Red Cloud Named One of the 15 Best Small Towns to Visit

Red Cloud Named One of the 15 Best Small Towns to Visit

June 12, 2023

by Laura Kiniry, Smithsonian Magazine

Great Plains novelist Willa Cather grew up in Red Cloud, and this year the small Nebraska town is celebrating the 150th anniversary of her birth with everything from the restoration and reopening (in late 2023) of her childhood home—still decorated with wallpaper from her teenage years—to a series of festivities centered around Cather’s actual birthday, December 7. Although still in the planning stages, the activities are to include a virtual event celebrating the release of Benjamin Taylor’s new Cather biography, Chasing Bright Medusas, and readings from Cather's works. The acclaimed author's descriptions of frontier life have earned her a spot among the masters of American literature. In addition, 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the awarding of the Pulitzer Prize for Cather’s 1922 novel, One of Ours, as well as the publication of her book A Lost Lady.

Red Cloud’s brick-lined streets and 19th-century structures are home to the Willa Cather Historic District, the largest collection of nationally designated historic sites dedicated to an author. These include the 1885 Red Cloud Opera House, which hosts musicals and live bands in the same space where Cather had her high school graduation ceremony, and the National Willa Cather Center and its museum.