Known for its irresistibly cute Main Street (and oh-so-many shops), this river town delivers history and outdoor fun too.
Galena Main Street
Credit: Matt Haas/Galena Country Tourism

Galena was named after a precious lead mineral abundant beneath the town's surface. Four decades since the last mine shut down, a movie set-perfect Main Street makes this northwest Illinois town an easy—and perennially popular—getaway for Chicagolanders.

The charming (and yes, we know we're gushing) downtown spans 140 mostly 19th-century buildings housing 100-plus shops, restaurants and historic inns. Abraham Lincoln once gave a speech from the balcony of the DeSoto House Hotel, which also served as presidential campaign headquarters for Ulysses S. Grant. At the Union Army commander's home nearby, 90 percent of the furnishings are original.

Keep in mind, though: The biggest mistake some visitors make is never leaving Main Street. The scenic hills around Galena are full of attractions too. For thigh-burning hikes, drive to Mississippi Palisades State Park. Expect some steady climbs as you look for eagles and treasure the views. 

Long Hollow Canopy Tours zipline
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

9 a.m. Have an Aerial Adventure

Six ziplines and a 140-foot sky bridge provide adventure through the forest at Long Hollow Canopy Tours. A separate aerial adventure course offers 32 unique elements with varying degrees of difficulty, capped off by a 400-foot racing zipline. 

12 p.m. Lunch

The friendly staff at Durty Gurt's Burger Joynt sling some serious patties.The Ultimate B.C.B. comes topped with four slices of melted cheddar and six slices of bacon. Be prepared for the irreverent vibe (sassy signs, toilet seating in the foyer).

1 p.m. Shop and Stroll 

It's easy to spend a day following Main Street eye candy into shops. Taste oils and vinegars at Galena Garlic Company. Get cooking gadgets at The Grateful Gourmet Company. Or snuggle by the fireplace and browse stationery at Galena Book and Paper

Galena on the Fly hot air balloon
Credit: Courtesy of Illinois Tourism

3 p.m. Explore Outdoors

Perched above Lake Galena, Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa draws outdoor enthusiasts with golf, horseback riding, bicycling, kayaking and more. Departing from the resort at sunrise and sunset, Galena on the Fly hot-air balloon tours soar up to 3,000 feet above the rolling landscape.

6 p.m. Dinner

The split-nationality menu at Fritz and Frites consists of French and German favorites: Fritz fans load upon schnitzel, sauerbraten and spaetzle; for Frites-lovers, there's escargot, mussels and baked Brie.

Blaum Brothers Distilling Company
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

8 p.m. Sample Spirits

Brothers Mike and Matt Blaum opened Blaum Brothers Distilling Company on the edge of town in 2013. Savor a cocktail or line up a flight of bourbon, rye, gin and HellFyre (vodka infused with peppercorn, habanero and jalapeño). Throw them back in a mod tasting room of exposed beams, wooden barrels and plush leather couches.

More to Try

For a real goat time, take a hike with Hoof It Goat Treks or say baamaste at Galena Goat Yoga.