While helping Marcy & Isaac move from Milwaukee back to Salt Lake, we took a few days to visit historic Nauvoo. Barry and Karla Lloyd were also with us, as well as our cute granddaughter Sophie.
On Monday, May 21, we loaded a rental truck with all of their possessions and drove to Nauvoo, Illinois. We arrived in Nauvoo after dark, at around 9:30 PM.
We mentioned our journey to some LDS missionaries, and one commented; “Nauvoo is not on the way to anywhere!” He was correct – it is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.
Arriving in the dark was quite disorienting for me. Usually I have a pretty good sense of direction, but I really got turned around when we arrived in Nauvoo. Mentally, I imagined that the main street through the town of Nauvoo (Mulholland Street) was a spur off the main highway (Hwy 96). It turns out that Hwy 96 is Mulholland Street and goes right through town – in a roundabout way.
To make matters worse, I quickly learned that cell phone coverage is very spotty in and around Nauvoo, and there is no data coverage (for AT&T anyway), so I was unable to use the map function on my iPhone. Luckily, Barry & Karla had a GPS.
After being confused much of the next day, I found this useful map in the lobby at our hotel. The yellow shaded road is Hwy 96.
If you zoom in, you should be able to read the points of interest numbers. The rectangle at the top is a close-up of down town Nauvoo.
Our first objective was to find Camp Nauvoo, where Marcy & Isaac and Barry & Karla had rented cabins. It is in the lower right corner of the map, labeled #7. This site is owned by the Community of Christ and offers very affordable cabin lodging for $9/night, or you can sleep in a tent for $3/night.
Cabin #13 is the newest. Each cabin sleeps up to 8 people on foam padded bunk beds. Don’t expect the place to be spotlessly clean. Bugs and spiders are numerous – but what do you expect for $9?
The facility has a large grassy area and a playground for the kids, group showers and restrooms, and to my surprise, it has free Wi-Fi.
Kim and I stayed downtown in Hotel Nauvoo. The rooms were small, but nice. The décor is fashioned after the pioneer era.
Other popular options include Motel Nauvoo and the Nauvoo Family Inn & Suites.
Most restaurants in Nauvoo are rather expensive. There are not a lot of choices, but here are the ones we tried:
- Weber’s Kitchen. Prices were reasonable here. The food was okay, but not great. Kim and I ate breakfast here the first day because it was the only place we could find open before 8:00 AM.
- Grandpa John’s Café. We ate our second breakfast here. They offer a buffet with your choice of eggs, French toast, pancakes, fruit, cereal, etc. Plenty of food at about $9 per person ($7 if you stay at Hotel Nauvoo).
- Summer Kitchen. This buffer restaurant is located at the Nauvoo Family Inn & Suites. We ate a dinner here at about $13 per person. The food was okay, with choices of chicken, beef, potatoes, fries, pie, etc.
If you want a fancy meal, try the buffer dinner at Hotel Nauvoo. This is claimed to offer to the best food in town. Prices start at about $15.
Groceries can be purchased at Ducks Foods.
The LDS church provides the Temple Arrival Center for people to clean up and change prior to entering the temple. It also provides a place for family members and friends to wait while others attend the temple.
For temple worthy members, the Nauvoo Temple may well be the highlight of your visit. It is well worth the time to enjoy a temple session here. The temple is small, but very beautifully decorated.
Begin your visit of historic Nauvoo with a stop at the LDS Church visitor’s center. You can pick up various brochures and talk to sister missionaries and senior couple missionaries. Take some time to become acquainted with the various activities that require tickets, and pick them up here. The wagon ride, carriage ride, and evening entertainment all require tickets – so plan ahead and reserve your spot.
I would recommend taking about an hour to enjoy the wagon ride as one of your first activities. The wagon ride tours most of the area, helping you become acquainted with the area and where all of the points of interest are located. This really helped me ‘get my bearings’.
We could not visit all of the sites in the two days we were in Nauvoo. Three days may be sufficient, but two was not quite enough. We were however, able to get a good feel for the area and enjoy many of the sites. Some of my favorites include the Webb brother’s blacksmith shop, the Riser boot shop, the print shop, the Browning home and gunsmith shop, and pioneer pasttimes. Pioneer pasttimes is a great place for youth to enjoy various pioneer activities – a chance to see what life was like prior to video games.
If you have pioneer ancestors that lived in Nauvoo, visit the Land and Records Office to obtain a plot map showing where they lived.
Be sure to walk down Parley Street and follow the path the saints followed as they exited Nauvoo in February of 1846. Plaques along the way contain diary entries from those that made the exodus. This is known as “the trail of hope”.
The sites owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are all free of charge. The properties on the southern end of the peninsula, including Joseph Smith’s homestead, are owned by the Community of Christ. They charge $3 per person for a guided tour. We ran out of time and were not able to take this tour, but we did visit Joseph Smith’s homestead and his gravesite.
Carthage is about a 30 minute drive southeast of Nauvoo. It is well worth the drive to feel the special spirit at this visitor’s center and historic jail where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred. The tour starts with a 20 minute video summarizing the life of Joseph Smith.
Since we were in Nauvoo about one week prior to the busy summer season, most of the exhibits closed about 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon. Therefore, we decided to begin our journey back to Salt Lake late on our second day. It was difficult to pull away since we had not visited all of the sites that we wanted to, but we knew we had a long drive ahead of us.
We made good time as we traveled and luckily did not have any major mishap. In fact, we arrived in SLC earlier than expected, so we were able to unload the truck on Friday evening rather than Saturday morning.
Marcy, Isaac, and Sophie are renting a home in West Jordan. This home is somewhat larger than their home in Milwaukee, but it still seems as though we filled the place up. It will take them some time to get their home in order again, and the home needs a fair amount of work. But I am certainly glad to have them back in Utah!