If there is one thing that would make Walnut Grove a better place to visit, it would be for there to be a good place to spend the night in town. Traffic would be slow most of the year I think, but June, July, and August would be bursting at the seams. It would be good for the town also since spending a night in a place statistically increases the amount of money you spend there which helps keep businesses that support tourists going. Having a place to stay lined up as early as possible is a key to a successful Walnut Grove visit.
Most of the “Walnut Grove” lodging options take you out of town. Personally for many years I got to stay with Shirley Knackmuhs who ran a sort of free bed and breakfast for Laura people, but sadly those days are gone. See comments on where else I’ve stayed at the bottom.
(Personally I’ve often wished that some of the same laws that cover temporary hotels or camps in Europe were in effect here since from what I’ve seen on travel shows they have a lot more leeway for setting up temporary options. I could easily see “rooms” set up in a barn or even some of the public buildings in town if health/fire regulations easily allowed it — but as it they don’t.)
Walnut Grove as a community have recognized this need for lodging and have struggled with a way to meet it. A definite step in the right direction is the addition of two AirBnbs. The one that’s already listed on the museum’s lodging page is Half-Pint’s Hideway and allows you to rent an entire 3 bedroom house.
The second one which I think will soon be listed there is Little Room on the Prairie which is a double bed in a single bedroom.
There were several others listed in the surrounding area which I hadn’t known were available until I did a search for this post. So they would be another option.
Honestly I have issues with AirBnbs for economical and civics reasons I won’t dwell on here, but with them in Walnut Grove I’ll probably be swallowing my principles and staying in one sooner or later. I have to admit that in the specific situation of a town with a focused short run of tourism each year most of those reasons I have for objecting don’t really apply and for Laura towns this might actually be a great choice for the owners/hosts, the towns, and the tourists.
Within the last 5 years I’ve stayed at two hotels in the immediate area around Walnut Grove. The Wilder Inn, which had nice rooms even if they were small, but, since I’d grayed my hair, forced me to take a cold water shower. (I think it was a temporary problem because I haven’t heard that complaint from other people although staff were sparse on both information about what was happening and on concern that I didn’t have any hot water.) However, the speed in which you could get to and from Walnut Grove made the inconveniences worth it and on that account alone I recommend it highly if you can get a reservation. Understand what the Wilder Inn is though. It’s one of the second generation of motels (in between the stand alone tourist cabins my grandparents honeymooned in and the single level hotels with doors that opened right to your parking spot that were just starting to age out of my youth – if you want to see either they have a great display of them at the Henry Ford). It’s been upgraded several times since then, but that’s its bones so don’t expect more than it can give. I’d also recommend grabbing breakfast at the Subway across the street in Tracy if it’s a big attendance day in Walnut Grove and at Nellie’s in Walnut Grove if it isn’t.
I also stayed at the motel in Springfield, Minnesota which is 25 miles from Walnut Grove. While you could see it had been built as a nice hotel (for the size and area) it really hadn’t been kept up and is off the Walnut Grove lodging page. I liked the town though. I was sorry the hotel hadn’t been kept up. Since it’s no longer listed on the lodging page I mainly mention it because the distances are listed on the lodging page and Springfield was 25 miles away. I ended up wanting something I left back in the room and just one added trip seemed to take forever and that’s someone who’s always lived in the country so I’m used to driving. The closer you can get the better.
I have stayed in several of the hotels along I-90 when I was driving part way to Walnut Grove and staying over to get an early start in the morning, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that if you’re planning on coming back to Walnut Grove the next day OR if you’re planning on staying for the pageant.
I’m not really a camper, but if you have a tent and like to camp or an RV it means that you can get some of the closest places to stay in any of the Laura towns. So if that’s an option for you, seriously consider it for most Laura towns especially Walnut Grove, Minnesota and Burr Oak, Iowa where there really aren’t any/many other “in town” options.
Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.