When one thinks, “Galena,” one thinks history and architecture. But Galena has so much more to offer. As both the largest city and county seat of Jo Daviess County, Galena boasts fine dining, ski and golf resorts, vineyards, and, of course, quaint lodging – Galena is the hub of quaint B&Bs.
Galena gets its name from the mineral, galena, a lead ore. Native Americans mined the ore for use in body painting. The French discovered the area in the late 17th century and began to mine the lead. American settlers eventually arrived in the area and a retired army colonel named George Davenport shipped the city’s first boatload of ore down the Mississippi in the early 1800s. By the middle of the century Galena was producing great quantities of lead ore and the county was producing the vast majority of lead in the U.S.
Fast forward to the 20th century: the face of the city began to change when, in the 1980s, Galena Mayor Frank Einsweiler initiated a tourist campaign. The Country Fair, a craft show that attracts thousands of visitors, was just one facet of this change. In 2010, a campaign called Vision2020 began. Through community brainstorming sessions, five initiatives are intended to be put into action by 2020, with the intent of making Galena an even better place to live, work and play.
The city is a popular tourist destination, welcoming over a million visitors each year. Many Chicagoans even keep second homes in this area. In 2011, TripAdvisor listed Galena among its top-ten "Charming Small Towns". This may be in part due to the Galena Historic District. 85 percent of the structures in Galena are in this district, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Downtown Galena has specialty shops, restaurants and a winery, as well as several resorts and golf courses.
Need some ideas of things to do in Galena? Here are just a handful of suggestions but they in no way complete the list of activities and destinations you might consider.
- Visit any of the six parks owned and maintained by Galena, including Grant Park, Recreation Park, Old Cemetery Park, Depot Park, or the Two Tot Lots.
- Hike, bike, or ski the Galena River Bike Trail
- Relax at the Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa
- Sample wine at the Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery
- Take a walking tour on the Annie Wiggins Ghost Tour
- Saddle up at the Shenandoah Riding Center
Whatever you choose to do in Galena, you’re sure to have a fantastic time.