Spring Valley has just over 2,500 inhabitants, enough to make it the largest town in the county. Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband, Almanzo, whose parents moved here from New York when he was 13, attended the Methodist-Episcopal Church in Spring Valley during 1890 and 1891.
Today the simple church with its lovely stained-glass windows houses part of the Spring Valley Historical Museum (221 Courtland St. W., 507/346-7659, www.springvalleymnmuseum.org , 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily summer, Sat.–Sun. Sept.–Oct., $4 adults). Naturally, the handful of Wilder photos and memorabilia are the primary draw.
The rest of the historical hodgepodge includes an antique camera collection, 1874 horse-drawn fire wagon, funeral wreaths woven from human hair, and an exhibit on Richard Sears, founder of Sears, Roebuck & Co., who was born in nearby Stewartville.
Across the street is the 1865 Washburn-Zittleman House, furnished as it would have been at the turn of the 20th century. Another building has school, military, and agricultural displays. The Wilder’s home is gone, but if you want to see their barn ask the staff for directions.
Spring Valley Inn & Suites (745 Broadway N., 507/346-7788 or 888/254-6835, www.springvalleyinnsuites.com , $72) has modern rooms.
Elaine’s Café (125 Broadway S., 507/346- 7492, 6 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Thurs., 6 a.m.– 1 p.m. Mon. and Sat.–Sun., 6 a.m.–7 p.m. Fri., $2–10) is a no-nonsense joint where locals linger over coffee and catch up on town news. If you’re lucky the daily special will be the Tater Tot hot dish.