Farmers' Guest House blog
January 7th, 2014

Galena Bed and Breakfast: Creating Memories

Creating memories is the trademark of Galena, Illinois. It is an idyllic destination with unmatched charm and historic significance.

galena bed and breakfast creating memories galena bed and breakfast creating memories galena bed and breakfast creating memories

Within Galena you find Farmers Guest House, the premier boutique lodging option in this beautiful small town well-known as the Midwest’s best getaway destination.  Farmers Guest House is the perfect venue for your wedding, honeymoon, family gathering or company retreat. There’s no end to available options which includes reserving the entire Guest House for your exclusive use. From quiet time in front of your private fireplace and a couple’s massage in our one-of-a-kind Studio, to new country breakfasts, we will create a one of a kind experience for you.

Farmers Guest House offers a variety of luxurious rooms and suites in a relaxed environment, as well as our Annie’s Galena Cottage; the only private cottage within walking distance of downtown Galena.

January 6th, 2014

Resolve to eat better in 2014

Some of the most exciting adventures you want to enjoy while traveling are new culinary experiences. As you look forward to 2014 and planning your getaway to a Galena bed and breakfast, keep that in mind. Want to really be able to keep your New Year’s Resolution for 2014? It’s simple, just resolve to eat better in 2014.

At Farmers Guest House, guests receive a full new country breakfast each morning and also get to enjoy our renowned WineTime™ each evening.

Enjoy such specialties as… well, we’ve decided to let our images tell the story. Looking forward to welcoming you to Farmers Guest House soon…

resolve to eat better in 2014 resolve to eat better in 2014 resolve to eat better in 2014

resolve to eat better in 2014 resolve to eat better in 2014 resolve to eat better in 2014

December 23rd, 2013

The Urbanologist: Q & A with Susan Steffan

best bed and breakfast GalenaIn this exclusive interview about her journey to operate the best bed and breakfast in Galena, owner-operator-innkeeper, Susan Steffan took a look at the thrilling experience of the bed and breakfast world and how she has introduced a new country elegance to Farmers Guest House, while also maintaining their historic property in Galena; the second most friendly city in America.

This post originally appeared in The Urbanologist, by Max Grinnell on December 22, 2013.

In my line of work (urbanologist, traveler, college lecturer, etc) I spend a great deal of time on the road. It’s nice when I get to bunk down in a place as charming as Galena, Illinois with hosts as cordial and friendly as Susan and Don Steffan at their lovely B&B, the Farmers Guest House.

After a visit this summer, I reached out to Susan to ask her a few questions about what this lovely corner of Illinois, the B&B business, and some of the challenges they have encountered in the world of hospitality.

What led you to start a B&B in Galena?

boutique hotel galena ilWe first stayed at a bed and breakfast on our honeymoon to Mackinaw Island in 2004.  After that we would stay at a B&B whenever we travelled and began toying with the idea of having one of our own.  In 2007 we went to an Aspiring Innkeeper Seminar, much like the one we host now, and determined that B&B ownership would be our next career. We studied the industry for a few years and made a “bucket list” of what would be our perfect inn.  The search for the ideal B&B took three years but in 2012 we left our mainstream jobs and took the plunge.

What’s been the greatest challenge for you and Don as you’ve started this new endeavor?

Don and I were both in careers that involved less teamwork and more solitary effort.  Working with another person and having to compromise frequently involved quite the learning curve.  We also live and work 24 hours a day with each other.  During the first few months we wondered if our marriage was going to make it; but now our relationship is better than ever.  We know and appreciate each other more than ever before and have also learned that we are much better as innkeepers when we take “me” time and “us” time.  Don goes bowling, I quilt and go antique hunting, and we both disappear with friends now and then to sit at a vineyard and watch the grapes grow.  Most folks who ask what our greatest challenge was also ask what our greatest surprise was.  What has surprised us is that we are having a great time and we don’t have problems with unruly or difficult guests.  We would hear horror stories and get worried about how we would handle troublesome people but we just haven’t encountered those people.  We love our guests and enjoy our new life as innkeepers!

What are your top 3 destinations in Galena, your “must-sees”, if you will?

This is hard to answer because there is so much to do and see in Galena and the surrounding areas.  We have guests that return year after year and continue to find something new and entertaining to enjoy.  But, when first time guests ask this of us, we always recommend strolling historic Main Street with all its shops, art galleries and tasting rooms; touring Grant’s Home, which is over 90% filled with furnishings from when President Grant lived there; and the Historic Galena Museum.  However, we also highly recommend the many year-round outdoor sporting activities, not to mention our fine restaurants, brewery and distillery.  And these are just the activities within walking distance!

For more information on Galena and Jo Daviess County, take a look at their excellent website. Here visitors can find information about cultural attractions, historic sites of note, and much more.

December 17th, 2013

Apple Crostada

This morning we had a new treat for our guests – Apple Crostada.  When Susan first created this and tried it out on her willing taste tester, Don, he said it was like eating your very own apple pie!  Home made apple pie filling wrapped in a warm biscuit, sprinkled with coarse sugar – the perfect starter on a chilly winter morning!

December 9th, 2013

Can’t Book at Eagle Ridge?

Eagle Ridge Gift CardsSo, we have been hearing from people that they have been unable to access the Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa website today. We’re sorry to hear that, but our site is up and you can make your reservations at Farmers Guest House.

You can also purchase Farmers House gift cards for all of your special friends who want to visit Galena.

We’re happy to help you out and arrange a great getaway experience for you and everyone you know. We look forward to seeing you at Farmers Guest House in Galena soon.

December 9th, 2013

Farmers Guest House Listens

boutique hotel galena ilThe experts say five-star reviews are much harder to come across these days. Recent research shows double digit percentage declines in five-star reviews from a year ago. How can that be?

Farmers Guest House, however, is still managing to impress. Here are some examples of what we are up to and why we remain the premier lodging choice in Galena, Illinois.

Let’s start with engagement. The bed and breakfast guest is evolving. They are younger, more active and more connected than ever before. Farmers Guest House offers personal concierge services for our guests. Need to know snowboard conditions? No problem. Need a map for the Galena Bike Trail? We’ve got you covered. What to know where to snowshoe among the grape vines? We might even come with you.  See, Don and Susan aren’t your usual retired, staid bed and breakfast owners. Operating Farmers Guest House is their calling. They are passionate about creating the perfect getaway experience for their guests, no matter what they are looking for in their visit.

hotels galena ilFarmers Guest House listens to guests when guests are at our inn too. While we can’t just add a golf course or ski hill, we can make your spa treatment experience more relaxing and rejuvenating.  Farmers Guest House has the best breakfast in Galena, has the best connections to get you that dinner reservation you want, and we listened to what our guests wanted most when enjoying a massage during their getaway. Farmers Guest House is now building out a full service spa room where you can delight in a couple’s massage before retreating back to your suite or room. Premiering in January, Farmers Guest House will be the only Galena bed and breakfast with a private spa room.

Yes, Farmers Guest House listens. Make your reservations today by clicking here.

November 19th, 2013

Weekend Getaway: Picturesque Galena, Ill., draws visitors in late fall…and all year long

Thank you to Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Brian E. Clark for the excellent coverage of Farmers Guest House in his article.

things to do in GalenaHistory, architecture, food, romance and scenery are just a few of the reasons Tedd Zebrowski and his wife, Bridget, return to Galena, Ill.

“We especially like visiting in the autumn around our anniversary each year,” said Zebrowski, a businessman from Hales Corners. “It’s a special place and we feel like we are stepping back in time 150 years or more when we go there. The overall setting is really picturesque, too.

“We like to stay in B&Bs that have some historic significance, which is the majority of them,” he said. “This October, we used the Farmers Guest House and last year, we chose the Victorian Mansion. Both of them are more than 150 years old.”

Set amid rolling hills near the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois, Galena was a lead-mining center in the early 1800s and once had more than 14,000 residents. Today, its population is around 3,500. But the heart of the town remains intact and is filled with red brick buildings, most of which have been turned into shops or restaurants. Hundreds of buildings in Galena are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The town sits on both sides of the Galena River, a tributary of the Mississippi. It was once a busy stop for steamboats, and many captains of shipping and business built mansions along the riverbank. For a time, Galena had more commerce than Chicago and St. Louis.

best breakfast in galenaGalena’s most famous former resident is President Ulysses S. Grant, one of eight Union generals who lived in the town in the mid-1800s. Grant’s home, 500 Bouthillier St., was given to him when he returned to the city in 1865 as a Civil War hero. He lived there with his family during the 1868 presidential campaign, but used it mostly for his official political and voting address. These days, the brick Italianate structure is the site of the U.S. Grant Home and is open for tours from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday through February.

Because of the town’s size — it’s only two miles long — Zebrowski said he and his wife were able to park the car and walk to all the museums, historic homes, shops and restaurants they wanted. Though Galena is hilly, he said the longest walk to points of interest is about 15 minutes.

A Civil War buff, he said he was especially interested in Grant’s home.

“There isn’t a lot of Civil War history in northwest Illinois,” he said. “But Grant left a big footprint in Galena, so that’s another draw for me to the town.”

Though Galena has enough to interest him for another weekend visit, he said he and his wife may use Galena as a base next year to explore the countryside to the south along the Mississippi River.

“We really like the town, the B&Bs, the restaurants and the hospitality there,” he said. “Fall is a good time to visit because school’s back in session, so there aren’t quite as many people in town.

“Regardless, it’s been a great long weekend escape for us….And while I’m not much of a shopper, I thought Galena had a bunch of really cool little stores and specialty shops, too.”

Things to do

bed and breakfasts galena ilTake a tour of Grant’s home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. All of the rooms are decorated and furnished to represent a mid-1860s appearance. Many of the furnishings belonged to the Grant family. The area around the residence includes several small mid-19th-century homes composing the Grant Home Historic Neighborhood. Also in the park is the Long House, a log building representing a typical mid-19th-century settler’s home in Jo Daviess County.

The home tour focuses on Grant as a victorious war leader, the 1868 candidate for president and the 18th president. The adjacent building contains exhibits on Grant’s life and history of the Grant Home. Special tours are offered from Thanksgiving to Christmas, when the home is decorated for the holidays.

The town’s blacksmith shop, 245 Commerce St., dates to 1897 and has original working forges, tools, other equipment, a gift shop with forge items and a historian.

The U.S. Grant Museum, 211 S. Bench St., is in a 19th-century Italianate mansion and houses Civil War memorabilia, items from the region’s agricultural and mining history and a huge painting by Thomas Nast called “Peace in the Union.” It also has a flag from the Vicksburg siege and another painting dubbed “General Grant on the Battlefield.”

Nearby in Grant Park, 600 Park Ave., is a Blakely cannon that fired on Fort Sumter in 1861, which started the Civil War. Other historic sites are the Old Market House on N. Commerce St.; the Washburne House on 3rd St.; and the DeSoto House Hotel on Main St. The DeSoto is Illinois’ oldest operating hotel and welcomes guests for self-guided tours.

Hop on one of the trolleys operating out of the Galena Trolley Depot, 314 S. Main St., for a guided, one-hour tour through the town’s historic district. Or take a 21/2-hour tour that includes admission to some of Galena’s main historic attractions. The trolley company also offers ghost tours and magic shows by P.T. Murphy at the Depot Theater.

Where to eat

restaurants in Galena ILTry Fried Green Tomatoes on N. Main St., for seafood, steaks and pasta; Fritz and Frites, a French-German bistro on N. Main St.; and for local beer and pub food, the Galena Brewing Co. on Main St..

Where to stay

weekend getaway from ChicagoFarmers Guest House has eight guest rooms and the two-story Annie’s Galena Cottage; the only cottage in Galena within walking distance to Main Street.

If you go

For more information on where to stay, eat and shop in Galena, call 815.777.3456 and ASK SUSAN.

Getting there

Galena is about 150 miles west of Chicago via I-90 and Highway 20. Galena is 170 miles west of Milwaukee via I-94, Highway 151 and Highway 80.

Brian E. Clark is a Madison writer and photographer.

October 28th, 2013

Gourmet Breakfasts and so much more…

Staying at a bed and breakfast is a unique getaway experience. At Farmers Guest House we aim to provide guests with a country elegant experience where they are free to join in conversation with other guests, or make their experience private and personal.

If you are considering a bed and breakfast getaway to Galena, we invite you to review TripAdvisor review from our guests including one of our latest:

“Gourmet Breakfasts and a Great Wine Happy Hour Define Your Trip”

5 of 5 starsReviewed October 24, 2013 NEW

best breakfast in galena ilWe took off for Galena for a quick short getaway (October, 2013) hoping to get in some good hiking in fall colors. Horseshoe Bluffs was a great hike in the Mines of Spain just south of Dubuque, Iowa with a great view of the Mississippi and the Julien Dubuque Monument across the river. But the trip was made by our stay at Farmers’ Guest House. It was unexpected that the lodging would be the highlight. We had three gourmet breakfasts; no silly buffet or choice of omelet but a fancy delicious fruit dish with some great piece of pastry followed by a delicious warm entree with fresh sausage presented as competition for Master Chef. Susan’s breakfasts can’t be beat. The ten person table, plus overflow tables for the “late comers”, made for great conversation about yesterday’s happenings and today’s plans. Then came happy hour, when Susan and Don served wine and cheese and we guests gathered around the table for more discussion of the day’s experience and tomorrow’s plans as Don made dinner reservations for those too lazy to do it earlier. The mingling of the owners and the guests created a fun conversation environment to discover all of the coincidences in social gatherings and always had someone with “that” sense of humor to generate the laughs.

For those needing precision: Breakfast is served from 8:30 AM to 9:30 and Wine Happy Hour is from 5 PM to 6. Plan your schedule around those times. The House is a short walk to town, maybe 8 minutes to the beginning of Mains St and another 10 to the end of Restaurant Row. The walk requires an elevation change up 40 feet on a ramp and back down 40 feet via steps. This is an easy walk unless you have walking problems. It is a 5 minute drive with parking in town being the challenge depending on day of week and time of year.

Room Tip: There are a couple suites, if you want to spend the money. We were in a back roo
October 23rd, 2013

Catch the Holiday Spirit in Galena at Farmers Guest House

holiday events Galena ILChestnuts roasting over an open fire. Carolers singing a holiday tune. The romantic glow of a town illuminated with the gentle flicker of luminaria. And everyone is enjoying simple pleasures. Hot chocolate. Candy canes. Festively wrapped gifts.

Step back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays in Galena. Festivities begin just as soon as the ghosts and ghouls from the hallmarked Halloween Parade go back into hiding for another year. The temperature cools, often crystal-like snowflakes start to fall, and the charming shops transform into a magical wonderland.

Be sure to join the fun as Santa Claus comes to town—after Thanksgiving—on Saturday, November 30. During the celebrated tradition, Santa makes his way down Galena’s historic Main Street to the Old Market House (123 N. Commerce Street), where he meets and greets children of all ages. Youngsters can sign their names in Santa’s timeless book (and perhaps even find their parents’ names written within) and sit on his lap to whisper holiday wishes. Those who visit Santa leave with a bag filled with treats to tide them over until the big day arrives. Santa will be at the Old Market House, looking forward to seeing all of the good boys and girls, every weekend following Thanksgiving through December 21.

things to do in GalenaAnother Galena tradition comes the weekend of December 13-14, when the town becomes aglow with thousands of luminaria candles placed in bags flickering and lining the town’s sidewalks, steps, parks and  levee. “Living Windows”—storefronts that come to life with costumed locals—enchant shoppers and those out for late afternoon stroll before dinner. Musicians and choral groups perform to set the holiday mood for passersby.

For those of you who want a “little more” holiday fun, join the ugly sweater contest and luminaria pub crawl to “warm up” this holiday season and enjoy time with friends, also December 13.

And there’s so much more. From quilt shows to a festival of trees to holiday tours of historic bed and breakfasts and progressive dinners, you’ll find holiday spirit here. Galena, Illinois. The quiet escape into a time and a place where you find the peace, romance and love shared in the season abounds and you can relax and create memories that will last a lifetime—one of the greatest gifts of all.


November 2013

2                            Swing & Sweets at the DeSoto House Hotel

2                            Holiday Farmers’ Market at the Galena Territory Owners’ Club

8-9                        Galena Antique Show & Sale at the Galena Convention Center

8-10                      Galena / Jo Daviess Quilt & Fiber Arts Show at Turner Hall

16                          “Deck the Halls” Festival of Trees at DeSoto House Hotel

22-23                    Nouveau Wine Weekend

29                          Santa at the Old Market House

30                          Arrival of Santa Parade & Lighting of Tree

30                          Women of Courage & Commitment Christmas Program at DeSoto House Hotel

December 2013

6, 13, 20 & 27     A Goldmoor Christmas Carol Dinner at Goldmoor Inn

7                            A Taste of Christmas Progressive Dinner sponsored by BBIG

7                            Christmas at Apple River Fort State Historic Site

7, 14 & 21            Santa at the Old Market House

13                          Luminaria Pub Crawl & Ugly Sweater Contest

14                          Living Windows & Luminaria

14                          Mistletoe Stroll: Holiday House Tour sponsored by BBIG

For more information on lodging, dining, or additional activities, visit

October 13th, 2013

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

It’s that time of year!

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins





Preheat conventional oven to 400˚ or convection oven to 375˚.

Cream together in a bowl:

3 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 ¾ cup sugar

½ cup canola oil

½ cup orange or apple juice


Add the following ingredients to the top of the mixture and blend just until moistened after all ingredients have been added to the bowl.

3 cups flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon*

½ tsp nutmeg*

¼  tsp cloves*


Stir in

1 ½ cups raisins

1 cup pecan pieces


Fill greased muffin cups ½ full. Dust top with coarse sugar.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.  Serve warm.

* 1 ¾  tsp of pumpkin pie spice can be substituted for these seasonings.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

2 parts cinnamon

1 part nutmeg

½ part cloves

Mix together and store in an airtight container.