As the summer comes to a close, we decided it would be fun to take our kids away for a few days. Since my kids watch too much Peppa Pig they keep saying we are going on “holiday” …literally for the last week it is all I’ve heard…how very British of them! My husband thought it would be fun to take a road trip to South Dakota. Mind you we have a yet to be potty trained 3 year old and a 6 year old who has an iPad that only works with wifi. So I vetoed South Dakota until I feel confident with my kids rock climbing abilities and end of cliff awareness.
Instead, I reasoned that we should keep it to a 4 hour drive from Chicago. After considering a few places, we decided on Galena, Illinois. On the banks of the Mississippi River, Galena is basically the north west corner of Illinois, and a 3 hour drive from home. Apparently I was there as a little kid, but since I have no memory of going I figured I would do a little research.
I never would have guessed that from the 1830’s through the 1870’s, Galena actually had a population that surpassed Chicago. The Mississippi River was a major waterway for steamboats and Galena flourished as a main port between St. Louis, Missouri and St. Paul, Minnesota. During the 1850’s the Illinois Railway Company built a hotel that is still operating today as the Desoto House. President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech from its balcony in 1856, and while Ulysses S. Grant was running for president, he used the hotel as his campaign headquarters. It is also rumored to be haunted, so we opted not to stay there, though we will be stopping in for a visit.
While the population is nowhere near what it once was, they still get around a million visitors a year due to the communities’ beautiful natural surroundings as well as its historic significance. There are over 800 properties (about 85%) are on the National Historic Registry. As much as I look forward to showing my kids the beautiful bluffs of the Mississippi River, seeing all those historic homes and buildings is what I am looking forward to the most.
Another interesting fact about Galena is that it is named for the Galena Ore which is a lead that was mined by local Indian tribes for hundreds of years. Settlers showed up around the 1820’s for what was considered the first major mineral rush in the United States (predating the California Gold Rush by about 20 years).
So there you go, we have about an hour left till we arrive. Hopefully we have nice weather and the kiddos are up for some walking, but if not, we are staying at a resort on the outskirts of town that will hopefully have lots of activities to keep them busy!