Ask a Local: Galena, Illinois

by Our Editors
Galena, Illinios Thunder Bay Falls

From unique local business to art galleries, museums, theatre, scenic tours, farm to fork restaurants, and spectacular adventures in nature, there is truly something for everyone in this fascinating part of the USA.

PASSPORT Editors

DOUGLAS & ROBERT MAHAN

LGBTQ Galena, Illinois Locals Douglas and Robert

Tell us about yourself and what you do for a living?
We’re the innkeepers and owners of Aldrich Guest House (www.aldrichguesthouse.com), and we’ve lived in Galena since October 2014.

What influenced your decision to move here?
We lived in Chicago for 11 years before we moved to Galena. We have been in hospitality for a total of 50 years between the two of us. We took 2 1/2 years and put together a 65 page business plan considering locations ranging from the west coast of Michigan from Traverse City down to Saugatuck/Douglas, up in Wisconsin, and even over in California in places like Sonoma. Jokingly, one day Robert suggested Galena. We looked into the demographics of the visitor to make sure it was a location that could support a business for the next 30 years as this is our career. We also looked at the demographics of the residence to make sure that this was a place that we wanted to call home. Everything added up and seem to be absolutely perfect so we started looking at property and we found Aldrich Guest House. Five years later and
here we are still loving what we do and where we’re doing it!

What are your favorite places to go for a cocktail and/or dinner?
The best place to go in Galena for cocktail and or dinner is definitely Fritz and Frites (www.fritzandfrites.com)! They’ve got a fantastic menu, half French half German split right down the center, a great wine and beer list, and the best service you can find at a restaurant in Galena.

What cultural attractions are a must see for visitors?
Even though Galena is a city of only 3,250 residents, there’s a lot to see and do. Some of the best historical attractions are the Galena History Museum, the Grant Home, and The Old Market House (www.galenahistory.org). Some other cultural attractions date back to the times when native Americans were in the area, such as the Thunderbird effigy mound which is just a 5 or 10-minute drive away is Casper.

A friend is coming to Galena for the first time, Please describe the perfect weekend.
While we’ve been here since 2014, we still have a list 10 pages long of things we want to do. If you only have two days, here is an itinerary that will make sure you see some of the ‘greatest hits’ of Galena. Start off by enjoying our daily happy hour at Aldrich Guest House, then head to Fritz and Frites for dinner. Afterwards, head over to The Cornerstone (www.facebook.com/The-Cornerstone-115270308545312) for some live music. There is always someone great playing here, whether it’s an act from Chicago or a local singer/songwriter, and on certain days they have open-mic night. The next day, after enjoying locally roasted coffee and a multi-course breakfast at Aldrich Guest House, head into the great outdoors, either by exploring some of the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation Land and Water Preserves (www.jdcf.org) or head over to Fever River Outfitters (www.feverriveroutfitters.com) where you can rent canoes and kayaks to enjoy the Galena River. If you’re more of a landlubber, you can rent bikes to conquer the hills or the flat and level Galena River Trail. You’ll need lunch at some point, so stop at Embe (www.embegalena.com) for amazing homemade soups and sandwiches, or try Big Bill’s (www.facebook.com/bigbillssandwichshop) where they bake their own bread. While you’re on Main Street, you can also sample your way along with some of the highlights being The Great American Popcorn Store (www.greatpopcorn.com) and The Galena Canning Company (www.galenacanning.com). Now is also a good time to stop at a couple of local wineries that have tasting rooms on Main Street. Galena Cellars (www.galenacellars.com) is at the beginning of the street just inside the floodgates, and Massbach (www.massbachridge.com) is about halfway down. You can also check out Galena River Wine and Cheese (www.galenariverwineandcheese.com) or Jamie’s Wine Studio (www.facebook.com/jamieswinestudio) for a great selection of wine from around the world. After lunch, continue enjoying Galena’s Helluva Half Mile (www.visitgalena.org/places/helluva-half-mile) where you’ll find over 130 shops and restaurants.

What are the best places to truly enjoy the natural beauty of the area?
The outdoors and nature are home to some of our favorite parts of Galena! For hiking, we love the Winston Tunnel, Chestnut Mountain, and the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation Land and Water Preserves, two of which are in Horseshoe Mound and Casper Bluffs just a 5 minute drive away from Aldrich Guest House. These are great places to see the Mississippi River and all the hills and valleys and rivers that the driftless area provides.

What’s one souvenir to bring back for friends or family?
One of many things that makes Galena unique is all of the artists that are in the area. Everything from pottery to painting to drawing to sculpture, everything’s available. Being able to find something unique like that to bring back for a friend or a family member is really absolutely perfect and quintessential Galena.

Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave Galena without…
Don’t leave Galena without exploring everything that it has to offer. A lot of people think that Galena’s Main Street is only going to be a couple of blocks with a few shops. In reality, there’s 130 mom and pop shops that line half a mile. Explore all the amazing history that we have, as well as the architecture, geography, food, music, and art. Galena may be a small town, but there’s so much to do.

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