What to Expect When Visiting Historic Nauvoo

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Nauvoo is a restored town run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This is the largest of the Church historical sites, and there are more than a dozen buildings, some original, and a few restored or added later. You cannot see everything in Historic Nauvoo in one day. You think you can, and you can plan it that way, but you can’t. That’s okay, though. If you have a day in Nauvoo like we did, you can still see about 80% of the buildings, so pick your favorites. Because this is a Church run site, it is entirely free.

Start at the Visitor Center

Start at the Visitor Center in Historic Nauvoo. There is a short scavenger hunt, and the missionaries there can help direct and orient you. If your kids finish the scavenger hunt, they will earn an adobe brick made right in Nauvoo. There is also information on what shows are happening that day, but we chose to look at those online beforehand.

There are lots of hands-on activities. Our boys loved the scavenger hunt.
We enjoyed looking at the model of the Nauvoo Temple.

Next, you need to decide what kind of activity you’d like to do. There are two categories: Historic Home Tours and Demonstrations. The house tours include walking through restored or original homes belonging to founders of the LDS Church. Read more in the section below. The demonstrations are more about how the Saints made things. Let’s start with the homes.

Historic Homes

At each of the Historic Homes, you’ll learn about the testimonies and contribution of early Church members. A set of missionaries will take you on a tour of the home telling the story of the occupants. A few of the famous homes include:

  • Lucy Mack Smith
  • Brigham and Maryann Young
  • Wilford and Phoebe Woodruff
  • Orson and Marinda Hyde
  • Heber and Vilate Kimball
This is Brigham Young’s Nauvoo Home.
We loved seeing all of the items inside the homes.
The stories of these amazing people are the best part.
This is inside John Taylor’s home where the prophet Joseph Smith would have definitely visited.
Many of the homes have such neat artifacts like this Nauvoo temple plate that is an original from when Brigham Young was the prophet.


The demonstrations are great for kids because they show what life was like in the early 1800’s, and often there are some hands-on or interactive parts for the children. There is usually a story and testimony included in these places as well. The demonstrations include:

  • Lyon Drug Store
  • Stoddard Tin Shop
  • Browning Gun Shop
  • Brickyard
  • Riser Boot and Shoe Shop
  • Taylor Printshop
  • Webb Blacksmith Shop
  • Scovil Bakery

Along with these activities, there are still other homes and sites, which is the reason you can’t see them all.

Many of the homes are connected right onto their shops, too.
We learned how a tinsmith made a lantern.
Our boys were excited to learn from the gunsmith.
They got to ink the printing press.
The blacksmith was so kind and told amazing stories.

Pioneer Pasttimes

This was our boys’ favorite part of Historic Nauvoo. There is an area in the village with lots of pioneer games. They learned how to milk cows by using the climbing bears, they threw hoops and sticks, and they played checkers, too. There are a lot of fun things to do and we spent a long time here, and actually stopped for a second visit at the end of our day.

The buildings and locations are clearly marked with these helpful blue signs.
The Pioneer games are a ton of fun for kids and adults, too!
There was a huge variety of activities to try.
This is way harder than it looks!

Family Living Center

This building offers demonstrations about pioneer life. While Pioneer Pasttimes is the fun and games that children enjoyed, the Family Living Center shows the chores that families, especially children would have had to complete. It is still fun as the kids learn to churn butter or make candles. This was highly recommended to us, but it didn’t fit in to our schedule and since we had done many of these activities at other pioneer sites, we visited more of the unique historic homes. But we think this is a don’t miss spot for families, especially if you have two days in Nauvoo.

Wagon and Oxen Rides

We also opted out of these rides since we live in Utah and have chances to do this type of adventure here. This is a really fun activity for families. You can choose between three different types of rides, so ask at the Visitor Center which ones are running when you visit and plan it into your day.

Shows & Performances

There are many different shows that happen throughout the day in Historic Nauvoo. One is all about Hymns of Zion, and another is in along the Trail of Hope in the evening. There is always a big show on the Outdoor Stage called Sunset on the Mississippi. Missionaries have auditioned and been called for the summer to sing and dance, and their show is really amazing. I would definitely plan on attending the show.

If you are in Nauvoo in July and early August, you will be lucky enough to be there for the Nauvoo Pageant. We visited in June, so we didn’t not get to see this show, but it is a must see if you visit.

This show was a ton of fun and included audience participation.

Community of Christ buildings

There is also a section of Nauvoo that is not owned by the Church. This section holds some of the main places to see, and it was closed when we visited in Summer 2022. It includes the Smith Family Homestead, the Mansion House, the Red Brick Store, the Nauvoo House, and the Smith Family Cemetery. At the very least, walk over to the graves of Joseph and Hyrum Smith if these houses are closed. We only spent about a half hour walking and reading signs, but it was worth it. Hopefully, these historic sites will open again soon. These building do have a fee to visit. Here is the link for more information.

Even though these buildings weren’t open, we walked around and read the information signs.
We stopped at the graves of the Smith family.
This part of Nauvoo is right by the Mississippi River.

Nauvoo Temple

The Nauvoo temple sits at the top of the hill and you are able to see it while you visit historic Nauvoo, but you will want to make a stop near the temple sometime during your day. The building is beautiful and you can clearly see the sunstones and moonstones. There is also a large statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith as they ride back to Nauvoo before they were martyred. It is a great place for pictures and the views of the Mississippi River are gorgeous. We came here near sunset and it was perfect. That is our suggestion for you, too!

The Nauvoo Temple is beautiful!
We walked right up to see the stones.
The views of the Mississippi were lovely at sunset.

Historic Nauvoo Website

We used the Historic Nauvoo website to plan our trip. They do a wonderful job of keeping everyone current and up to date with show times for certain seasons. They also have an app, but we did not use it, so we cannot say if it is worth downloading our not.

Final Tips

We loved our visit to Historic Nauvoo, and we would definitely visit again. There is so much to see and do that we recommend two days. Two days should give you time to see most of the shows and buildings.

In order to make the most of our visit, we packed a picnic lunch and ate at the picnic tables in Historic Nauvoo. They have many around the village. There isn’t anywhere to eat in the historic village, so you would have to leave and then come back. Eating a quick lunch right in Nauvoo helped us maximize our time since we only had one day.

There are shady places throughout Nauvoo, which is nice.

You will be walking all over, so wear comfortable shoes. There are certain places to park, but it is often easier to just walk through the town than go and get your vehicle. Bring water, sunscreen, and a hat.

We also planned our visit and arrived as early as possible. If you are interested in visiting Carthage Jail while you visit Nauvoo, it is about 30 minutes away. We also loved our visit to this site and you can read about our visit here.

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