The historic sites of Nauvoo, IL and all the fun we had playing pioneers, learning about how they lived their daily life, and enjoying some time together!
Okay, so I put my kids in the car, and headed out for a 30 day road trip across the US. You can see our basic route above, and look at our itinerary on this post. As well as how we have spent days 1-6. Our first 3 days were spent in Fort Collins. The next 3 days in Nebraska. And then we drove to Nauvoo!
Nauvoo is a small city in Hancock County, Illinois, United States, on the Mississippi River. It is full of historic buildings in the original townsite. And is open (and mostly free) to the public!
While Nauvoo is significant to me for personal and religious reasons, it is a seriously cool place to visit, and somewhere I think people without my religious ties would enjoy!
The history of Nauvoo is an interesting one. It was an undeveloped swampy area, and the Latter-day Saints settled there when they were driven from their homes in upstate New York. They drained the swamp, created a city charter, started a university, and so much more. Then they abandoned the city due to massive persecution.
This is obviously an over-simplified history. Basically it was a great city, often referred to as “Nauvoo, the Beautiful” made out of swamp land. It had a huge population of nearly 20,000 in 1846, which made it almost as big as Chicago at the time. Today the population is around 1100, plus lots of visitors.
One of the buildings you will see in Nauvoo is the Latter-Day Saint Temple. It is beautiful and sits on a hill above the historic city.
If you go down the hill from the temple there is a Visitor’s Center where you can learn about the history of Nauvoo, and get free tickets to a number of performances, pageants, and activities that are educational and fun!
One of the things I loved about Nauvoo was the buildings. They are rebuilt or restored buildings. Most are made of the red brick pictured here, that is made from the clay found right there in Nauvoo. While visiting, you can go learn about how those bricks were made, and even get a small, stamped brick to take home as a souvenir (free of charge).
In fact, all over the historic city you can visit the little buildings and homes and learn about Nauvoo in it’s prime. You can visit a Blacksmith shop, a Tin shop, a post office, a gun smith, a bakery, the Family Living Center, and so much more. At each building there are demonstrations, education, and fun to be had.
My kid’s loved the Pioneer Pastimes and the Family Living Center the best.
At Pioneer Pastimes you get to dress up like pioneers, and are taught how to play the games the pioneers played to have fun back in the 1850’s. There are stilts to walk on. Wooden toys. And so much more. My little one particularly loved dressing up and playing with the babies and quilts that were in the little cabins. I had to drag her away.
While she was content to play dolls, my boys liked the more active games like “stick pull”! Basically it is a bunch of fun, so if you stop at that site, be sure to plan on a couple hours, you will need it!
At the Family Living Center there are several stations you can visit. There are seniors there who will talk to you about the various aspects of life in Nauvoo. They cover things like candle making, bread making (in a fire, or brick oven), how they spun wool, weaved rugs, made pottery, and ropes. The kids can taste the bread, make their own rope to take home, and try their hand at weaving.
I did not think my kids would like it much, but they were very curious about every station, asked tons of questions, and loved being able to make (and take) a rope! It was a highlight.
In addition to the various sites where you can learn about the history of Nauvoo in a very hands on and fun way, there are performances. There was a very cute play called Just Plain Anna Amanda, that my kids LOVED! And there is a group of youth called Nauvoo Singers (I think?) that perform. They sing cute songs, and are all smiles. They talk to the kids, ask them questions, and make them feel so important.
There is also a Brass Band that is on a horse drawn wagon, and they play awesome songs. The members of the band are from all over! My two year old was dancing in the streets. It was really fun to see.
I can’t even begin to touch on the number of activities and options available. We were there for 3 days, 2 nights, and needed 5 more to do and see it all.
One place we managed to see, and visit several times was the Red Brick Store. It is a great little store that sells hand crafted rootbeer, hard candies, bonnets, wooden toys, and other items reminiscent of the time period.
That rootbeer was amazing!
If you find yourself in Illinios, take time to visit. There are plenty of hotels and bed and breakfasts you can visit. In addition, there are camping options. We stayed at Camp Nauvoo. It has tent camping and camping cabins. RV sites. Bathroom and shower houses. And electricity.
It is pretty inexpensive too. If you want a tent spot with electricity it is $5/night/person for a cabin it is $11/night/person. I am not sure how much the RV spots are. But it is in a great location, is well kept, and a great stay. We stayed in both the cabins and the tent (one night in each), and it was awesome. We will be back.