Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
New Glarus Bakery
534 First St., New Glarus, Wis., (608) 527-2916, newglarusbakery.com
Since 1910, New Glarus Bakery has strengthened the Swiss heritage in the surrounding community, offering Swiss and American pastries made completely from scratch. The shop is a great place to stop, whether you’re looking for an authentic Swiss breakfast or simply searching for a delicious afternoon treat.
The small town of New Glarus is often likened to Glarus, Switzerland, and even boasts the nickname of America’s “Little Switzerland.” Many people from Switzerland have come to live in New Glarus since 1845, bringing with them their customs, cuisine traditions, music and language.
The bakery, now owned by Angela Neff, provides a wide range of pastries, from butter cookies and cherry puffs to scones and stollen, a German fruit bread. The shop also sells other kinds of breads, including apple bread, herbed beer bread and raisin pumpernickel loaves.
Customers can order cakes for special occasions, such as weddings, baby showers, birthdays and anniversaries. Many fillings are available, with options like apricot, chocolate fudge, strawberry buttercream and cream cheese.
Hours: Sun.-Sat. 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Bald Eagle Watching Tours
(815) 594-2306, eaglenature.com
The bald eagle has been the national bird of America for more than 200 years. The majestic animal flocks to our region during winter, and many organizations provide eagle watching tours to show the beautiful bird in its natural habitat.
Bald eagles can live for up to 35 years, but the average lifespan is about 15 years. Usually found around bodies of water, eagles eat fish and mammals, and are not above stealing food from other critters.
The Eagle Nature Foundation offers bus tours called “Bald Eagles along the Mississippi River” on Feb. 14 and Feb. 28. Usually lasting about four hours, the bus trip departs from Stoney Creek Inn in Galena at 8 a.m., and visits five bald eagle communities nesting in the area. Visitors typically see between 30 and 450 bald eagles during these winter tours, while listening to the guide provide background information about the national symbol.
Other tours include the Bald Eagle Safari in Rock Island, which runs through March 1; and the Bald Eagle Trolley Tour at Starved Rock Lodge in Utica, Ill., which runs through February.
Elihu Benjamin Washburne House
908 Third St., Galena, (815) 777-3310
Situated in the Galena Historic District, this home was built in 1844 for Elihu Benjamin Washburne, who moved to Galena in 1840, soon after attending Harvard Law School.
A friend of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, Washburne held many political jobs throughout his life: attorney, congressman and political advisor to Lincoln and Grant. He helped campaign in 1860 for Lincoln to obtain the presidency. The position that Washburne is most known for, though, is the 25th U.S. Secretary of State. He worked for President Grant for a brief amount of time before Grant reassigned him to the position of ambassador of France.
Once Washburne returned from his post in France, he lived in this grand home with his wife, Adele Gratiot, and seven children until 1882. Now, the house is open for tours, thanks to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Visitors can catch a glimpse of what life in the 19th century was like. Since 1973, the Greek Revival-style house has occupied a spot on the National Register of Historic Places; it is considered an Illinois State Historic Site.
The house is open to visitors every day from 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.