The 11 Best Things to Do in Galena, Illinois

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Galena, Illinois, named after the mineral found in the ore that created a profitable mining industry, has much to do and explore for a mid-sized town. You’ll likely spend most of your time in the Galena Historic District, a large section of the city that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Due to the mineral rush and later the location as the center of the steamboat industry on the Mississippi River, this town was once estimated to have 10,000 residents, topping Chicago at the time. Multiple Civil War generals made this town their home alongside Ulysses S. Grant. Beyond the history, which can be seen everywhere, visitors love experiencing boutique shopping along the charming curved streets, wine tasting, and fun dining. Keep reading to learn about the best things to do in Galena.

01 of 11

Discover History at the Galena and U.S. Grant Museum

Home of General Grant in Galena, Illinois
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211 S Bench St, Galena, IL 61036, USA
Phone +1 815-777-9131

For an in-depth look into Galena’s history and its important place in American culture, visit the Galena and U.S. Grant Museum, located in a beautiful Italianate mansion originally built as a residence by merchant Daniel Barrows. A Ulysses S. Grant hologram welcomes tourists upon entrance. See paintings, maps, old artifacts, and more as you wander through the rooms. Museum exhibits include Gallery of Heroes, Driftless Area & First Peoples, Port of Galena: 1858, Lead Mining in the Northwest Region, Galena in Maps, World War I Exhibit, Grant’s Leather Store, Peace in Union, and Vicksburg Flag. After you’ve soaked in enough information, visit the Blacksmith Shop.

02 of 11

Tour the Galena Blacksmith Shop

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245 N Commerce St, Galena, IL 61036-2211, USA
Phone +1 815-777-1893

The Galena Blacksmith Shop, with implements and working forges from 1897, is fun for the whole family, whether you’re young or young at heart. Wander through the main museum to learn about the history of blacksmithing, ask questions to the onsite historian, and visit the gift shop that sells handmade items made by blacksmiths, like fireplace sets. Located on Commerce Street, Friday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., May through October, this is your chance to see blacksmiths in person as they shape metal and create tools.

03 of 11

Create a Masterpiece and Connect with Local Makers at Art and Artisans

Hill St.
Photography by Bob Hallam/Getty Images / Getty Images

Whether you love to create or view art, Art and Artisans, located just 15 miles south of Galena in Elizabeth, is worth a look-see. See displayed works from local and regional artists—paintings, sculptures, and more—or join a class, craft club meeting, or artists' demo in the creative space. If you're traveling with three or more people, you can arrange for a custom art class.

04 of 11

Stretch and Move at Galena Goat Yoga

Goat Yoga

Galena Goat Yoga

7306 US-20, Galena, IL 61036, USA
Phone +1 563-663-6945

If practicing yoga with goats has been something you’ve been meaning to try, then visit Galena Goat Yoga at Silver Linings Farm to make your dreams come true. This historic property was once a stop on the stagecoach route from Galena to Chicago. If you visit the website, you can see photos of all the goats and learn about their personalities. And, if yoga isn’t your jam, sign up for the Coffee and Goats experience, which will allow you to play with these likable characters for one hour.

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05 of 11

Stay at DeSoto House, Illinois’ Oldest Operating Hotel

DeSoto House

DeSoto House

230 S Main St, Galena, IL 61036, USA
Phone +1 815-777-0090

Be a part of history and book a stay at DeSoto House, the oldest operating hotel in the state, where President Abraham Lincoln once spoke from the balcony. 55 Victorian-style guest rooms, including suites with fireplaces and sitting rooms, are available. Courtyard Restaurant, Greet Street Tavern, and Generals’ Restaurant will keep you satiated. For entertainment, you can go on a self-led historic walking tour, starting right outside the lobby door.

06 of 11

Taste Wine at Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery

Galena Cellars

Galena Cellars

4746 N Ford Rd, Galena, IL 61036, USA
Phone +1 815-777-3235

Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery, located on Ford Road, is not only a fun place to visit to try different wines and see lovely label art but also a beautiful spot to enjoy the outdoors. And should you want to stay the night, a guest suite and guest house are available. Family-owned and operated for more than four decades, Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery is unique. If you don’t want to make the trek to the vineyard, however, you can simply enjoy a glass of wine, bites, and live music at Galena Cellars, located on Main Street right downtown.  

07 of 11

Explore Town with Galena Trolley Tours


Galena Trolley Tours

314 S Main St, Galena, IL 61036, USA
Phone +1 815-777-1248

To make the most of your time, and cover a lot of ground, take the Galena Trolley Tour, which focuses on the history and architecture of the town. On this narrated tour, you’ll see the Ulysses S. Grant home, Belvedere Mansion and Gardens, and the important sites and attractions around the historic district. Take photographs along the way as you discover why this mining and steamboat town has captivated so many for so long.

08 of 11

Enjoy All-Season Fun at Chestnut Mountain Resort

Skiing near Galena

Chestnut Mountain Resort

8700 W Chestnut Mountain Rd, Galena, IL 61036, USA
Phone +1 800-397-1320

Fun for the whole family, Chestnut Mountain Resort is a year-round haven, spanning 220 acres and overlooking the Mississippi River. Whether you love skiing, snowboarding, or doing tricks at a terrain park, you can stay here, 20 minutes from downtown Galena, at the slope-side lodge with an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and onsite dining at The Summit and Sunset Grille. In the warmer months, fly down the alpine slide, go zip lining, play a round of miniature golf, ride bikes, hike the trails, or sign up for a Segway tour.

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09 of 11

See a Magic Show at P.T. Murphy Magic Theater

Old building on a street of Galena, Illinois
IanDikhtiar / Getty Images
204 Hill St, Galena, IL 61036, USA
Phone +1 779-214-0035

See the master magician, P.T. Murphy, at the P.T. Murphy Magic Theater, located in the heart of downtown Galena. Only 24 guests are admitted per show, making the experience intimate and interactive. See virtuoso illusions and sleight of hand and be prepared to be “wowed.” Tickets for this 65-minute show must be purchased in advance, and while the show is family-friendly, it is not recommended for babies and toddlers.

10 of 11

Bring Your Girlfriends to Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape


Miss Kitty's Grape Escape

242 N Main St, Galena, IL 61036, USA
Phone +1 779-214-0003

Enjoy wine, beers, spirits, bar bites, and decadent desserts at Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape, a popular retro wine and martini lounge on Main Street. Live entertainment is on offer every weekend night at 9 p.m. There are Bloody Mary and homemade Sangria drink specials on Sundays with fun open mic events at noon. Show up at 8:00 p.m. on weekends, and you’ll be in for a treat with the Miss Kitty Quiz Show.

11 of 11

Visit the Blaum Bros. Distilling Co.

craft cocktail bar

Blaum Bros. Distillery Co.

9380 US Hwy 20 W, Galena, IL 61036, USA
Phone +1 815-777-1000

Experience a hands-on distillery tour and tasting at Blaum Bros Distilling Co. Open every day of the week, beginning at 10:00 a.m., this company was founded in 2013 by two brothers, Matt and Mike Blaum. Bourbon, rye, vodka, gin—it’s all here. Standard 45-minute tours cost $10 per adult and include a tasting. Kids are welcome; however, they’ll need a ticket as well. Fun fact: The tour will be free if your birthname is Gus, and you can prove it.

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The 11 Best Things to Do in Galena, Illinois