We’re continuing around the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesite towns (with museums) in the order that Laura lived there. Our next stop is Burr Oak, Iowa. While I cautioned you last time that Walnut Grove is smaller than a lot of the homesite towns, Burr Oak is the smallest one that actually boasts a museum.
Burr Oak is a true crossroads town, set back in an oxbow of the highway that circles around it. The museum itself is usually the biggest source of activity in town, although there are at least two active churches and a bar (that serves food). The rest of the town is just homes and a handful of occasional hobby type businesses that aren't open to the public most of the time. It is, however, just 10 minutes north of Decorah, which is huge by comparison. Decorah offers multiple hotels and bed and breakfasts of all price ranges, a variety of restaurants, one of the busiest downtowns at all hours that you will find in Iowa (worth walking down just to see what one looks like), several museums (including the nationally known Norwegian heritage center, the Vesterheim), and Luther College. They recently invested in trail system that circles the entire town which only adds to their incredible park system that offers several spots, both natural and man-made, that make you think you've stepped into a fairytale. The rural area between Burr Oak and Decorah is active too, housing among other things What's New Antiques and the world famous Seed Savers Exchange.
Check out these resources to help you plan your trip:
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum
Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum Facebook
Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum YouTube
- Decorah Area Visitor and Information Center - Get maps of the area from them
- Historic Bluff Country - Right over the state border into Minnesota, a few minutes north of Burr Oak
Being from Iowa, Burr Oak was the first homesite I visited and I go back a lot. My route to any of the northern homesites CAN reasonably go through Burr Oak, so I make sure it does. I often tell people if you're planning a trip on a weekend when none of the three sites is having a special event, Burr Oak/Spring Valley/Pepin makes a real nice weekend trip. Back in 2007 they offered this suggestion for including Burr Oak in a 5 Homesite Trip Itinerary (note it hasn't been updated, but will give you a basic idea).
Find a round up of my posts about Burr Oak on my personal blog here. Some businesses that I enjoy visiting and mention in various blog posts are listed here, find more options on the Official City Website and Chamber of Commerce Website under the appropriate tab (shopping, where to stay, etc.):
- Hotel Winnishiek
- Little Brown Church
- Locust School
- One More on the Way
- Phelps Park
- Seed Savers Exchange
- Trout Run Trail (the 11 mile trail that circles Decorah)
- What's New Antiques
- Sadly my two frequently mentioned restaurants, the Victorian Rose and its worthy successor Tea and Tarts are both out of business. The one place I tried out as successor so far I didn't enjoy, but there are lots of restaurants to try out in Decorah Rubaiyat is next on my list. I've heard good things about it from people.
Sarah S. Uthoff blogs at TrundleBed Tales; look for her on Facebook, Twitter , YouTube, Blog Talk Radio, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association, Acting President.