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The 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2013

From the blues to the big top, we’ve picked the most intriguing small towns to enjoy arts and smarts

(Illustrated maps by John S. Dykes)

11. Galena, IL

Galena, IL
(© Kim Karpeles / Alamy)

Ulysses S. Grant lived only briefly in Galena before the onset of the Civil War, working with little distinction in a branch of the family leather goods business. So it was awfully nice of the town to give him a fine, furnished mansion when he came home from the battlefront. Grant left again to become the nation’s 18th president, though he said he’d always vote in Galena—reason enough to enshrine the general’s boots and bow ties at the town’s history museum and to make his restored home the center for Grant birthday celebrations each April. It’s an Italianate brick dwelling built in 1860, somewhat more modest than the nearby Belvedere Mansion, built by Grant’s friend and riverboat baron J. Russell Jones, and the Greek Revival Washburne House, once home to Congressman Elihu Washburne, a supporter of both Grant and President Lincoln. These days Galena is an open pop-up book of classic Midwestern Victoriana, attracting weekenders from Chicago to picturesque Main Street art galleries, restaurants and shops. In the bar at the landmark DeSoto House Hotel, it’s none too hard to imagine General Grant mulling over a shot of bourbon.


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