Getting back to nature in Galena


Liz DeCarlo

I’d just read an article about how nature-deprived this generation of children is before I left for the Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena. Three hours later, when I maneuvered my minivan down a steep path to park near our weekend house in the woods, I realized we were about to make up for lost time.

My husband, Joe, and I, along with our three children, were being treated to a three-day weekend in the Galena Territory, courtesy of Eagle Ridge. The resort, known to many for its golfing, offers much more to families.

During the summer, you can rent paddleboats and canoes ($20 per hour), pontoons ($65 per hour), tennis rackets ($6 per day) and bikes ($25 per day). Warning: the hills are steep, even walking is rigorous exercise.

During the summer months, the resort staff holds daily children’s camps called Camp Eagle ($35 for half-day, $50 for whole day) and on Friday and Saturday nights, it offers parents a night out while the Eagle Ridge staff entertains the children ($35 per child). We visited in November, so the camp wasn’t running, but the staff still held free daily activities our kids enjoyed.

On Friday evening, we brought Anthony, 12, Emma, 9, and Grace, 7, to the inn’s swimming pool for "movies in tubies." While floating in colorful inner tubes, the kids watched "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" while Joe and I relaxed in lounge chairs on the deck. Throughout the weekend the staff also offered free children’s crafts, face painting, hair beading, hikes and scavenger hunts.

Wowed by the woods

I have to admit, though, that it was hard to entice my children to leave the house and surrounding woods to take part in any of the resort’s activities. Our four-bedroom, three-story house looked like something out of Better Homes and Garden magazine. The home rents for about $400 per night, but with four large bedrooms, two sleeper sofas, four televisions and four bathrooms, it could easily have accommodated two or three families vacationing together.

For families with younger children, though, it’s probably easier to stay in a room at the inn, where rates run about $200 per night for a room with two double beds. Although the inn’s pool has lockers nearby, it can be a hassle to drag young children back and forth when you want to swim or take part in any of the resort activities.

My family’s favorite parts of the weekend were the full-size pool table in the house and the outdoor private hot tub surrounded by woods. My children actually sat silently in the hot tub when they realized there were deer around that would show themselves if we were quiet. When a family of four deer stood nearby just looking at us, all three children sat in stunned silence staring back.

We headed over to the inn for dinner, which included a children’s menu that appealed to even my pickiest eater. Grace chose the make-your-own pizza option and loved putting together her own individual pizza, which the chef then cooked for her.

We also enjoyed heading over to the resort’s stables for a one-hour guided trail ride. For $32 per person, we saddled up and headed out through the woods. Emma, Grace and I loved the whole experience; however, Anthony, who hadn’t ridden before, found himself on top of a friskier horse and decided he was never riding again. Riding is only for children 8 and older and four feet or taller.

Best for youngsters

Unfortunately, we found few other resort activities targeted toward older children.

Anthony wasn’t interested in the crafts, face painting or other similar activities, although he admits that had we gone in summer or winter, rather than the fall, he would have enjoyed boating or sledding. He did love the hot tub and playing pool, as well as the poker table and cards in the house, but he said he would have enjoyed the experience more if he’d brought a friend since activities were geared more for the 10-and-younger crowd.

We did head into town to experience Galena, but after we spent 15 minutes looking for a parking space, the kids begged us to head back home to play in the woods, which we did. I have to admit, all the small shops were appealing to me, but the idea of browsing through quaint shops didn’t appeal at all to my children.

What did appeal to them was watching blue jays fly from tree to tree, spying deer behind trees, running wildly through the woods and counting stars in the dark of the night. They soaked in the nature all around them and I couldn’t help thinking the article I’d read was right—nature and children belong together.

Galena, for one short weekend, allowed my children the chance to kick leaves, find the Big Dipper and watch a sunrise through the trees. They loved it.


Editor's note: The kid grade, A, applies to the younger kids' experience. Anthony, 12, gave it a D. He found little to do and was bored.

Liz DeCarlo is a mom and writer who is temporarily filling in as associate editor of Chicago Parent.


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