Galena and the Quad Cities: Enchanting, Renewing, Downshift

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The following was written by Amor Montes de Oca, a member of the Illinois Office of Tourism’s “Mile Markers” ambassador program.

Expectations were high for a magical break in Great Rivers Country. The quaint historic district of the city of Galena welcomes hours of strolling and browsing through long rows of small but long-standing antique and wine shops, restaurants and art galleries, all nestled in history and architecture of a bygone era. Our family kicked off the getaway at One Eleven Main with a hearty heartland meal. The dishes are crafted with local, organic ingredients and the staff is ready to subdue any city stress. Great wine and fantastic unassuming dishes; what a great start!

Wine tasting before lunch? Sure! On Saturday, we swirled, sipped and slurped at Galena Cellars, a short drive from Galena’s historic district. We sampled many of the vineyard’s wide range of whites, reds, award-winning and happy accident offerings, including Chris Lawlor’s flagship Frontenac Port. With no added chocolate, this lovely wine has a distinct and surprising chocolate flavor drawn exquisitely from Galena’s unique soil. We bought a couple of bottles as souvenir gifts for friends, although we might have to keep one for ourselves!

We then spent the afternoon perusing through abundant antiques and vintage collectables. Do you remember the Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup bottles? How about netted pill box hats from the ‘50s? We found salt and pepper shakers, vinyl records, farmhouse dishware and furnishings for serious collectors and the shabby chic in all of us. For a taste of history, we visited Ulysses S. Grant’s home in Galena; a cozy, modest home furnished with the original furniture used by President Grant and his family. My 11-year-old son enjoyed walking through the home and taking photos of artifacts to show his sixth grade teacher. I really liked that: history alive, up-close and in context.

Driving through the Great Rivers Country area is exactly like being in an American regionalist painting with vast landscapes of rolling farmlands and grazing cattle, true and picturesque.

Rock Island County is a site also steeped in history and immortalized for the fateful Black Hawk War and for a convergence of iconic historical events in the 19th Century. Events and lustrous architecture have been memorialized by a great number of historical landmarks throughout the area.

We spent Saturday night in Rock Island, located on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities, and laughed it off at the local Comedy Sportz, an all-ages improv show. Like any accidental tourists, we had an unexpected great time! Late night pizza at Huckleberry’s topped it off. The friendliest of all staff, these guys will make you feel at home.

On Sunday, we had an old fashioned lunch at Lagomarcino’s, a family owned ice cream parlor and deli since 1908 in Moline. I highly recommend accompanying your lunch with a Lago, a sweet soda elixir concocted back in the ‘30s. We enjoyed a classic caramel sundae, which was easily the best of the year. The original hand carved mahogany booths, Tiffany style lamps and tin ceiling keep the sweet nostalgia and legacy of Angelo and Luigia Lagomarcino’s entrepreneurial spirits.

We concluded our weekend getaway with a quick tour of the John Deere Pavilion, a stunning display of modern technology and machinery. The pavilion is outfit with hands-on displays and exhibits encapsulating the impact and innovation in farming technology of John Deere.

Our drive home was quiet as we took it all in. A three-hour trek and a memorable weekend getaway in Great Rivers Country brought a much needed and renewing break from the everyday craze, but most importantly, a rekindled holiday spirit. Here’s to a real happy holiday season!

— Amor Montes de Oca, Illinois Mile Marker

Illinois Mile Markers are a dedicated group of passionate travelers. They’re here to share their Illinois travel experiences with you, give you the inside information and put you on the path to vacation bliss! Take Amor’s trip. Where better to start than with a map?

View Galena/Quad Cities Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Marker:


Amor Montes De Oca

Arts & Culture
Amor is the publisher of Arte y Vida Chicago, a website dedicated to fostering cultural diversity through the celebration and promotion of Hispanic art and culture.

A very rounded individual, Amor is a mother, publisher, photographer, travel enthusiast, self-described flamenco addict and knitting novice and aspiring queen of culture. Her travel interests include photography and art galleries, scenic road trips, wineries, dining out and family-friendly attractions.

One thought on “Galena and the Quad Cities: Enchanting, Renewing, Downshift”

  1. Visit the John Deere Headquarters on your next visit to Moline. Gorgeous building designed by Eero Saarinen with a 2-story display floor of equipment. The building alone is worth the trip!

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