Red Cloud Welcome Sign

Willa Cather's Red Cloud

Walk in her footsteps. Stay in her town.

"I'm not exaggerating, Carrie, when I confide to you that I would rather go home to Red Cloud than to any of the beautiful cities in Europe where I used to love to go . . ."

-Willa Cather in a letter to Carrie Miner Sherwood

Red Cloud, Nebraska is not just a destination. It’s a place where literature and culture merge with the pleasures of a quiet country town and its prairie surroundings. To visit Red Cloud is to experience a town and entire landscapes, largely unchanged, as world-famous author Willa Cather knew them as a young girl and throughout her life. Red Cloud is a rural town of 1,020 people far from any city or suburban sprawl. It is a welcoming and friendly spot to pause and refresh or entirely regroup away from it all. Red Cloud is an oasis on the prairie — yet only a short scenic drive between two major Federal Interstates while at the crossroads of two state highways (one a designated scenic byway), both their own direct but tranquil journeys.

Red Cloud Opera House

National Willa Cather Center

Stop first at the National Willa Cather Center where you can relax in our art gallery or bookstore or begin your tour experience. Our arts and cultural hub opened in 2017 in a commercial “Main Street” (that’s Webster Street to us) with original store fronts and historic architecture preserved and revitalized with new businesses. Here is the Red Cloud Opera House, the place of Cather’s arts immersion and education as a child, restored and open today with events and performances throughout the year. Our Special Collections & Archives hold some of the priceless treasures of a literary life and with the recent addition of over 8,000 documents and artifacts related to Willa Cather. Our Red Cloud Opera House Gallery hosts exhibits throughout the year while our permanent exhibit space details the life of Willa Cather in American Bittersweet. Our bookstore features books by and related to Willa Cather alongside other unique and curated gift items and welcomes authors for book talks and signings.

Willa Cather's Childhood Home

Willa Cather's Childhood Home & Guided Tours

Willa Cather’s literary legacy is at one with the very soul of the places that so inspired her brilliant career — and still here, over 100 years later, for all to visit. Here is a place where you can experience the very buildings and landscapes that Willa Cather wrote about or lived in — whether it is her childhood bedroom and its original wallpaper in The Song of the Lark or the Miner House that became the Harling home in My Ántonia. Several different guided tour options include the Willa Cather Childhood Home (a National Historic Landmark), a Town Tour of our historic sites, a Prairie Tour, and a Country Tour of the surrounding landscapes and places that inspired Cather's writing. All tours depart from the National Willa Cather Center which preserves and maintains these special places for the enjoyment of all today. 

Willa Cather Prairie

The Prairie Landscape

Outside of town, in Webster County, there are miles of prairie and more Cather-infused destinations, churches, and houses that await discovery on our Country Tour. Among them is the Pavelka Farm which shaped the descriptive farmstead and beautiful conclusion of My Ántonia. The 612-acre Willa Cather Memorial Prairie on the Nebraska-Kansas border preserves untouched prairie land as Cather would have known it and provides home to flora and fauna, and a few wandering cows. Here you can witness unique sunrises and sunsets, varied weatherscapes, or the deep and immense pageant of the night sky. Take a walk (and bring a picnic) amidst the great ocean of land that rolls around you. Listen only to the sound of the wind and the larks or the gentle murmur of cattle — or just the sound of absolutely nothing in the virtual center of the lower 48-states.

Cather Second Home Guest House

Spend a Night in the Cather Second Home Guest House

Whether you are planning a book group excursion, family vacation, or a quiet writer’s retreat, we invite you to spend a quiet evening at the Cather Second Home Guest House. You may rent the room that was Cather's, or the rooms of her parents and siblings. At the conclusion of your stay, you will be inspired and leave refreshed — just as Willa Cather did throughout her lifetime when she was, in her own words, “always being pulled back into Nebraska.” You will be, too.

Villa Willa

Book the 'Villa Willa' Loft Apartment

Stay in the center of Red Cloud in a refurbished loft with 1,400 sf of renovated space and easy access to everything. This spacious loft apartment is located on the upper floor of the historic 1886 "Moon Block" which houses the National Willa Cather Center. It features two bedrooms and one full bathroom, with a laundry. Twelve foot ceilings with large windows and natural light bathe the wood floors throughout. A fully equipped and applianced kitchen awaits, with a gourmet local market across the street!.

Visitors Walking Outside

"A Walk in Her Footsteps"

A Special Weekend Tour Package

Immerse yourself in the settings and landscapes of Willa Cather with three inspiring days exploring Willa Cather's world with our newly launched "A Walk In Her Footsteps" weekend tour! From her quaint childhood home to the windswept prairie that memorializes her, visitors of all ages and backgrounds are guaranteed to depart Red Cloud with a fresh idea of Willa Cather and the Great Plains. Come witness the sites and sounds that changed American literature.

Take a detour from the scramble of urbanity and absorb the rolling prairie landscape in Red Cloud, Nebraska: the home of Willa Cather. Upon your arrival, you are immediately immersed in the natural and material world that inspired the Pulitzer Prize winner’s influential writings.

Willa Cather, circa 1926

Celebrate Willa Cather's 150th Year

In Nebraska and Beyond

The National Willa Cather Center is commemorating acclaimed novelist Willa Cather’s 150th birthday with a host of special events across the country. Visit our Cather Sesquicentennial page for more about events here in Red Cloud and at partner sites across the nation.