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Ask A Local: Illinois

by Our Editors
Downtown Chicago (Photo by Claude Gariepy)

Come and experience the perfect blend of urban excitement, natural beauty and Midwestern charm in the Land of Lincoln.

Downtown Chicago (Photo by Claude Gariepy)

If you want to know what makes Illinois such a special place to visit, ask a local—and that’s just what we did.

Join us as we explore this fascinating part of the USA with three individuals who live, work, play, and create here. Illinois is a state filled with many wonderful things just waiting to be experienced and enjoyed. From one-of-a-kind galleries and museums to exceptional tours, delectable restaurants, and natural wonders, there is truly something for everyone in Illinois.

Matthew Carroll

Tell us about yourself and what you do for a living?
My name is Matthew Carroll, I’m 42 years old, I love biking, I love gardening, I love cooking, and I love entertaining. Using many of my skills, I’m humbled and grateful to run an amazing Bed and Breakfast in Galena, Illinois, called the Jail Hill Inn.

Matthew Carroll, owner of the Jail Hill Inn

Matthew Carroll

How long have you been living in Illinois, and what influenced your decision to live where you do now.
I have lived in Illinois all 42 years of my life and wouldn’t change it for anything. Owning a business in Galena, my hometown, is an amazing dream come true. I can give back to my community and help it prosper for years to come, a true win-win for all!

What are your favorite places to go for a cocktail and/or dinner?
My favorite places to go for a cocktail are a few! The bar at Fried Green Tomatoes is large, friendly and Fred and the crew take great care of you! Also, Embe is a fantastic bar/restaurant that serves a fun lunch/dinner menu and fun cocktails too! Additionally, the Grape Escape martini and wine bar with live music, Miss Kitty has it all! Galena has a robust dining scene with something for everyone. Mine include: Fritz and Frites featuring amazing and German cuisine, Little Tokyo: best Sushi for a couple hundred miles easily, and Bread and Vine for trendy French cuisine.

What cultural attractions are a must see for visitors?
The culture and arts scene in Galena is thriving and I would highly recommend the Galena Center for the Arts. With both visual and performing arts, the Center recently relocated to a new facility and the space has much to see and enjoy. Additionally, the historical culture of Galena is very important too, especially President U.S. Grant’s home, which is available to tour year round.

Jail Hill Inn (Photo by Jail Hill Inn)

Jail Hill Inn (Photo by Jail Hill Inn)

A friend is coming to visit you for the first time. Please describe the perfect weekend.
The perfect, first timer’s weekend in Galena starts with a wine tasting at Galena Cellars in downtown Galena. The Trolley Tour is another great activity early in your trip to see Galena from a tour that is narrated and takes you to parts of Galena you would not end up on your own. Day two is fun to explore beyond downtown Galena and see the Mississippi River from Chestnut Mountain Resort or go walking with goats with “Hoof It” goat treks, or even do goat yoga with Galena Goat Yoga. If that’s not your speed, there is zip lining with Long Hollow Canopy Tours or hot air balloon rides with Galena on the Fly. With so much to do, a weekend is not enough! And of course, no time in Galena is complete without a stay at Jail Hill Inn!

Galena Cellars (Photo courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism)

Galena Cellars (Photo courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism)

What are the best places to truly enjoy the natural beauty of the area?
The best places to enjoy the natural beauty of the area include the Galena River Trail, a fantastic biking and hiking trail that follows the Galena River for three miles and then the backwaters of the Mississippi River as well. Additionally, our local land conservation group, called Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation has several beautiful properties that are open to the public with hiking trails and opportunities to get everyone out into nature.

What is your favorite time of year in Illinois and why?
The summer season is my favorite time of year in Galena. The days are long, the activities are plentiful, and the scenery is gorgeous. Bike, hike, kayak, ride a horse, walk some goats, you name it, it can be enjoyed in Galena! Truly, each of the four seasons are amazing here.

Galena Popcorn (Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism)

Galena Popcorn (Photo courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism)

What locally made product would you suggest visitors bring back for their family and friends?
Bring back something from the Galena Spoon Company and the Great American Popcorn Company. Paul at the Galena Spoon Company offers so many hand carved spoons for cooking and many accessories, etc. Our afternoon appetizer trays we use to serve the guests each day were made by the Galena Spoon Company. Great American Popcorn Company is a store not to miss downtown with so many amazing flavors of popcorn, you can’t go wrong and it’s the perfect gift for everyone!

Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave Illinois without…
Don’t leave Illinois without…spending a few days in Northwestern Illinois!

If You want to be in the Middle of Everything let Jane Lynch be your Guide.

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