I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie. I eagerly anticipated each episode to see what was happening with the Ingalls family. It was a series that I adored right until the very end of it’s run in 1983.
Fast forward many years and I discovered that the town of Walnut Grove is an actual town in Minnesota and that it’s also the location of Plum Creek from the book On The Banks of Plum Creek.
Not only did I learn about Walnut Grove, but I learned that there are 6 historic sites across the Midwest that have a tie-in to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I knew of the Ingalls homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota, but had no ideas about Walnut Grove and the others.
The mind is blown and a road trip is immediately planned.
My friend, Sara, and I hit the road to explore three of the six sites and had one of the best trips in the history of road trips.
We visited Burr Oak, IA, Walnut Grove, MN and DeSmet, IA.
Each location offers a different insight into the Ingalls family and, more importantly, the heroine of the book, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Walnut Grove, located in southwest Minnesota, is home to the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum, Dugout Site/Plum Creek and Nellies Cafe, named after Laura’s archenemy.
PLAY ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK
After months of planning we were excited to finally be in Walnut Grove.
In the late 1800’s Laura lived in a dugout on the banks of Plum Creek near the town of Walnut Grove.
The dugout site is located on private property, however, the owners are kind enough to allow Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie aficionados access to Plum Creek and the site of the dugout.
Pay a $5 fee in the honor box and drive to the back of the property where there is significant parking, signage and picnic tables.
I love that the owners took the time to create storyboards about this area.
The board shares excerpts from the Little House on the Prairie book series, which is a helpful reminder in case its been a while since you’ve read On The Banks Of Plum Creek.
A bridge gives access to both sides of the creek and Sara and I spent quite a while just enjoying the same area that Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and played.
This was one of the moments in time that felt a little surreal.
I took a few moments to just absorb the fact that I was standing on ground that was brought to life in a book.
Quite a moment of historical fiction meeting real life.
I recommend packing a picnic (don’t forget bug spray) and having lunch on the banks of Plum Creek. If you are quiet and still for a few moments you might feel Laura’s presence surround you as you enjoy the peacefulness of the area.
I know for us, it was a bit magical.
LAURA INGALLS WILDER MUSEUM IN WALNUT GROVE MN
Back in town, we visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum.
The museum campus has numerous buildings dedicated to the era of Laura’s time. Explore a time period home, schoolhouse, dugout, church, barn and more.
The exhibits are so well done.
Informative, educational and entertaining all rolled into one. There are exhibits dedicated to the Little House on the Prairie tv series with displays showcasing the different characters and a TV looping the program.
Other exhibits have artifacts from Laura’s life on the prairie.
There are plenty of hands-on experiences for kids.
Dress up, play old fashioned games and see the toys from days gone by. Preach at church, attend school, play in a dugout, or pretend to work a general store.
The museum really encourages families to interact with one another and the exhibits.
We read letters written to and from Laura Ingalls Wilder and sat at a writing desk as we think of Laura writing these cherished childhood stories.
In a farm kitchen, we stumbled across a recipe for Laura’s gingerbread which we immediately photographed and make when we return home.
By the way, it’s delicious served with applesauce.
The Ingalls and other from that time were the original pioneers of tiny homes.
Step inside a dugout and see what life would have been like in this small dirt home.
Prairie grasses and flowers cover the grounds of the museum and is full of color adding to the overall character.
After exploring all the exhibits a stop at the gift shop is a must. I’m not much of a shopper, but museum gift shops have the best gifts, in my opinion.
We decided that purchasing bonnets for the remainder of a trip was a must for photos ops along the way.
It’s an amazing experience to explore the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder in Walnut Grove and gain more insight into the Little House on the Prairie books.
I adored this museum and highly recommend it to Little House on the Prairie and Laura Ingalls Wilder fans.
Visit the area during July weekends and you can attend the Wilder Pageant, “a family-oriented outdoor drama based on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder in Walnut Grove.
It is a live performance each night with all characters from the Walnut Grove area. Laura narrates the story, reflecting on her life in Walnut Grove in the 1870s.”
More information for planning a visit to one of Little House on the Prairie sites can be found here: http://walnutgrove.org
SIDE TRIP FROM WALNUT GROVE
After leaving Walnut Grove head West on Hwy 14 to the town of Tracy.
There is a Wheels Across The Prairie museum that looks like a lot of fun for the family to visit.
PIN VISIT LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE IN WALNUT GROVE, MN
Suzi Cafran says
Am a teacher living in Colorado, but grew up near there as a child! Walnut Grove is about 10 miles from my home! Fun to see others perspectives on their visitS to the area!!!
Deb Thompson says
It was a pretty epic road trip. Full of great childhood memories. 🙂
Deb Thompson says
Tracy, that is EXACTLY how we felt walking around the different Laura sites. Stay tuned….there is more to come!
Tracy Antonioli says
OH MY GOD THIS IS MY DREAM TRIP!
Sorry. Ahem. I mean: Sounds lovely.
Karen Dawkins says
Oh my goodness!!!! This is the best road trip ever. For little girls of my generation (just a few years ago), the Laura Ingalls Wilder books rivaled today’s American Girl craze. I can’t tell you how many times I read the series or how excited I was to have a prairie dress and bonnet of my own. Ohhhhh…
Thank you for taking me back to the best memories of my early years.