Galena has rolling hills, valleys and bluffs. Quite a contrast to most of the flatlands of Illinois! Originally an old mining town, the city maintains its 19th-century charm.
"Main Street is truly unique because once you come through the flood gates, you sort of step back into the 1800s," said Celestino Ruffini, Galena Convention & Visitors Bureau. "People discover the boutique shops, the spas, the restaurants, and that's really what draws people to Galena."
Those floodgates were built in 1948 by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect historic Main Street and its 90-plus stores from periodic flooding of the Galena River.
This city is rich in history. In fact, more than 85 percent of Galena's buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including the home of our 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant. In 1865, a group of prominent Republicans bought the house, fully furnished, for $2,500. They presented it to Grant and his family as a gift. In 1904, Grant's children gave the home to the city of Galena as a memorial to their father. In 1931, the city deeded the home to the state. Today, Grant's home remains open to public tours with much of the original furniture and pieces that belonged to the Grant family.
Throughout Jo Daviess County, you'll find several award-winning wineries. We stopped by Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery.
"We run the gamut, from dry whites to semi-sweet to sweeter whites. We go into the dessert wines and we have a fabulous selection of dessert wines and ports, dry reds. And we also have a nice selection of fruit wines," said Denise Stielman, retail manager, Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery.
And they give tours, so you can see how and where the wine is made and bottled.
Also, as part of their tour, you're taught the proper way to taste wine.
"Pick up the glass by the stem, so you're not warming the wine with your hand," Stielman said. "Swirl it to release the bouquet, smell it and trill, or slurp."
Expect the unexpected in Galena! Driving down scenic Blackjack Road, we found alpacas! Owner Frank Netzel raises them for their fleece and their charm!
"They're very friendly, very quiet, very peaceful. And we feel that they add to the cabins that we have here for rent," said Netzel, co-owner, Galena Log Cabin Getaway & Alpaca Farm.
The rustic cabins are built in the style of 1820's Galena, but inside, it's total 21st century, right down to the satellite TV.
The best part is about a mile down the road. Casper Bluff is the hidden gem of Jo Daviess County, with a spectacular view of The Mighty Mississippi. Over 85 acres, you'll find Native American burial mounds, serene hiking trails - and with the nearest farm house miles away - this is absolutely pure nature.