116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A Day Away: Shops galore, ski mountain to explore in Galena
Illinois destination town offers plenty of fun in sun and snow
GALENA, Ill. — Copper-colored buildings line the streets of Galena, Ill., with lush, green trees and a mostly-clear sky lining the background on any given Saturday in the summertime. The streets are lined with outdoor seating rather than the usual caravans that once were parked there.
The impacts of COVID-19 still are evident in this city, where the combination of indoor and outdoor dining are present and storefronts don signage that encourage masks.
I had not been to Galena since I was in middle school, unsure of how Main Street had changed from eight years prior. Turns out, it had changed a lot. Rather than one, Main Street was now home to a number of coffee shops; antique shops and bookstore doors were rarely closed, with the influx of foot traffic passing through them; and parking was hard to come by.
Street parking on Main Street is nonexistent nowadays, replaced by outdoor seating. Lots on neighboring streets, however, offer parking for $10 for the entire day.
At the beginning of the day, my grandmother, mom and I went through the stores we had frequented when I was younger, including Poopsie’s Gifts & Toys and the various antiques stores Main Street has to offer.
One of the stores I was eager to go into, Galena Books and Paper, opened in 2020 and sells books as well as stationery and paper items. New and used books can be purchased here, as well as posters, pencils, cardstock or book accessories.
Where: Across the Mississippi River from Dubuque; 87.4 miles or one hour and 35 minutes northeast of Cedar Rapids via Highways 151 in Iowa and 20 in Illinois
History: Lead mining town organized in 1826 along the Galena River, which flows into the Mississippi; by the 1850s Galena was the busiest port between St. Paul and St. Louis; Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas both spoke from the balcony of the DeSoto House Hotel; in 1860, Ulysses S. Grant came to Galena from the St. Louis area to work in his father's leather goods store; Grant became a general in the Civil War and the 18th U.S. President; the Grant Home is now a state historic site open to the public; and 85 percent of Galena's buildings are in a National Register Historic District; source: cityofgalena.org/en/our_community/galena_history/
Things to do: Galena attractions: visitgalena.org/
Chestnut Mountain Resort: chestnutmtn.com/
Chestnut Mountain river cruises: chestnutmtn.com/on-the-mountain/summer-activities/river-cruise/
Events: Grant’s Home Front Re-enactment & Encampment, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 28 and 29, 2021; see more events at visitgalena.org/Things-To-Do/Events
Galena Books and Paper seemed to be a popular choice among the Main Street crowd, based on the amount of times I had to say “excuse me,” while looking at a shelf of books.
A bookstore employee recommended our next stop: Galena Roasters Coffee Shop. With a logo that resembles its owner, Galena Roasters roasts coffee in-house, with beans exported from Africa, Indonesia and Central and South America.
The roastery also sells coffee beans in a variety of blends, places of origin and roast levels of light, medium and dark. If you want to avoid a long wait at a restaurant, Galena Roasters offers meals and pastries, as well.
However, my crew and I decided to put our names in at Victory Cafe, where we ate classic American food. Something that stuck out to me about Victory Cafe wasn’t the sarcastic messages on the servers’ T-shirts, or that Bloody Marys are inexpensive. It was the fact that two suites above the restaurant space are available for rent.
Aptly named “Victory Suites,” the elegant spaces offer views that overlook Main Street, a complimentary breakfast for two at the restaurant below them and amenities including in-unit washer and dryer and cable TV.
Never before have my mom and I ventured past Main Street in Galena, and we were surprised that we hadn’t heard of Chestnut Mountain Resort. In the wintertime, the resort serves as a ski destination, with more than 20 slopes ranging in skill levels from beginner and intermediate to advanced and freestyle.
However, when the snow is melted by the sun’s powerful rays and people are looking to remain outside, Chestnut Mountain holds summertime activities on the slopes that serve equal amounts of fun in the wintertime.
Warm-weather guests can sit on a sled and travel down a 2,050-foot Alpine Slide, where riders can catch a glimpse of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. For a calmer, slower-paced activity, River Cruises take guests for trips on the Mississippi River.
After learning about the borderline river, consider coming up for air on the Soaring Eagle Zip Line, where you can view the Mississippi River and the entirety of Chestnut Mountain from the sky.
Segway and mountain bike rentals also are available, as well as a miniature golf and disc golf course.
Parents, grandparents and children alike waited in lines minutes long for a chance to experience the activities Chestnut Mountain Resort has to offer in the summertime.