Practical Tips for Visiting Palmyra, NY


P1080259 225x300 Practical Tips for Visiting Palmyra, NY

The Palmyra Temple

                                                                                                        Major sites in Palmyra & surrounding area

Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center (and pageant in July)


Sacred Grove

Smith Family Farm

Book of Mormon Historic Publishing Site (Grandin press)

Martin Harris Farm

Palmyra Temple

Peter Whitmer Farm (40 min drive to Fayette)

Harmony, Pennsylvania  A very helpful website with up-to-date info on everything from historic sites’ hours of operation to maps & weather to accommodations & food in the Palmyra area.  This website will also tell you all you want to know about the Hill Cumorah Pageant, held in July of each year.ania (now called Oakland) – Aaronic Priesthood Restoration Site  (About 165 miles from Palmyra)


Free tours are offered daily at The Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center, The Smith Family Farm, the Book of Mormon Historic Publishing Site, and the Peter Whitmer Farm.

The Sacred Grove is open year-round for self-guided tours.

Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center

This is a beautiful visitors’ center where you can watch videos, take a tour, or browse the  many informational and interactive displays on your own.  Allow at least an hour or two if you want to look at everything.  Our time was limited, so we skimmed the displays quickly and moved on to the historical sites.

The Hill Cumorah

It only takes a few minutes to drive or walk up to the top of the Hill Cumorah for the view of the surrounding countryside and to see the Moroni Monument.  We spent perhaps 15-20 minutes there, admiring the view, taking pictures and reading the inscriptions on the monument.

The Smith Family Farm

This includes the Smith log home, the Smith frame home, the cooper’s shop, a barn, and the surrounding property.  You can enter the Sacred Grove from the farm.  Allow about 1 hour to see these things.

The Sacred Grove

This area is open year-round for self-guided tours.  After you finish the tour of the Smith Family Farm, you will be directed to the Sacred Grove to spend whatever time you want there.  We visited the grove early in the morning (before 8:00am) so that we could be there by ourselves in the quiet.  It turned out that no one else was there.  In peak season this may not be so.

Book of Mormon Historic Publishing Site

This is the beautifully restored Grandin Press building in downtown Palmyra.  Allow at least an hour to take the tour, longer if you want to take your time looking at everything.  Along with the printing press and equipment, there are also some displays and original artwork there.

Martin Harris Farm

There are no original structures or tours here, but it’s worth stopping to see as a part of the all-around church history tour.  There is a cool looking house built with river rock on the original site of the Martin Harris home.  You will only need about 15 minutes here.

Palmyra Temple

A visit to The Palmyra Temple is a great thing to include in your trip to Palmyra.  For LDS church members, if you want to do a session there, it is by appointment.  Check for detailed information.

Incidentally, the Palmyra Temple is the only temple with a clear glass window.  It provides a view of the Sacred Grove.

Peter Whitmer Farm (Fayette)

It’s worth the drive to go and take the tour here.  It’s a pretty drive and so much happened at this place.  Allow at least 40 minutes to drive there, another hour or so for the tour (longer if you are very inquisitive and have a knowledgeable guide).

Harmony, Pennsylvania (now called Oakland) Site of Aaronic Priesthood Restoration and the Susquehanna River

This is a long way from Palmyra (about 165 miles), but we were on our way to New York City, and it was an easy stop on that route.  There isn’t much to see here currently, but the church has plans to develop the site with a visitors’ center and some restored homes.  Joseph & Emma lived here for a time shortly after they were married.  Currently, there is a monument dedicated to the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.  There is a small cemetery next to the monument where Emma Smith’s parents, Isaac & Elizabeth Hale are buried, as well as the infant son of Joseph & Emma.  The gravestones are on the east side of the cemetery, close to the road.

Also worth seeing is the Susquehanna River, which is right behind the monument.  This is where Joseph Smith & Oliver Cowdery were baptized and where they received the Aaronic Priesthood.

There is a road which leads to a walkable path down to the river behind the chainlink fence that runs along the east side of the graveyard.  Drive east about a quarter of a mile on the road you came in on, take the first right and then turn right again onto the dirt road that runs along the chainlink fence.  Drive until you see the path to the river on your left.  It’s not very far.

Palmyra Inn

Palmyra Inn is the only hotel within walking distance of the Smith Farm, Sacred Grove and the Palmyra Temple.  It was a wonderful place to stay.  The rooms are clean and comfortable, there is a free breakfast (heavy on carbs, but decent), laundry facilities, friendly staff, and they can accommodate large families.  We were happy with our stay there, and you can’t beat the location!  There is not another hotel around for a few miles.


During our short stay in Palmyra, we ate at Athenia Diner, The Yellow Mills Diner and the Chill-N-Grill.  The two diners were so-so — the food was alright, but definitely diner food.  The service was VERY slow at the Yellow Mills.

Chill-N-Grill, on the other hand, was a fantastic place for ice cream, and their burgers were pretty good, too.  (You just can’t eat burgers for every meal . . . although we managed to have ice cream 3 times in 2 days).  The smallest size ice cream was gigantic!  And it was fabulous ice cream!  So, try to find a better place for dinner, but don’t miss the Chill-N-Grill for ice cream!







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Palmyra – A Place to Contemplate Things of the Soul

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Looking heavenward in The Sacred Grove.

Palmyra is a quiet, unassuming little town in beautiful upstate New York.  When you go there today, you would never guess that back in the 1820‘s it was the site of great religious revivals, excitement and fervor.  Indeed, it is the place where Joseph Smith, an obscure boy of 14, experienced a marvelous spiritual witness of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in answer to a sincere and fervent prayer about which church to join. Joseph Smith subsequently organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a. The Mormon Church) and the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth.

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“Mormons”), Palmyra, NY is a must-see LDS Historical Site.  For 2 weeks in July of each year, the church hosts “The Hill Cumorah Pageant”, a musical production depicting stories from the Bible and Book of Mormon, the scriptural work translated by Joseph Smith.  ( The pageant draws large crowds during July, and Palmyra is inundated with tourists for much of the summer.  For that reason, my crowd-averse husband and our family visited a wonderfully peaceful and tourist-free Palmyra in August, after the peak season.   Sometime we will have to go back and see the pageant, but it did not fit our schedule on this trip.

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A printing press similar to the one used to print The Book of Mormon

We arrived at Main Street Palmyra early in the evening after a 2-hour drive from Niagara Falls.  We passed the famed 4-Churches corner on our way (The only place in America where a different church stands on each of the 4 corners of the intersection.) Our growling stomachs had us searching for a place to eat.  However, when we saw that the historic Grandin Press building was still open for another hour, we decided to delay our dinner and take a tour.  We were the only ones there, and so we were the recipients of an unhurried, detail-rich narration of the history of the press, Mr. E.B. Grandin, and his role in the printing of The Book of Mormon.  The building has been beautifully restored, with an actual working press from that time period (although they don’t run it), as well as some wonderful displays, artifacts and artwork from LDS Church History.  We were so absorbed in the stories our guide was telling us that we momentarily forgot our hunger.  We were grateful to the senior couple who gave us a fantastic tour and were generous with their time.

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A peaceful, sacred place.

We stayed at The Palmyra Inn, which is a homey little place right across the street from the Sacred Grove.  You could not ask for a more perfect location!  Early the next morning we walked over to the Sacred Grove so that we could be there by ourselves in the stillness of the dawning day.  We were rewarded with a cool, quiet grove free of any other visitors.  We had ample time to stroll through the green canopy undisturbed and rest on a bench contemplating the events that took place there in the early 1800s.  It is not hard to imagine Joseph kneeling among the trees, pouring out his soul to God.  With the sun filtering through the trees, I could easily picture heavenly light shining down from above.  You can feel the sacredness of this place.  It’s the kind of place you could linger in for a good long while, thinking about things of the soul.

After breakfast at the hotel, we headed over to the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center to begin our tour of the area’s sites.  Here we were met by senior missionaries.  We watched a short video and then were left on our own to browse the visitors’ center.  Though there were many displays and historical information available here, we went through rather quickly and headed out to see the sights — The Hill Cumorah, the Smith Farm and the Peter Whitmer Farm (a 40 minute drive to Fayette).

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Breathtaking view from the top of the Hill Cumorah.

We drove to the top of the Hill Cumorah, where there stands a monument with the angel Moroni on top.  The view of the surrounding countryside from the top of the hill is beautiful.  This is the “stage” from which the pageant is performed.


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The upstairs bedroom where Joseph slept


A lovely sister missionary was our guide for our tour of the Smith Farm.  We first visited the humble log home where Joseph lived as a boy.  We saw the upstairs room where Joseph slept with his brothers, and where the angel Moroni appeared to him to give him instructions about the gold plates (later translated to become The Book of Mormon).  The home has been restored to look as it might have in 1820.

Next we toured the larger frame home where Joseph’s brother, Alvin, his wife and children, and his parents lived for a time.  This home and the nearby cooper’s shop were two of the places the gold plates were hidden during that volatile period of Joseph Smith’s life where persecution raged and mobsters sought to steal the plates.  You can still see the loose bricks on the hearth where the plates were hidden.

At the end of the tour, we were directed to the Sacred Grove, where we spent a few more peaceful moments before heading on to Fayette and the Peter Whitmer Farm.

The drive to Fayette was through beautiful small towns and green countryside.  There is a church building and a visitor’s center at this site.  We were treated to a tour of the Visitor’s Center and the Peter Whitmer home, another humble log cabin.

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The Peter Whitmer Home

Many significant events in the history of the church took place on this property.  It was here that the church was formally organized on April 6, 1830.  The Whitmer family graciously housed Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as they completed the translation of The Book of Mormon.  And David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdery were privileged to be witnesses to the gold plates while at this farm.  We were glad we made the trip to this scenic and peaceful place that was an integral part of the development of the church.


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Practical Tips for Visiting Family-Friendly Niagara Falls

Here are some things to know before you visit Niagara Falls:

The hotels with views of the falls on the Canadian side are a lot more expensive than hotels only a little farther away (with no view).  We stayed at the Embassy Suites, where there was also a valet parking fee of $35/day and the taxes and fees added to the already high room rate were exorbitant.  I really like Embassy Suites for their comfortable rooms that can sleep 6, and their fantastic breakfast, but in this case the price was outrageous.  I would stay down the road at a fraction of the price (and free parking).  I do not know how hotel rates compare on the American side.

The waterfalls are lit up at night, but they turn off the lights at midnight.  They also have a fireworks show Fridays, Sundays and Holidays at 10pm from May-October.

If you stay on the Canada side, you need passports.  Crossing the border took almost an hour (in August), both directions.  This time could vary significantly, depending on the season.

The Maid of the Mist boat ride was really fun and you get great picture-taking views from the bottom (until you get to the mist–then you don’t want your camera ruined by water).  It was $20 per adult ($15.50 on the American side) for a 1/2 hour ride.  The boats go every 20-30 minutes, so the wait time is not unreasonable.  (I guess it could be longer on peak days).  It took us about 30-45 minutes to get on a boat.  Summer hours are roughly 10am – 7pm.  Check the website for current info:

We felt that a half day was plenty of time to see the waterfalls.  There are a lot of other things to do there, but they are mostly things unrelated to enjoying the natural beauty of the waterfalls.  Many families would enjoy these activities and they could keep children entertained for several days.

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Niagara Falls: Beautiful, But Not How I Pictured It

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The spectacular view of Horseshoe Falls from our hotel room.

I have wanted to visit the famed Niagara Falls for most of my life — it’s one of those places on my very long “list of places to see”.   So when my family and I were planning our trip to visit Kirtland, Ohio and Palmyra, New York (two LDS church history sites popular with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), we knew we had to make the detour to see Niagara Falls.  It’s sort of on the way, but not really.  It’s about a 4-hour drive from Kirtland, and 2 hours from Palmyra (1 hour from Buffalo)  Crossing the border to the Canadian side added another 45 minutes for us.

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Horseshoe Falls

Friends had told us to stay on the Canadian side because the “views are better” and things are more developed over there.  Well, yes, that turned out to be true, but it was far from what I had imagined the place would look and feel like.  In my mind I pictured the magnificent falls in a quiet setting, surrounded by pristine wilderness, sorta like the waterfalls in Yosemite.  Ha!  Not quite!   The Canadian side of the falls is anything but “pristine” or “quiet”.  It has been developed to feel a lot like — well, Las Vegas, actually (minus the Eiffel Tower and Pyramids). Flashy hotels and casinos with spectacular views overlooking the falls line the street that runs along the river, accompanied by high-end shops, restaurants and amusement park-type attractions like “Ripleys Believe it or Not”.  There is even an indoor water park.  As if the waterfalls themselves were a secondary attraction. Well, the waterfalls ARE the main attraction, but without all the other “stuff” to do, no one would stay very long.  However, with all the entertainment now available at Niagara Falls –aside from the falls– it is a family-friendly destination.  You could spend a full week there (and a boat-load of money) and not run out of things to do.  For our family, we were only interested in seeing the falls this time around.  And that’s all we had time for.

We arrived late at night, but still in time to see the falls lit up by colored lights from our fabulous vantage point on the 20th floor of the Embassy Suites hotel.  We splurged on this hotel stay because of the location, view, and their wonderful, hot breakfast.

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With part of my family in front of American Falls.

In the morning, my family and I enjoyed the half day we spent along the green, flower-lined riverwalk taking in the views.  The falls themselves ARE pretty amazing!  From the Canadian side, you have stunning views of all three falls — Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.  You are looking across the river at the front of the waterfalls, which is the best view of them, in my humble opinion.  We never saw them from the American side, but the view there would be from behind the falls.

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View of American Falls from the Maid of the Mist

We took the half hour ride on the “Maid of the Mist” boat that takes you right up to the base of Horseshoe Falls.  The views from below are as good as views from above, and you definitely get a better FEEL for the falls — roaring, powerful and WET!!  Those ponchos they give you are practically useless when the boat stops for a full 10 minutes (os so it seemed) in the middle of the “mist” coming off the powerful falls.  “Hurricane” is more like it.  Even with my raincoat on underneath the poncho, it could not repel the wind and water whipping around in all directions.  We got soaked!  You WILL get soaked!  No one escaped the drenching.  But it was a beautiful, sunny day and we were soon dry again.

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Maid of the Mist heads into the “mist”

As we left Niagara Falls behind and drove back across the border,  I felt contented that I had visited yet another beautiful “must-see” place in the world . It was well worth the stop!


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Practical Tips for Visiting LDS sites in Kirtland, Ohio

We visited Kirtland in August of 2013.  The weather was cool and beautiful.  It was past “peak” season, so it was not crowded at any of the sites.  We were there on a Sunday, so we attended sacrament meeting at the local Kirtland ward, and then went to the Visitors’ Center afterward.  We had plenty of time to visit all the sites before they closed.


Location and Hours

Check the Church website for the latest information:


Kirtland Visitors’ Center

7800 Kirtland-Chardon Rd.

Kirtland, OH 44094


Open M-Sat 9:00am-7:00pm  (5:00pm in winter)

Sunday  11:30am – 7:00pm

Admission is free

At the Kirtland Visitors’ Center you can visit:

The Newel K. Whitney Store

The Whitney home

Johnson Inn Resource Center (museum)

The Kirtland Sawmill

The Kirtland Ashery

There are guided tours here (usually senior missionary couples).  You can see all of these places in 2-3 hours (or less, if you are in a hurry)

Nearby, but too far to walk:

Isaac Morley Farm –– a few minutes by car from the visitors’ center.

The Kirtland temple stone quarry


The John Johnson home is in Hiram, about a 30-minute drive from Kirtland.  There are free tours of the home there, given by missionaries.  Allow at least an hour to spend there, plus an hour driving time (round trip).


The Kirtland Temple

9020 Chillicothe Rd.

Kirtland, OH 44094

(440) 256-3318

The Kirtland Temple is owned by Community of Christ Church.  There is a very nice museum at the visitors’ center, with artifacts from the early church, and lots of information on the time period of 1830-1838.

Check their website for the most up-to-date information

Hours of Operation:


Feb — Tours on Saturday & Sunday by appt. only

Mar-Apr: Wed-Sat 10:00am – 4:00pm, Sun 1:00 – 4:00

May-Oct:  Mon – Sat 9:00am – 5:00pm, Sun 1:00 – 5:00

Nov-Dec:  Wed-Sat 10:00am – 4:00pm, Sun 1:00 – 4:00

Admission is $3.00

The nearest airport to Kirtland is Cleveland,  which is about 25 miles away.  We stayed in the Marriott Residence Inn by the Airport for a reasonable price.  The room slept 5-6 (2 queens and a sofa bed) and had a full kitchen.  A hot breakfast was included, with cold and hot foods — waffles, eggs, potatoes, oatmeal, cereal, muffins, etc.  We were very pleased with our accommodations.  However, this hotel is well outside the city, with limited choices of restaurants nearby.

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Kirtland, Ohio: Site of Spiritual Outpouring

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The Kirtland Temple

Kirtland, Ohio is a place I have long wanted to visit. It holds a significant place in the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka “The Mormon Church”). It is a place of many “firsts” in the organization of the church. Several offices and quorums in the priesthood were established, church leaders were schooled, key revelations were received, scripture was translated, heavenly visions were seen, and the first temple was built. Church members were tried and tested, and testimonies of the gospel were forged or destroyed. As a Mormon, a travel writer, and a fan of historical places, I have felt for a long time that my understanding of church history would not be complete without a visit to Kirtland.

From 1831-1838, the town that today is a quiet, insignificant place in the midst of green rolling hills just east of Cleveland was once the headquarters of the newly formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the scene of bustling growth, religious fervor, spiritual manifestations, and sadly, persecution, which would ultimately result in the expulsion of the members of the rapidly growing church. Today, the temple and a few restored buildings are all that remain of that time period.

My family and I had only one day to visit all the places in and around Kirtland where pivotal, spiritual and sacred events took place so many years ago. We had prepared for this trip by reading up on the history of Kirtland. It was a time when the heavens seemed to open and great spiritual knowledge and experiences poured down upon church members. Some of the most meaningful events to us, however, were the appearances of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and other heavenly beings to the prophet Joseph Smith and others during the short time church members lived here. We wanted to visit the four places where these visions took place.

Those 4 places are:
The Isaac Morley Farm (just a few miles from the Visitors’ Center)
The John Johnson home (about 30 miles away in Hiram, OH)
The Newel K. Whitney store
The Kirtland Temple

Joseph and Emma Smith lived for a short time at all of these places (except the temple).

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The serene beauty of the Morley Farm

Though there are no surviving structures to see on the Morley Farm, there remains a sacred feeling. Helpful guides there will relate in detail the events that took place on the property. It is a beautiful, peaceful place, surrounded by quiet, green woods. I felt it was another “sacred grove”, very much like the one in Palmyra, NY (which we visited a few days later).

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The John Johnson Home





As we visited the John Johnson home, we learned of the great faith, generosity and sacrifices of the Johnson family and others. Many gave everything they owned to forward the progress of the church. The same was true of the Morleys and Newel K. Whitney and his family. The store is restored to look just as it would have in 1831. Here, also, you can feel a hallowed spirit in the upper rooms where Joseph translated and the School of the Prophets took place.

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The School of the Prophets was held in this room.

Lastly, we visited the Kirtland Temple, which is owned and operated by Community of Christ Church. If ever a building could embody sacrifice and commitment to God, this temple does. It is a beautiful and amazing place, especially when you realize it was built by destitute church members, most of whom did not even have a roof over their own heads! Those sacrifices were acknowledged by the outpouring of spiritual manifestations at the dedication of the temple, where hundreds saw and heard the presence of heavenly beings. We felt reverence and a special spirit in all the places we visited. I am grateful to those early church members who gave so much!

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Half Marathon Challenge Builds Family Bonds (and takes me to a cool place!)

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With my sister Kristin, after finishing the Moab Half Marathon.


Earlier this year I ran the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah.  Before training and running that event, I had never run more than a mile in my life (the only reason I ever ran a mile was to pass high school PE).  So I knew it was going to be tough for me.  My thoughts on running up to this point in my life were, “I hate running!”  Period.

But my sister, Kristin –who also does not consider herself “a runner”, but has run a full marathon and several half marathons — invited me to come do this event with her.  She and I live in different states and we don’t get to spend a lot of time together, so I thought it would be a good thing for me to do.  It would challenge me physically, and give me a way to connect and communicate with my sister about a common goal.

And, hey, it’s in Moab, Utah — right next-door to Arches National Park and  Canyonlands National Park, two places I had never been.  It fell on our spring break, to boot!  I had to do it!

I would like to have trained with Kristin, but living 800 miles apart makes that a bit impractical.  Nevertheless, we were able to grow closer through sharing our training experiences and difficulties.  She gave me lots of good advice and encouraged me in my progress.  She gave me tips on how to relieve muscle soreness and how to prevent injuries.  We laughed while sharing anecdotes of our training runs.  My husband, Drew ended up training for the race along with me.  When race day came, Kristin prepped us with all the details about the race —  where to catch the bus to the start, what to expect on the course, what the weather is usually like, etc. — things we wouldn’t have known without a veteran to guide us.

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A bird’s eye view of the race course along the Colorado River.

It turned out to be a fun and rewarding experience!  (I don’t hate running anymore!)  The race course ran through the spectacular red-rock cliffs banking the Colorado River, which inspired me as I ran.  Kristin and I now have a shared accomplishment and memories to go with it.  Our children cheered us on and got to see their mom, dad and aunt struggle through something difficult and finish it.

Afterward, we spent a couple of days exploring Arches National Park and some amazingly beautiful places.  I thought it was a great way to combine a personal challenge and relationship building with family travel to a location full of some of nature’s most spectacular creations!  Sharing it with my favorite people — my family — was icing on the cake!

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At Delicate Arch, one of those amazing natural wonders!


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Tillamook Cheese (and Ice Cream!) Factory–A Ful-Filling Day Trip

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Outside the Tillamook Cheese Factory

The Tillamook Cheese Factory in–where else–Tillamook, Oregon, provided a fun, half-day adventure as part of our family trip along the Oregon coast. You can take the self-guided tour through the factory, learning about how cheese is made, complete with a bird’s-eye view of the huge vats that process the cheese and the bee-like workers packaging hundreds of blocks of cheese as they move along conveyor belts. It was fun and interesting for my children to see how that slice of cheese they’re so used to eating was made and packaged. We’ve never seen anything like it before.

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Workers busily packaging cheese

The best part of the tour, of course, is tasting the samples at the end. You get to try several different types of delicious cheese–sharp, medium and mild cheddar, swiss, and white cheddar, to name a few. The cheese is very good, to be sure, but the ice cream is AMAZING! A self-proclaimed ice cream-aholic, I have to say this is the best ice cream I have EVER tasted (and I’ve eaten a LOT of ice cream!) There are so many flavors to choose from, it’s virtually impossible to choose just one. Lucky for us, they obligingly offer a 3-flavor and a 5-flavor sampler on their menu. I applied a bit of self-control and only had the 3-flavor sampler. My son, Dallin, an Oregon berry afficionado, insisted that I try the marionberry. Along with that I tried raspberry cheesecake and white chocolate. We each sampled the others’ flavors too, so I really got to taste about 12 flavors. All creamy, heavenly deliciousness! Someone needs to import this stuff to Arizona!

Before wrapping up our visit to Tillamook, my family couldn’t resist taking some goofy pictures in the loaf-mobile. It was a cheerful end to a ful-”filling” visit!

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Having fun in the Loaf-mobile

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Honoring Family Member Makes Trip Meaningful

One way to create meaningful family trips is to take some time during a trip to honor a family member or a special event (or both).  Sometimes the very reason for the trip is to celebrate that important family event–like a significant anniversary, a milestone birthday or the achievement of a big goal.

Everyone likes to be recognized once in awhile, and to celebrate an important event surrounded by family makes it even more memorable.

A few years back my sister-in-law, Tonya, and I were both turning 40.  Tonya’s husband asked her what she would most like to do to celebrate that special birthday.  She wanted to go on a trip with her parents and all of her siblings.  So Tonya’s husband and my husband planned a surprise Alaskan Cruise with the whole family to celebrate both our birthdays.

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Tonya and I celebrate our 40th birthdays together.

Then, while we were on the cruise, they reserved a room where we could hold a short family gathering.  In honor of our birthdays, each member of the family took a turn telling Tonya and me what they liked or admired about us.  Even though it may embarrass us a bit, everyone needs to know they are loved and appreciated by their families, and why.  To speak praise out loud helps us build stronger ties and deepen our love for each other.

As if the trip and the compliments weren’t enough, my thoughtful sister-in-law, Robyn, had collected letters in the weeks before the cruise from my family and friends recalling good memories we shared, and put them together in a book, which she presented to me (and Tonya) on the ship.  That book is something I will always treasure–it holds words of gratitude and friendship from those closest to me.

The Alaska cruise was a great trip!  It was beautiful, exciting and fun.  But more than that, it touched my heart to have those I love spend thoughtful time, money and careful planning to make it memorable for me.  Any trip, big or small, can be made more meaningful by setting aside some time to honor those we love.  A little bit of thoughtful planning can make a good trip unforgettable and can strengthen our family relationships in the process.

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Beautiful Forest-to-Sea Hike Makes Family-Friendly Day Trip



P1060039 300x225 Beautiful Forest to Sea Hike Makes Family Friendly Day Trip

One of the stunning views from the trail.

As you hike the trail from Ecola State Park to Indian Beach, on the northern Oregon coast, gorgeous ocean views will stop you in your tracks as you emerge suddenly upon them from the forest.  This 3-mile roundtrip hike turned out to be a fun and rewarding half-day activity for my family, with children ranging in age from 8 to 21.

The trailhead is at Ecola State Park, a beautiful park sitting on a grassy hill overlooking the ocean, and off to the south, Cannon Beach.  Our 1.5 mile hike led through the forest on a relatively easy trail that snaked up, down and around before dumping us out at Indian Beach, a secluded and uncrowded place.  Along the way, the trail escapes from the trees periodically, offering stunning views of the ocean and monolithic rocks below.  It provides an excellent reason to stop, catch your breath, get a drink, and pull out your camera.

DSCN9656 300x225 Beautiful Forest to Sea Hike Makes Family Friendly Day Trip

Almost to Indian Beach

Our kids practically ran the whole way, and our 8-year-old had no trouble at all.  We all enjoyed picking wild raspberries and examining a small garden snake as it crossed our path.  When we arrived at the beach, we had fun hopping along the lava rocks and inspecting the multi-colored starfish in the tide pools.  The day was blessed with sunshine, a rare gift on a trip where it rained the rest of the week.  (It was still beautiful on the rainy days!)

Everyone was hungry when we returned from our hike, so we sat down at one of the picnic tables in the park and enjoyed a simple lunch. Before we could leave that picturesque spot, we soaked in the view of  majestic Cannon Beach, and took many photos.  It was one of my favorite days of our entire Oregon trip, and it’s a hike I would recommend for families, especially LDS families looking for good, clean fun.

P1060046 300x225 Beautiful Forest to Sea Hike Makes Family Friendly Day Trip

Picnic at Ecola State Park


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