the Galena District.
Besides serving as the civic center of the city, the building is also used to house the stalls of the farmers’ market, as this helps pay for its maintenance. Also, in the market square in front of it, there will be many stalls where locals buy and sell their goods.
Visitors to the Old Market Hall can learn about the fascinating history and legacy of galena through a variety of artifacts, artworks, and exhibits scattered throughout. It is located west of the Galina River, in the heart of the business district.
4. Galena Cellars Vineyard
Galena Cellars Vineyard has won numerous awards for its outstanding wines and grapes since it began crushing and production in the early 1970s. Worth a visit if you want to sample some of the local produce of the region, a short drive northeast of Galina between hills and fertile vineyards.
Each year, this wonderful winery produces 40 varieties of wine, which you can taste and buy from their signature grapes. Owned and operated by Lawlors for three generations, the farm has a beautiful cellar, barrel and bottling room, and a tasting room for you to explore.
After touring the vineyards, visitors can sample delicious wine paired with cheese or chocolate. Additionally, there is a charming cabin for guests to stay overnight and a gift shop where you can purchase fine wines to take home.
5. Washburne House
The historic Washburn Estate, with its beautiful verandas and pearl columns, is a wonderful sight. Built and named after local lawyer and politician Elihu Benjamin Washburne, it showcases some stunning Greek Revival architecture along with many interesting artifacts.
Dating back to 1845, this stately home has many beautiful rooms for you to explore, with period pieces and fine furnishings. Of particular interest is the beautiful library of Ulysses S. Grant, who received word of his election as President in 1869.
In addition to admiring the antiquities and architecture, visitors to the historic home will also get to know Washburn himself, a loyal friend and adviser to Grant and Abraham Lincoln.
6. Chestnut Mountain Resort
Located on a prominent ridge overlooking the Mississippi River, Chestnut Mountain Resort features snow-covered slopes and a snowboard terrain park for visitors to enjoy. Due to its proximity to the Galena mines, it is a very popular place with plenty of summer and winter outdoor activities.
Since it first opened in 1959, the resort has grown from strength to strength with a cozy cafe, ski shop and indoor pool and hot tub area, as well as a large cabana. In addition, there is a mini golf course and zipline to try during the sunny summer months, and there are plenty of scenic hiking and mountain biking trails to explore.
However, the main reason everyone visits is its slopes, which have 19 tracks for skiing and snowboarding. There are half pipes, jumps and rails in the land park, which is served by various chairlifts descending from a height of approximately 150 meters in total.
7. Galena Trolley Tour
In addition to walking around on your own, a great way to learn about the city’s history and architecture is to take a Galena Trolley tour of its scenic streets and neighborhoods. It’s a fun and family-friendly experience cruising on a red tram reminiscent of San Francisco’s famous cable cars.
This exciting city tour takes you past Galena’s top attractions, teaching you everything you need to know about history, heritage and culture along the way. In addition to stopping to take photos of important landmarks and historic buildings, you’ll learn about some of Galena’s former residents, such as Ulysses S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals.
While Galena’s Historic District is full of stunning architectural gems, there are also stunning views from the hills and valleys that surround the city.
8. Grant Park
Gorgeous Grant Park is a great place to take the Galena River away from the historic city center. It has views of Galena, magnificently landscaped lawns, and is full of magnificent monuments.
Named after Ulysses S. Grant, this beautiful park has a stunning statue of him to visit and some fascinating cannons he used during the Civil War. Various plaques and exhibits line the pleasant trails and intriguing flower beds that allow you to learn about the park’s history and its many monuments.
On top of that, you’ll find an interesting gazebo and fountain, as well as a basketball court and playground. Since it is connected to the historical center by a pedestrian bridge, it is very easy to reach and is ideal for picnics.
9. Galena/Jo Daviess County Museum
Downtown is the magnificent Galena/Jo Davies County Museum with many interesting and interactive exhibits. Its artifacts, artworks and archaeological finds provide a fascinating insight into the history and heritage of galena and its natural environment.
Housed in a lovely Italian mansion built in 1858, its numerous galleries and rooms offer views from Ulysses S. Grant and the Civil War to Galena. All about the port and mining history. The rest of the museum looks at the nature and geology of the area, as well as the Native Americans who live in the area.
First opened in 1938, this fantastic museum is a must-see for anyone interested in history, as it houses all things Galena-related.
10. Ulysses S. Grant Home
Ulysses S. Grant Home is one of the city’s top attractions, in the center of Galena, just across the river. Now a museum and memorial to a former general and president of the United States, this beautifully decorated home was gifted to the brave general in 1865 in recognition of his role during the Civil War.
Built in 1860, this historic home showcases some fascinating Italian architecture, with balustrade balconies extending to a beautiful patio. Inside, there are many beautifully decorated rooms for you to explore, showcasing much of the furniture and period objects still used by the Grant family.
Although Ulysses S. Grant only lived here for a few years before being declared president in 1869, this National Historic Landmark is well worth a visit for General Grant’s insight into its famous people.
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Galena. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Galena, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.