Known as one of the most romantic small towns in the country, gorgeous Galena is the perfect place for couples to get away and reconnect. Start with a stroll along winding Main Street, where charming boutiques, art galleries and restaurants are housed in restored red brick buildings that date back to the Civil War. Pick up a beautiful handcrafted pottery piece or a watercolor landscape by a local artist.
Join Galena Trolley Tours to see historic sites that include elegant Victorian mansions and the Grant Home, former residence of President Ulysses S. Grant. Or take one of the spirited daily tours at Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., where you can sample small-batch vodka made with grains grown on area farms. Rent a scooter from Fever River Outfitters or sign up for one of their group tours and zoom along scenic country back roads to the award-winning Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery. Take a vineyard tour and kick back with a glass of wine on the veranda, or take a shot at one of the area’s championship golf courses.
Get a real taste of Galena at one of its downtown restaurants. One Eleven Main is acclaimed for its farm-to-fork fare that uses ingredients sourced from local producers. Fried Green Tomatoes is another favorite, known for its rustic Italian dishes. After dinner, dip into Galena’s nightlife scene. Cheer the colorful Irish dancers at Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub & Grill or listen to live music and sample a flight of craft beers at Galena Brewing Company. Cap off your evening with a cocktail (the coconut cream pie dessert martini is yummy) at Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape.
Tuck in for the night at one of Galena’s many cozy bed and breakfasts that dot the picturesque hillsides surrounding the town. Stay at the lavish Goldmoor Inn perched high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River or steal away to the uber-romantic Irish Hollow, where you can settle in to your own private English cottage in the woods. Then again, you might want to opt for the all-in-one appeal of the sprawling Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, home to four championship golf courses, restaurants and the upscale Stonedrift Spa.
The largest indoor wine-tasting event in Illinois comes to the Galena Convention Center in March. Area wineries, resorts and restaurants host tastings, dinners and cooking demos as well. Sample the goods from local brewers and distillers, and make it the quintessential Galena getaway by staying in one of the area’s B&Bs and taking a history tour while you are in town.
Art lovers converge on downtown Belleville for three days over the third weekend in May to attend one of the top-ranked art shows in the nation. The juried show attracts 100 artists from around the world who work in all mediums. The festival includes an interactive area for kids to create art on the spot, while food vendors serve haute cuisine and fine wine.
For three days over Father’s Day weekend in June, visitors head to the Peoria RiverFront for a festival that includes nightly concerts (past lineups have included Rascal Flatts and Hank Williams, Jr.). The Steamboat Classic brings top runners to town for a 15K race, while weekend warriors opt for the two-mile and four-mile runs. Plan ahead to visit the area’s awesome museums and take a cruise aboard the Spirit of Peoria paddlewheel boat.
Step back to the 18th century as more than 1,000 costumed reenactors converge on Prairie du Rocher in June. Fort de Chartres began as a French military outpost at a time when the fur trade was the area’s most vital industry. The annual rendezvous brings “trappers” and “traders” together to celebrate the area’s heritage with crafts, music and military demonstrations.