Road Trip: Finding Laura Ingalls' Little Houses

Updated: Mar 21


Every fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" series has imagined living in at least one of Laura's nostalgic little houses. Whether it was the cozy cabin in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, where Laura and Mary played on tree stumps in the yard, or the dugout house on the banks of Plum Creek in Minnesota where Ma kept the dirt floor carefully swept, or the elegant surveyor's house in the Dakota Territory with its real glass windows, each of Laura's houses brings to mind vivid memories of Laura's pioneer adventures.


While several of Laura's original homes do not survive today, a number of recreations are available across the Midwest, allowing fans to visit, immerse themselves in pioneer life, and imagine they're traveling with Laura across the frontier in the late 1800s.


Here's how to visit the settings of each of Laura's books:


LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS


The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

Pepin, Wisconsin


Open daily from May - October


The Big Woods has been leveled, but a replica of the log cabin that Pa built in 1863 stands on the actual land where Laura once lived.


Take a self-guided tour of the tiny house, known as the Wayside Cabin. If you visit in September, stop by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Days activities in town.


Visit the museum gift shop to pick up an All-Sites Passport and have it stamped at each location.



LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE


Little House on the Prairie Museum

Independence, Kansas


Open daily from March - November


Again, Laura's original one-room cabin no longer exists, but an authentic replica of the house Pa built in 1869 stands in its place. Tour the cabin and see the original well, hand-dug by Pa. Visit two other period buildings on the site (moved here from other places), including a one-room schoolhouse and a tiny post office.


Visit in June to enjoy the Prairie Days Festival.





ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK


Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

Walnut Grove, Minnesota


Open daily from April - October


View a replica of Laura's dugout home, visit the memorabilia museum, and view the adjacent covered wagon, historic schoolhouse and depot. The actual site of the Ingalls' dugout, now just a large depression in the ground, can also be viewed 1.5 miles north of the museum.


Visit in July to view the outdoor production known as the Wilder Pageant, in which live actors dramatize Laura's adventures, or join the Laura-Nellie Lookalike Contest.



BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE


Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes

DeSmet, South Dakota


Open Mon-Fri from April - October, plus Saturdays in the summer


Visit the Surveyor's House where the Ingalls family first lived when they arrived in the Dakota Territory in 1879. A guided tour of several historic properties will take 1.5 hours.


Nearby, visit The Ingalls Homestead to experience hands-on life on a prairie farm.








THE LONG WINTER


Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes

DeSmet, South Dakota


Open Mon-Fri from April - October, plus Saturdays in the summer


During The Long Winter of 1880-1881, the Ingalls family lived in the commercial store building that Pa built in the fledgling town of DeSmet. This building is included on the same guided tour with the Surveyor's House, led by the Memorial Society (above).


The Loftus Store, where Mr Loftus overcharged the starving citizens for wheat, also still stands on Main Street in DeSmet, and features memorabilia & gifts.



LITTLE TOWN ON THE PRAIRIE


Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes

DeSmet, South Dakota


Open Mon-Fri from April - October, plus Saturdays in the summer


Also on the Memorial Society tour, visit Pa's homestead claim shanty, and DeSmet's First School, where Laura and Carrie were students and where Eliza Jane Wilder taught in 1881.


Visit the Discovery Center for hands-on experience dressing up as a pioneer, reading Braille and testing out an old treadle sewing machine.





THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS


Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes

DeSmet, South Dakota


Open Mon-Fri from April - October, plus Saturdays in the summer


Again on the same tour, visit a replica of the Brewster School (known as the Bouchie School in real life) where Laura spent her first year as a teacher in 1882.


You may also visit the house Pa built in 1887, where he and Ma and Mary lived after Laura left home to marry Almanzo, along with the cemetery where some of the family is buried, and the original cottonwood trees Pa planted for Ma.



THE FIRST FOUR YEARS


Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes

DeSmet, South Dakota


Open Mon-Fri from April - October, plus Saturdays in the summer


During the first years of their marriage, beginning in 1885, Laura and Almanzo lived on his homestead claim, but unfortunately the house he built burned down. The site can be seen on the Memorial Society tour.









BONUS: FARMER BOY


Almanzo Wilder Homestead

Malone, New York


Open daily from June - September


If you have time for a long detour, visit the farm in upstate New York where Almanzo was born in 1857. Tour the museum, original house, the reconstructed barns, and a replica one-room schoolhouse.


Restorers of the home reported finding a black mark on the parlor wallpaper, hidden under layers of new paper, which corresponds exactly with Laura's description of the mischievous Almanzo's mishap with the blacking brush!



Have you visited any of these historic sites? Let us know in the comments what you thought!



COMPLETE YOUR LIBRARY



PIN IT