Little House on the Prairie

Visiting Laura Ingalls Wilder in DeSmet, SD

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There is a little town in South Dakota where the pages of the ever-popular Little House on the Prairie series comes to life.

Here, adults and children alike, can experience prairie life first hand and walk the land that Laura Ingalls Wilder lived on during her childhood.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

By The Shores of Silver Lake, Little Town on the Prairie, The Long Winter, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years are all historic childhood fiction stories about growing up in the Dakota Territories, in a little place that is now known as DeSmet, South Dakota.

DeSmet is where the Ingalls lived most of their lives and where most of the stories written by Laura Ingalls Wilder took place.

Here you can walk through the house that Pa built in town, sit under the cottonwood trees Pa planted, experience life on the original Ingalls homestead, stand by the shores of Silver Lake and pay respects at the town cemetery where most of the family is buried.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home Society and the Ingalls Homestead both provide a wonderful opportunity to experience life from Laura’s days on the prairie.

An entire day can easily be spent visiting the town of DeSmet and exploring the life and times of the Little House on the Prairie series.


Laura Ingalls Wilder

Take a guided tour through four buildings from Laura’s time. The tour includes the Surveyors’ House, the First School of De Smet, the replica of the Brewster School, and the house that Pa built.

Additionally, the visitors center offers an exhibit which house the largest collection of original artifacts of the Ingalls family.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The tour through the buildings takes about an hour and you are able to spend as much time as you’d like at the visitors center exhibit.

After you are done in town head out of town a mile toward the Ingalls Homestead.

Adjacent to the homestead is the cottonwood trees that Pa planted for the girls. Take a moment to walk under their branches, sit in their shade and breathe it all in. This was one of my favorite moments.

All I could think about is that we have no idea how important the seeds we plant now will become. There is no way that Pa knew the significance these trees would have over 100 years later.

I wonder what seeds I’ve planted will become significant long after I’m gone. <<—Something to think about.


Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Ingalls Homestead is a living museum located on the original Ingalls property. This is the land where Laura and her sister’s created so many childhood memories and, in my opinion, created some of the best storybooks.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

During our visit, we explored a dugout home and shanty home, played with the animals in the hay roof barn, learned about home life in a house built based on Pa’s papers he filed for his land claim, drove a covered wagon, went to school, made hay twists and so much more.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Yes, we held little newborn kittens. So adorable and cute.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

A very friendly calf lives in the hay roof barn.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

We learned about soapmaking and laundry day. THAT would have been a chore back in the day. Thank goodness for today’s washers and dryers!

Laura Ingalls Wilder

We made hay twists, corn cob babies and learned about the Long Winter at Flindts Garage.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

We drove a covered wagon across the prairie to the school. Honestly, a really cool and fun experience. They’ll even let kids drive.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

We went to school and learned our ABC’s and 123’s.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

We learned about native prairie plants.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

We slept in a covered wagon and listened to the winds howl across the prairie all night long without stopping.

It quickly became apparent why some women suffered from prairie madness.

The winds did not stop that night.

It was a constant noise, I think mostly due to the storm that also blew through that night.

Overnight in the covered wagon is a must. So. Much. Fun.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The view from our wagon was quite delightful.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

That night the sky turned a glorious shade of purple/blue which made our visit to the Ingalls Homestead even more spectacular!

We truly enjoyed our visit to the Ingalls Homestead and learning about life on the prairie.

It doesn’t matter the age of the visitor, young and old alike, will enjoy the experiences at the homestead.


Laura Ingalls Wilder

After visiting the Ingalls Homestead be sure to stop by what remains of Silver Lake.

The lake is mostly a marsh now, but there is roadside parking and a marker that talks about the area and its importance.


Laura Ingalls Wilder

Before leaving DeSmet stop at the DeSmet cemetery, located just outside of town, and pay your respects to the family.

Laura and Alanzo are buried in Mansfield, MO, but Ma, Pa, Carrie, and Grace are laid to rest here.

It was a nice moment to thank them for raising their children to have an adventurous spirit and for giving us Laura. The world is a much better place because she was in it.


After visiting Little House on the Prairie in DeSmet be sure to make plans to visit the other Laura Ingalls Wilder locations.

On this road trip, my friend Sara and I made it to three (DeSmet, SD, Walnut Grove, MN and Burr Oak, IA) of the six locations. Next year we will finish up our #LauraLoopers road trip and visit Peppin, WI, Independence, KS and Mansfield, MO.

Sara and I were interviewed for a podcast about our adventures which shares more about the other destinations and can be heard here:

LIttle house on the prairie in de smet sd

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