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.
Fast forward a lot of years and I find myself walking across the same land the Laura Ingalls walked.
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
Ingalls Homestead, Laura’s Living Prairie
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.
Ingalls Homestead website
Visit DeSmet, SD
Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes
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Jody Halsted says
My girls and I stayed at the Ingalls Homestead about a year and a half ago. We spent the night in a covered wagon and helped hitch the horses and bring them from the barn the next day. It remains one of my daughters’ favorite trips. http://familyrambling.com/laura-ingalls-wilder-desmet-south-dakota/hotels-and-lodging/
We went there when I was about 11 or so. I don’t recall all of this, though! I think we must have spent more time in the actual town of DeSmet.
Connie Reed says
We went past Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Mansfield, Missouri, home where she wrote her books dozens of times before we finally stopped there last spring. The South Dakota homestead looks really cool. It’s on my list to visit.
What an amazing experience. I am in love with the covered wagon. This is definitely going to have to be a stop for the boys and I. So much of what we have been studying in history would be covered here.
I’d want to find all my friends from elementary school who used to read the books with me, take off for a weekend and run and play here!
I used to get so lost in these books! When I was a kid, my mom told me this place was real, kept as authentic as possible for visitors. I could literally see it in my head and Ive wanted to go ever since. I’d LOVE to visit!
Sarah Lemp says
I went here as a kid and will be going back this Summer! So cool to stumble upon this. We had been wondering what was there these days and what changes had been made. Thanks for the info!
Ann BAcciaglia says
I had no idea that such a place existed! I loved watching Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid. I would love to go visit this!
This is way beyond awesome. I would love to visit a homestead. This makes me want to watch LHOTP today.
Oh how awesome this is! I loved the books and although I never got into the series, I would love to visit the homestead!
April Decheine says
That would of been so fun, I loved reading Laura Ingalls books and watching her show!
Jennifer @ The Foodie Patootie says
Ah, no way. What an awesome exhibit!
What a fun place to visit. I would love the simpler time theme (though I do love our modern conveniences, and appliances!). 🙂
Stacey- Travel Blogger says
This is so neat! I loved reading these books when I was younger!
This seems like it would be so much fun. For some reason, I thought that they lived in MN. There’s a great influence in MN. There are even schools named for Laura Wilder in Minneapolis. (It’s my home so that’s why I know this much.)
I remember my mom watching Little House all the time. What an awesome place to visit. So full of history!
Wow I would love to experience that! I didn’t watch little house often but when I did I always wanted to live like them lol!
Oh my gosh! I would totally love to do this. I love how authentic everything seems
I had no idea such a place existed! What a great trip to make for those of us who used to watch the show!
Chrystal @ YUM eating says
Oh gosh that would be so fun to take a road trip up and over that way to see.
Catherine S says
This looks like a great place to visit. I remember watching that show as a kid with my sisters.
Kim Croisant says
What an awesome place to be a guest at. That show was definitely a family favorite of ours growing up. I’ll never forget that family and how they touched ours.
That is so cool! I’d love to just walk around all day and see everything.
Wow! That is really cool. I love how much it really brings back my memories of reading the books as a little girl!
Mary O'Malley says
This is the coolest thing. I bet that would be a fascinating adventure. Those pictures are fantastic as well. I’m a city girl by all means, but look how beautiful that country is.
Oh my gosh! This is so neat! I watched the show and remember all the places here!
Clancy Harrison says
This is such an amazing experience. This was my favorite TV show as a kid and your post brought back so many memories. I would love to visit this place!!!
Robin (Masshole Mommy) says
How cool! It sort of reminds me of Plimouth Plantation where they reenact the original pilgrim colony in Plymouth.
Stephanie N says
I drove right by this place last summer when I traveled through the U.S. and still regret not stopping for a visit. It’s definitely on my list for next time.