This small northwest Illinois town doesn’t take its appeal for granted. Come see what’s new in the picture-perfect historic downtown and beyond.
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Galena Bakehouse Geoff and Alex Arroyo-Karnish
Galena Bakehouse
| Credit: Courtesy of Galena Country Tourism

The 19th century lives large in Galena, which leans on its historic roots to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. But new businesses have brought fresh energy: A chance to stay in a home Ulysses S. Grant once rented. A from-scratch bakery in a former antique shop. Goat treks and goat yoga.

"For years Galena was known mainly for having lots and lots of shops and maybe being a little outdated," says Geoff Arroyo-Karnish, who opened Galena Bakehouse with his husband Alex in 2021. "We're seeing everything becoming modernized, but still with a deep respect for the history of the town."

Here are some of the newer spots to check out:

US Grant Guest House Galena exterior
US Grant Guest House Galena bedroom
Left: US Grant Guest House | Credit: Courtesy of Galena Country Tourism
Right: US Grant Guest House | Credit: Courtesy of Galena Country Tourism

1. U.S. Grant Guest House

In 1860, Ulysses S. Grant and his family rented a two-story redbrick building on South High Street. Now, you can stay in that same space and feel all the presidential vibes. Sandy and Daniel Hurt renovated the home and, in early 2022, made it available for full-house rentals.

The Hurts preserved original details—window panes, flooring, light fixtures—then added furnishings reflective of the 1860s. "Our goal was to make it look as authentic as possible, but have the modern conveniences people are used to today," says Sandy Hurt.

Other recent luxury lodging options include Ulysses Suites in the historic J. G. Schmohl building and two apartments at Suite Victory. Plus, long-time favorites like Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa continue upgrades like a just-remodeled and expanded spa and the Highlands Restaurant and Lounge 289.

Galena Bakehouse
Galena Bakehouse
| Credit: Courtesy of Galena Country Tourism

2. Galena Bakehouse

Geoff and Alex Arroyo-Karnish, native Midwesterners, moved from the East Coast to Galena because of the town's year-round tourist appeal. After a stint running Felt Manor Inn, they changed course during the pandemic and opened a grab-and-go-bakery, specializing in treats like empanadas, macarons and jumbo cookies. They operate out of an 1850s building that had been an antiques shop.

Hoof It Goat Treks Galena Illinois
Hoof It
| Credit: Courtesy of Galena Country Tourism

3. Goat Experiences

If you're looking for experiences of the four-footed kind, Jenn and Josh Montgomery renovated a historic farm and started Galena Goat Yoga (non-yogis can try Coffee and Goats). Christine Eisbach founded Hoof It Goat Treks on her family farm; visitors walk with goats through native prairie and forest, and can even book a goat trek that includes a bonfire and s'mores. (Plus a snowshoe trek in winter.)

Galena Book and Paper
Galena Book and Paper
| Credit: Courtesy Galena Country Tourism

4. Galena Book and Paper

Find books, cards, paper goods and more at this Main Street store. The business specializes in a curated collection of both new and classic books. Admire the cozy fireplace while you browse the selections.

Just down the street, check out other new stores like Spotsies gift shop, which picks partners that give a portion of their proceeds to important causes. Or browse Galena River Goods Store, with home goods and clothing, and Galena Roasters Gift Shop, for specialty brew or a bag of beans.

5. Galena Spoon Company

Look for both new and vintage hand-carved wooden spoons, handcrafted kitchen boards, hand-turned bowls, and other high-quality kitchen accompaniments and home decor items at this charming shop on the corner of Hill and Main. If you're an aspiring spoon carver, you can also book a three-hour workshop to learn basic carving techniques.

Harlan and Marilyn Spiroff Overlook, Horseshoe Mound Preserve, Galena
Harlan and Marilyn Spiroff Overlook

6. Harlan and Marilyn Spiroff Overlook, Horseshoe Mound Preserve

The overlook—part of an addition that quadrupled the size of the preserve—is on a trail winding through restored oak savanna and rock outcroppings, with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, downtown Galena, and neighboring Iowa and Wisconsin. Horseshoe Mound is especially scenic at sunrise and sunset. (Hikers will also appreciate 10 new miles of trails at Witkowsky State Wildlife Area.)

7. Savory Kitchen

Diners have raved about the food, service and atmosphere since this chef-owned spot opened in 2021. James Ungs, originally from Dubuque, Iowa, creates dishes like Champagne Salmon and Farm-to-Fork Chop, using local ingredients when available. Pro tip: Make sure to order your salad with the homemade blue cheese dressing.

Live at the Plaza event Galena
Live at the Plaza
| Credit: Courtesy of Galena Country Tourism

8. Live at The Plaza

New in 2022, Live at the Plaza happens at Green Street Plaza the last Thursday of every month from May to September. Select businesses are open late, and visitors can enjoy regional musicians, performers, food and drink. Other new events include the Galena Holidaze Festival in December and Food Truck Fight in summer.

Champagne on Main Galena
Champagne on Main
| Credit: Courtesy of Galena Country Tourism

9. Champagne on Main

This business, started by sisters Lisa and Laura Kempner, promises to deliver "the sparkle on Main Street" with champagnes, wines, cocktails and spirits. Celebrate at an enclosed outdoor courtyard or at the indoor space, which includes a bar beneath a chandelier and a spiral staircase that leads to a second-floor lounge.

10. Bread and Vine Bakery

This "BarBakery" not only sells fresh pastries and sandwiches, but also offers a wine bar. Bartenders will help you pick the right wine to pair with a quiche or charcuterie board, or can mix up a specialty cocktail like The Empress (Gin Empress 1908, lime juice, mint infused syrup, fresh mint).

More in the Future

Expect Galena to continue to burnish its historic allure: The Galena and U.S. Grant Museum has targeted 2026 as the opening date for an $11 million facility celebrating the town's most famous (if only occasional) citizen.