A Laura Ingalls Wilder Road Trip

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Welcome to the show notes for the seventh episode of the Just Go Places Podcast. Episode Seven is a discussion with two friends who went on a Laura Ingalls Wilder road trip inspired by the Little House on the Prairie stories.


Today’s guest is Deb Thompson, traveler, foodie and all around cool girl from Michigan, who took a road trip with her good friend Sara Keinath, an educator from MSU extension through Iowa and Minnesota. On their Laura Ingalls Wilder road trip, they visited three of the sites made famous by the Little House on the Prairie book series.

A Little House on the Prairie Roadtrip


About Deb Thompson

Deb writes at Just Short of Crazy where she writes about staying sane with whiskey and road trips (not necessarily at the same time!!).  On her blog, she’s posted about her experience on the Laura Ingalls Wilder road trip as well as shared the recipe for Laura’s Gingerbread recipe.

I absolutely loved reading the Little House series when I was a kid and I know they are still very popular. The Little House books show a fairly stark and realistic view of how difficult life in the American West was in the 19th century.  Through the eyes of a child though, frontier life seems full of fun and adventure.

About Laura Ingalls Wilder

So who was Laura Ingalls Wilder? The factual person and the fictional heroine have blurred over the years with the publishing of the popular books and the TV series.

Just a few facts from what we know to be true about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life:

Laura was born in 1867, the second child of Charles and Caroline Ingalls in Wisconsin. The family moved around a fair bit between Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. The family had their fair share of tragedies – the oldest child, Mary was left blind by disease and the only son died as an infant. Charles Ingall failed at running a hotel and had his wheat crop destroyed by a plague of grasshoppers when he turned his hand to farming. Eventually the family moved to the Dakota territories to be homesteaders. Charles helped found the town of De Smet in South Dakota.

Burr Oak Iowa Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
Image credit: Deb Thompson

Laura became a teacher and married a homesteader Almanzo Wilder. They had one daughter, Rose, and one son who died as an infant. Laura didn’t become famous for the Little House series until she was in her 60’s.

Indisputably, Laura Ingalls Wilder is an American literary icon for children’s fiction. Her books have sold over 60 million copies in more than 100 countries. The 9 books trace the progression of Laura from pioneer girl to pioneer wife and mother during a remarkable period of American history.

I was delighted to speak with Deb and Sara to hear about their Laura Ingalls Wilder road trip on this the 80th anniversary of the publication of the first Little House book in 1935. I hope you enjoy it too!

Listen to Episode 7 Below:


As Mentioned in the Podcast:

This Laura Ingalls Wilder Road Trip covered 25oo miles and three American states over the course of 9 days.  Some of the highlights of the trip are noted below.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, Minnesota

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes in De Smet, South Dakota

Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota is the only corn palace in the world. It is conveniently located near De Smet in South Dakota

Earth Inn, Jackson Minnesota is the closest you will get to a dugout home and is conveniently located near Walnut Grove, Minnesota

Rose Wilder Lane – Journalist and political writer who was the only surviving child of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband, Almanzo

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16 thoughts on “A Laura Ingalls Wilder Road Trip”

  1. Awesome podcast! We recently visited Laura’s adulthood home, and found it very interesting – we’re excited to expand on that and visit a few other places in the future, as we’re currently reading the series with our five-year-old daughter.

    1. My 9 year old is reading the series for herself now and is engrossed. I’m curious to see if she is as drawn to The Long Winter as everyone else was.

    1. You’re welcome! It’s great to talk to someone about something you both love so a podcast seemed the right fit for this topic.

  2. Oh be still my beating heart! I grew up loving the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (it was before the TV series). I still remember so many of her stories. Such happy memories….

    1. I preferred the books to the TV series too! We were only allowed 1/2 hour of TV as kids and (don’t ask me why) but I was obsessed with reruns of Gilligans Island.

  3. What a nice surprise that must have been to stumble across all those great “Little House on the Prairie” locations. I was a huge fan of that book series and I’m looking forward to my daughter being a strong enough reader to enjoy them as well. Interesting podcast. 🙂

  4. As a child I watched the Little House on the Prairie series, but didn’t become interested until I discovered it was based on a true story. I would love to visit the museum.

  5. We went on a three week West trip this summer and I was so excited to take my daughter to the location of the the sod house in Walnut Grove and then the museum and houses in De Smet. We can’t wait to visit the other locations! We camped while we were visiting both Laura sites and we found two great campgrounds–if anyone would like info on them, feel free to send me a message.

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