1-2-3 Weekend: Galena, IL

by  Molly Fergus | Jul 12, 2011
DeSoto House Hotel
DeSoto House Hotel / Photo courtesy of the property

Once one of Illinois’ largest cities, this historic mining town near the Mississippi River now provides an easy weekend getaway for Chicago residents. We’ve put together the perfect 1-2-3 Weekend – 1 hotel, 2 restaurants, and 3 things to do – to showcase Galena’s top offerings.

1 – Hotel

Bed down on Main Street at the historic DeSoto House Hotel, Illinois’ oldest still-operating property. Opened in 1855, the hostelry’s 55 rooms have played host to 19th- and 20th-century notables Ulysses S. Grant, Stephen A. Douglass, William Jennings Bryan, and even Honest Abe himself. Though each of the oversized rooms is unique, expect Wi-Fi and rich Victorian décor throughout. 203 S. Main Street; 815-777-0090; www.desotohouse.com

2 – Restaurants

Galena’s contribution to the locavore trend comes via One Eleven Maine, a New American restaurant that refashions classics like chicken 'n' biscuits using ingredients from local food purveyors. Each day, deliveries from nearby farms determine the beef, pork, and veggie specials, while libations hail from Michigan vineyards, Illinois breweries, and Iowa distilleries. 111 North Main Street; 815-777-8030; www.oneelevenmain.com

Carve into hearty steaks at Log Cabin, the town’s oldest continuously operating restaurant (opening year: 1937). The mostly American menu consists of slabs of beef and fillets of fish, though the flaming saganaki and feta-and-Kalamata olive appetizer tray hint at the owning Rigopoulos family’s Greek (by way of Chicago) origins. 201 N. Main Street; 815-777-0393 www.logcabingalena.com

3 – Things to do

Alpine Slide Chestnut Mountain / Chestnut Mountain

Throughout the winter, slope-starved flatlanders flock to Chestnut Mountain to schuss the resort’s 220 miles of trails. When the weather turns, thrill-seekers hop aboard wheeled sleds and rocket 2,050 feet down the luge-style Alpine slide, which commences at the top of the mountain and skids to a stop at the banks of the Mississippi River. 8700 W. Chestnut Road; 800-397-1320; www.chestnutmtn.com

Browse away an afternoon on Galena’s Main Street, which houses jewelry boutiques, artisan craft stores, and gourmet kitchen shops in its well-preserved, 19th-century storefronts. Perennial favorite (and constantly packed) Poopsie’s hawks wacky gifts and home décor items (think wall-mounted cardboard moose heads); during the holidays, Santa collects gift requests in the store window. 402 S. Main; 815-777-1999; www.poopsies.com

Although Ulysses S. Grant only lived in Galena full-time for a few months before the Civil War erupted, the city readily welcomed the famed general as a hometown hero after Robert E. Lee surrendered to him in 1865. Today, the building Grant called home between the war’s end and the start of his presidential term is on the state's register of historic places; tours are available Wednesday through Sunday. 815-777-3310; www.granthome.com

Getting There

The best way to get to Galena from Chicago is by car. The city is located 164 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, about a 3-hour drive without traffic.

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