Historic Nauvoo is an amazing place to visit. Last spring was our family’s first time exploring this charming little pioneer city. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (you can find out more about what we believe here) and Nauvoo has a lot of significance to us, but I didn’t really know what to plan for. Would this be a trip our young kids (ages 6,8 and 11) would enjoy? Would it be worth the long drive? It it worth visiting even if you’re not a member of the LDS church? YES. YES. and YES!
You can explore more than 30 historic sites from the 1840s when early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established Nauvoo on the banks of the Mississippi River. Nearly everything is free (only the Community of Christ sites charge a preservation fee- more on that below). The closest thing I would compare this to is This is the Place Park in Salt Lake City, another pioneer themed ‘park’ except pretty much all of Nauvoo is the park! Ha ha!
How much time do you need to see everything? We would say to plan for a full 2 days to see everything in Nauvoo. Certainly you could stay longer, though! Plus keep in mind that nearly everything closes at 5pm. As mentioned above, there are over 30 sites to visit. And in the Summer there is the Nauvoo Pageant. More on the pageant here. Unfortunately, we missed out this but would love to go back during the summer sometime to see it!
What is it like visiting each site? Well, some you get to walk through, like the Browning Home and Gun Shop pictured below. You can see what homes would have looked like during the mid 1800s and hear how these pioneers lived and worked. And other sites you listen to a very brief (5 minute) history, significance & demonstration of the site (like the Bakery and Brickyard). A few even will have a little ‘souvenir’ for you to keep…or eat (for free!). Our kids stay engaged the entire time! Truly- it was amazing. I was a bit surprised how much we all loved it!
When is the best time to visit? Certainly there is a lot going on in the Summer, but there is something year round. We went the end of May. It wasn’t very busy at all (definitely ‘off peak) and had a wonderful time. It was warm and humid during the day (already in the low 80’s!) but cooler at night. It was tornado season, which made the drive home….interesting. Haha!
What were some of our family’s favorite spots to visit? Well, let us show you below!
We were so touched by the Brickyard- and we almost missed it. I’m so glad we didn’t. The brief history completely had our kids engaged and then at the end to get a real brick, made right there, was priceless! Definitely add this to your stop!
Again- it was fascinating to hear the significance about this little Bakery. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was so cool to hear about the Bakery’s connection to the Nauvoo Temple. And our kids loved the cookie at the end!
BROWNING HOME & GUN SHOP
We loved visiting the printing press and it reminded us of when we visiting the Book of Mormon printing site in New York. So much work went into printing papers and books. It was also fun to hear why we have uppercase and lowercase letters.
…and there are several others! For a complete list of the many historic sites, visit the Official Nauvoo website here. Definitely plan on visiting the Family Living Center to make candles, bread and rope too. All for free!!
OXEN & WAGON RIDES
The kids loved these free rides! They are at separate locations and you do need a ticket for each ride (since space is limited). The free tickets are available inside the LDS Visitor’s Center. The oxen ride was short (and bumpy!- a lot of sympathy to those pioneers lucky enough to cross the country in one).
The horse drawn carriage ride was quite a bit longer, filled with many pioneer stories. If you suffer from allergies, be sure to take allergy meds! 🙂
HISTORIC NAUVOO LDS TEMPLE
We loved visiting this beautiful temple and loved that we could spot it nearly anywhere in Nauvoo!
TRAIL OF HOPE
This was such a beautiful walk. We loved reading journal entries from many pioneers when they left Nauvoo- the faith to leave behind this precious city in search of more. I can’t even imagine. A few of our favorite entries are posted below.
COMMUNITY OF CHRIST HISTORIC SITES:
The Community of Christ owns a few properties in Nauvoo and charges a $4 per person preservation fee to tour the Mansion House.
RED BRICK STORE
Form more information about these sites, click here.
WHERE TO EAT IN NAUVOO:
Let me give you a peak at downtown Nauvoo-
Yep! This charming city is still quite small and not that close to other cities, either. The nearest Wal-Mart is 30 minutes away in Keokuk. So plan for food accordingly! There are several shady spots that would be perfect for a picnic if you do swing by a grocery store.
We tried a couple places out while we were there that reminded us of the Lion House-think home-style cooking- (and if you’ve never eaten at the Lion House, well- you should! It’s in Downtown Salt Lake City on Temple Square).
GRANDPA JOHN’S CAFE
We really liked Grandpa John’s for lunch and thought the prices were very reasonable. The kids liked the buffet (you can choose to order alacart as well). There was something for everyone!
This is a charming hotel that also has a dinner buffet in the evening. Again, easy to please kids with so many options because there is something for everyone!