There's a reason Little House on the Prairie is still popular with audiences decades after it ended. The family values, the true stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder's upbringing in Walnut Grove, Minnesota and life lessons in each rerun have made it one of the all-time greats. Based on Wilder's autobiographical Little House books, the show starred Melissa Gilbert (Laura), Michael Landon (Charles Ingalls), Karen Grassle (Caroline Ingalls) and Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary Ingalls) as the Ingalls family for nine wonderful seasons on NBC.
Even with the news of a new reboot in the works, we're not sure how they'll be able to top the original cast members. Landon was Charles Ingalls and Alison Arngrim was the ultimate brat Nellie Oleson. Not to mention, Gilbert perfectly captured Laura Ingalls growing up before our very eyes and eventually falling in love with Almanzo Wilder. Either way, we're excited for the continuation of the beloved television series' legacy.
The majority of the interior shots were filmed on a sound stage at Paramount Studios but if you're going to film a TV show set in the prairie of the 1800s, you need a solid location for all of the outdoor shots. Did you know that despite taking place in Minnesota, the show was actually filmed outside of Los Angeles, California? The exterior shots were mostly filmed at the Big Sky Movie Ranch.
Big Sky Movie Ranch
Big Sky was the same location where some of the most notable western shows of all time were filmed -- Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Rawhide and more. Located in Simi Valley, the set perfectly captured everyday life in Walnut Grove where the little town was assembled for the series. The Little House on the Prairie set was even open to the local community once a year for live re-enactments, tours, and a charity fundraiser.
"Just about every family I know has pictures of their children at that event," Michelle LaPointe, a Simi resident, told the High Plains Journal. "To me, Big Sky Movie Ranch is Simi Valley," added Brad Stanaway. " For myself, and my friends, it's part of my fondest memories as a child, and as an adult."
Sadly the ranch suffered a major fire a couple of years back so none of the original Little House structures still stand. But you can see what once was in the above video before the fire took everything out. The historic ranch not only served as the backdrop for Little House and notable westerns but even as Africa in Eddie Murphy's comedy classic Coming to America.
Red Hills Movie Ranch
More outdoor scenes took place at the Red Hills Ranch located in Sonora, California. This is the same location where Back to the Future Part III took place in the Old West as well as scenes on the Ponderosa Ranch in Bonanza.
Old Tucson Studios
Dozens of movies were filmed at Old Tucson Studios, including Rio Bravo (1959), McLintock (1963), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Three Amigos (1986), and Tombstone (1993). pic.twitter.com/pDyWuRe40X
-- Patrick Chovanec (@prchovanec) February 21, 2020
On the TV series, Charles Ingalls was seen making deliveries to the town of Mankato fairly frequently. All of those locations took place at the Old Tucson Studios in Tucson, Arizona. Numerous John Wayne movies were also filmed here including Rio Bravo and El Dorado. Other notable western shows of the time also filmed here including The High Chaparral and Father Murphy.
This story was first published on Jan. 7, 2021.