The Ultimate Midwest Family Road Trip
Little House on the Prairie fans are sure to recognize—and love!—these stops along Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway (aka Route 14) starting in South Dakota and ending in Iowa.
Looking for some serene scenery for your next family road trip? Take a journey through the midwestern farms that inspired Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books in the the late 1800s. You can also make this road trip part of a bigger adventure.
“We did our Little House trip on the way to Yellowstone National Park from Philadelphia,” says mom Devon Weaver, founder of the blog Mama Cheaps.
Duration: 8 hours in the car over 4 to 5 days
Best age-range: Kids 6 and up
De Smet, South Dakota
Drive: 2 hours
Begin your journey at the Ingalls Homestead, a living-history farm.
“It’s like Colonial Williamsburg but on a much smaller scale,” says Weaver, whose daughter was 8 when they visited and is a fan of the show. “It’s on the land that the Ingalls once owned. We saw cottonwood trees that Pa actually planted. My daughter and I had goose bumps the whole time.”
Reenactors give lessons in the schoolhouse, help kids make their own jump ropes, and allow them to help drive a covered wagon and a pony cart. Weaver’s family stayed in one of four RV campsites; your family can also stay in a covered wagon.
Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Drive: 4 hours
The setting for the second book in the series, this town features a Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum.
“Although the museum doesn’t have much that belonged to the Ingalls or Wilder families, it does contain a lot of memorabilia from the TV show and items from some of Walnut Grove’s original residents,” says Weaver.
The real treat in Walnut Grove is splashing around in Plum Creek, just like Laura did; you may see moms sitting on the grass reading passages of the books to their young daughters. Camp at Plum Creek Park, or book a room at the Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham, in Springfield, Minnesota, which is on the way to the next stop.
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Drive: 2 hours
Explore a re-creation of the Little House in the Big Woods cabin on the land where Laura was born.
“The cabin isn’t furnished, but you can imagine what it would be like,” says Weaver. There’s also a Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in town that features many items from the time period.
After all this driving, stay at a place that feels like home: The Carriage House at the Harbor Hill Inn offers plenty of room for your crew, a full kitchen, a patio, and a view of Lake Pepin
Burr Oak, Iowa
The Ingalls lived in this tiny town for a year, when Laura was 9. Her home is now Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum (yes, another one!). Take the hour-long guided tour of the bedrooms, kitchen, and basement.
“The flooring in the building is original. My daughter thought it was pretty cool that she walked on the same flooring as Laura did,” says Apryl Fischer, of Franklin, Wisconsin. “I was surprised at how tiny the beds were! I’m not sure my kids would fit.”
After the tour, Fischer’s 6-year-old tried on dress-up clothes and obliged with a photo in the covered wagon. Spend the night at one of the chain hotels in nearby Decorah.
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