The vision for this little vacay began when we were invited to a family wedding in Keystone, CO, on August 5-7, and we decided to turn it into a road trip.
The vision expanded and coalesced back in June when I decided that this was the summer to introduce the kids to Little House on the Prairie.
Here we are—on the road, just west of Walnut Grove, starting Day 2 of our trip back in time.
As I’ve talked about our adventure and shared pictures on social media, I’ve been surprised how many people have responded—“I’ve always wanted to do that!” So rather than try to sum up the trip once we get home, I’m going to turn This Odd House into a little travel log for the next couple of weeks. Feel free to follow along.
Before I get into the trip itself, however, I must mention that the kids and I have been watching at least one episode each night of the Little House on the Prairie TV series. I grew up on the series and loved it as a kid, but I haven’t seen it in many years. I must admit that I had forgotten just how wonderful it is.
We are a few episodes into Season 3, and every episode thus far has given us so much to talk about. There’s the history, of course. But there are also lessons of theology, morality, civility, social responsibility, and much more. It’s so rich!
We have also been reading the books. We’ve finished Little House in the Big Woods and have moved into Little House on the Prairie. I had hoped to get further into the books before we hit the road, but we’re using our time in the car to read more. I found several of the audio books at the library, and we’re reading the others out loud.
With that bit of background, here’s what’s happened so far…
We left McHenry on Thursday evening and drove to Mankato, Minnesota. It was a 5-hour trip and, since we left in the evening, the kids slept for much of it. I wanted Mankato to be our first stop, since it’s mentioned often in the books and the TV series as the nearest big city to the Ingalls family.
My plan was to spend yesterday morning at the lovely Sibley Park and Zoo. However, when we pulled up to our Mankato hotel on Thursday night, we found the whole place bedecked in purple and gold. Unbeknownst to me when I made our reservation, yesterday was the first day of the MN Vikings training camp at Minnesota State University. (I grew up in the Minneapolis area and Peter’s parents spent a year in Minnesota as well, so we are fans.) Admission to training camp is free. You just pay $10 for parking. So the Vikings trumped Sibley, and we spent a couple of hours watching the team practice, and playing football games in the family zone. It was a lot of fun!
After lunch we drove 1½ hours west from Mankato to our first real Little House destination, Walnut Grove. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum is there and is well worth the trip. It isn’t huge. On site are eight buildings—models of a school house, a church, a sod house, and a settler’s cottage. There are also a period house, a museum, and a newer exhibit where kids can pretend to run the mercantile, the bank, and the post office. There are many opportunities for hands-on play. Daryl (almost 8) enjoyed the museum, but the three hours we spent were probably enough for him. Amelia (5), on the other hand, could have played there all day!
When we left the museum we drove around town—past the site of the original school and church. Then we drove out to the site of the original Ingalls dugout home—on the banks of Plum Creek. There isn’t a lot to see, but it’s a beautiful spot. And when you read about it in the books, it’s just fun to be able to picture the spot and say you’ve been.
In the early evening, we drove 40 minutes to Marshall, MN, where we stayed for the night. When we travel, we like to eat at local restaurants as much as we can, so we had dinner at Toni’s Depot, a little hole in the wall with good hamburgers and a nice taco salad.
Finally, after a swim at the new and very nice Sleep Inn, we watched episode 4, season 3, of Little House on the Prairie—the one where Laura beats Nellie in a horse race. Then we fell asleep to Daddy reading another chapter from the books.