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What to Expect When You Visit Historic Nauvoo and Carthage Jail

At Historic Nauvoo and Carthage Jail, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers a wide variety of experiences—from guided tours to entertainment to quiet contemplation. As you enjoy these experiences, you can gain a deeper understanding of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you can learn about the culmination of Joseph Smith’s mission on the earth. In Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph received revelations about the organization of the Relief Society, temple ordinances for the living and the dead, and continuing prophetic leadership in the Church. You can find inspiration in the stories of faithful Latter-day Saints who ministered to each other and worked together to build a temple and share the restored gospel throughout the world. You can also visit the place where Joseph and his brother Hyrum were killed, sealing their testimonies with their blood.

Historic Nauvoo and Carthage Jail are located within 30 minutes of each other in western Illinois. They are open year-round.

You can prepare for your visit by wearing good walking shoes, bringing plenty of water to drink, and applying sunscreen and insect repellent, depending on the time of year.

Core Experience

1. Historic Nauvoo

Of all the Church’s historic sites, Nauvoo has the most places to visit. You cannot experience all of Nauvoo in one day. But whether you plan to spend a few hours or a few days, you can fill your time with meaningful and enjoyable things to do: historical tours, spiritual enrichment, hands-on activities, and entertainment. The following descriptions may help you decide how to prioritize your visit.

If you decide to walk everywhere you go in Historic Nauvoo, you might cover as many as 5 to 6 miles (8 to 10 kilometers) in a day. If you choose to drive, you will find plenty of places to park. You can also take a tour of the site in a horse-drawn carriage or an ox-drawn wagon.

For the location and schedule of Historic Nauvoo, click or tap here.

Visitors’ Center

The visitors’ center is a good place to begin your visit. Exhibits and a film provide a brief overview of the history of Nauvoo. In addition, missionaries can give you a preview of the site and a schedule of events. This can help you decide which places you want to visit and which activities you want to participate in. 

The visitors’ center provides public restrooms and drinking fountains. It is fully accessible to visitors in wheelchairs.

Nearby you can visit the Monument to Women, a series of statues celebrating the many roles women play in strengthening their families and others around them.

Historic Buildings

In Nauvoo, you can visit restorations and reconstructions of historic buildings. Missionaries guide tours of homes once occupied by Latter-day Saints who helped build Nauvoo and the kingdom of God on the earth. For example, you can visit the homes of Brigham Young, Lucy Mack Smith, John Taylor, Sarah Granger Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and John Browning. You can also visit shops where people worked and buildings where Church members gathered for meetings and social events.

The first floors of all the historic buildings are accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. A few of the buildings include upper floors without elevators. 

Drinking fountains and restrooms are conveniently located near some of the historic buildings.

In addition to visiting the historic buildings owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can visit significant places owned by Community of Christ. Admission is free in the replica of Joseph and Emma Smith’s Red Brick Store, where the Relief Society was organized. For a small admission price, you can tour Community of Christ’s other historic buildings: two homes where Joseph and Emma Smith lived and the Nauvoo House, a place where travelers could stay when they visited the Saints in Nauvoo. For more information, click or tap here.

Demonstrations of Trades

In some of the Church’s historic buildings, missionaries teach about the work people did to build Nauvoo in in the 1840s. For example, you can learn about blacksmiths, tinsmiths, shoemakers, gunsmiths, and printers. 

Interactive Activities

At Pioneer Pastimes, you can participate in hands-on experiences. Children of all ages may enjoy making rope, seeing how candles were once made, and learning about skills such as weaving and cooking.
You can walk the Trail of Hope, a self-guided tour along Parley Street, which ends at the Mississippi River. Historical markers along the road feature testimonies of Latter-day Saints who fled Nauvoo beginning in February 1846 to escape persecution.

Summer Performances

From June to August, musicians, actors, and dancers provide entertainment and inspiration at Nauvoo. From mid-July to the beginning of August, you can attend two pageants, A Tribute to Joseph and Truth Will Prevail. Missionaries in the visitors’ center can give you a schedule of each day’s performances.

2. Carthage Jail

For more than 150 years, Latter-day Saints have visited Carthage Jail. It is a sacred, reverent, solemn place—the place where the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read that Joseph “lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).

The restored Carthage Jail is about a 30-minute drive from Historic Nauvoo. Your visit at the jail will begin at the welcome center, where you can watch a short video. Missionaries will guide your tour of the jail.

Plan to spend about an hour at this site.

The site includes drinking fountains and public restrooms. The second floor of the jail—which is where Joseph stayed with Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards—is not wheelchair accessible.

For the location and schedule of Carthage Jail, click or tap here.

Other Options near Historic Nauvoo

1. Nauvoo Illinois Temple

When the early Latter-day Saints built Nauvoo, the temple was the focal point of their landscape, their teachings, and their devotion. In the temple, their faith in Jesus Christ would increase, and they would make sacred covenants and receive great blessings. Today, a reconstruction of the temple overlooks Historic Nauvoo. The temple grounds are open to the public year-round. A current temple recommend is required to enter the temple. For more information about visiting the temple, click or tap here.

2. Smith Family Cemetery

On the south end of Historic Nauvoo, you can visit the graves of Joseph and Emma Smith, Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith Sr., Lucy Mack Smith, and other members of the Smith family. The small cemetery is located on Water Street, next to the Red Brick Store. Community of Christ carefully maintains the property—a quiet place to ponder the contributions of Joseph Smith and his family.

3. Nauvoo FamilySearch Center

At the Nauvoo FamilySearch Center, family history consultants can help you find information about your ancestors—perhaps some who once lived in Nauvoo. If you are a Latter-day Saint and you are planning to attend the temple, the consultants may be able to help you find deceased ancestors who need temple work done for them. 

The center is located across the street from the temple, to the northeast. For hours of operation, call 1-217-453-6347.

4. Historic Nauvoo Cemetery

Just a few miles from the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center, you can visit a place where some early Latter-day Saints are buried. For a map to the site, click or tap here.