Can you really see all the Palmyra has to offer in one day? That is the question I had for my family of 4 which includes two children ages 10 and 6.
You most definitely can! We new we would be flying into Toronto to visit family in Southern Ontario I made arrangements to drop down into New York and see the LDS sites in Palmyra before flying home out of Buffalo. The problem was we were only going to have a half day on Sunday and a half day on Monday to see the sites. My family would be doing some long driving on both of those days so I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best that my kids would enjoy the experience.
We stayed one night at the Palmyra Inn & Suites. The location of this property is great. It is within walking distance of the Palmyra temple, Smith Farm and Sacred Grove. We still drove the mile because we were short on time and it was raining on and off. It was a very nice hotel. We paid $129 for the night and that included 2 King beds, fridge, microwave, sink and kitchen counter area. It was a great room. Very comfortable and clean. The hotel has no pool but they do offer a hot tub, gym and a free breakfast in the morning. The front desk staff was very helpful. We arrived about 2pm on a Sunday and we were hungry. We had been driving for about 3 hours so all we wanted to do was drop off our luggage, shower and find some food. They were very helpful about recommending some restaurants on a map that were very close.
After our bellies were satisfied we decided to see the Hill Cumorah while the rain had stopped since that is an outside activity. It is beautiful. The walk up is paved but definitely has some steep areas. When we got to the top we noticed a higher parking lot that you could have used to save you on some of your walking. Looking out over the valley from the top of the hill was so pretty.
The front of the hill is green grass but the back is a dirt trail mixed with a lovely forest that leads down to the visitor center. I was trying to imagine what this place looked like when Joseph arrived and then years and years before when Moroni buried the plates. To sit on the top of that hill and think about what transpired was so moving. To be the last man in some horrible war. He completed the job. He did was he was supposed to do and because of that we have The Book of Mormon today.
The visitor center has a Christus similar to the the one in the Salt Lake visitor center but smaller. The background is what is the main difference and it is beautiful. In Salt Lake the background is the heavens and the stars.
At Hill Cumorah the background is a beautiful green grove of trees.
Missionaries are there to greet you and can tailor your experience to your needs and the time you have to spend. We decided to look at some of the exhibits and watch a movie. One of the exhibits is a large round table with a copy of every single language that The Book Of Mormon has been translated in. The myth that gets the kids excited is to close your eyes and walk around the table and pick up a book. The book you pick up will be the language you speak on your mission. Kind of fun for our kids but we all know that is not how your mission call is determined.
After the visitor center we headed into town. It really is a small town and if you blink too long you will miss it. When you get to the 4 churches, which is a church of a different religion on each corner, turn right. Shortly on your left hand side will be the E.B. Grandin Building. They have free tours led my missionaries. I was worried that my kids would not be interested but I was wrong. They were interested in learning about how the printing of The Book of Mormon took place. In one part of the building where there used to be a store, the sister missionary pointed out the the floors are original. I was so happy. I have been places where Joseph Smith walked and my heart felt so full.
After the tour we headed back towards the inn so we could visit the Smith farm and the Sacred Grove. Before coming on the trip I had this grand plan of finishing The Book of Mormon with my family in the grove. How cool would that be!!! We were so close to being done. Luckily my husband pointed out that we should just enjoy the moment and pay attention to how we were feeling. That reading to the kids might bore them and we would rather have them present in the moment. It worked out great. The grove
is green and full of trees like you would expect. There are sweet little benches around where you can sit and take a moment to think, ponder and pray. It has just stopped raining before we arrived at the grove and so the sun was shining down through the trees and the midst creating this wonderful ray of light. I am so grateful that I was able to be there with my sweet little family. My only advice might be to pack some bug spray because the mosquitos were out and to don’t worry about planning the perfect trip or experience or moment. The Spirit will teach you all you need to know if you are open to it.
Leaving the grove you enter onto the Smith Farm. These are original building and again there are missionaries that can take you on a tour. I have grown up hearing the stories and experiences of what happened within these walls. Divine experiences along with horrible men seeking to destroy the work that was taking place. Knowing that God will see to it that His work will come forth and there is no stopping it. Just an amazing place. Our last stop at the house was the log home. We were not with a group at this point but a cute sister missionary let us in the home as said that we had to come in. I get mixed up on my facts so I was just assuming this was another log house. But it isn’t. She said you must go up to the loft for that is where
the Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith while his brothers slept next to him. My heart jumped and my son’s face lit up. We headed up the stairs and as I was almost to the top that is when it hit me.
I had my Palmyra moment in a place that I didn’t expect. I knew at that moment that all of this was true. That the Angel Moroni really did appear to Joseph Smith. That Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet of God and that he did translate The Book of Mormon from plates of gold. That the voice of God has not been stopped but that God speaks to a prophet just like He did in ancient times. That Joseph Smith restored Christ’s church to the earth. It was such a sweet feeling and I know that my family felt the same.
Leaving the Smith farm we stopped to see the outside of the Palmyra temple. We did not go inside to do any work as we had no one to care for our children and it was a Sunday so consider that when you plan your trip. The temple is a smaller one but beautiful as you would expect. I wanted to take of picture of the kids in front of the temple sign so the kids and I headed down the driveway and my husband drove the car. The three of us
sang “I love to see the temple.” There was the finest mist coming down and I felt happy. I was so happy to be having these sweet moments with my children. When we got to the bottom and turned around we became so excited. The most beautiful double rainbow was over the top of us and the temple. I promise I didn’t doctor the photos. It was just that brilliant.
The next morning we slept in and had our free breakfast in the lobby. They had a great selection. We loaded up the car and decided to go back to the visitor center. The day before they told us that if we were not going to be able to do the 45 minute drive to the Whitmer Farm to come back and they would show us the movies that they show down at the farm. We watched two wonderful movies about 25 minutes a piece. They talked about the experiences that caused Joseph Smith to seek refuge with Oliver at the Whitmer home so that they could complete the translation of The Book of Mormon without the angry mobs. The other movie discussed the the restoration of the Priesthood. Both were fantastic movies and once again they held my children’s attention.
That concluded our family experience in Palmyra. I really think that this is something that you could do in a day or a day and a half if you want to do a session at the temple and make a trip out to the Whitmer farm. I also believe that it is good for families of all ages. There were so many families out and about with children older and younger than my own. It is a sacred place and sometimes it is worth the hassle of wrangling kids so that you and your children can experience something so amazing. Because we were there the end of June, the Hill Cumorah pageant had not started. That takes place in July. So with that in mind you will need an extra day and you will need to make lodging accommodations quick because that place is busy!