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Why Illinois Should be Taken Seriously for its Wine
Why Illinois Should be Taken Seriously for its Wine

Illinois winemakers have been successful at crossbreeding classic French grapes with varietals that are native to American soils Move over, California. Illinois is making a name for itself when it comes to wine. Does this mean you are going to find an amazing bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the growing number of vineyards and wineries populating the Galena area? No. The types of grapes that grow best in the fog-draped hills of California’s Napa Valley are completely different than what grows and thrives in what’s known as the Upper Mississippi River Valley American Viticultural Area. The difference comes down to one word, and it’s French. Terroir Derived from the Latin word, terra, meaning earth or land, the French use the term terroir to express a wine’s sense of place. You’ll get 10 different answers from 10 different oenophiles (connoisseurs of wine) if you ask them what terroir means. They may get into the specifics and tell you it’s a combination of the macroclimate, mesoclimate, and microclimate. Just smile and nod. What they’re talking about is really nothing more than the impact that the geography and the weather has on grapes as they grow. Soil, rain, temperature, altitude, and a multitude […]

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The Vanishing Tradition of Main Streets

And how Galena is fighting to keep it alive If you think about small-town America, what comes to mind? Probably tree-lined neighborhoods (maybe with white picket-fenced houses), friendly folks quick with a wave, and cheerful little stores and shops. And while the first two can still be found all over the nation, that last one is becoming a bit of endangered species. Most cities – big and small – have the main street (even if it’s not called Main Street), but these days most of the mom-and-pop shops have disappeared. In many instances, they have been replaced by chain stores or big-box retailers. And that’s if there are any businesses left; thanks to online shopping, some physical stores are now harder to come by. Fortunately, a town like Galena, Illinois, is keeping the tradition of Main Street alive and well. Welcome to the Helluva Half Mile Currently, Galena’s population is only around 3,000, but at one time it actually rivaled Chicago for the liveliest city in Illinois. Though things have changed in the last 150 years, Galena can still boast a thriving downtown, modeled in part after the one in the Windy City. Chicago has its Magnificent Mile, and Galena […]

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“My Green Galena” – The Story of How a City Known for its Past is Reaching for the Future

Image credit: cityofgalena.org A citywide focus on sustainability is paying off – both in savings for Galena residents as well as statewide attention and an award from the governor Most people would say that Galena is known for its past. It’s a showcase for over 1,000 19th century buildings listed with the National Register of Historic Places, and Galena is home to former President Ulysses S Grant and eight other Civil War generals. Coming to light is more recent, history-making news. The city of Galena is also becoming known for its forward-thinking sustainability efforts. A program called “My Green Galena” is helping to meet current social, environmental, and economic needs for the Illinois community, without compromising the needs of future generations. Award-winning The City of Galena was awarded the Governor’s sustainability Award from the Office of the Governor in 2014. It was awarded in conjunction with the sustainable Technology Center of the University of Illinois. The accolade was presented to Galena in recognition of its demonstrated commitment to outstanding and innovative sustainability practices. An example of this sustainability is a project started in 2012 to build one of the nation’s largest municipal solar arrays. The city council had watched electricity […]

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Abraham Lincoln and Galena Have a Unique Connection

Find out when and where our 16th president visited Although he was barely into his second term when he was assassinated – April 15 marks the 153rd anniversary of his death – Abraham Lincoln is considered not only one of our greatest presidents, but one of the most beloved Americans in history. And while many people probably know at least a little about him, there are surely things that aren’t very well known. First of all, not a lot of people know where he is from. He wasn’t from Nebraska, as many think, though it – and actually dozens of other states – has a city named for him. Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Though he grew up there and in Indiana, he made a name for himself in Illinois. He, of course, became a prominent lawyer, a state politician, and eventually made his way to the White House. Lincoln and Grant It’s impossible to discuss Lincoln without mentioning Ulysses S. Grant, and vice versa. While they worked together to try to bring the Civil War to a close, during this time they also became friends. In fact, Grant was supposed to accompany the Lincolns to Ford’s Theatre on […]

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The Hallmark of 19th Century Architecture, and Why You’ll See it in Galena

Today, more than 1,000 of Galena’s 19th-century buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, making about 85% of the city a natural historic district Recycling is something we think of as a modern-day effort, but it’s been around as a concept for quite some time. Take 19th-century architecture, for example. It was mostly a recycling of earlier styles. When we think of the period, we see revivals of Gothic, Greek, and Renaissance designs, fused with contemporary materials and methods. It’s an ode to nostalgia, and you’ll see amazing examples of 19th-century architecture in Galena. Style meets substance If you had to pick only two characteristics, to sum up, 19th-century architecture, it would have to be the use of new materials and building methods and the generous mixture of a variety of earlier historical styles. Many historians refer to the 19th-century architectural style as “eclecticism.” The architectural designers of the time generally held the belief that it was their responsibility to sustain the traditional styles of those who had come before them. Businesses and public buildings took on elements from earlier styles to communicate authority. Architects borrowed from the past wherever it seemed appropriate. While it might have been […]

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Galena’s Haunted History

Learn about some (very) long-time residents you may meet One of the best things about visiting an old town is that it’s probably chock full of history. And while you might be able to see artifacts in a museum, history really comes alive when you can immerse yourself in it. In Galena, visitors have the chance to explore numerous buildings that are hundreds of years old, and even walk where luminaries did, including Ulysses S. Grant and even Abraham Lincoln. Another exciting aspect of a historical town is the stuff you probably won’t read on placards or find in pamphlets; the darker, supernatural elements under the surface. Now, not everybody believes in ghosts and spirits, but what we all can agree on is that there is a lot that goes on this world that can be pretty hard to explain. Galena is certainly no stranger to the paranormal. After all, why would a town of only about 3,000 residents have four – yes, four – different ghost tours? Whether you want a guide or just to explore yourself, here’s what you may find lurking in the shadows of Galena: The Lady in Black The story of the Lady in Black […]

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A Guide to the Wildlife You May Encounter in Galena

Keep an eye out for these animals It’s been a long and cold winter, but spring is finally here! For many people, this means venturing outside and reconnecting with Mother Nature. When the sun is shining and the colorful flowers start blooming, staying inside can be difficult. This is one of the reasons why so many people come to Galena every year. With its many parks, trails, and scenic vistas, the town is a nature lover’s paradise. And of course, this means that when visitors go exploring, they are bound to meet some native inhabitants. If you plan to spend time outdoors when you come to town, these are the animals you might come across: In the woods If hiking is your thing, Galena won’t disappoint. For some amazing hiking, one of your first stops should be the Galena river trails. These trails are of different lengths and allow you to experience the beauty of the area. And while you’re sure to spot squirrels or chipmunks, don’t be surprised to see a white-tailed deer or two looking at you. Other animals you may encounter include red fox, beaver, and maybe even a coyote. If you find yourself walking after dark, you […]

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5 Ways to Protect Your Home Before Taking a Trip

These tips will help ensure you don’t have any surprises when you return There’s nothing quite as nice as saying goodbye to your job and other daily obligations for a little while and setting off on a vacation. If you don’t have many chances to get away from it all, this time is valuable for relaxing, recharging, and just having fun with your friends or family. But there’s nothing worse than realizing – several hours after you’ve left – that you may not have done all you could to keep your home safe. Worrying about your house and belongings is no way to enjoy a vacation. This is why it’s important to address everything ahead of time so you can have the best time possible. Use this as a checklist before you embark on your next trip: Use Timers If it appears as if someone is home – or won’t be gone for long – chances are a burglar won’t try a break-in. But just keeping some lights on all day isn’t a great tactic. Not only will this waste electricity (and money), it will look suspicious to someone peering inside. Instead, put timers on a few lights so they […]

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Why Galena Makes the Perfect Place for a Destination Wedding

If you’re getting married soon, we’ve got six reasons to come to Northwest Illinois Weddings are a pretty big deal. Putting aside the life-long, ‘til-death-do-us-part commitment, there are a million things to consider. Food, dress, flowers, cake; the list goes on and on. And if you’re planning a destination wedding, that’s one more thing to think about. Almost a quarter of weddings now are of the destination variety, which means couples have to spend a certain amount of time trying to come up with just the right place. Let us help you cross that one off your to-do list. Here’s why you should have your nuptials in Galena, Illinois: Gorgeous natural settings There is nothing wrong with getting married in a church or other indoor venue, but if you want an outdoor ceremony, Galena is the ideal spot. There are numerous state parks and farms that can provide a beautiful and rustic location for a wedding. And because Galena is especially nice in the spring and summer, you won’t have to worry too much about getting bad weather. Amazing food options Once the ceremony is over, it’s time for the real fun to begin at the reception. And one of […]

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4 Spring (and 1 Summer) Events in Galena You Won’t Want to Miss

Wine tastings, balloon races, and much more await you The best way to think about Galena, Illinois, is to imagine it as a museum. While there are tons of permanent items – like the many historical buildings, local attractions, and natural wonders – there is also a never ending rotation of excellent exhibits. No matter when you visit Galena, you’re sure to find something special going on. While we previously offered a list of great winter activities, with the weather soon warming up, we thought we would now focus on spring. If you will be coming to town over the next few months, here are some events you’ll want to experience. St. Patrick’s Day celebration Okay, so St. Paddy’s Day technically takes place March 17, three days before spring begins, but we just had to include it. This is because Galena goes all out when it comes to celebrating all things Irish. In addition to the annual downtown parade featuring bands, floats, and music, there are two races – the Shamrock Shimmy 5K and the Mini Shimmy for kids. It’s the perfect opportunity to grab a shillelagh (and maybe a pint) and have a fun time. Wine Lovers Weekend Whether […]

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