Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
330 8th St., Walnut Grove, MN. 507-528-7280. www.walnutgrove.org/museum.htm
$5 ages 13 and over; $2 ages 6-12; 5 and under free. Free parking. Stroller accessible. Restrooms available (no changing table but decent sized counter by sink).
I had been to the Wilder Museum when I was a child, and again a few years ago, but I couldn’t remember how it would be for kids as young as mine are. I shouldn’t have been worried. Other than the gift shop that inspired a bad case of the “gimmes,” the museum was great for kids.
The depot building has a lot of memorabilia that the kids weren’t really interested in, so we breezed through there pretty quickly and made our way to the little church. The kids had fun playing “Pastor” in the pulpit and sitting on the kid-sized pews while I worked the pump organ (clearly labeled as “hands-on” and with period music furnished). Then we went through Grandma’s House, which had many furnishings allowing for a nice little refresher quiz for the kids to see if they could still identify a washboard, flatiron, wood stove, etc. that they had seen on other travels.
The last room of Grandma’s House was completely hands-on and designed just for kids. They could dress up in costumes, play with pioneer-style games and toys, and use a pioneer “play” kitchen. There was a smaller pump organ here as well.
Then we went past the old jail cells into the replica of the Ingalls dugout. Smaller than any of our bedrooms, it’s hard to imagine an entire family living there. The kids’ favorite was the little red school where they took turns being teacher and teacher’s helper, and finally we went through the replica of the “wonderful” house that Laura and her family had lived in.
We took a walk uptown to see the Oleson Mercantile, which is a nice flower and gift shop (and has a souvenir penny machine, if you’re a collector like we are) and took some time to play in the park with its variety of playground equipment, ranging from a nice little toddler area to a good old-fashioned slippery-slide, before heading back to the car. As we walked past the museum, the kids asked if we could go back in. They loved the church and school enough that they wanted to role-play again, and the staff obliged.
Although they’ve only seen the Little House TV show a few times and haven’t read the books yet, the kids seemed to really enjoy learning about Laura and the pioneer times at the Wilder Museum.