With water recreation, golf, hiking, biking, hot-air balloon rides and skiing, the little resort town of Galena, Illinois, offers big outdoor fun during your active Midwest weekend getaway.
Galena on the Fly
Credit: Ginger Crichton

1. Soar With Galena on the Fly 

Drift high above the rolling hills around Galena as the sun rises or sets. These one-hour hot-air balloon excursions lift off at Eagle Ridge Resort; in clear weather, you can see all the way to Iowa and Wisconsin as you soar up to 3,000 feet. Watch for deer and other wildlife in wooded areas below. After you land, the operators present a flight certificate to commemorate the voyage. 

Paddling on the Galena River
Galena River
| Credit: John Noltner

2. Follow the Galena River

Rent kayaks, canoes, e-bikes and more to explore the Galena River or the surrounding countryside.

Chestnut Mountain Resort Galena Illinois alpine slide
Chestnut Mountain Resort
| Credit: David Nevala

3. Choose Your Fun at Chestnut Mountain Resort 

In winter, guests come for skiing and snowboarding on the beautiful mountaintop resort's 19 runs. In summer, roll across the property on a one-hour Segway tour or zip down a 2,050-foot Alpine slide. Try the mini golf or disc golf courses, or rent a mountain bike. 

Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, Galena. Photo: Adam Alexander/Courtesy IOT
Credit: Adam Alexander/Courtesy IOT

4. Try Golf, Boating and More at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa 

Four championship courses and 63 scenic holes establish Eagle Ridge as a premiere place to tee off, but if golf's not your thing, don't worry. This expansive resort also offers boating, tennis and horseback riding in summer, as well as ice skating, sledding, cross-country skiing and snowboarding in winter. Wind down over dinner at one of Eagle Ridge's three outstanding restaurants, or work out the kinks with a massage at the Stonedrift Spa.

Mississippi River Cruise Galena Illinois
Credit: David Nevala

5. Cruise the Mississippi

This 1.5-hour outing starts with a zoom down Chestnut Mountain's Alpine slide and ends with a chairlift ride back up to the mountaintop resort. In between, you'll kick back on a pontoon boat that plies the backwaters of the Mississippi River, passing eagle nests and beaver lodges. Tour guides discuss ecology and history; you'll come away with a new appreciation for the Native Americans who originally inhabited this territory and the European explorers who settled it. 

6. Hike or Bike the Galena River Trail 

This 8-mile (one-way)hiking and biking trail follows an old Burlington Railroad spur dating to 1886 (the main line along the Mississippi River is still in use). Although the spur went out of operation in 1960, you can spy old signal foundations in the section of trail between South Park Avenue and the Highway-20 bridge underpass. Interpretive signs describe flowers and wildlife you might glimpse along the wooded path.  

7. Explore Grant Park 

Take the pedestrian bridge across the river from downtown to reach this pretty 3.5-acre park; bring a picnic or just stroll along the river. Monuments and cannons add a historical touch, and visitors will enjoy the views of downtown. For more of a workout, walk uphill to the Ulysses S. Grant Home less than a half-mile away. 

8. Get Pampered at Goldmoor Inn 

Luxury suites and cottages overlook the Mississippi. Strolling the downtown shops will help you work up an appetite for gourmet dinners, and spa treatments pamper with hot stone or aromatherapy massages. 

9. Head to Mississippi Palisades State Park

About 30 miles southeast of Galena, the 2,500-acre park caters to picnickers, campers and hikers. Fifteen miles of trails lead to overlooks of the Mississippi, rock formations and wooded ravines.

Long Hollow Canopy Tours zipline
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

10. Soar With Long Hollow Canopy Tours 

Six ziplines and a 140-foot sky bridge provide adventure through the forest about 10 miles southeast of Galena.