Galena – Illinois’ Gay-friendly Weekend Getaway
The hidden gem for the sophisticated lesbian, gay and queer travelers in Illinois. A hidden gem in the United States of America? Yes, there is! Even some of our friends living in the USA contacted us after we published our first photos and stories about our trip to Galena asking: Where is Galena and why are you traveling there? Well, the US American state of Illinois isn’t only about Route 66, Springfield or Chicago, it also is home to Galena which is the largest city of Jo Daviess County, Illinois with a strong connection to the Mississippi River and only 3 hours by car from Chicago.
The heart of the city, that was founded around the first mineral rush in the United States, is the Galena Historic District with its 1,000 preserved buildings constructed before 1900. Restaurants, shops, museums and the decelerating lifestyle of the local community create an atmosphere that perfectly fits a weekend away from busy Chicago life to the northwestern border of Illinois. Together with Enjoy Illinois and Visit Galena, we created our Road Trip Adventure “Galena Gay Getaway Illinois” with hotel and restaurant tips, activity highlights, as well as some must-dos for a perfect LGBTQ+ gaycation in Illinois’ North West here on Couple of Men.
Galena, the Gay Getaway in Illinois
No gay bars, no gay clubs, no gay pride festivals – But still, Galena is considered to be an LGBTQ+ and gay getaway embedded in Illinois’ nature offering a diverse cultural life with museums, tours, historical buildings and multiple activities in and around this small town. The local community is very open-minded and LGBTQ+ welcoming which we learned from talking to some local gay men and which we recognized by walking hand-in-hand as an openly gay couple. The central point of Galena is the picturesque Main Street running parallel to the Galena River. A sightseeing tour on a classic green and red trolley is a great way, to begin with, and to get an overview of Galena’s dimensions. Nevertheless, we loved to stroll by some of the most impressive buildings on Park Avenue on the east side of the Galena River and back to the center by crossing the bridge from Galena Grant Park. Let’s show you all you need to know for a short vacation in Galena.
Our favorite airline KLM Royal Dutch Airlines offers flights from €500 to Chicago. A special tip for German LGBTQ+ travelers: SkyTeam member KLM Royal Dutch Airlines with their modern fleet brings you comfortably and quickly from 10 German Airports via Amsterdam-Schiphol, the KLM hub, to over 160 destinations around the globe.
LGBTQ+ friendly Hospitality Galena
What is most important for a relaxing getaway in Galena? The right gay-friendly accommodation. Although we stayed outside the city center in an Irish Pub Hotel, there are several lovely gay-owned Hotels in Galena to choose from. What about a night at the best Bed & Breakfast/Inn in the USA and second-best in the world by TripAdvisor? The 135-year-old, 4-story brick high Jail Hill Inn is operated and owned by local Matthew Carol who turned the former jail into an Inn with six spacious multi-room private suites. Another gay-friendly hotel it the Felt Manor Guest House at the top of the Quality Hill, overlooking Galena with stunning views of the downtown and surrounding countryside. The new inkeepers of Felt Manor are Geoff and Alex, a gay couple welcoming everyone in the Mid-West. Last but not least, we would like to mention the Aldrich Guest House which inkeepers are the gay couple Douglas and Robert.
Especially meat eaters will enjoy the many restaurants dedicated to quality farm-to-table food and locale ingredients. But also for vegetarians, Galena offers some good places to dine out in style. The two restaurants we would like to mention are the Italian restaurant Vinny Vanucchi’s and the restaurant Fried Green Tomatoes.
Plan your Trip: Enjoy Illinois Hotel and Restaurant Tips
Activity Highlight Galena #1 Zip-Lining
Kayaking, hiking, swimming – The area around Galena has much to offer for outdoor enthusiasts as well as fans of history and sightseeing. And of course, we were looking once again for some extra exciting activities. Already on our arrival day, we went way up the treetops to see the woods of Illinois during our zipline adventure with Long Hollow Canopy Tours. Our guides Scott and Natalie took very good care of us while we flew through the juicy green forest up to 75 feet high above ground. Amazing! And the final jump from the 35 feet high platform was the special extra adrenalin kick for sure!
Activity Highlight Galena #2 Sunrise Balloon Flight
Our second adventure was less about adrenalin but much more about the wonder of flying. After our first appointment was canceled due to windy weather conditions, we got two spots on the early morning sunrise balloon flight over Galena and Illinois. Although we had to get up at 4 am in the morning, the calm and quiet atmosphere of the awaking nature and the spectacular view over Illinois in the morning was worth every extra coffee to wake up. Our guide (also the owner) of Galena on the Fly told us all about the area we were flying over until we landed safely right next to a huge corn field. The morning Prosecco was just the cherry on top our must-do experience in Galena. Make this part of your itinerary and have an amazing flight!
The US State Illinois in the Mid-West is know for its capital city Springfield, the natural beauty and beach of Lake Michigan, Chicago, the beginning (or end) of the Route 66, the LGBTQ+ vacation gem Galena and, of course, the connection to the Mississippi. All you need to know for your gaycation in Illinois now on our Gay Travel Guide Illinois.
Our way back to Chicago: #1 Rockford
Another relatively unknown city in Illinois, at least to foreign travelers, is Rockford, although it is the largest city in Illinois outside the Chicago Metropolitan area. On our list for a day in Rockford: The Anderson Japanese Gardens and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House. Did you know, that the Anderson Japanese Gardens was designed by landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu who also designed the Japanese Garden in Portland which we visited just a month before? Definitely, a place to recharge batteries being on the road for several weeks already and to remember our wonderful time we had in Japan. The Laurent House, our second stop in Rockford, was just similarly beautiful and a place to enjoy the beauty of Japanese influenced modern architecture. It was just the first building by architect Wright we are planning to see of Illinois’ Frank Lloyd Wright Trail. Rockford, definitely a city to back to in the future again!
A night to remember: #2 Geneva
We did not stay in Rockford overnight but choose to end our day in Geneva, just one hour by train from Downtown Chicago. This lovely city right by the Fox River could not get any cuter with a beautiful historic city center, a slow pace lifestyle and some surprisingly good food places like Craft Urban and FoxFire. We stayed at the European style inspired The Herrington Inn with an extra special view of the River. And then, we did something unexpectedly relaxing and inspiring: We made our own candles at Scentcerely Yours. Wait, what, candle making? Yes, that was our first reaction, too. But after spending a half hour sniffing each other’s way through dozens of scent samples we found our perfect scent to create a candle and refreshing showergel. Geneva truly is something to inhale, to take a deep breath and to just walk hand-in-hand through the green and neat streets away from busy big city life.
Chicago isn’t the capital city of Illinois but definitely the center of the LGBTQ+ and gay community of the US American state. Boystown and Andersonville are the two Gay Neighborhoods of the city with gay bars and clubs also hosting most of the LGBTQ+ events and festivals in a town like Chicago Pride. Wanna know more about Chicago’s Gay City Life?
Interesting Posts for your Gay Travels to Illinois, USA:
- Read all about our Gay Pride Trips around the world >
- All about our Gay Travels around the world as openly Gay Couple >
- Reviews of Hotels around the world: Gay-friendly tested Hotels >
- All about the United States of America: Gay Travel Guide USA >
- Tips & Highlights of Illinois: Our Gay Travel Guide Illinois >
- Gay Chicago? All you need to know about Gay Travel Chicago >
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Explore Galena: Illinois’ Gay-friendly Weekend Getaway
It was our first trip to Illinois, to Galena and to Chicago and we really enjoyed every minute of it. The people have been wonderfully open-minded and friendly, the hotels and accommodations LGBTQ+ welcoming and the food just great. After spending some days in Galena, Illinois we now understand why this area is supposed to be a Gay Getaway in Illinois. Parties, the active gay scene, LGBTQ+ events and the fast pace of the city life are far far away from Galena and yet, the atmosphere is simply made for a short vacation or to come back again and again. Wine, beer, farm-to-table food, high-quality accommodations, and the options for close to nature activities – What more do you need for a gaycation in Illinois than the Galena Gay Getaway Illinois?
Karl & Daan.
Please note: This trip was made possible in close collaboration with Enjoy Illinois and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as well as the tips and help coming from our wonderful readers, followers, new and old friends from all over the world. Nevertheless, our photos, our videos, our opinions, and our writings are our own, as always.
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