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Galena, IL

Our weekend excursion included a driving tour of 4 Midwestern states – Minnesota and Iowa, of course, but also Wisconsin and Illinois. Our Illinois destination was the historic, small town of Galena.

One reason I love Galena, IL; it is one of the few northern cities that celebrates and showcases its history, rather than bulldozing it to make a parking lot.

We walked through its city park with decommissioned cannons and trophies of war, down historic Main Street, and stood where Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant once did. We walked through the DeSoto House, where crossing the threshold was like stepping back into the 1860s. Landen, who is beginning to learn about Lincoln, stood in the exact spot where our 16th President once delivered a public address from the DeSoto House balcony. To watch him connect history to where we stood today was such a cool experience.

The kids and I also walked the grounds of Grants’ old house, and the fact that we walked in the footsteps of former Presidents, on President’s Day, was not lost on me. Though Madelyn may still be too young to connect this, Landen did express plenty of interest in exploring, and I did my best to document the experience through my camera lens with the hope of retelling the story to Maddie when she’s older.

We set foot inside an antique store. I swear if history had a smell, it would be found within that small shop. We ate at an old café accessed only by an old staircase, since the buildings off Main Street were built into the bluff that overlooked the Galena River. Archeologists are still finding artifacts from the past, as the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium exhibits a small cannon excavated there. We viewed a map of the city from the 1860s that pointed our exact location as we stood in 2016. Just as history builds upon the layers of time, so too does our own story. And the reason why I enjoy traveling with the kids, is because I can help write their chapters through experiences like these. There is an entire world out there beyond our ¾-acre property, more vast than the current capacity of their imaginations, and with each of our excursions big and small, we are building their characters.

Though the cities of Dubuque and Galena are not “new” to us, we did receive a fresh perspective as we explored through their eyes.

President Ulysses S. Grant's estate
The view of Galena's historic Main Street as seen from Grant's property
The old train depot
This cannon is a trophy of war.

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