Galena Illinois PDF Print E-mail
Family Travels

      Two years ago, for a special treat we took our children to Galena, Illinois for a Christmas ski and shopping trip. I will never forget how delighted we were when we first pulled into Galena because it felt as if we had been transported back in time to a lovely old town filled with shops wrapped in greenery and twinkle lights. It was nighttime, but we were so awestruck by the enchanting atmosphere that we walked up and down the streets for some time.

      For years I had heard about Galena’s beautiful homes, but I was not aware that over 100 stores, as well as restaurants, line its eight block long Main Street. There were so many delightful shops here that even Jon enjoyed shopping.

      The town of Galena was once a prominent river port for the Mississippi Valley. Built upon the Mississippi Bluffs and surrounding area, this town is adorned with Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne mansions and homes. Nine Civil War generals and one President once made this town their home.

      For our lodging, we stayed at the DeSoto House, Galena’s oldest inn. Built in 1855 and historically restored in the ’80s, this hotel was named after Hernando DeSoto, discoverer of the Mississippi River. It was considered Galena’s Grand Hotel in its day, accommodating Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant.

      Grant’s home is somewhat unique in that it contains much of the family’s original furniture. The home was actually given to Grant in 1865 by Galena’s citizens, and even though he rarely lived in it after he became President, he always considered it his home.

      For dinner one night we went to a very unusual, family-owned, Old World Italian neighborhood restaurant called Vinny Vanucchi’s ( The restaurant is built on a hill, so it has several levels of unique dining areas and a deli, which serves as its front entrance.

      Of course, the highlight for our children was skiing at Chestnut Mountain Ski Resort. Since we were there in the middle of the week, our children were the only ones present and so received lessons from their top ski instructors. After an hour of lessons, the children took off and skied for seven hours straight without even stopping to eat because they were having so much fun. We would certainly recommend this slope and these instructors for beginning skiers.

      For a terrific website for planning your trip to Galena, visit

      We also drove over into Wisconsin for some of their famous cheese and toured Dubuque, Iowa, also known for its beautiful homes and Victorian mansions built upon the high limestone bluffs along the river.

            Only five and one-half hours away, this is a great weekend destination, but be sure you go in December so that you can enjoy the holiday decorations. Y