We had our first big outing of the summer this week. This is the first of hopefully many one day adventures for this summer. Mr. Cozy House has been gone all week on his annual fishing excursion in North Dakota with the guys. My parents have been visiting from Indiana, so we decided to take a day trip to a place I’ve wanted to visit FOREVER: the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota, where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived with her family. Woo-hoo!
You guys. I’m a huge history nerd. This stop has been on my bucket list since I was a teenager living five states away. I cannot even begin to explain how high my excitement and expectations were.
We’re reading through the Little House books with the kids, so they are as obsessed as I am with all things pioneer right now. The kids were totally pumped for this little trip.
My Honest Thoughts
We live about 4.5 hours away from De Smet, so going there and back in one day made for a long day, but it was totally doable. Especially since we had Grandma and Grandpa along to help. 😉
I went into the visit with a few assumptions that were totally wrong.
I assumed there would be buildings or structures original to the homestead still on the property. There aren’t. The buildings that are there today were either moved in or built according the measurements found in Pa Ingall’s records.
The homestead is owned and operated by a private family. Since it’s a historical place, I’d assumed it was run by the state or a historical group, so it was interesting to learn it’s privately owned. Apparently the ground has changed hands numerous times in the past, and was even used as regular farmland for years. So glad the owners are honoring the history of the land!
Five cottonwood trees remain on the property of the thousands that Pa planted on his homestead claim, so that was very neat to see. Apparently Laura visited the homestead in the 1937 and said, “Yes, these are the trees that my Pa planted.” Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Love that so much!
Admission to the homestead is $15 per person for ages 5 and up. A little pricey, BUT everything is included in the price. It was really nice to not have to worry about paying for the different crafts or experiences that are available. I love all-inclusive! 😉
Things to do
Once you purchase your admission, you’ll watch a brief movie about the Ingalls family. You’re given a map, and then you can wander around the grounds at your own pace.
We started out visiting a little sod house and shanty, then moved to the hay roof barn and the Ingalls cabin, which was built in the approximate location and size of the original cabin.
Inside the cabin, the kids were able to make button spinners and learn to braid fabric strips for making rag rugs.
They LOVED washing laundry outside using a washboard and wringer. Maybe we need to get one of these. 😉
We rode the covered wagon to the one room school house. The kids were even given the chance to drive the mule team. Once we got to the school, a teacher showed us what a typical school session would have been like.
In the barn, they got to make jump ropes and corn cob dolls (Riley’s was a superhero) and grind wheat.
And they even got to take turns riding a horse and the pony cart. Ummmmm, ADORABLE.
I’m not comparing Laura to Jesus AT ALL. BUT. I felt a little bit like I imagine I would feel if I were visiting the Holy Land, walking where Jesus once walked; as I wandered the homestead I just kept thinking, “LAURA INGALLS WILDER HAS BEEN HERE. I could be walking in the exact same place she once walked!” Crazy. It was a very exciting, nerdy moment in my life. 😉
Sleeping On Site
You guys. We didn’t know about this ahead of time, but you can totally stay the night on the homestead! You can rent a conestoga wagon cabin to sleep in! Seriously. How much fun is that?! I can’t even. They also have campsites and a bunkhouse available. So great.
Other Ingalls Sites in De Smet
Be sure to spend some time in the little town of De Smet if you visit the homestead! You can see the first house that the Ingalls lived in before they purchased their homestead. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society has guided tours available of the family’s homes in town, of Laura’s school, and also a discovery center. We didn’t make time to do more than drive by these on this trip, but the next time we visit De Smet (and there WILL be a next time) we will definitely check these out.
Pa, Ma, Mary, Carrie and Grace Ingalls, and Laura’s infant son are all buried in the De Smet cemetery. Again, more history that I would enjoy seeing next time.
So there you go!. I definitely recommend the trip, especially if you love Laura and the Little House books, or just pioneer history in general. Very educational. The workers were all super friendly and knowledgeable. It was just a really enjoyable, relaxing day. Two big thumbs up for our day trip to De Smet, SD!
Are you a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan?