Chicago

12 Reasons to Drive to Branson, Missouri

Buckle up for a wild and wacky action-packed trip deep into the Ozark Mountains.

Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)
Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)
Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)

If you’re from the Midwest, you’ve likely heard of Branson, Missouri. Nicknamed the Live Entertainment Capital of the World, the revered vacation destination has long positioned itself as the family-friendly Las Vegas of the Ozarks and Missouri’s own Gatlinburg, Tennessee. There’s dinner theater and livestock shows, amusement parks and buffet restaurants, and more than a few old-timey photo parlors peddling vintage gunslinger costumes and laser-etched sepia tintypes. It’s hokey, it’s flashy, and it’s unabashedly fun for all the reasons you might assume-and plenty you’ve yet to discover.

The drive from Chicago isn’t exactly quick, but the scenery you’ll pass along the way will undoubtedly make the journey worthwhile. And as soon as you pull into your Wild West-themed resort, kick off your dusty cave-ready boots, and crack into a Mason jar of locally distilled moonshine, negotiating the Jane Byrne Interchange will be the farthest thing from your mind. Here are 12 reasons to make the trip to Branson, Missouri.

Flickr/Silver Dollar City
Flickr/Silver Dollar City
Flickr/Silver Dollar City

Zoom back in time at Silver Dollar City

Buckle up and speed into another era at this 61-acre 1880s-themed amusement park, open from mid-March through late December. Coaster fans shouldn’t sleep on the Time Traveler, which races up to 50 mph and plummets down a 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop, while Fire in the Hole, the park’s oldest thrill ride, sends adrenaline-junkees down into the depths to battle a town on fire. Kick back aboard the world-class Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train before stopping to grab some good old-fashioned Ozark cookery at one of the many onsite restaurants. Close out your day with a candlelit tour of Marvel Cave, a complex, winding cavern set hundreds of feet beneath the park’s grounds that’s been open for exploration since 1894.

Farmhouse Restaurant
Farmhouse Restaurant
Farmhouse Restaurant

Eat your way through the historic downtown district

If you thought Branson was all giant turkey legs and gut-busting comfort food buffets, well, you’re not wrong. But in addition to the cholesterol-charged staples, visitors will also find a host of restaurants fit to fancy any palate. Cozy up at throwback Clockers Cafe for a loaded breakfast just like Grandma used to make, or keep your morning meal light with a stop into Dino’s Cakes and Coffee Co. or smoothie specialist Revive Juice and Coffee Bar. Later, pop by Branson Cafe, a local fixture that dates back to 1910 and serves a scratch-made menu of sandwiches, burgers, steaks, and the best damn pie around (seriously). Soak up the rustic vibes at White River Fish House come dinnertime, where the log cabin motif sets the tone for downhome favorites like Catfish hand-breaded in cornmeal and hickory-smoked Pork Ribs. Farmhouse Restaurant has the fried chicken game on lock, while The Paddlewheel pairs mouth-watering chicken wings served by the pound with scenic views of Lake Taneycomo.

Flickr/Historic Downtown Branson
Flickr/Historic Downtown Branson
Flickr/Historic Downtown Branson

Nursing a sweet tooth? Get your after-dinner fix at Simply Irresistible Old Fashioned Candy, beloved purveyor of old-school treats like handmade fudge and taffy galore, or cool off with a scoop or three from Mr. B’s Ice Cream Parlor. Did someone say Dirt Worm Sundae?

Branson Zipline at Wolfe Mountain
Branson Zipline at Wolfe Mountain
Branson Zipline at Wolfe Mountain

Swing from the trees on a sky-high zipline

Get a bird’s eye view of the Ozarks while upping your heart rate along one of the area’s many zipline courses. Options include Shepherd of the Hills, dubbed Best Aerial Adventure Park in America by USA Today, where an expansive outdoor ropes extravaganza is partnered with live performances, seasonal festivals, a petting zoo, and places to eat (if your stomach’s up to it post-freefall). Elsewhere, Branson Zipline at Wolfe Mountain holds it down just north of town, complete with canopy tours for folks of all ages, a special moonlit after-hours tour for a little date night thrill, and Avalanche Zipline Tour, which hoists you up to the top of Wolfe Mountain for a guided cruise through trees. Hang onto your harness as you soar over Wolfe Mine, traverse Crow’s Nest bridge, and plummet down Dynamite Drop’s 40-foot freefall finale. Last but surely not least is Runaway Mountain Coaster & Flyaway Ziplines at Branson Mountain Adventure, which not only lays claim to the area’s first-ever mountain coaster, but also Flyaway Quad Ziplines, a high-speed showdown where you can race your fellow fliers to the bitter end (aka the landing pad several hundred feet away).

Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

Take a load off in a one-of-a-kind hotel, rustic cabin, or luxe resort

Like any good vacation town, Branson is chock full of quality places to lay your weary head after a day of Ozark exploration. The charming, eight-room Landmark Inn, originally constructed to house the railroad’s station master back in 1905, holds court in a quiet part of town with easy access to Historic Downtown and Branson Landing, while the Branson Hotel boasts two floors of themed guest rooms, each more elaborate than the last, plus a reportedly haunted onsite speakeasy to get you buzzing if the decor wasn’t whimsical enough. And for the romance-inclined, the ever-charming Branson House Bed & Breakfast provides personal touches like luxe linens, sunny common areas, daily breakfast, and a sunset-ready porch overlooking the lake.

Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center
Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center
Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center

Here to ball out? Book a stay at Chateau on the Lake, Branson’s only AAA Four-Diamond resort, and settle into your elegant guest room before getting your fill of posh onsite amenities like indoor and outdoor pools, basketball and tennis courts, an inhouse movie theater, a full service spa, and dining draws like the upscale Chateau Grille and the more relaxed Atrium Cafe and Wine Bar. Westgate Branson Woods Resort sees Chateau’s riches and raises it with a spread of tastefully appointed studios and two-bedroom cabins alongside family-friendly fun like a playground, mini golf course, and a stocked arcade, while Watermill Cove Resort adds a lazy river and splash pad, water sports, private hot tubs, and screened-in porches to the mix.

Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)
Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)
Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)

Both campers and glampers also have their pick of the less-frilly litter here. To ease into the great outdoors without setting up a tent, head to Big Cedar Lodge. Private cabins, slick glamping units keep you grounded while Devil’s Pool Restaurant and Top of the Rock’s Buffalo Bar team up with a roster of hands-on activities like sightseeing lake cruises, motorized tours of Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail, golf outings on pro courses, water skiing expeditions, fishing trips, and relaxing spa treatments to stimulate your senses. Have tent, will travel? No sweat (well, probably some sweat). Snag a site at Table Rock State Park and pitch your temporary home amid its 356-acre lakeside expanse, or tow the trailer over to Branson Stagecoach Campground, where you can take advantage of 57 full hook-up RV spots alongside suite and cabin rentals, a swimming pool, an onsite restaurant, and shower and laundry facilities.

Dolly Parton's Stampede
Dolly Parton’s Stampede
Dolly Parton’s Stampede

Catch dinner and a show at Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction

If Dolly’s involved, we’re all for it. And you will be, too, after setting foot inside the Queen of Country’s show-stopping dinner theater. Much like its sister arena in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, this family-friendly procession kicks off with 32 majestic horses, a massive cast of talented trick riders, and a whole bunch of friendly competition. Cheer for your favorite buckaroos and rock out to Dolly’s original score while digging into four courses of country-style comforts including Rotisserie Chicken, Hickory-smoked Barbecue Pork Loin, freshly baked biscuits, corn on the cob, herb-based potatoes, and something called the “Stampede’s Original Creamy Vegetable Soup.” Free refills on soda, tea, and coffee? You bet.

Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)
Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)
Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)

Hit the links at a pro-designed golf course

Any Midwesterner worth their Titleist cap knows that a trip to Ozarks mandates toting the clubs along. Grab your spikes and gear up for a breathtakingly gorgeous-and nail bitingly competitive-18 holes at one of the area’s pristinely landscaped courses.

Payne’s Valley is a strong contender for top tee-time destination, the first public-access course designed by Tiger Woods and his firm, TGR Design, complete with spectacular mountain views and an exceptional 19th hole clubhouse for post-par drinks. Open to the public and equipped with three sets of tees to accommodate all golfers, Thousand Hills Golf Resort provides an award-winning 18-hole expanse stashed near Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo. Pointe Royale Golf Course stands out as a championship par 70, with picturesque fairways, challenging water hazards, and more than a few Bald Eagle sightings. The recently revamped par-71 Buffalo Ridge Springs gets its lush layout and unique natural features from renown architect Tom Fazio and conservationist Johnny Morris, and frequently ranks among the top courses in the state. The state’s number one title, however, goes to Branson Hills Golf Club, a 72-par Chuck Smith-designed tribute to Missouri’s golfing legends dotted with waterfalls, craggy rock faces, and thick wooded patches.

Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)
Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)
Photo by Janet Glaser (Big Cedar)

For something on the chiller yet equally scenic side, try Top of the Rock Golf Course, a Jack Nicklaus signature course towering above Table Rock Lake and spanning just nine holes. Top of the Rock also has the practice game on lock, sporting both an Arnold Palmer-designed all-weather driving range as well as a 70,000-square-foot putting complex from Tom Watson modeled after Scotland’s St. Andrews. And that’s just scratching the surface-start fantasizing about showing off that shiny new Callaway Epic Max here.

Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

Never let go at the Titanic Museum Attraction

Is it cheesy? Absolutely, but if you didn’t like cheesy, you probably wouldn’t have driven to Branson. Lean into the hokie vibes at this interactive museum dedicated to all things iceberg vs. ocean liner. The exhibit houses over 400 artifacts from the real-deal sunken ship, as well as life-sized recreations of the storied cabins, common areas, and the legendary grand staircase. And, get this-the immersive Titanic tour culminates in a photo-op with an actual iceberg floating amid 28-degree waters.

Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

Sample the wares at a distillery

A trip to the Ozarks pretty much requires a dip into the moonshiner’s handbook, amirite? Put a little hair on your chest (the legal way, of course) by dropping into Smith Creek Moonshine’s venerable tasting room and hamber joint at action-packed Branson Landing. Sip your way through the selections-straight, sweet tea, apple pie, peach, salted caramel, orange cream, you name it-or opt for an expertly mixed moonshine cocktail before peeping the substantial 5,000-square-foot space’s arsenal of vintage distilling equipment and other backwoods curios.

White lightning aside, there’s plenty of smooth stuff to be had in the region, too. Copper Run Distillery, stashed about 15 minutes outside of Branson, stands proudly as the first legal distillery in the Ozark Mountains since Prohibition. Tours of the off-the-beaten-road destination are currently suspended, but feel free to swing by the brand new Branson West tasting room starting April 1, 2022 to get acquainted with their whiskey- and rum-dominated lineup. Family-owned Missouri Ridge Distillery picks up where Copper Run leaves off, focusing on small-batch artisan spirits sourced from all-American ingredients. Tours and tastings are available onsite, as are hearty sandwiches, specialty cocktails, and a monster bill of house-distilled whiskey, moonshine, rum, and vodka.

Dogwood Canyon
Dogwood Canyon
Dogwood Canyon

Lace up your boots for an epic hike

Don’t let the fancy dinner theaters and thundering roller coasters fool you-the Ozarks are all about reconnecting with nature. Pack a picnic, grab your best binoculars, and embark on a trek to remember at Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area, where a series of intricate trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty give way to Roark Creek, a 1,100-acre forested area named an Important Bird Area by Audubon Missouri. Dogwood Canyon Nature Park also brings the vibes, with waterfalls and chiseled rock bluffs providing the backdrop to an easy-going 6.5-mile paved mixed-use trail culminating in the park’s historic Glory Hole, a one-of-a-kind natural plunge revealing schools of rainbow trout below.

Table Rock State Park is one-stop-shopping for outdoorsy folks, with miles upon miles of criss-crossing trails and loops catering to hikers of all abilities. Murder Rock Trail might sound intimidating, but brush past the spooky name and you’ll find a rural, rocky dirt route chock full of history-apparently Alf Bolin’s outlaw gang holed up here before meeting their makers courtesty of a local militia back in the mid-1800s.

Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get to know Missouri’s wine country

Before you stick your nose in the Napa-scented air, consider that the Midwest’s unique geographical composition makes many parts of the region ideal for growing just about anything under the sun-including grapes. Spend a day traipsing through Missouri’s idyllic wine country and you’re sure to come away a convert (or, at least, a tad less resistant to the idea-booze is booze, after all).

A few must-hits: Lindwedel Wine Garden, with its pastoral grounds and easy-drinking red and white blends; St. James Winery for award-winning Italian-style dry, fruit, seasonal, and sweet wines plus brick-oven pizzas crafted to bring out the best in your glass of Vignoles; Mount Pleasant Winery, established in 1859, for tours, tastings, and hands-on workshops alongside a quality Cabernet Sauvignon; and Bear Creek Wine Company, with its laid-back vibes, Western-style Hideaway Wine Cellar tasting room, and cheekily named lineup highlighted by Vigilante Red and Hillbilly Persuasion White.

Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

Cool off at a serene area lake

Contrary to popular belief, the mountain air in this neck of the woods can grow quite hot, especially during the long summer months. Thankfully, Branson is stocked with some of the most refreshing natural escapes around, from Lake Taneycomo’s kayak-ready waters to Table Rock Lake, with its world-class fishing opportunities and banks lined with family-friendly resorts ready to snap you into a pair of waterskis. Elsewhere, Bull Shoals Lake offers crystal clear waters perfect for swimming, diving, snorkeling, and fishing.
 

Fantastic Caverns
Fantastic Caverns
Fantastic Caverns

Try your hand at spelunking

No sojourn to the Show Me State would be complete without a little cavernous exploration. That’s where Branson’s labyrinth of underground attractions comes in, giving newcomers and locals alike the chance to descend into the darkness for hours at a time. Fantastic Caverns throws you and yours into a badass Jeep for an all-weather, year-round trek into the depths-perfect for those who might not be up to tackling the geological wonder on foot. The electric carts at Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail zip guests along a 2.5-mile course through the canyons before grinding to a halt at the mouth of a gargantuan four-story cave. Inside, a massive waterfall crashes down from overhead, encircled by viewing platforms, natural areas to explore, a mining elevator, and, no joke, a bar-because even the most daring adventurers need a little liquid courage sometimes.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Meredith Heil is a Senior Cities Editor at Thrillist. She’s originally from St. Louis, now lives in Chicago, and in between has been to all 50 states (that’s boots on the ground, no airport BS). She enjoys all things cocktails, crosswords, and women’s soccer. Challenge her to a game of Hoop Shot at @mereditto.

Chicago

8 Reasons to Drive to Galena, Illinois

You're just a short day trip from preserved-in-time architecture, pristine farmland, and singular history.

Shutterstock/Michael John Maniurski
Shutterstock/Michael John Maniurski
Shutterstock/Michael John Maniurski

In all its sky-scraping towers and equally sky-scraping deep-dish pizzas, Chicago is a decidedly un-subtle city that tends to dominate the cultural conversation in Illinois, but beyond the confines of America’s third largest metropolis, there’s a whole world of pastoral prairies, rolling green hills, and charming towns that are well worth the cost of gas. Galena is one such place. Located on the northwesternmost corner of Illinois, near the Mississippi River and the Iowa border, it’s a breath-of-fresh-air town that’s basically the antithesis of Chicago. While only a three-hour drive, it feels more like a three-century drive with its preserved-in-time architecture, pristine farmland, and singular history covering everything from US presidents to Kraft Cheese. So the next time you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Chicago, and its tourist-snarled summer streets, here are 8 reasons why you should make the drive to Galena, Illinois.

VisitGalena.org
VisitGalena.org
VisitGalena.org

The town is like a time warp

A stark contrast to Chicago’s shiny towers and even shinier Bean, Galena is the town that time forgot-and we mean that with love. It’s nice to hole up someplace that feels of a simpler era-one filled with barn dances and ice cream parlours. The downtown area still looks the way it did in the 19th century, replete with brick walkways and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Much of this is on full display along Main Street, where more than 100 businesses-from candy counters and wine bars to restaurants and toy stores-are nestled inside original buildings from the 1800s.

Beyond shopping and snacking, history is everywhere in Galena. This is particularly prominent with its Presidential lore, as the town was home to President Ulysses S. Grant, whose former abode is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and is available for tours. President Abe Lincoln also had Galena ties, including a famous speech he made from the DeSoto House Hotel. The Victorian-style inn is the oldest operating hotel in the state, and Lincoln impersonators still host old-timey dinner theater events on the property, complete with chicken Fricassee and apple pie. For more historic eats and sips, check out Mulgrew’s Tavern & Liquor Store, one of the oldest bars in Illinois (in operation since 1921), famed for its cheap beer, foot-long chilli dogs, and slot machines. Then there’s Council Hill Station, an 1850s general store-turned-saloon, with live music, country breakfasts, and summer barn dances.

Goldmoor Inn & Dining
Goldmoor Inn & Dining
Goldmoor Inn & Dining

Farm-to-table dining doesn’t get any purer

In general, for a town with a population of a few thousand, Galena’s dining scene impresses with its array of restaurants and its mix of old and new, from adorably dusty saloons to a newfangled queer-owned bakery slinging empanadas and Argentinian cheese bread. Considering the town is surrounded by bucolic farmland and fresh water, it’s not surprising that much of its restaurants are seasonally driven and locally sourced, like cedar-planked walleye and espresso steak at Fried Green Tomatoes, or artisan cheese plates and Illinois wines at Woodlands Restaurant & Lounge. The belle of the ball when it comes to local fine dining, though, is the Goldmoor Inn, a historic manor-like hotel that applies a modern interpretation to its farm-fresh fare. For the ultimate Galena foodie vibe, dine at the chef’s table overlooking the kitchen and feast on 10-hour sous vide pork belly, lamb loin with za’atar carrots and chorizo jus, and housemade agnolotti with morel mushrooms, candied hazelnuts, charred leeks, and dashi beurre blanc. In the morning, rise and shine at Galena Bakehouse, a contemporary cafe owned by husbands Geoff and Alex Arroyo-Karnish, who moved to Galena from Manhattan in 2019 to ply the town with a mix of scratch-made American pastries (e.g. muffins, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes) and well-travelled treats (empanadas, tres leches cake, and Argentinian cheese bread called chipas).

Flickr/Michael John Maniurski
Flickr/Michael John Maniurski
Flickr/Michael John Maniurski

Outdoor recreation abounds

In Chicago, outdoor recreation is typically limited to urban beaches and drinking cocktails on rooftops. In the quieter, wide-open terrain of Galena, however, outdoor activities are a bit more bountiful. Hiking and biking opportunities can be found throughout the town’s parks, forests, and prairies, including the nearly nine-mile long Galena River Trail, Apple River Canyon State Park, and Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve, where you can traverse trails and theorize about ancient Native American effigy mounds in the Earth.

With waterways criss-crossing the region, there are plenty of aquatic options to choose from too, including fishing on Lake Galena (just be mindful that bald eagles might provide some competition, since Illinois is home to the second largest wintering population outside of Alaska). Or you can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards from Galena River Outfitters, offering guided jaunts on the tranquil Galena River. After exploring Galena by land and water, it’s time to buckle up and hit the sky-Long Hollow Canopy Tours provides adrenaline-pumping zip line tours through Tapley Woods, at speeds up to 40 mph and heights that reach 75 feet.

Hoof It - Galena
Hoof It – Galena
Hoof It – Galena

You can commune with goats

Since literally any outdoor activity is improved by the presence of goats, Galena is a veritable paradise of cute outings with hooved critters. A company called Hoof It Goat Treks does exactly what their name promises, taking guests on leisurely guided hikes through prairies and forests with baby goats in tow. For adults, the company also provides goat trek/wine tasting combos, wherein hikers can stroll the forest with a glass of wine, followed by a tasting of wine and goat cheese (naturally). Even those not able to make it to Galena can get in on the goat action-in quite the pandemic pivot, Hoof It now provides “goat calls,” so you can have a goat join your Zoom business meeting.

Goat yoga is another popular local pastime, best experienced with Galena Goat Yoga on Silver Linings Farm. Each 45-minute session, the perfect combination of stretching and snuggling, provides yoga mats in an air conditioned studio. Or if you’d prefer something more relaxed, the studio offers hour-long coffee breaks in a furnished corn crib with pastries and about a dozen goats. The company also provides private goat events, in case you’d really like to take your bachelorette party to the next level.

It’s the birthplace of Kraft Cheese

It isn’t just goat cheese in Galena. If you prefer your dairy products with an unnatural orange hue and a curiously high melting point, then you’re gonna want to drive to Galena for the cheese alone, as the town is the birthplace of Kraft. Everyone’s favourite thinly sliced cheese product was born in the tiny suburban town of Stockton, and the company’s all-American lore is on full display at the Stockton Heritage Museum. The pint-sized museum tells the story of J.L. Kraft & Bros. Co., who opened their first cheese plant in the town and began delivering milk from local dairies to the facility via horse-drawn wagon. Nowadays, museum visitors can snap selfies with one of said wagons, gain inspiration from Kraft-inspired cookbooks, and learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the invention of Velveeta.

Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort

The mighty Mississippi is teeming with activities

In terms of epic all-natural Americana, it doesn’t get much mightier than the Mississippi River. The iconic waterway traverses the western border of Illinois, along the edge of Galena and the state of Iowa, so naturally such a major body of water is going to provide some staggering scenery. Visit the riverside Chestnut Mountain Resort for a choose-your-own-adventure of Mississippi-adjacent activities, from the Soaring Eagle Zipline to mini golf courses and an Alpine slide that zooms down the banks of a forested palisade to the shores of the river. The resort also provides Mississippi River cruises, for an informative guided immersion into the river’s ecosystem and wildlife.

Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort
Chestnut Mountain Resort

There’s no shortage of family-friendly fare

As evidenced by the surplus of zip lines and baby goats, Galena is a wholesome wonderland for families and kids. For food and activities alike, most everything in this quaint town caters to visitors of all ages-except maybe the wineries and wine bars, of which there are surprisingly many. Galena is a sweet tooth paradise, teeming with old-timey ice cream parlours and candy shops, including the 50-year-old American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor and Candy Carnival for all your taffy, popcorn, and mini donut needs. In terms of shopping, Gabby’s Gifts is a quirky spot filled with kid-friendly knickknacks like puzzles, toys, and childrens’ books, while the P.T. Murphy Magic Theatre is sure to be a hoot with its silly theatrics and close-up sleight of hand. One ongoing activity that’s fun for the whole brood is Live at the Plaza, held every last Thursday of the month at Green Street Plaza through September. The free events offer something for everyone and all ages-live music, food, extended hours in nearby shops, and other performances, all with different themes like diversity and inclusion, or Hispanic heritage.

Lacoma Golf
Lacoma Golf
Lacoma Golf

It’s a goldmine for golfers

In addition to paddling, hiking, and screaming for ice cream, golf is another mainstay activity in Galena County, as the lush region boasts some of the most meticulously manicured greenways in the Midwest. There are 11 courses in the area, ranging in size and scope from leisurely nine-hole courses to championship-level courses for the seasoned golf pro and/or masochist. Standout options include the Apple Canyon Lake Golf Course, with nine holes weaving by canyons, hills, and bluffs, and Lacoma Golf Course, a veritable Disneyland of golf that’s grown from a nine-hole course in 1967 to a 45-hole complex consisting of three different courses, plus a driving range, full practice facilities, a pro shop, and a bar. If you’re looking to try something a little more novel and a little less rage-inducing, try your hand (or your foot) at FootGolf, a soccer-golf hybrid at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa. Essentially, it looks like a jumbo version of golf, with soccer balls in place of golf balls, and over-sized holes and flags to aim for.

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Matt Kirouac is a travel writer working on a memoir about the epic ups and downs from life on the road as a gay couple-and the lessons learned along the way. Follow him on IG @mattkirouacofficial.

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