When church membership was lower and temples were few and far between, many would try to make it to every temple in North America in just a few years. Vacations and family reunions were often planned near a distant temple.
Thanks to President Hinckley building 50 temples on the American continent in the last 8 years, that would now take a lifetime. Still, taking temple trips is a wonderful way for families to explore a new city, have a fun time together and bond on both a spiritual and social level.
Go the extra few miles to make a special occasion of your visit. From Nova Scotia to San Diego, here are six trips you may want to consider.
HALIFAX NOVA SCOTIA TEMPLE
44 Cumberland Drive; Dartmouth, Nova Scotia; Phone: 902-434-6920
Like most of the smaller temples built in the last decade, sessions are available by appointment only-usually on evenings or weekends. Call a few days ahead to plan your session or to do baptisms. It's recommended you bring family file names for baptisms. Clothing rental and cafeteria services are not available.
The temple is just 10 km from downtown Halifax, which offers a rich assortment of family activities, such as the Museum of Natural History. Here you can discover the natural wonders of Nova Scotia's land and sea. See whales, fossils, dinosaurs, birds and even moose. The museum has special programs for the whole family.
Sitting at the water's edge, Halifax has boats of every kind waiting to take any willing sailor on an adventure exploring the natural beauties of the Halifax coastline. Those who get green around the gills when in a boat can experience the life of a sailor at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic-or they can visit the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Canada's largest oceanographic research center.
Fun Fact: Chicken farmers of Nova Scotia produce more than 43 million kilograms of chicken each year. That's more than 20 million chickens!
ORLANDO FLORIDA TEMPLE
9000 Windy Ridge Road; Windermere, Florida; Phone: 407-876-0022
Generally open Tuesday through Saturday, this temple offers both clothing rental and cafeteria services.
While there were numerous attempts at missionary work in Florida before 1850, the long-term presence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Florida didn't begin until 1895. The first stake in Florida-and in the southern United States-was organized in Jacksonville in 1947. The Church has continued to grow, with 110,000 members currently living in the state. The Orlando Temple is the second largest temple in the eastern United States, after the Washington D.C. Temple. It is one of two temples dedicated by President Howard W. Hunter.
Florida offers the largest variety of family activities for children and adults. Become lost for days in Walt Disney World, which includes MGM Studios, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center and Animal Kingdom, as well as various water parks. Universal Studios offers movie buffs an inside look at movie making, while the Islands of Adventure theme park would thrill any roller coaster fan. Sea World, Busch Gardens in Tampa, and the Kennedy Space Center are also nearby.
If theme parks give you a headache, there are many beaches and small coastal towns to discover. Cocoa Beach is just a 45-minute drive east, and the perfect place to watch a sunrise. Or head west and enjoy the calm Gulf of Mexico at Clearwater. Evening cruises allow you to enjoy pirate adventures or see dolphins. Head north to visit America's oldest permanently settled European city, St. Augustine, founded in 1565. It's known for its beauty and enchanting architecture.
Fun Fact: Gatorade was named for the University of Florida Gators, where the drink was first developed.
WINTER QUARTERS NEBRASKA TEMPLE
8283 North 34 St; Omaha, Nebraska; Phone: 402-453-3406
This is also a smaller temple that requires an appointment to attend a session. Clothing rental and cafeteria services are not available. Special features of this temple are its 18 scenic stained-glass windows and original artwork, including oil paintings of old Winter Quarters.
The windows depict scenes of early pioneers and overlook the resting place of hundreds of Latter-day Saint pioneers.
The Mormon Pioneer Cemetery is a reverenced landmark that reminds us of the pioneers' struggles and heartaches. The majority of the Latter-day Saints who perished early in the migration died of hunger and exposure while at Winter Quarters in Nebraska territory and nearby settlements in Iowa. Visiting this temple is an opportunity to teach your children of sacrifice and the blessings of enduring to the end while honoring our ancestors.
Just a few miles south, the city of Omaha bustles with family fun. The Old Market area downtown has numerous restaurants, shops and fun street performers. It's a perfect spot for date night.
Visit President Gerald Ford's birthplace, an outdoor park featuring displays of White House articles, the Betty Ford Rose Garden and a replica of the home where President Ford was born. For a ride on the wild side, visit Omaha's Zoo. The more adventurous can experience the Wildlife Safari.
Be sure to take the kids to the Omaha Children's Museum, which is hosting a new exhibit called Theme Park. It's packed with dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, characters from Dr. Seuss and superheroes straight from Marvel Comics.
Fun fact: If you call for a hotel reservation from anywhere in the United States, you're probably calling Omaha. The city is home to the Hyatt, Marriott, Radisson, Omni and Westin reservation centers.
SEATTLE WASHINGTON TEMPLE
2808 148th Ave SE; Bellevue, Washington; Phone: 425-643-5144
All services are available. The first temple built in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Church members first came to this area in 1854 to work on the railroads. Today there are nearly a quarter of a million members in Washington. Because it's close to a small local airport, the temple spire includes a strobe light at the base of the angel Moroni statue as a warning to low-flying aircraft.
No visit to the Emerald City would be complete without a stop at the famous Space Needle. The tower soars 605 feet (184 meters) and boasts fabulous views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges and, of course, the beautiful city of Seattle. Check out the revolving Sky City Restaurant. If that doesn't satisfy your appetite, the Seattle Museum of Flight is the largest aviation museum on the west coast.
Unique to Seattle is the Bainbridge Island ferry ride. The best views of the city are from the stern of the boat as you watch the downtown skyline shrink. Pick a clear day when the mountains are visible. After the half-hour crossing, walk up the hill to visit Winslow's cute shops and cafes. Finally, check out the "Watch for Flying Fish" signs in the Pike Place Market, an historic, open air market located near the heart of Seattle. People come from all over the world to see employees throwing fish and having fun with customers.
Fun Fact: Surprisingly, Miami, Boston, Atlanta and New York all receive more annual rainfall than Seattle. Western Washington has many overcast days with drizzling rain, but the total amount of precipitation isn't that great.
BATON ROUGE LOUISIANA TEMPLE
10339 Highland Rd; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Phone: 225-769-1197
This smaller temple requires an appointment for all sessions, most of which are in the evening or on weekends. There's no clothing rental or cafeteria.
The first mention of the Church in Louisiana is found in an 1841 letter to Joseph Smith. Church members Elam Ludington and E.G. Terrill had gone to New Orleans for the winter. They noted the beginnings of a congregation and asked for help in preaching the gospel. They wrote, "Send help to this city before the people perish, for it is a time of great excitement here."
Baton Rouge is a city rich in jazz, spicy food and southern hospitality. It's also home to an 1849 Gothic Revival castle. Mark Twain dubbed it the "ugliest building on the Mississippi river."
The Louisiana Arts and Science Center offers many opportunities. The museum features changing fine art exhibits, a permanent Egyptian tomb exhibit with mummies, and the Pennington Planetarium-a world-class facility featuring star shows and large-format films. If Battleship is a family night favorite, then visit the U.S.S. Kidd and Nautical Center. The Kidd is a 369-foot World War II Fletcher Class destroyer-restored to its V-J Day configuration. Overnight camping on the Kidd is available. Exhibits include the largest collection of model ships in the south, and a walk-through exhibit of the gun deck of Old Ironsides.
Fun Fact: The Old Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge, built by Huey P. Long, was an exact replica of the original White House. Long wanted to be familiar with the building to make it easy for him when he became president.
SAN DIEGO CALIFORNIA TEMPLE
7474 Charmant Drive; San Diego, California; Phone: 858-622-0991
Few temples make a more dramatic impression than the San Diego Temple. Ten spires of different heights (more than any other temple) are clearly visible from the San Diego Freeway, attracting the attention of thousands of passersby every day. The temple also features roof gardens and intricate stained glass. It's located only a few miles from where members of the Mormon Battalion helped to build what is now San Diego's Old Town after they arrived there in 1847.
Old Town is a great evening spot featuring the best Mexican food around. After dinner, enjoy a walk around the oldest part of the city, including a special visitor's center honoring the Mormon Battalion and its contributions to the development of San Diego.
San Diego's most famous attraction is the San Diego Zoo, home of the world-renowned panda bears. A visit to the zoo means a lot of walking, but is definitely worth the five or so hours it takes. There are many animal shows and unique, captivating exhibits. On the wetter side, Sea World is the home of Shamu, the famous orca whale. Sea World also offers a 3-D pirate experience, a birds of prey show and many fun shows with dolphins, sea lions and, of course, Shamu.
A drive to Coronado Island is a must. Take a stroll on its beautiful white sand beaches and walk around the oldest hotel in the United States, built in 1887. Be careful of the low speed limits—they're well enforced! A short drive north in Carlsbad finds the Flower Fields—acres and acres are flowers planted in neat rows. Next door is Legoland, a sure hit with any kid.
Fun Fact: Until the late seventies, San Diego was known as the Tuna Capital of the World. More than 40,000 people were directly or indirectly employed by the industry.