I received complimentary stay and activities at the Chestnut Mountain Resort.
However, the experience is authentic and unique to my family.
Anyone with more than one child knows how tough it is to spend one-on-one time with each kid. I know it’s a good idea! However, my schedule is so packed – I have to get out of town to have any alone time with anyone.
That is precisely what I did a few weeks ago – got out of town and took my tween daughter to the Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena, IL. Galena is only a couple hours away from Chicago suburbs where we live, and that makes it a perfect weekend destination for anyone living in the Chicagoland area. Not only it is an excellent place with a lot of charming shops and scenic landscapes, but it is also the easiest way to catch a boat tour of the historic Mississippi River near the historic riverport of Galena.
The drive to the Chestnut Mountain Resort is super easy – take US355 West and drive into the sunset (I have to admit that driving toward the setting sun wasn’t my favorite thing). The last ten miles of our trip though took place in a dark on the gravel roads taking my car up into the unknown and down into the darkness. Oh, how I excited I was to roll onto the lit up the parking lot of the Chestnut Mountain Resort! ( I will have to admit that driving to the resort in daylight makes a lot more sense).
I couldn’t wait to get into my room and r-e-l-a-x… And this place didn’t disappoint us with big beds and an impressive TV channel selection (yes, that is important to me!). Lots of room to move around made me wish we came here earlier to take advantage of the space – I could spend some time sitting at the desk writing my articles or brew myself a cup of coffee. There is also a lot to look at in the hotels itself.
Saturday morning woke us up with sunlight peeking through the big windows – get up and look outside! The grand view off the top of the Chestnut mountain down to the Mississippi river there was breathtaking! The enchanted landscape called us to explore the unknown! With 100 hotel rooms, Chestnut Mountain Resort covers 220 acres with a total drop of 475 feet which contributes to the incredible view.
Let’s go to the river! Mississippi River was right below us on the bottom of the Mountain, but how would we get there? With a couple of transportation options, we decided to go with a fun one – Alpine Slide that takes riders from the top of the mountain and brings them down to the bottom right by the river! For anyone who loves the speed and wants to feel the rush similar to downhill skiing, the Alpine Slide is the best!
Hop on the blue board and pull the handle: no equipment or prior experience necessary! This slide consists of 2,050 feet of the track it takes you down from the top of the mountain to the banks of the Mississippi. And the view you will see sliding downhill pretty epic too! I went on the side of caution and slowed my board down A LOT, while my 10-year old took off fast and disappeared around the corner in a matter of seconds.
On the bottom of the hill, we found a small boat that takes its riders around the Mississipi River. With only a couple more people aboard, we boarded an hour and a half long tour that turned out to be the best part of our trip. History, wildlife, and relaxation – this trip had it all!
I can think of a three reason why someone like me would want to catch a river cruise:
The tired mom in me wants to get away and relax. The incredible serenity is included with the tour free of charge – find a quiet spot and listen to the chirping birds – late May/early June is when birds here lay their eggs so as the small boat enters the lagoon you will be surrounded by nature – relax and enjoy. I swear this is better than meditation!
At the same time, the historian in me loves to hear the stories of what places and things. Our guides had plenty to share about the things that took place around this part of the river centuries ago and how the river itself has changed over the years. We even got to see buttons made out of the pearl shells sourced from around here back in 1800’s – would you ever guess that’s where they came from?
However, the explorer in me (that was also my daughter’s favorite part of the trip) loved observing the nature and learning about the wildlife alongside the river.
Look, Deer! – We turned just quick enough to see a couple of animals run off into the woods.
I noticed a pile of grass swimming against the current – What’s that? The Guide had no doubts: “It’s a muskrat carrying grass to its lodge.“
Our animal observations didn’t stop on the boat ride – as we took the lift back to the top of the mountain, we had nothing better to do than dangle our feet in the air and look around when my daughter spotted fawn on the ground right under the lift. It didn’t seem to care even a bit about flying benches above it – just enjoyed summer sun and snacked on the grass. Later on, we found out that it’s not uncommon for the animals to hang around this area – some chill around for hours by the slopes in winter or in the grass in summer with little to worry about.
With a ton of other activities, The Chestnut Mountain Resort is a fun place to visit in summer. A Segway tour starts with training and once everyone masters the art of moving around, the group of Segway riders takes off to explore the area (you have to be at least 100 lbs and 16 years old to do this).
We rented bicycles onto the local trails and discovered magnificent landscapes that just begged to be photographed. And there is also the Eagle zip line that only takes a few minutes but might make you scream a little.
As we got in the car my daughter was overwhelmed with emotions and couldn’t stop thanking me for a trip – that doesn’t often happen these days. By the time I took a ramp onto the highway, she was sound asleep next to me – why do they grow up so fast?