15 Best Things to Do in Nauvoo, IL

Nauvoo, IL
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The historic city of Nauvoo is in Hancock County, Illinois, close to the Mississippi River.

The Sauk and Fox Indians first inhabited the city long before the Europeans settled in the area.

In 1824, Captain James White established the first permanent European settlement.

He named the place “Venus.”

Later on, they changed it to “Commerce.”

The historic city played an essential role when the Mormons arrived, which is why Nauvoo contains a rich Mormon history and culture.

Today, Nauvoo is all about wine-making, agriculture, and tourism.

Many visitors come to Nauvoo because of its abundance of attractions.

From its historical landmarks to its arts scene and everything in between, you will find something to enjoy in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The city offers plenty for history buffs and those interested in nature or art.

You can find restored homes and shops, art galleries, wineries.

Museums complete the city’s historical landscape.

If you’re ready to start an adventure, here are the best things you can do in Nauvoo, Illinois:

Visit the Nauvoo Illinois Temple

Aerial view of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple
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The Nauvoo Illinois Temple is one of the unique structures you can visit, with its stunning architecture and history.

Built in the 1840s, the building got destroyed twice.

In 1848, a fire burned it down, while a tornado devastated it in 1850.

Despite these tragedies, the temple still stands majestically on a three-acre site with a total floor area of 54,000 square feet.

Exterior of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple
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The Nauvoo Illinois Temple features exquisite hand-drawn murals on the walls of its rooms like its Creation Room, World Room, and Garden Room.

Meanwhile, the Terrestrial and Celestial Rooms don’t have mural paintings.

Although the temple is not open for public tours, you can still roam around the grounds and marvel at its stunning architecture.

Night view of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple
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Stop by the Nauvoo Visitors Center

To kickstart your journey in this historic city, you should begin at the Nauvoo Visitors Center.

Nauvoo Visitors Center will serve as your gateway to the city’s numerous wonders.

The visitor’s center offers many things you can try.

You can see exhibits displayed in the center, view the diorama of the Old Nauvoo, or join free guided tours.

You can also get a brochure from the center and take a tour around the city on your own.

The visitor’s center also offers live entertainment in its theater, where short films are shown at various times of the year.

In addition, the Nauvoo Visitors Center also boasts a Monument to Women garden where you can take a relaxing walk.

Relax and Unwind at Nauvoo State Park

The Nauvoo State Park is a serene place with a lot of history, a great place to explore.

The park sits on about 148 acres that includes a 13-acre lake which makes for a beautiful venue for recreational use.

There are several things to do in the park, such as hiking and biking trails, fishing and boating, and camping.

In addition to its recreational purposes, you can also learn a little history by participating in the annual grape festival.

Whether looking for a quiet place to camp or a fun day trip for the kids, the Nauvoo State Park has something for everyone.

Sip a Glass of Wine from Baxter’s Vineyards & Winery

Established in 1857, Baxter’s Vineyards & Winery is the oldest winery in Illinois.

The Baxter family has grown grapes for many years, building a reputation for their award-winning wines.

The winery specializes in grape wines from grapes grown on their 16-acre vineyard that has 13 varieties of grapes.

You can have a taste of their red, blush, and white wines that range from sweet to dry.

No matter your preference, you’ll find something that you like.

Baxter’s Vineyards & Winery has a gift shop selling wine accessories and items such as wine-making supplies, cheese and spreads, bread, and wine cups.

Roam the Rheinberger Museum

Built in the 1840s, the Mormons created the museum, which the Icarians later reconstructed.

Eventually, the Rheinberger family acquired the museum.

This museum is next to Baxter’s Vineyards & Winery.

Rheinberger Museum is one of Nauvoo’s historic homes showcasing the city’s history.

The Rheinberger Museum features exhibits that showcase the past of Nauvoo from different periods and an underground wine cellar that is open to the public.

The museum also highlights its Icarian room, quilt room, antique toys, a summer kitchen, and the Abraham Lincoln room.

There is no need for a time machine if you want to visit the past.

The Rheinberger Museum will take you back to the 18th century.

Visit the Joseph Smith Historic Site

Exterior of a house at Joseph Smith Historic Site
Jake from Utah, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo is one of several historical sites you can visit during your trip to Nauvoo.

The Nauvoo National Historic Landmark District added the Joseph Smith Historic Site because of its historical significance to the city.

Joseph Smith Jr. once lived there, together with his father, the founder of the Latter-Day Saint Movement, and his son.

Joseph homestead at Joseph Smith Historic Site
Willjay, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When you visit the historic site, you can see the memories and properties of Joseph Smith Jr. preserved inside the house.

You can also admire the original structure of the Smith homestead and mansion.

Stop by the cemetery next to the homestead where the Smith family lies.

There’s no better way to learn about the city’s history than visiting the structures that played an essential role in Nauvoo’s past.

Don’t forget to check out the Joseph Smith Historic Site.

See the Exhibits in the Flood Museum

The Flood Museum is one of the unique museums in the United States committed to preserving biblical knowledge.

The museum’s mission is to encourage people to strengthen believers’ relationship with God.

The Flood Museum showcases the “Flood Experience,” which features the experience of Noah and his ark.

There is also a Bible Art Exhibit and a Fossil Evidence Exhibit that displays fossils that serve as proof of the great flood.

The art inside the Flood Museum is priceless.

It's not just about art here; it’s about learning about history!

Join a Tour around Nauvoo Cultural & Masonic Hall

The Nauvoo Cultural & Masonic Hall is a historically significant building.

Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints cares for and runs the place.

Nauvoo Cultural & Masonic Hall is a three-level building built in the 1840s on Main Street.

The hall has served many purposes since its creation.

People have used it for meetings, funerals, theatrical productions, and many more.

You can join a free tour around the hall with missionaries of the church, available seven times a week.

Nauvoo Cultural & Masonic Hall is a must-see attraction because it is free to visit and offers many different types of tours.

Spend Some Time in Jonathan Browning Home & Gun Shop

Exterior of Browning Home & Gun Shop
Morganzindc, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Jonathan Browning Home & Gun Shop is an old-fashioned gun store worth checking out if you’re looking for someplace to spend the afternoon.

The Browning Home & Gun Shop is inside an unassuming building on the Main Street of Nauvoo.

Jonathan Browning was a well-known gunsmith, blacksmith, and farmer who moved to Nauvoo in 1840.

He has a reputation as a gunmaker and an inventor.

After all, Jonathan Browning invented the “sliding breech” repeating rifle, the Harmonica gun, and the six-shot repeater.

Browning’s gunshop is now a museum open to the public for free.

You can learn about the family’s history and Johnathan Browning’s contributions to society by visiting his restored home and gunshop.

When you’re in the historic city of Nauvoo, don’t forget to visit Browning Home & Gun Shop.

Join the Activities of the Family Living Center

The Family Living Center is a family-friendly landmark in the city that provides an educational and fun experience for all kinds of people.

Visitors to Family Living Center can see how people lived during this period by walking through a replica of an 1840s-style home.

You will also see how people cooked, ate, and dressed from 1839 to 1836 by visiting the museum’s exhibits.

Several presentations occur in the center, such as candle making, bread making, pottery, rope making, and spinning.

Visitors can also join such activities as rope-making.

Family Living Center is a must-visit destination with your family.

The center also doesn’t charge admission fees.

Learn the History of Wilford Woodruff Home

The Wilford Woodruff Home is the residence of the fourth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife.

They built the house in 1845, but the family didn’t stay for a long time because of church assignments and missions.

In 1969, the Wilford & Phebe Woodruff Home underwent renovation.

Despite the renovation, the house retains some of the Woodruffs’ original possessions.

After restoration, the historic home welcomes visitors to glimpse its past.

Missionaries in historical attire conduct free tours around the house.

When you visit this historic landmark, you will also experience how the Woodruffs lived in Nauvoo during this period.

Take a Closer Look at Riser Home & Boot Shop

The Riser Home & Boot Shop is a restored building along Main Street, where George and Christina Riser once resided.

It is one of the historic homes around the city with a unique story behind it.

You will learn more about it when you visit the house.

Likewise, the house doubled as a boot factory under George Riser in the 1840s.

You can learn how the shoemakers in the factory used many types of leather and wood to make shoes.

The Riser Home & Boot Shop is a must-visit historical landmark because it has a lot of history.

It will also provide you with an experience that will last with you for years.

Learn the Story of Scovil Bakery

The Scovil Bakery is a famous bakery and one of the many establishments dating back to the 1840s.

Lucius and Lury Snow Covil owned the bakery, providing delicious baked goods to the Nauvoo community.

Scovil Bakery’s objective was to supply customers with bread, crackers, cakes, jellies, and candies of all kinds.

They also baked wedding cakes, made to order, even on the shortest notice.

Visiting Scovil Bakery will give you a closer look at the equipment and baking tools used by the Scovil family.

For example, check out the actual Temple Plates, commemorating the original Nauvoo Temple.

The Scovil Bakery will show you what it was like to be a baker before electric and gas ovens.

Trek the Trail of Hope

The grounds of Trail of Hope
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The Trail of Hope is a fascinating reminder of the night of February 1846, when a group of Latter Day Saints waited for hours to cross the Mississippi River.

Today, you can walk in the footsteps of the people who once set foot there by following the trails around Nauvoo.

The Trail of Hope begins at the Webb Blacksmith Shop on Parley Street and ends at the Mississippi river.

Along the way, you can read the journals and letters of those who first walked the challenging trails.

You can also enjoy the scenic views of the river and the surrounding areas while walking down the path.

Celebrate Special Events in Cambre House and Farm

Located in between Nauvoo and Niota, Illinois, the Cambre House and Farm is a famous venue for celebrations such as weddings and other events.

The old yet magnificent house built in the 1800s has been a witness to many memorable events held on the property.

The Cambre House and Farm feature over 20 acres of private property that includes the famed Mormon springs.

The house built by Adolphe Cambre, a famous French Icarian cabinet maker, was also added to the National Historic Register of Historic Place.

With the rustic charm of the house and a tranquil atmosphere, this outdoor setting is excellent for a peaceful and relaxing gathering.

If you're looking to get away from the noise of the busy city life, the Cambre House and Farm’s door is open for you.

Final Thoughts

The city of Nauvoo, Illinois, is an essential place in American history, and it’s also a great place to visit.

Nauvoo is beautiful, but there’s more to it than just the city.

The surrounding areas are filled with vineyards, wineries, and other fun activities.

The city is a major tourist destination in Illinois, attracting visitors from around the world.

Experience its many attractions and rich Latter-day Saint history.

Book your trip today and try the best things to do in Nauvoo!