As a child, one of my favorite book series was Little House on the Prairie.
I could get lost in the stories for hours as I read about Ma, Pa, and the entire Ingalls clan.
Then the tv show brought it all to life and I was even more vested in the stories.
It’s one of those moments in life that feels surreal.
I was standing where Laura stood. Gazing across the plains I saw her stories in my mind and for just a moment I was that 10-year-old girl lost in a book about a long-ago family and it felt like ‘Little House on the Prairie’ was coming to life right before my eyes.
VISITING THE INGALLS HOMESTEAD IN DESMET, SD
Located just outside the small town of DeSmet, SD the homestead welcomes visitors from around the world from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
There are covered wagon rides (if you’re lucky you might be able to drive wagon), an 1880’s schoolhouse, ponies and horse, prairie exhibit, pioneering activities, a replica of the Ingalls home and so much more.
The Ingalls lived in a number of states including Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa and, of course, South Dakota.
The homestead in DeSmet is where the books By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years took place.
The homestead really focuses on The Long Winter book and the living museum costumed characters at the different buildings do a fantastic job of telling and showing how the Ingalls survived that winter.
As soon as I arrived at the homestead I spotted an observation platform behind the visitor’s center. After getting my ticket to visit I made a beeline for the platform and made my way to the top.
From up there I had a birds-eye view of the surrounding area. It is a great place to get your bearings and also get a great look at Laura’s home.
Climbing down from the platform I explored the prairie learning center, checked out the dugout home, stopped by the barn to see the cow and play with kittens.
Walking up to the Ingalls home I’m greeted by a hostess who welcomes me to the Ingalls Homestead and talks to me about life on the homestead in the late 1800s.
She has a vibrant personality and is extremely knowledgeable about the Ingalls and homesteading. I enjoy talking to her and learning about life without electricity and plumbing (shudder).
After chatting for quite some time I move over to the activities building. The hands-on activities are completed while the host tells stories from ‘The Longest Winter’ and shares how the Ingalls survived.
We make corn cob dolls, rope and hay twists.
Next up is probably the highlight of the visit. I get to drive the covered wagon through the prairie.
IT. IS. SO. MUCH. FUN!
I have no idea what I’m doing, but I fake it and have fun anyways. No one, including the horses, was ever in any danger since the trained driver had a hold of the ends of the reins.
The covered wagon takes us to the schoolhouse where we ring the bell and learn about education on the prairie.
I spent approximately 2 hours visiting the homestead, but recommend planning for 3-4 hours.
If you are up for an adventure there is camping in covered wagons. My girlfriends and I are headed to the Ingalls Homestead this summer to camp in a covered wagon and spend more time visiting.
We’ll also be visiting the town of DeSmet which was home to the Ingalls for most of their lives. It has the house that Pa built and a historical area with buildings that the Ingalls lived and worked in. It’s going to be a fantastic time.
Need help planning your visit to the Ingalls Homestead? Feel free to email me or comment with questions. You can also visit these great online resources:
disclaimer: I was a guest of Southeast South Dakota
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