Points West: Galena offers festive fall events

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115999597312512.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesty of the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau’, ‘Visitors throng each year to Galena's ever-popular County Fair, now in its 27th year.’);

GALENA—As the air starts to cool and the leaves turn to brilliant reds and golds, what better fall pastime is there than a brisk drive to the country in northwest Illinois? Experience the vintage charm and contemporary spirit of Galena and Jo Daviess County, where history, art galleries, wineries, shopping, fine dining and outdoor adventures await.

A great way to plan a trip is around the many fairs, festivals and tours taking place in the area through November. During Fever River Outfitters’ Bike Ride to the Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, Sundays Oct. 8 and 15, pedal 12 hilly miles and sip a glass of wine at the winery’s tasting room in rural Galena.

The highlight of the fall are the many arts and crafts fairs throughout the area, including Galena’s ever-popular Country Fair in Grant Park Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 7-8. Now in its 27th year, the fair will feature original, handmade arts, crafts and fine arts, 150 juried booths, a country bake shop, farmers’ markets, children’s games, fair food, including the Elks Club’s famous hand-cut fries, and live entertainment. A variety of art and crafts shows, farmers’ markets and workshops are also scheduled throughout the county that same weekend.

Costumed guides re-enact frontier life at Apple River Fort State Historic Site, a reconstructed fort in the tiny town of Elizabeth. Here, you’ll learn about the conflict between the early Apple River settlers and local Native Americans that escalated into the ferocious Black Hawk War. The Interpretive Center includes archaeology exhibits and a video about the war. Check out the fort’s Into the Woods event Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 7-8, or its Living History Weekend Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 21-22.

When the sun goes down, view a magnificent sunset from a hot air balloon with Galena on the Fly, which launches from Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in The Galena Territory. Try your hand at Glaze and Graze, a two-evening workshop Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7, and Friday-Saturday, Nov. 3-4, at the Artists’ Annex Pottery Studio and The Great Galena Cookery. On Friday night, you’ll glaze a three-piece bisque dinnerware set; Saturday evening, you’ll prepare a gourmet meal and dine on your own handmade plates.

Look for select galleries participating in the Autumn Gallery Walk Saturday, Oct. 7. Just off Main Street is Stone House Pottery & Gallery, specializing in stoneware and porcelain. Along Highway 20 is the Galena Antique Mall, with more than 55 dealers selling collectibles, jewelry and more. If you’re in town Friday-Sunday, Oct 13-15, meet the Twenty Dirty Hands, the artists along a tour of some of the area’s best-known pottery and sculpture studios, or see newly constructed homes featuring the latest high-tech gadgets and creative interior design during the Galena Parade of Homes, Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 14-15.

The night skies will take on a ghoulish glow during the Galena Halloween Balloon Festival, Friday-Sunday, Oct. 27-29. View some clever and outlandish costumes when Galena’s popular Halloween Parade kicks off at 6 p.m. on Main Street Saturday, Oct. 28. Indulge in an evening of decadent desserts during “Chocolate, Champagne & Candlelight,” Saturday, Nov. 11, at Galena’s historic DeSoto House Hotel. You’ll be treated to two lavish chocolate buffets (plus some non-chocolate sweets) and a chilled glass of champagne during this benefit for the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society & Museum.

Experience a whirlwind view of Galena on one of the city’s trolley tours, whose knowledgeable guides narrate local history as the trolley rolls past local landmarks. Then, make an appointment to tour the private Linmar Gardens, situated on a limestone outcropping in a picturesque hillside setting overlooking Galena. The garden features a replica mine, waterfall and a sunken garden in the ruins of one of Illinois’ first African-American churches. Saddle up at the Shenandoah Riding Center and take a guided horseback ride along the 40 miles of trails that wind through woodlands and open valleys. Relax in the afternoon with a soothing spa treatment at one of the area’s full-service spas. Learn about Galena’s spooky past during a nighttime walk past haunted sites and cemeteries with a guided ghost tour.

The historic Stagecoach Trail rambles along the back roads between Galena and the town of Warren. Travel the trail the old-fashioned way aboard an authentic stagecoach powered by Belgian draft horses from Stage Coach Trails Livery in Apple River. At Chestnut Mountain Resort, through Sunday, Oct. 22, you can ride its Alpine Slide on a toboggan-like track that whizzes 2,000 feet down a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, or explore the mighty river on a Mississippi Explorer Cruise that departs from Chestnut.

And with the Galena River and the Mississippi backwaters nearby, kayak and canoe rentals are available. Visitors can get a bird’s-eye view aboard a hot air balloon, drive one of the Midwest’s premier golf destinations, or hike the challenging trails of Apple River Canyon State Park. Or they can tote their skis, snowshoes or snowboards to the area when the snow flies.

Galena itself became the busiest Mississippi River port between St. Louis and St. Paul, and beautiful homes sprang up around the city as lead mining boomed in the late 1700s. Eighty-five percent of Galena has been named to the National Register of Historic Places, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation named it to its 2004 list of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations. The Italianate mansion of Civil War General and President Ulysses S. Grant, the Belvedere, the Dowling House, the Old Blacksmith Shop, the Old Market House and the Old Stockade on the Cobblestone Street reflect just some of its 19th-century history and architecture.

Main Street curves past more than 90 shops filled with apparel, chocolates, wine, cheese, jewelry, toys, housewares, antiques, collectibles and more. And a growing number of artists display works in galleries and studios nearby. Visitors can refuel with flavored coffee and biscotti, a burger and a beer, or a gourmet meal and wine. Overnighters can choose between cozy B&Bs, family-style hotels and inns, or full-service resorts, complete with spas and restaurants.

Call the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-877-464-2536 or explore www.galena.org for a 2006 Visitors Guide and information about attractions, lodging, travel packages, dining, shopping and events.

From the Oct. 4-10, 2006, issue

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