Like most Church historic sites across the United States, Historic Nauvoo and Carthage Jail closed in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began to alter life across the planet. No one expected the closure to last as long as it did. Yet while the streets have been empty, Nauvoo Historic Sites have been transforming and preparing for an even better future.
If you’re planning to visit Nauvoo this summer, or even if you aren’t, here are six things you need to know.
1. Historic Nauvoo will be opening in phases on a limited basis. Popular activities such as wagon rides and Pioneer Pastimes will not be available at first, and large groups will not be able to schedule gathering places for activities. Before you travel, check out the latest updates at nauvoohistoricsites.org/updates.
2. Historic Nauvoo features five newly restored or rebuilt sites that help tell the story of the Restoration of the gospel. Missionaries have been providing online Zoom tours of these sites since earlier this year, but in-person visits have not been possible until now. These sites introduce you to a stonecutter, an architect, a farmer, and a bishop—all of whom helped build the Nauvoo temple and who worked closely with Joseph Smith in the process. Painstakingly restored under expert guidance, the newly opened homes will enhance your understanding of Joseph Smith’s prophetic leadership in Nauvoo.
3. Visitors must register for a guided tour in groups of eight or less in order to enter any historic building. The story of Nauvoo can be told through many lenses, but Nauvoo’s missionaries have never before been able to tell it through themed guided tours—until now. The pandemic provided an opportunity to revise how visitors experience Nauvoo. During the re-opening phases, tours will be limited both in number of guests and in number of available tours. However, these tours include multiple buildings, allow more time for questions, and feature a theme for discussing life in Nauvoo. For instance, the Women of Faith tour highlights the work women did to advance the cause of Zion in the early days of the Church. In order to participate in each tour, you must register for a specific time and restrict your group to eight people. What if your family has 12 people? Split into two groups and take different tours before swapping! Then you can compare notes afterward. Registering early improves your chances for seeing what you want to see. How do you register? Watch this short video for instructions.
4. Visitors who do not register for an in-person guided tour can still experience the sites through live video tours. If you arrive in Nauvoo without having registered for a tour, check online to see what openings remain. If the schedule isn’t working out for you, check out theonline video tour schedule as well! These tours are also good for individuals to see these historic homes who may have with mobility issues that make stairs difficult.
5. COVID-19 precautions will be in place, so don’t forget to bring your masks. The Church History Department monitors local COVID-19 safety regulations and has developed guidelines for visitors to help historic sites remain in compliance with those local ordinances. Nauvoo Historic Sites will require masks, temperature checks, and social distancing. Read the Church’s official guidelines here.
6. Visitors must check in at the Family Living Center before taking any reserved tours. Ample parking is available in a lot adjacent to the center. The Visitors’ Center will re-open May 31st with new carpeting and other updates, including some new exhibits. Young Performing Missionaries will also begin providing daily entertainment at that time.
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The bottom line from Nauvoo is that the historic sites are re-opening, but to have the best possible experience, you should start by registering for tours you wish to take and then stay informed as you travel by exploring nauvoohistoricsites.org.
Susan Sims serves as a Church communication director in Iowa and Western Illinois.