Galena, Illinois

Photo: Inn at Irish Hollow
Photo: Inn at Irish Hollow

Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully your holiday plans include lots of food, family, and more food. Your festive decorations can wait until next weekend. Christmas shopping can start in December. This weekend—this long weekend, actually—should be about spending quality time together. Too many distractions? Then it’s time to start planning next year’s Thanksgiving getaway in the countryside.

Galena is 160 miles west of Chicago near the borders of Iowa and Wisconsin. The town, located along a tributary of the Mississippi River, boomed in the early 19th century when galena, a type of mineral, was mined. Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the U.S., later called Galena home. It’s now a sleepy town with a historic Main Street, red-brick buildings, and old-fashioned trolley tours. Just outside of town, you find winding back roads and a little country inn that’s the perfect place to spend the holiday.

The Inn at Irish Hollow looks like it’s been staged for a magazine shoot. The main building is a restored general store. The nearby cottages have creaky wooden floors, overstuffed furniture, and earthy colors. It sits on 500 acres that include a working farm, gardens, and orchards. While freshly fallen snow adds to the festive feeling.

Photo: Inn at Irish Hollow
Photo: Inn at Irish Hollow

When you arrive at Irish Hollow, move into your comfy cottage. The Stonewood Cottage already has a fire roaring in the limestone fireplace in between the sitting room and the bedroom. It also has a marble bathroom, a whirlpool tub, and a view of the snow-covered hillside from the screened-in porch. Walking sticks, snowshoes, and umbrellas are ready for whatever outdoor activities you choose. But you aren’t going anywhere tonight. Instead, you relax with a bottle of wine and a platter of cheese, meat, and freshly baked bread. You flip through a magazine, soak in the tub, and take a short nap. Then a simple supper—a crockpot full of Irish stew—is delivered for dinner. You fall asleep warm and happy.

In the morning, you’re ready to explore. Strap on the snowshoes to trek through the pasture, the gardens, and the frozen wetlands. Switch to cross-country skis when you want to follow the trails farther into the forest. Or go to the nearby Chestnut Mountain Resort, whose 19 downhill runs just opened for the season. Return to the inn to prepare for your Thanksgiving feast. The seven-course meal starts with garlic crostinis with fig and toasted walnut tapenade. Winter squash risotto, sweet-potato-and-caramelized-onion bisque, and a late-harvest garden salad follow. An herb-crusted roast turkey is the centerpiece. And don’t forget dessert: a warm apricot-pumpkin pie.

By going away for Thanksgiving, you’ve been able to spend quality time together, relax, and not focus on the next holiday. You played in the snow and ate a gourmet dinner. The only thing missing: dirty dishes at the end of the meal. But you may have found a new holiday tradition.

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