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Wisconsin Parent

Midwest Travel: Geocaching in Galena, Illinois

Jul 13, 2014 08:49PM ● By Julie Henning
Galena, Illinois has been on my Midwest Travel bucket list for quite some time. So, when we found ourselves with an open Sunday and the perfect weather for a summer road trip, we headed down to the Northwest corner of Illinois to see why so many people love this historic river town.

In researching some family-friendly stops in the region, we turned to the folks at Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau for some suggestions. And while trolley tours, historical homes, and a trip out to the alpine slide at the nearby Chestnut Mountain Resort all sounded fine, I found an equally-valuable source of information.

Truly the best way to head off the beaten path and see some of the hidden gems the region has to offer, we structured our day around finding geocache containers  that have been assigned with 30 or more "favorite points" (spoiler alert: If you want to find these geocache containers on your own, have someone read this story to you. Don't look at the photos!).

Here's how our adventure went down:

Following the signs leading us into the historic part of town, we felt lucky to secure a parking spot along Main Street in the heart of the downtown shopping district. (This is when driving a Ford Fiesta comes in nice and handy!)

Downtown GalenaTwo things struck me right away: the number of shops, cafes, and boutiques is impressive and so are the number of peak-season tourists. Traveling with three boys, this was not the time for me to find a scented candle or sample some regional wine, but I can see why Galena is popular for girlfriend getaways and couples on a romantic "no kids" vacation. Identifying three geocaches within walking distance, we first found this sneaky little red-headed woodpecker.

Woodpecker CacheHeading a block towards the direction of the Galena River, we found ourselves poking around the Old Blacksmith Shop. Two blacksmith were hammering iron, but stopped long enough to give us the geo-hint necessary to find the cleverly-disguised container nearby.

Blacksmith ShopWe then headed up the bluff to Prospect Street in the search of the Old Galena High School. On the walk, I marveled at the architecture, while the kids reminded me of my promise to take them swimming at the Alice T. Virtue water park a short drive out of town. Historical Home GalenaWe were feeling thirsty, but this "water spicket" only offered one kind of relief.

Spicket FindThankfully, the old school stairs brought led us down, down, down in a hurry. (This photo was taken looking up from the second landing up from the base of the stairs. I wouldn't want to tackle a winter ice storm in this town.)

StairsAs promised, we found the community swimming pool—admission is $3/person and is a bargain price if it means your kids can cool down instead of having a melt down.

PoolAlso at this location is a large playground and equally-impressive skate park.

PlaygroundTruly the highlight of our day was the alpine slide at Chesnut Mountain Resort. We purchased our ride tickets from the Chestnut Adventures store on Main Street. Purchasing your tickets here gives you a free pass to play miniature golf or disc golf at Chestnut Mountain (this it not a "perk" offered to people purchasing tickets from the booth at the top of the alpine run). Admission cost are $8/adult and $7/children 12 and under, but different unlimited ride tickets and group rates are available and will bring this cost down.

SlideDropping down 2,050 feet of track to the banks of the Mississippi River, the trip up the chair lift was just as fun as the ride down the mountain.

Alpine SlideI loved the view.

View from ChairliftDespite begging to ride again, I couldn't compel myself to spend another $29 for a second round (next time, we would splurge for the unlimited ride package and plan on staying a few hours). Galening Tower of PizaAnother geocaching gem is the West Street Sculpture Park at 620 S. West Street (an ideal stop either "going into" or "on your way out of" town.) Falling into my absolute favorite type of road trip "find" (you know, the whimsical kind that gives you hope for mankind), the park features the work of local artist John Martinson.

LostAdmission to the park is free (but donations are gladly accepted for park maintenance and funding new creations) and lists one structure kids can climb. Built into a maze of deciduous forest, the gnats and mosquitoes had us flailing our hands on a hurried "power" trip through for purposes of taking photos.

CubesI would love to go back here in the fall to see the secret path and bridge (where the second part of a puzzle cache is most likely hidden - wink) and take it all in.

Thanks to the hard work and creativity of the geoocahing community in Galena. You have a town to be proud of!

* For more information on geocaching visit:

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