We’ve all got our favorite little corners of Nebraska – places we visit to get away from our everyday lives, visit a special spot, or eat at an amazing restaurant. We’ve already told you why Brownville should be on your list of fun places to visit, and today we’re looking at the town of Red Cloud.
Red Cloud calls itself “The Most Famous Little Town in America,” but despite the approximately 10,000 visitors who roll through the town each year, the place manages to hold onto its quaint small-town appeal.
The town of just over 1,000 people is best known as the childhood home of Pulitzer Prize-winning American pioneer author Willa Cather. Cather used the town, its buildings, and nearby places as inspiration in novels like
O Pioneers! and My Antonia.
Today, many of Red Cloud’s 19th-century buildings are a part of the
Willa Cather Historic District
. The district is the largest of its kind dedicated to a single author listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Seven buildings in the town have been restored to their original grandeur: Willa Cather’s childhood home, the Red Cloud Opera House, the Harling House (where Cather’s childhood friends lived, and which she described in
My Antonia), the Burlington Depot, the Garber Bank, Grace Episcopal Church, and St. Juliana Falconieri Catholic Church.
The Willa Cather Foundation offers guided educational tours of the buildings as well as a walking tour of all seven of the restored buildings. Once you’ve finished touring the town, hop in the car for the Country Tour: a guided or self-guided countryside tour that takes you to 20 sites related to Cather and her life and work.
Another can’t-miss stop is the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. This immaculate 612-acre prairie has never been plowed and is filled with native grasses and wildflowers. This spot is especially beloved by birders who come to watch the huge variety of native bird species.
Red Cloud isn’t all about Willa Cather, however. It is also home to the Starke Round Barn, built in 1902. At three stories tall, it is the largest circular barn in the country. Tours are available by appointment. The Webster County Museum is another Red Cloud attraction that definitely deserves a stop on your next visit.
Then, catch a live musical or theatrical performance at the historic Red Cloud Opera House, grab a bite at The Palace Steakhouse & Lounge, and do some shopping at the sweet little shops that line the brick streets of the town. Red Cloud is an absolute must-visit for history buffs and lovers of Willa Cather’s beautiful tales of life in pioneer Nebraska.
Have you ever visited Red Cloud? Which attractions would you recommend? Share your stories in the comments! You can find out more about Red Cloud at
the town’s website or from the Willa Cather Foundation.