Which historic town is located in the northwest corner of Illinois and has outstanding dining, drinks, shopping and hospitality? Galena! With an historic Main Street filled with charming B&Bs, shopping, and dining, Galena offers plenty to do for a weekend getaway. Because Galena is such a great Midwest getaway, we recently sent Chicago-based foodie and Instagrammer Samantha Roby (known on Instagram as @chicagofoodauthority) there to share her experience of tasting her way through the town and her view on the spectacular sites.
Throughout her weekend trip, Samantha captured incredible food pictures and experienced many Galena activities including spa services, wine tasting, cooking classes and more. Below you’ll find a brief look at Samantha’s itinerary, as well as hear her story through a Q&A session with the Illinois Office of Tourism team upon her return. Warning: the food pics below are sure to make your mouth water!
Lunch at Little Tokyo Japanese Restaurant
Little Tokyo is home to some of the freshest Japanese sushi in the Midwest. After opening in 2009, Little Tokyo quickly earned its reputation for the finest Japanese food in the Midwest, serving signature rolls made with the freshest yellowtail, salmon and tuna. In addition to raw fish dishes, Little Tokyo has a wide variety of menu items, including Japanese steaks, Teriyaki and beef dishes to please every palate.
Cooking Demonstration with The Breakfast Diva
Food Network winner Susan Steffan, better known as “The Breakfast Diva”, shares the secrets of her kitchen during her cooking classes and at her restaurant, Farmers Guest House. Her 80-minute interactive cooking show includes lots of audience participation, laughs, hints, cooking tips and stories from Susan’s Food Network experience. The class menu changes throughout the year to include seasonal ingredients so repeat visitors can always learn something new. After you’ve prepared the food alongside Susan, attendees get the chance to taste the delicious masterpieces they’ve created.
Weekend-long stay at The Goldmoor Inn
Previously a privately-owned estate, the magnificent Goldmoor Inn celebrates 30+ years of hospitality after its transformation. The inn offers guests everything from cabins to suites, and even cottages. During their stay, guests can expect to enjoy top-notch service, decadent dining and relaxing spa services in a romantic setting overlooking the Mississippi River.
Spa Session at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa
At Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, visitors can enjoy a soothing, relaxing 50-minute spa session in a remote and quiet area. With more than 6,000 square feet of spa space and 10 signature treatments, you will feel at peace and rejuvenated after a professional masseuse works out your body’s most stressed-out spots.
In addition to relaxation packages, Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa offers other activities like golfing on the resort’s four championship golf courses, horseback riding, boating and access to Galena’s hot air balloon experience, Galena on the Fly. Lodging accommodations range from a golf-side villa to a beautifully decorated traditional inn room, perfect for a weekend getaway.
At Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, you can experience Illinois wine and celebrate a 30-year tradition of family winemaking. Enjoy wine tasting, from a choice of 40 different varietals, while relaxing on the comfortable wrap-around deck of the charming farmhouse turned Tasting Room. During a tour and tasting, visitors learn how the 22 varieties of grapes grown in the rich soil go from humble vine to award-winning wine.
The vineyard is open year-round and offers lodging along with the tastings and tours. Galena Wine Cellars Vineyard also hosts special annual events such as the Wine Lover’s Weekend in March, Fall Harvest and Art Festival in September, and Nouveau Wine Weekend in November.
Tour Night of Luminaria and Living Windows
Each December, Galena lights up with nearly 5,000 candle-lit Luminaria scattered throughout the town. But that’s not all; shop windows along Main Street come to life with old-fashioned Christmas decorations and displays during Living Windows, adding to the holiday cheer. During the festivities, many local businesses also set up shop outdoors along Main Street so that visitors can browse while taking in the lights display.
Lunch at One Eleven Main
One Eleven Main brings farm-to-table dining to Galena. The restaurant works directly with local farmers and features locally-sourced ingredients in their tasty, one-of-a-kind dishes. With a wide variety of menu items for lunch and dinner, any foodie is sure to enjoy the delicious dishes One Eleven Main serves up.
To take a trip similar to Samantha’s, or to plan your own Galena getaway, check out our Trip Ideas.
We chatted with Samantha after her trip, and here’s what she had to say about her Galena adventure.
Q: What were you most looking forward to before beginning the trip?
Samantha Roby: I have always heard wonderful things about Galena from friends that had visited, but never got around to making the trip for myself. As a Chicago resident, I have tried many of the amazing restaurants in the city but haven’t had the chance to experience the culinary offerings throughout the rest of the state. I was really excited to get the chance to not only try out new restaurants in Galena, but explore a part of the state that I had never visited.
Q: Was there anything that surprised you about the trip?
Samantha Roby: Yes, before I left I had an image of a quiet small town in my head. I knew that there were great restaurants and outdoor attractions, but there turned out to be so much more than I had expected. As I made my way through the downtown, I could not believe just how much there was to explore. Main Street is bustling with a ton of cute shops and bakeries, like Sweetheart Bakery, as well as a wide variety of locally-owned restaurants and bars that were easy to drop into. One of my favorite places to visit was Galena Canning Company. I loved getting to sample all of the delicious jellies and sauces and talk with the owners about the family history behind their products.
Q: What is one “must visit” attraction in Galena?
Samantha Roby: Our visit to Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery was definitely a high point of the trip. While the vineyards were closed off for the season, the tasting room and winery were open for us to explore. I have been on a number of wine tours before, but I have never been given such an in-depth look into the wine making process. During our tour, we were led into the fermentation room where we got to taste fresh fruits, such as strawberries and rhubarbs, and then watch as they were pressed to create delicious dessert wines. It was so interesting to see the different machinery in use as the process was happening.
It was clear that the Galena Cellars team has perfected the wine-making process and is committed to making sure their products are made with the freshest ingredients. This became even more evident as we moved into the tasting room to try some varietals for ourselves. Every single wine we tried had a perfectly unique flavor. Our plan was to purchase one bottle to enjoy once we got back to Chicago, but they were so good we ended up buying a whole case!
Q: If you only had time for one meal in Galena, where would you recommend stopping?
Samantha Roby: While everywhere we ate was wonderful, I would definitely recommend Otto’s Place. We stopped there for brunch on Saturday and I can honestly say it was one of the best brunches I’ve had in a long time. We ordered the breakfast tacos, corn beef hash and a big side of ham, and everything was delicious. We couldn’t put our finger on exactly what seasoning they used, but my boyfriend and I have not stopped talking about it since we’ve gotten back. I make potatoes for myself at home but the hash there was truly incredible because of how well it was seasoned. We’re thinking about giving them a call to see if they sell any of their special seasonings for us to use at home!
Q: What would you say to someone who has never visited Galena?
Samantha Roby: What are you waiting for?! After visiting I could not believe that it took me as long as it did to take a trip out there. Galena truly has something for everyone to experience, no matter what your interests are. There are incredible restaurants and wineries, relaxing spas, unique shops, and tons of historical sites, all surrounded by the beautiful Galena Territory. To top it off, everyone you meet is incredibly friendly and ready to offer their recommendation on where you should visit around town.
If anything, I wish that my trip was longer so that I could experience even more of Galena’s great attractions. Now that I’ve visited Galena in the winter, I would love to go back in warmer weather so that I can ride the zip-line at Chestnut Mountain, take a trolley tour to learn more about Galena’s history and maybe even go for a hot air balloon ride. The options are endless!
-Illinois Office of Tourism