Are you planning a Church History trip this year? We absolutely fell in love with Nauvoo, Illinois. It's even better than when I was kid. There are so many activities, shows, festivities, buildings to tour, and history. You'll remember your trip for years to come. My kids are begging to go back. They are really hoping that if they keep asking we'll go back every summer....maybe we will! One thing to keep in mind is that there is no super easy way to get to Nauvoo. You will have to do some driving. If you are traveling with children, see these 10 tricks to keep them entertained along the way. Before you go to Nauvoo though, keep these 5 tips in mind for a better experience all around.
1. Head to the Visitors Center FIRST
You NEED to go straight to the Nauvoo Visitors Center as soon as you can. They will fill you in on all the must see spots plus give you tickets for rides and shows. Everything is free but you do need a ticket for some things and they go fast during the summer! (NOTE- You can now reserve tickets online too!) Not getting there until later in the day? You can call the Visitors Center and see what tickets you can get over the phone. There is something for every age and they will help you figure out what is best for your family. A lot of families love the Blacksmith Shop because you'll each get a free prairie diamond (discover where you can more free mementos in Nauvoo) Others want to dig into the historical documents at the Land and Records building. If you have kids, be sure to ask about the I Spy booklet (1 per family) and Pioneer Pastimes. Remember to get a map and mark where all the bathrooms are too! More events and shows area available during the summer months, however, there are still things to see (and less people) during the other months. Call the Visitors Center for more details.
2. Remember the Weather... and the Bugs
It can be sunny or rainy but either way it will be humid! Bring lots of water if you are visiting during the summer! There are fountains to fill up as you go but plan to drink a lot. If it rains, most everything will still be open for tours so bring an umbrella as you walk between buildings. There are also a lot of great indoor or covered options so don't worry, the rain won't ruin your fun. If it's sunny, remember the sunscreen and reapply during the day! Also remember the bugs. Having lived in a place where bugs really don't bother us much, we completely forgot about bug repellent. You'll need some. If you are visiting during the winter instead, remember that humid cold is very different than cold. Bundle up!
3. The Town Closes Early
If you want to do some local shopping, plan to do it early. Most stores close around 5. There aren't many restaurants either so plan accordingly. There will still be things to do but not "in town." Annie's Frozen Custard is always a favorite to help cool you off in the summer. We also enjoyed stopping at Nauvoo Fudge Factory and some other shops to get old candlestick holders and other souvenirs (although historic Nauvoo provides a lot of great free souvenirs too). If you are interested in attending the Nauvoo Temple while you are there be sure to call ahead about the schedule- it changes with the season. Also, because the town closes early, during pageant season, there are fun activities in Historic Nauvoo to keep you busy like sawing a log (see below).
4. Which Ride Should You Take?
One of the things you'll need tickets or reservations for are the rides at Nauvoo. The Wagon Tour and Carriage Rides are both about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The Oxen Rides are 15 minutes at most. You can also sign up for a Handcart Trek. If you want to get a good overall feel for the town and kind of plan the rest of your trip, I recommend the Wagon Ride first. It'll take you through most the area and give you historical highlights. It also goes down the Trail of Hope so if you don't have time to walk down it later, you've at least seen it. The Carriage Ride goes the opposite direction- more into the woods. Either ride comes with a tour guide so you will learn a lot. Since these are 1 hour rides, active kids may have a hard time sitting through the whole ride. My kids did okay although they were ready to get off when it was over. The Oxen Ride goes in a simple loop and no tickets are necessary if you are there in July (otherwise you need to call ahead and make arrangements). It's a great one to do if you have little ones and a short amount of time. It's always fun to at least go and pet the oxen. We didn't do the Handcart Trek so I can't tell you much. If you've done it, leave your tips in the comments below.
5. Pageant and Shows Do's and Don'ts
DO plan on going to at least one show if not more. Pageant season is only during the month of July so if you can, plan to go at least one time in July. This also means it's the busy season so book your hotel early. There are 2 weekly pageants- the Nauvoo Pageant and the British Pageant. You may want to stay 2 nights so you can see both. You DON'T need tickets but you CAN reserve seats after 1 pm. There are ropes and cards for you to set a group of chairs aside for your family. It makes it stress free. Each show is about 90 minutes and wonderful. DO go down before the show starts. You'll find all kinds of wonderful activities for the family, especially the kids so go plenty early. It's a lot of fun and there is a snack bar if you missed dinner. Also keep in mind that the Pageant starts at 8:30 pm so young kids may be too tired to stay up for it. Our youngest ones fell asleep during it and the older kids loved it but were very tired by the end.
DO keep in mind that there are a lot of other shows to see during your stay even if you don't go in July. If you prefer less crowds this is a great option. There are more shows during the summer months but there is always something to see. The Visitors Center can help you find out what your family will enjoy most. You will need tickets for the shows so call ahead or go to the Visitors Center first thing in the morning. There are also several concerts and smaller shows throughout the day so plan your day accordingly.
There is so much to see and do in Nauvoo, if you can, plan to stay for more than a day! I highly recommend checking out HistoricNauvoo.net before you go for more information about picnic spots, hotels, and other things to do in the area. We've stayed in a hotel and a house rental. The house was great as we could easily do all our own meals and had more room to relax. We found the rentals through Historic Nauvoo site. Remember to record your experience while the details are fresh in your mind!
While you driving to Nauvoo, I highly recommend get LDS Bookshelf PLUS. It gives you unlimited access to LDS audio and ebooks. You can download some ahead of time to listen to in the car too. Let me hook you up with a 30 days for free.