As one of our favorite destinations (and one of America's “top 10 charming small towns” according to Tripadvisor.com), Galena is great any time of year.
But it's even better on the 4th of July.
Stop just before the Iowa border on the 3-hour drive west from Chicago to discover a historic town of cobblestone streets, rolling hills, and crazy friendly locals.
The Old West-style downtown is the highlight of any trip to the former residence of Ulysses S. Grant. Stroll the shops, galleries, and restaurants while looking up at the historic mansions and scenic bluffs overhead. And, if you're here on the 4th, stick around Main Street for the community parade and fireworks festival (2-9p).
Hike the beautiful tree-lined trail along the Galena River or stop by Fever River Outfitters to rent a kayak. Calmly paddle your way down the peaceful river while checking out a lush rural scene with blue herons and, if you really want to chill, check out their “yak n' yoga” kayaking/yoga combo. Seriously.
525 S. Main St. (815-776-9425.)
Situated amidst Old World décor high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, a meal at the historic Goldmoor Inn is never a bad idea. Sample the 7-oz. beef Wellington filet, BBQ pork ribs, and homemade ice cream before sipping wine and watching the sunset on the serene garden patio.
9001 S. Sand Hill Rd. (815-777-3925).
If you're here for the 4th, a trip to the rooftop party at the DeSoto House (Illinois' oldest hotel) is a must. Grill burgers and brats, grab beers from the cooler, and chat up the locals on communal picnic tables while watching the fireworks and contemplating your move from the city to small-town America.
230 S. Main St. (815-777-0900). 4th of July party 6-10:30p.
Nestled on 100 acres of land just outside of town, the LeFevre Inn is tough to beat. Set yourself up in your own apartment-style room with the most comfortable beds known to man, or take your pick of relaxation zones in either the outdoor hot tub with panoramic vistas or the private lake with paddleboarding.
$109-$199 per night. 9911 W. Deininger Lane. (800-619-9500).