A Galena getaway

Main Street downtown Galena. (J Jacobs photo)
Main Street downtown Galena. (J Jacobs photo)

Tucked into the northwest corner of Illinois is the historic Mississippi hillside town of Galena. Its gorgeous fall color draws visitors from mid-September to Halloween, so if going then, book your stay now (weekdays are better).

But the shops, the mid-to late 1800’s structures, charming inns and good food make Galena a fun break in the routine pretty much any time of year. (Folks come here to ski Chestnut Mountain even if not every shop is open)

An easy three-hour drive from Chicago on I 90, the vacation begins when turning before Rockford onto US 20, General Ulysses S. Grant Highway when the four-lane expressway becomes a scenic two-lane road.

The historic hillside town of Galena, IL (J Jacobs photo)
The historic hillside town of Galena, IL (J Jacobs photo)

As you wind through the hills of Stephenson and Jo Davies Counties, you may realize you are on a ridge with grand vistas of lush valleys.

Although you can continue north through Galena to cross the Mississippi at East Dubuque into Iowa (and go the The Field of Dreams baseball movie destination), Galena is a getaway destination, itself.

Go back in time

Indian tribes roamed the area. then it was settled by French traders and explorers. However, the town flourished in the early 1800s when galena ore (lead) boats plied the Mississippi River. It then became a gateway west when Ulysses S. Grant’s family lived and worked here in the mid-1800s.

Historic staircase in the Desoto House Hotel. (J Jacobs photo)
Historic staircase in the Desoto House Hotel. (J Jacobs photo)

Galena was on the stage coach route (there still are some stage coach signs). Then by 1854, the rail line went through making it a natural stop for Abraham Lincoln who used the balcony of the Desoto House Hotel on Main Street to campaign for John Fremont in 1856. The Desoto House was also the campaign headquarters for Grant. Go in to see its staircase and ask about a tour.

A couple of other good stops are the old  railroad depot on the south side of the Galena River. It houses the Galena Area Tourism Bureau. Also on that side of the river is Gen US Grant’s home built for him as the town’s favorite son.

Ask about walking tours when at the depot. The Galena Historic District covers about 85 percent of the city and includes some 800 properties that were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

Birdhouses at Red's in Galena (J Jacobs photo)
Birdhouses at Red’s in Galena (J Jacobs photo)

Shop

Think food, boutiques and quirky shops when strolling downtown Galena’s Main Street.

When pulling onto the street from US 20 I spied the cheese and wine store that I knew was there. But the unknown treasure was Red’s Iron Yard and Wholesale Barn a few stores down. I loved the roosters and birdhouses in front. My husband was drawn to the antique toy trucks in back.

Another fun store was Celebrity Hats on the other side of the street. Go in. Find your style.

Celebrity Hats (J Jacobs photo)
Celebrity Hats (J Jacobs photo)

Among the taste treats on the street were two chocolate stores and a patisserie that also did cocktails and sandwiches. Really. Called Bread & Vine, it did good macarons, lovely desserts and yummy sandwiches including a Croque Monsieur and savory croissant with smoked salmon.

There are a couple of chains but most of the stores are unique.

Dine

Outside Fried Green Tomatoes. (J Jacobs photo)
Outside Fried Green Tomatoes. (J Jacobs photo)

Some folks journey to Galena just for the Fried Green Tomatoes restaurant. You do need a reservation. The place is that popular. I made ours before leaving town. It is known for its steaks but we chose seafood because we know everything there is well prepared and we had meat before we left.  The front of the restaurant is on Main Street but its outdoor space is behind it where people park. This end of the street is blocked off for outdoor, curb and street side tables.

Also good is the historic Desoto House. It has three restaurants that are  open at different times of the day. For lunch we did the Green Street Tavern where I had the best garlic French fries ever tasted with a delish pulled pork sandwich. My husband had an apple and mixed berry salad  with walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette .

Our dinner the night before we left was at Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub & Grill at the Irish Cottage where we were staying. I liked their beer battered cod and seasoned Irish chips. My husband liked the traditional corned beef.

The snug at O'Dowd's Pub and Grill (J Jacobs photo)
The snug at O’Dowd’s Pub and Grill (J Jacobs photo)

Stay

Galena has several B and Bs. Check the Galena Country tourism  stay/site for ideas. We liked the Irish cottage for its first-floor patio suites but there were several other places that also looked good including the Goldmoor Inn which is a Select Registry on the road to Chestnut Mountain and the Chestnut Mountain Resort.  Both have good views and friendly service.

Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa about six miles outside town has now reopened for golf, events and regular tourist traffic.

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

Travel updates for Chicago park and Galena ice cream and National Civil Rights Museum

Now is a good time to plan a visit close to home, a day’s drive out or a little further away because lots of travel destinations are beginning to open and gas is still in the budget range.

"Coud Gate" (The Bean) reflects people and skyline in Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)
“Cloud Gate” (The Bean) reflects people and skyline in Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)

Chicago

Restaurants and bars have opened their outdoor seating areas. Among them is The Loyalist at 177 N. Ada Street near Randolph Row. It has had walk-ins but will likely be taking reservations beginning Wednesday, June 24,2020. If you go: expect more French style choices.

Millennium Park and Lakefront

Yes, you can visit Cloud Gate (The Bean). If you go: take selfies and don’t touch it. Most of Millennium Park is open but masks are encouraged as is social distancing.

The same goes for the lakefront which isopen as of today, June 22, 2020 to movers, not sitters. that means walkers, joggers, cyclists.

 

The historic town of Galena, IL has yummy shops and good festivals. (J Jacobs photo)
The historic town of Galena, IL has yummy shops and good festivals. (J Jacobs photo)

Galena

Tucked into northwestern Illinois near the Wisconsin and Iowa borders is the charming town of Galena. There are lots of good B&B and restaurant choices because rolling hills, historic homes and fun shops make the town a popular summer (and fall) destination.

If you go:  stop at the American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, the Fried Green Tomatoes  restaurant and Galena Cellars.

Lorraine Hotel site of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. (J Jacobs photo)
Lorraine Hotel site of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. (J Jacobs photo)

National Civil Rights Museum

Memphis, TN has a lot to offer as vacation destination. However, if interested in understanding more about the global Black Lives Matter movement  then  visit to the famed museum based at the Lorraine Motel, 450 Mulberry St, where Martin Luther King Jr was shot. The museum plans to reopen July 1, 2020.

If you go: you will need a timed ticket and have to wear a face covering. For tickets and other information visit National Civil Rights Museum.

 

 

Move July Fourth celebration to another level

 

DC Fireworks (Photo courtesy of PBS and Capitol Fourth)
DC Fireworks (Photo courtesy of PBS and Capitol Fourth)

 

 

There’s nothing wrong with going to a local parade followed by watching a neighboring town’s fireworks. But if interested in celebrating the day the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence differently this year, consider visiting a historic town or watching the exceptional concert and fireworks of “A Capitol Fourth” on national TV.

 

 

 

The historic town of Galena, IL has yummy shops and good festivals. (J Jacobs photo)
The historic town of Galena, IL has yummy shops and good festivals. (J Jacobs photo)

 

Galena, a small, historic town celebrates with floats and fireworks 

 

The Galena Territory in far northwest Illinois is rife with 19th century historic sites.

 

Indeed, a large portion of the downtown of the City of Galena is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is President Ulysses S. Grant’s hometown, a stopping place for Abraham Lincoln when he campaigned for presidential hopeful John Fremont, and the town of the oldest operating hotel in Illinois, the DeSota House.

 

Even though Galena is a small town with a population of of less than 3,500 (2010 census), its historic buildings, really good dining spots and B&Bs and surrounding picturesque hills have made it a popular destination with fun art and wine festivals and such special events as its annual 4th of July parade, celebration and fireworks.

 

What you need to know: The 23rd Annual Galena Independence Day Celebration and the parade is on Main Street. The fun begins at 3 p.m. Then the parade is at 6 p.m.  After the parade, go to the Green Street Plaza for food, beverages and live entertainment until the fireworks start at dusk in Grant Park. For a high view of the fireworks, reserve a spot at the Rooftop Party on the DeSoto House Hotel. For more information call (815) 776-9200 and check out Visit Galena.

 

 

 

Annual Capitol Fourth celebration in Washington D.C. (Photo courtesy of PBS and Capitol Fourth)
Annual Capitol Fourth celebration in Washington D.C. (Photo courtesy of PBS and Capitol Fourth)

 

Washing D.C. celebrates the country’s Declaration of Independence in a big-town, Capitol Fourth way.

 

First, there is a fabulous concert on the West Lawn of the United states Capitol building. Hosted by acotr/producer John Stamos, it will feature Carole King and the Broadway cast of Beautiful, recording artist and television/ film/Broadway star Vanessa Williams, award winning electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers/R&B legends The O’Jays; plus several more award-winning vocalists with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly

 

In addition, the concert includes Patrick Lundy & The Ministers of Music, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Ceremonial Band, Members of the Armed Forces carrying the State and Territorial Flags and the Armed Forces Color Guard provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.

 

The event also has a family treat thanks to the Sesame Street Muppets performing patriotic and other well-known songs. Of course, the concert will pay tribute to men and women in uniform with a special performance by the MusiCorps Wounded Warrior Band.

 

Fireworks begin at dusk while the Natiional Symphony Orchestra continues to play patriotic tunes.

 

What you need to know: “A Capitol Fourth” will air on PBS Thursday, July 4, 2019 from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. ET. The program can also be heard live in stereo over NPR member stations and will be live-streamed on PBS.org, YouTube and Facebook. Plus, kids activities connected to the holiday can be found at Fun/Fourtth July Activities.

 

“A Capitol Fourth” is made possible by grants from The Boeing Company, the National Park Service, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Department of the Army, PBS and public television viewers nationwide. Air travel is provided by American Airlines.