Need to get away? With delicious dining and lots of great outdoors, Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa fits the bill.
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We pulled out of the driveway. Suitcases in the trunk. Cooler in the back seat. GPS telling us where to go. Grins plastered on our faces.
It had been awhile since Mr. TLT and I had set off on an adventure together. I’d taken a solo trip around Illinois a couple of weeks before, but it was a whirlwind sleep-in-the-back-of-an-SUV-at-truck-stops kind of trip.
This time, we were headed towards one of our favorite weekend road trips from Chicago and we’d be staying in our own private villa. We would be eating food I didn’t cook on dishes he didn’t wash. There would be hiking and boating and we would be doing it all away from home.
No wonder we were grinning.
There are few places I’d visit right now, but Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa in Galena, Illinois, is one of them. Mr. TLT and I have stayed at the resort multiple times in the last decade and we’ve developed a bond with the place and the people who run it.
It’s visceral: we near The Galena Territory, a semi-private community with Eagle Ridge as its centerpiece, and we breathe a little easier.
Could have something to do with all the oxygen produced by 6,800 acres of trees, prairies, and the green grass of golf courses.
Despite our familiarity with the resort, we both still felt some trepidation. We would be dining out for the first time since early March, we would be interacting with more people than we’d seen in months, and we would be sleeping in a home that’s not our own.
Let’s say we were gingerly optimistic.
How did it go? Did we feel safe? Comfortable? I’ll save you the scroll: Great. Yes (for the most part). Absolutely.
Now for the big question: Would we return, even now when travel is restricted?
I’ll get into more details on our stay in a moment, but the short version is that Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa took all the precautionary measures, our activities and accommodations were isolated from other guests, our dining was all outside, and the resort is close enough to the Chicagoland area to get there without stopping.
All those added up to a safe, fun, and relaxing getaway, and when I think about it, it still makes me grin.
Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa hosted our stay, but all opinions are my own and weren’t influenced at all by sunset dinners and a spin around the lake.
Related: Road Trip Essentials
Staying at Eagle Ridge in Galena
As soon as we neared the entrance to the resort, we could see the precautions. Signs informed guests that masks were required, as was keeping a distance of six feet. Markers on the floor with a large cursive G for Galena indicated where it was safe to stand.
All employees wore masks, and they wore them correctly: no exposed noses at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa. A Plexiglas shield protected us from them, and them from us.
It was surreal. As I stepped on the marker, I got a catch in my throat thinking of how different our world is now, thinking about how businesses have had to adapt, thinking of the distance we must keep from others, and how that is now as sure a sign of compassion and affection as a hug.
Our Own Private Villa
Our accommodations for the next two nights were in a villa on Plum Point. One of the reasons we enjoy staying at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa is the variety of accommodations.
The rooms at the Inn and Courtyard have upscale amenities, and some even have balconies overlooking the surrounding woods or Lake Galena. A room at the Inn also provides easy access to the pool, Stonedrift Spa, the gift shop, and Woodlands Restaurant and Lounge.
Our personal preference is to stay in one of the private villas or homes. We tend to like our solitude when we get away, and I love the convenience of a kitchen. The homes are individually decorated, so each time we stay it’s like we’re someplace new.
On this particular trip, that privacy was one of the main reasons we felt comfortable. We would have our own entrance and wouldn’t have to be concerned about whether we’d be in close proximity with people who weren’t wearing masks.
As we’ve learned at home, and I learned on my trek around the state a couple of weeks prior, just because a business requires face coverings doesn’t mean people will wear them. With our own villa, we didn’t have to worry about it.
Our home-away-from home was a three-story townhouse. The top floor was a loft with twin beds and full bath; the bottom had a large bedroom, full bathroom, washer and dryer, and a sitting area with couch and love seat that led out to a patio stocked with firewood.
We mainly stayed on the main floor, which had another bedroom and bathroom, living area, full kitchen, dining area with a trumpet vine skylight, and a deck with a gas grill. Early morning I’d take my coffee outside and through the trees would see glimpses of sun sparkling off the water of Lake Galena.
Shelves next to the wood burning fireplace offered a variety of books, including several travel selections, and the coolest clock. I loved it so much I ordered one for myself as soon as we got home.
Dining at Eagle Ridge
One of the reasons we enjoy staying at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, and why we return again and again, is the culinary program. I’ve attend every morel mushroom hunt, an annual foraging event for media, that they’ve hosted.
Through those events I’ve gotten to experience Chef Randy’s farm- and forest-to-table ethos and the skill he and his team use to create inventive and delicious dishes. (They even make dessert with morels – how’s that for skill.)
To accommodate the current reality, the dining options were Woodlands Restaurant for breakfast or dinner, Woodlands Lounge for dinner, and Highlands Restaurant and Lounge 289 for lunch and dinner. We dined at (or from, by taking items to go) all three.
Woodlands Restaurant is located in the Inn. While you can dine inside, we chose to sit in the screened-in patio for breakfast one morning and took our breakfast back to our villa the second.
You can also eat out on the deck overlooking Lake Galena. Order inside and they’ll bring it out to you.
When you dine inside, they’ll give you a new paper menu. Condiments are served individually. Basically, where they can provide single-use items, they will.
Breakfast at Woodlands Restaurant is what you’d expect, like Eggs Benedict, buttermilk pancakes, and omelettes. Favorites? Smoked salmon platter and the savory breakfast burrito.
Woodlands Lounge offers a casual dinner experience with standard bar apps like wings, potato skins, and nachos, and they’ve also got mini-Beef Wellington and a domestic and imported cheese plate.
We took our Buffalo mozzarella crostini and chicken quesadillas, a jalapeno tortilla filled with black beans, tomatoes, scallions, and sweet chilies, out to the deck and enjoyed the sun and beers before returning to our villa so we could dress for dinner.
You don’t need to get dolled up to dine at Highlands Restaurant and Lounge 289, but after four months of shelter in place, we decided to celebrate our first date night outside our home with proper attire. I wore a dress! And earrings! And makeup!
Highlands replaces the former Woodstone Restaurant. Located near the entrance to The Galena Territory and Eagle Ridge, the new restaurant sits pretty with a second-story deck that overlooks The General Golf Course. It’s one of the best views in the territory.
Like Woodlands, while we could have been seated inside, we elected to dine al fresco. Tables were spaced appropriately, all the servers wore their masks properly, and in between seatings, the tables and chairs were thoroughly cleaned.
We ate at Highlands Restaurant three times during our stay: two times for dinner and once for lunch. The food was, as expected, delicious.
Nearly all-crab crab cakes, firm and tender ribs made with bourbon from local distiller Blaum Bros., and one of the best Delmonico ribeyes we’ve ever had.
One of the most surprising dishes was wild mushroom pizza, topped with cremini, shiitake, and portobello shrooms with cheeses from nearby Shullsburg Creamery, on a cauliflower crust. Mr. TLT abhors cruciferous vegetables with a white-hot passion, but he tried the pizza anyway because he knew I wanted to and he’s cool like that.
Wow, was it good. We had to confirm with our server that this was, in fact, a cauliflower crust. It was. I want it again. And again. And again. And Mr. TLT would eat it again, too. High praise, that.
Whether you stay at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa or not, dine at Woodlands Restaurant, Woodlands Lounge, and Highlands Restaurant and Lounge 289.
“289” is the elevation change between the lowest and highest tee boxes on the golf course.
In addition to delicious dining, another reason we thought Galena’s Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa would be the perfect getaway was the great outdoors. We love being outside anyway; now, it’s the safest form of entertainment.
There are miles of hiking trails at Eagle Ridge and in The Galena Territory. With the hilly terrain, some are more strenuous than others. An easy trail with great views begins right at the docks.
Those docks are home to kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, and pontoon boats. Guests at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa can reserve all of the human-powered vessels for free, and pontoon boats are only $50 an hour.
One of the nice things about the lake is that there are no private lots on the lake shore. It’s also wake-free, ensuring absolute serenity for fishers, birders, and hikers.
The man-made lake was created by flooding Smallpox Creek. It filled so quickly that a farm was buried, making a great habitat for fish, as well as old bridges and other structures. One of the most beautiful spots in The Galena Territory is Thunder Bay Falls, a forty-foot waterfall created by the spillway.
Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa is known for golf, and for good reason. Their four championship golf courses provide sixty-three holes that incorporate the rolling hills and woodlands.
Make sure you’re dressed appropriately; golf attire is required. Fortunately, you can pick up some new duds at the pro shop, renovated in 2020 and located in the same building as Highlands Restaurant and Lounge 289.
The Shenandoah Riding Center offers trail rides and lessons, and in the winter also offers sleigh rides. There are over forty miles of groomed riding trails and riders of all experience levels can explore The Galena Territory on horseback.
When you’re boating, stopping at an overlook, or enjoying a cocktail on the deck at the Inn, don’t be surprised if you see a Bald Eagle soaring over the lake. There’s a reason the resort is called Eagle Ridge.
In addition to eagles, there are over 200 types of birds in the area, making this one of the best birding destinations in North America.
Things to do in Galena
While you could certainly spend all of your time at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, there’s also plenty to do in the surrounding area.
There are several wineries nearby, and they all offer outdoor seating with a view. A few of them have tasting rooms in historic Galena.
And when I say historic, I mean Historic. Eighty-five percent of downtown’s brick buildings are part of the Galena Historic District. Dowling House, the oldest, dates back to 1826.
Overlooking downtown, across the Galena River (which is more of a stream now) is Grant Park, named for the president. Learn more about the Civil War Hero at the Ulysses S. Grant Home.
TripAdvisor users have rated Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. one of the top things to do in Galena. They’re so serious about their spirits that they mill their own grains. If you like it hot, their HellFyre Vodka is made with jalapeños, habaneros, and black peppercorn.
There’s another zipline, as well as tons of other activities, at Chestnut Mountain Resort overlooking the Mississippi River. All of these activities and places are within easy reach when you stay at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa.
Book your visit to Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa
Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa is located off of US-20 in the northwest corner of Illinois. Before you visit, you can see their safety protocols, including how they clean both the rooms at the Inn and Courtyard and the private villas and homes.
They offer packages, which often sell out. Never fear – you can still book rooms at the Inn and Courtyard or get a private villa.
You can also book tee times at three of the four courses (the East Course is closed for repairs to a bridge). Paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes are free for guests, as are fishing poles, and pontoon boats are $50 an hour and are only available to guests.
All guests at Eagle Ridge receive an Advantage Card, which provides discounts at the pro shop, Peddlers Boutique in the main lodge, the Country Store, and other facilities throughout the resort.
And do not miss dining at their restaurants. With all the activities they offer, you don’t even have to worry about putting on the pounds during your stay.
Visit eagleridge.com to plan your Galena getaway.