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The Mississippi River and surrounding natural wilderness provide some of the most beautiful scenery Illinois has to offer. For those seeking adventure, you can enjoy the view while being part of the action! Here are four outdoor adventures in Great Rivers Country for active travelers to enjoy.

Bike down the Great River Trail

This 60-mile stretch along the eastern bank of the mighty Mississippi River is a picturesque journey through the gorgeous river landscape dotted by quaint historic Illinois towns. The trail is a mixture of paved-rail trail, dedicated bike lanes, sidewalks and a stretch of road shoulder along the Great River Road. Bikers can enjoy the natural beauty of the river for miles before stopping in Moline and Rock Island for historic attractions and downtown shopping as well as riverfront dining and entertainment.

Bikers pedal along the scenic Great River Trail.

Bikers pedal along the scenic Great River Trail.

Experience the Grafton Zipline Adventures

For adrenaline junkies, nothing gets the heart racing like nearly two miles of zip lining through the towering trees with nothing but air separating your shoes from the ground below. The course accommodates adventurers of all ages, starting off with the 300-foot Baby Bear zip line, gradually leading up to the Soaring Eagle, a 2,000-foot zip line with a 250-foot descent! To unwind after all the thrills, visit nearby Aerie’s Riverview Winery for award-winning wines, al fresco dining and live music on the weekends.

Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride at Galena On The Fly

Soar high above the rolling hills that encompass historic Galena in a private hot air balloon ride. From 3,000 feet up in the air, you can experience spectacular views with as many as 14 passengers in a breathtaking hour-long tour at sunrise or sunset.

Balloons taking off from their launch pad between downtown Galena and the Mississippi River.

Balloons taking off from their launch pad between downtown Galena and the Mississippi River.

Explore Pere Marquette State Park

The largest state park in Illinois, this nature lover’s paradise allows visitors to hike, bike and horseback ride through miles of woodland trails with stunning photo opportunities along the way. Cap off a relaxing day fishing and boating on the Illinois River with a picnic at the Pere Marquette Lodge.

 Just one of the many magnificent views from a peak in Pere Marquette State Park. (Photo credit: Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Just one of the many magnificent views from a peak in Pere Marquette State Park. (Photo credit: Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau)

What outdoor destinations do you visit to get away? Comment below and tell us! Check out EnjoyIllinois.com for more exciting outdoors adventures to take this summer.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

The-GypsyNesters-Part-III-logo

Main Street in Galena, Illinois has been named a National Register Historic District, and it’s easy to see why. Even though most of the buildings serve as shops and restaurants now, they have been wonderfully preserved.

One of those restaurants is Vinny Vanucchi’s Little Italy and, after strolling around the lovely town, some Italian food was sounding pretty darn good to us.

The historic building has been transformed into four distinctive dining areas, including an outdoor cappuccino garden.

Testing our theory that the way to judge an Italian restaurant is by their meatballs, Vinny passed with flying colors. We also tried the Pasta Ala Vinny, linguini with shrimp, lobster and crab in a spicy olive oil and garlic sauce that was a seafood lover’s dream.

Topped off with a Chocolate Vanucchi, a moist, deep chocolate layered cake with white chocolate mousse and a cappuccino, we fully approved of the moniker “Little Italy.”

Cheers!

–David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com, Illinois Mile Markers

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Quad Cities CVB, Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB, Quincy Area CVB and Nauvoo Tourism Office. Want to follow in Mile Markers David & Veronica’s footsteps? Travel the below map!


View Illinois Mile Markers: Great River Road Itinerary in a larger map

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David & Veronica

Empty Nesters
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David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. When their youngest headed off to college, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters!

They've been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Frequent visitors of Illinois, they are looking forward to exploring the Great River Road this spring!

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Stepping into the… wait, before we even entered The Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel, we knew we weren’t simply entering a place to crash for the night, we were stepping into a philosophy. We love these kinds of places.

Situated in the rolling hills on the edge of historic Galena, The Irish Cottage concept was inspired by its surroundings, which reminded the owners, Jack and Debbie, of the Irish countryside.

The hotel is alive with Irish art, literature, and tradition. The pub showcases music and dance, with each guest room dedicated and named for a county in the old country.

We were blown away by the snugs imported from Ireland that bookended the bar in the pub. Snugs are small, private areas with easy access to the bartender. Snugs were used for “business” affairs or a place for a couple to sneak off alone. Though we never saw anyone go in the snug at the Irish Cottage, we’re guessing it gets used — a lot!

Our suite was named for County Clare and the artwork by Roisin O’Shea introduced us to the beauty of Clare.

We took advantage of the large whirlpool bath in the living area to sooth our sightseeing feet whilst marveling at the amenities like the wet bar and the ornate fireplace.

Complimentary hotel breakfasts usually consist of plastic vats of cereal, instant oatmeal and, if one is lucky, a boiled egg. Just food one snarfs enough of to get through a busy morning. Not so at the Irish Cottage. We were served homemade fare on lovely china that included the most mouthwatering scones we’d ever tasted.

I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised, nothing is done halfway here.

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

–David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com, Illinois Mile Markers

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Quad Cities CVB, Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB, Quincy Area CVB and Nauvoo Tourism Office. Want to follow in Mile Markers David & Veronica’s footsteps? Travel the below map!


View Illinois Mile Markers: Great River Road Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Markers:

arrow

David & Veronica

Empty Nesters
close
info:
David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. When their youngest headed off to college, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters!

They've been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Frequent visitors of Illinois, they are looking forward to exploring the Great River Road this spring!

Galena, Illinois was at one time the center of attention for not only the state, but The United States.

When General Ulysses S. Grant returned to town after winning The Civil War, the eyes of the nation were upon him. The grateful townsfolk presented the victorious general with a gift of a stately home overlooking the city, and soon the calls for Grant to run for president began.

The town was not wholly unknown before then. As the nation’s top producer of lead, and a major river port, it was vitally important to the country’s expansion. Though sitting a few miles from The Mississippi, upstream on The Galena River, by the mid 1800s there was no busier port between St. Louis and St. Paul as steamboats hauled massive loads of galena, the lead ore that gave the town its name.

On our visit, we found a much different place, no longer a mining community or a center of politics, this is a town rich in history that has renewed itself as a year round destination with great options for dining, shopping, boating, hiking, fishing, and skiing at nearby Chestnut Mountain Resort.

By taking a tour on the Galena Trolley, we got a complete overview of the history, lore and politics of this architecturally rich city. We began at The Belvedere, an 1857 mansion erected by Joseph Russell Jones, a cheerleader of sorts for President Grant. Our hilarious, yet informative guide, Johnny, informed us that The Belvedere is now famous for housing some of Liberace’s estate items and the drapes from Gone With the Wind.

From there the trolley climbed the hill up to Grant’s home and throughout the neighborhood where many of his colleagues lived. All in all, nine of the Union’s generals in The Civil War hailed from Galena.

Back down along the river, we covered the length of the historic Main Street and it’s easy to see why this has been named a National Register Historic District. The buildings have been wonderfully preserved and most serve as shops and restaurants, making Galena not only a delight for history buffs, but foodies and shoppers alike.

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

–David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com, Illinois Mile Markers

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Quad Cities CVB, Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB, Quincy Area CVB and Nauvoo Tourism Office. Want to follow in Mile Markers David & Veronica’s footsteps? Travel the below map!


View Illinois Mile Markers: Great River Road Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Markers:

arrow

David & Veronica

Empty Nesters
close
info:
David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. When their youngest headed off to college, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters!

They've been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Frequent visitors of Illinois, they are looking forward to exploring the Great River Road this spring!

In 1910, President Teddy Roosevelt visited Peoria and meandered along the city’s Grandview Drive. After taking in the breathtaking views of the Illinois River Valley on the 2.5 mile stretch, Roosevelt called it the “World’s Most Beautiful Drive.”

More than 100 years later, the drive remains one of Illinois’ best. You can take in the same views of vistas and bluffs along the Illinois River and see historic neighborhood homes. As the only linear park on the National Historic Register, Grandview Drive lives up to its title with awe-inspiring panoramic sights. On a clear day, see more than thirty miles of panoramic views of Woodford, Tazewell and Marshall Counties.

Peoria’s beautiful riverfront on the banks of the great Illinois River

Peoria’s beautiful riverfront on the banks of the great Illinois River

Experience the scenic stretch by car and foot! Grandview Park is run by the Peoria Park District and features hiking trail access, picnic benches and designated overlooks. Spend time witnessing the majesty of the valley, soaking in the colors of the season and see for yourself why Teddy Roosevelt adored the route.

Grandview Drive is located on Illinois River Road, a designated National Scenic Byway. The route meanders along the banks of the Illinois River and offers remarkable outdoor adventures, quaint destinations and an abundance of history for travelers to discover. Find out more by visiting the Illinois River Road website.

–The Illinois Office of Tourism