New York State has much more to offer than just NYC! Some of our favorite places include the LDS Church History Sites around Palmyra, the Erie Canal, and Niagara Falls!

A collage of images from Upstate New York with text overlay.

On our most recent trip to New York City, we brought our girls along for the adventure since they had never visited New York state before. We have a goal as a family to visit all 50 states and are well on our way!

After getting our fill of the sights and sounds of NYC, we were excited to pick up our rental car and roadtrip our way upstate through the finger lakes region to Palmyra to visit church history sites.

LDS Church Historical Sites

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, these spots hold particular importance to us as it is where Joseph Smith Jr. lived when he saw God and Jesus Christ in a vision and where he did much of the translation work of the Book of Mormon.

An image of the Joseph Smith log home in Palmyra, New York.

We first stopped to visit the Smith Family farm on the outskirts of Palmyra. The log home is a replica, but this is where the Smith family lived when 14-year old Joseph Smith went to a grove of trees behind this home to pray to know which church was true and saw God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ.

Senior missionary couples at the adjacent Visitor's Center are available during the day to lead small groups through this home and another nearby larger home that the Smith family built later that is still standing and has been preserved. Regardless of your beliefs about this religion, it's a fascinating historical place and well worth visiting for anyone in the area. People come from all over the world to visit many of these sites.

It's amazing to see how people used to live in the early 1800's with such large families in such tight quarters! This was their kitchen and all the children slept upstairs.

The inside of the Joseph Smith log home in Palmyra, New York.
An image of a family in the upper room of the Smith family log home.

After touring inside both homes that the Smiths lived in, we went for a walk in the Sacred Grove behind the log home. It was cold and a bit wet on the day we went in early April, but it was still a special experience for us to visit this place.

After visiting the Sacred Grove, we hopped in our car and drove into town to visit the Grandin Printing Press building where the first editions of the Book of Mormon were printed. There is no particular order in which you need to visit any of these sites, but we chose this approach because we wanted to get lunch afterwards.

The Grandin Building was our favorite of all of the sites because it was so fascinating to learn more about the printing of the Book of Mormon and see the original presses that were used. We all loved talking to the senior missionaries here as well. They are so sweet and fun to chat with and they were so good about answering the girls' questions and engaging with them.

A family of four in the Grandin Printing Press Building in Palmyra, New York.

Since they weren't particularly busy the day we visited, they even had a fun activity for us where we were each given a large sheet of paper with 16 pages of the Book of Mormon printed on it and were shown how to fold it correctly for binding. It was interesting and made a great souvenir for us to take home!

A picture of a replica cover page of the first edition Book of Mormon.

After visiting the Grandin Building, we grabbed some lunch at the "Chill & Grill" in town. Paul and the girls had burgers, but I got a "junk plate". Also known as a "garbage plate", this is a Rochester-area specialty that consists of a pile of french fries on top of mac & cheese, baked beans, and then topped with hamburger patties or hot dogs (called "whites" or "reds" depending on whether you want pork or beef hot dogs), and piled with meat sauce, onions, ketchup, and mustard. The name is off-putting and okay, it doesn't look like much, but it was very tasty!

A woman holding a "garbage plate" in upstate New York near Rochester.

After lunch we drove to the visitor's center at the Hill Cumorah, then we continued on to the Whitmer Farm, about 40 minutes farther south. It's a pretty full day if you want to visit all of these sites and spent time at each of them.

The image below is of our family in the Whitmer house in Fayette, NY where the church was restored on April 6th, 1830. The visitor's center here is quite large and had lots of interactive displays that the girls enjoyed.

An image of a family of four in the Peter Whitmer farm kitchen.

Driving up through the Finger Lakes

I'm backtracking slightly here, but we made a couple of stops that are worth mentioning on our drive up to Palmyra from New York City.

The first was Roscoe, NY, which is known as the birthplace of American fly fishing. Paul is an avid fisherman, so he wanted to check out the fly fishing museum and fly fishing shops in this area. While we were there we had a delicious lunch at Raimondo's restaurant & pizzeria, where we had some fantastic cannoli for dessert.

We also visited the town of Delhi, which is featured in the book "My Side of the Mountain". Both Paul and I read it as kids, and Paul was obsessed with Sam Gribley and his adventures living in the forest just outside this town. Paul has been reading it as a family read-aloud book with the girls, so it was a fun off-the-beaten-path sort of place for us to visit.

The library in town features prominently in the book, so we stopped by to see the real thing and had a wonderful chat with one of the librarians there who said that we were the second family that day to stop by just because of that book.

The library has been keeping a book of all the visitors since 1991 who have stopped to say hi after having read "My Side of the Mountain" and we got to sign our names in it.

Niagara Falls

Our final destination on our upper New York state bucket list was visiting Niagara Falls. It is an absolute wonder and almost impossible to really imagine how much water flows over these falls every second of every day. It truly is unreal.

If you haven't visited, there are two sides of the falls and both are worth visiting although you will need your passports to cross the border between Canada and the United States.

We rode the Maid of the Mist which is a boat that drives up right up into the area of the falls. You will get drenched, so they provide everyone with ponchos to wear. It was absolutely freezing cold and the girls were honestly pretty miserable and said they hated it (but secretly I know they loved it and just needed to thaw out).

A family of four on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls.
An image of Niagara Falls with blue skies and white clouds overhead.

After the boat ride you can do a short, easy hike (it's like a 2 minute walk up a staircase) until you are practically right up under the falls. We dragged the girls along even though they were proclaiming to us that they would never feel warm again. You can't really get a good picture here because of all the spray, but it's pretty fun!

An image of a family being sprayed with mist under Niagara Falls.

After seeing the American side of the falls, we got in our car and drove across the bridge to the Canadian side, which many people proclaim to be the more beautiful view of the falls. You can certainly get a better feel of the side of the entire area from the Canada side than you can from the U.S. side of Niagara Falls.

An image of the American side of Niagara Falls, taken from the Canadian side.

The Canada side of Niagara Falls has lots of touristy shops and restaurants and attractions, if that is your jam. We got a couple of "beaver tails" which are basically fried bread with sweet toppings. The maple beaver tail was for sure my favorite.

An image of a maple beaver tail from Canada.

If you can, plan to spend your evening on the Canada side of the falls because they light up the falls once it gets dark, which is pretty spectacular from what I hear.

Or drive over to Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is a charming and quaint little town not far from Niagara Falls that has great restaurants, shops, and horse-drawn carriages.

A family of four at Niagara Falls.

Those are our upper New York highlights from our trip, but I know there are many, many more places to see and spend time, including Erie canal highlights, the Catskills, and the Finger Lakes. That just gives us a good reason to go back!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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