The Ultimate Laura Ingalls Wilder Road Trip! 🚙🏞

Hey all! I’m super excited to share this with you ~ my BFF Sarah recently took this amazing road trip visiting a bunch of Laura Ingalls Wilder sites, really diving into a passion of her daughter’s. This is what homeschooling is all about! She graciously agreed to share with us some photos of her journey, along with links & prices, so we can follow in her footsteps with our own Little House fans! {She was traveling with her husband, 10 year old daughter, 3 year old son, and 1 year old daughter.} Continue reading below to see what Sarah had to say: 

We just took the best family vacation! It was educational and fun and relatively cheap! The idea for the trip started when I saw a post in a homeschool group about a family camping on the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota. My daughter is 10 and LOVES all things Little House on the Prairie. (And so do I!) But until that moment, I didn’t even know that place existed! I immediately looked it up and found out it was 12.5 hours from our house in Indiana and I asked my husband if we could plan a trip to go there. And so began our Homeschool Road Trip!

The initial plan was to just visit the Ingalls Homestead in SD but then I realized we could see several Laura Ingalls sites during the trip, instead of just the one… and a few other fun stops as well! I packed lots of snacks and we planned to eat one meal a day on the road with stuff we brought (sandwiches). This turned out to be extremely helpful as we were in some very remote areas without many food options!

Day 1: Driving from Indianapolis, Indiana through Illinois to Iowa (6.5 hours driving)

Our first stop was at Lake of the Woods Park in Mahomet, IL. What a fun time we had there!

There is a Hi-Tower to climb and see the beautiful view from the top.

There is a Museum of the Grand Prairie (FREE admission) with awesome exhibits and a super fun kids area!

There was a playground where we had a picnic lunch. (There’s also a botanical garden there but we did not take the time to see that section.) We are definitely going to back to visit Lake of the Woods again sometime!

Our second stop on the first day was at Lake Storey Park in Galesburg, IL. This park was awesome with playgrounds and a beach spot. However, it was raining and about to storm when we were there. We didn’t stay too long, but the kids LOVED the lake because there was a perfect echo when you yelled. They spent quite a bit of time yelling there. Thankfully, the park was pretty empty!

Our last stop that day was to our hotel in Dubuque, IA. It is not far from Dryersville, IA where the Field of Dreams movie site is located (we did not visit though). We had dinner at the Olive Garden (we had a gift card) next door, went swimming in the hotel pool and called it a night!

Day 2: Driving from Iowa to Wisconsin to Minnesota (6.25 hours driving)

Our first stop was the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum in Burr Oak, IA (Adults $8, Children 6-17 $5, Children 5 & under free). We were able to tour the Masters Hotel where Laura lived in 1876 when she was 9 years old. It is the only childhood home where Laura lived that is still on its original site. It isn’t mentioned in the Little House book series, as it was a short period of time and also a sad time for the Ingalls (when they lost their son). However, Grace Ingalls was actually born in Burr Oak, IA. The tour was really informative! There was a historical video and then a guided walk-through the hotel. We saw many original items and learned so many interesting things!

Our second stop on Day 2 was at the reconstructed cabin at Laura’s birthplace in Pepin, WI (free). This is the Little House in the Big Woods. It was really amazing to see the actual land where the house stood, as well as the reconstructed cabin. The land is a historic site but is now surrounded by cornfields instead of woods as it was in Laura’s day. cabin.html

After that, we made a quick stop in Red Wing, MN to see the World’s Largest Boot (free) and have dinner before driving to our hotel for the night.

Day 3: Driving through Minnesota to South Dakota (3.75 hours driving)

Our first stop on Day 3 was at the Sod House on the Prairie ($4 per person, Children 6 & under free). It is not specifically Laura Ingalls related but it is an area of farmland that has sod houses (which were common in Laura’s day) and prairie grasses much like what would have been around when Laura was alive. It was a wonderful stop!

Our second stop on Day 3 was to the Ingalls Dugout Site in Walnut Grove, MN. We got to see where there house actually was on the banks of Plum Creek! (FREE) site.html

We ate lunch in Walnut Grove at Nellie’s Café and the food was really good!

From there we drove to the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, SD where we surprised the kids and camped overnight on the prairie in a covered wagon! It was so fun! The Ingalls Homestead is simply AMAZING and I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder or pioneer activities to visit there. The staff clearly loves what they do and they make sure every guest has an amazing time. Our kids rode horses, drove team of horses on the covered wagon, made corn cob dolls like Laura’s first doll, made their own jump ropes, did hay twisting, wheat grinding, helped wash the clothes, drove a pony cart and visited the one-room schoolhouse. So much fun!! Then we all got to camp there and enjoy the prairie life after the staff left. The owner left my daughter some washing to do after everyone was gone for the day and she took it very seriously! I can’t say enough about how fun this was. The cost for the activities is $12 per person, 5 and older. However, if you are there multiple days, one admission will cover all the days. Camping in our covered wagon was $60 for the night. We loved it!

Day 4: Driving through South Dakota all day (6 hours driving)

Our first stop was at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. It was a cute rest stop for us. They were in the process of changing the corn mural out front but we enjoyed the indoor murals and the tractor and some fun signs. (FREE)

Our next stop was a rest stop with an amazing scenic view in Chamberlain, SD. We didn’t stay long, just snapped a few pictures because two of our kids were napping! (FREE)

Next, we took a slight detour off of I-90 and did a 35 mile loop through the Badlands National Park. It was AMAZING! God’s creation! We could not get over how beautiful it was. And why had we never heard of it before this trip?! It was just something I had found to do on the way to Mount Rushmore but it was seriously even better than Mount Rushmore (in my opinion). We took a million photos and could have spent all day in the Badlands. But since we were trying to get to Mount Rushmore, my husband eventually was able to convince me to leave. ($20 fee/car to enter national park, good for 1 week)

Our last stop before our hotel was Mount Rushmore! After seeing the Badlands and being so impressed, I was worried Mount Rushmore would be a letdown. But, it was still amazing to see! It’s so crazy that there are actual faces in the mountainside!!! But after 30 minutes or so, we were all ready to leave. ($10 parking fee at Mount Rushmore, good for 1 year)

Day 5: Driving through Nebraska (7.25 hours driving)

Our first stop on Day 5 was at Carhenge in Alliance, NE. It was really cool to see all of the cars arranged like Stonehenge. We all had a good time walking through the exhibit. (FREE)

We drove for the next several hours, with just a bathroom break or two, until we got to the town where our hotel was. Then we hit a Runza for dinner (slogan: Get your Bunza to Runza!) and took our food to a nearby park to eat. The park was awesome and had multiple play areas with multiple splash pads. The kids really enjoyed the time to run around after a long day in the car! And it was right around the corner from the hotel! (FREE)

Day 6: Driving from Nebraska through Iowa (6.75 hours driving)

Our first stop on Day 6 was the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, in Council Bluffs, IA (near Omaha, NE). It was a last minute change to our agenda, but worked out well for us. My husband works for The Indiana Railroad so he was excited about a railroad museum and the kids all enjoyed seeing the train stuff! Plus, it was FREE!

Our second stop was at a McDonald’s with a play place and…the Moon Man! The kids had a chance to run around a bit and we lifted our McDonald’s ban for the occasion!

Day 7: Driving from Iowa through Illinois to Indiana – home! (5.25 hours driving)

We did one stop in Farmer City, IL right in the middle of the drive. We went to Weedman Park, to let the kids run around and play on the playground. (FREE) And we ate at the Subway in town as well. Then we pushed through and headed home!

We had so much fun!! It was really a great week and we all can’t wait to do another road trip together!

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your trip with us, Sarah!! Who else wants to take an epic Laura Ingalls Wilder trip like this?!? I know I do! 

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