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Though known for its shopping, Galena’s historical sites and scenery charm without costing much on a Midwest weekend getaway.

By Amy Lynch
Updated October 04, 2020
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Pandemic-related closures and restrictions may be in effect. Please check destinations' websites before making travel plans.

1) Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic State Although Ulysses S. Grant was born in Ohio, he made Galena his home during the 1860s, prior to his service as a Civil War general and his term as the 18th president. Costumed interpreters lead tours of his handsome brick Italianate house, still furnished with original pieces such as Grant's favorite chair. Tours are $5. granthome.com

Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site. Photo courtesy of Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site. Photo courtesy of Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

2) Effigy Mounds at Casper Bluff Land and Water Reserve The Mississippi River bluffs around Galena are home to 51 Native American burial mounds and a 112-foot-wide Thunderbird effigy mound believed to be 1,000 years old (it's the only one of its kind in Illinois). jdcf.org

3) Mississippi Palisades State Park Follow in the footsteps of Native Americans along the bluffs of this multiuse park at the confluence of the Mississippi and Apple rivers. Wooded bluffs give way to fern-filled ravines on the 15 miles of trails. dnr.illinois.gov

Mississippi Palisades State Park.
Mississippi Palisades State Park.

4) Galena and U.S. Grant Museum Peer into an 1830s lead-mine shaft and measure yourself against a life-size photo of President Lincoln. galenahistory.org

5) West Street Sculpture Park A path winds through this 2-acre park dotted with a dozen oversize sculptures. Some pieces repurpose everyday items like cheese graters, wrenches and other "junk;" our favorite closely resembles a giant Tinker Toy. If you're lucky, artist John Martinson will be working at his on-site studio. Admission is free. weststreetsculpturepark.com

6) Otto's Place Cafe and Lounge At this Galena landmark, homey breakfast fare like biscuits and gravy or corned beef hash is served all day. The lunch menu expands to include salads and sandwiches. Dinners on Friday and Saturday nights consist of a short but impressive list of appetizers and entrees. ottosplace.com

7) The Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel The mood is more Americanized Irish than authentic, but the amenities and accommodations are pleasant. Each guestroom bears the name of a county in Ireland and boasts prints from master artist Roisin O'Shea, along with microwaves and mini fridges. Downstairs, Frank O'Dowd's offers pub grub like shepherd's pie, burgers, and fish and chips washed down with the requisite pints of Guinness. theirishcottageboutiquehotel.com