This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.
If you are a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, like I am, you simply must visit the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota. If you are really adventurous, you’ll want to stay all night, either in your own RV or in one of the “wagons” that are available to rent for the night. When my husband suggested a trip to the Black Hills, I immediately knew I wanted to work it into our trip to see the little town on the prairie where Laura came of age and met and married Almanzo. Visiting De Smet and the Ingalls Homestead is one of my favorite traveling memories.
If you’ve read the Little House books, you know that Laura’s time in De Smet begins in By the Shores of Silver Lake. If you haven’t read the books and would like to, you can click on this affiliate link below to purchase a set. By clicking on this link, I may get a commission at no extra cost to you.
We only spent an afternoon, evening, and morning here, but I could have stayed for days! Since we were on our way to the Black Hills, we didn’t stay long. We began our exploring in town.
We checked out the Loftus Store. If you’ve read the books, you know that Mr. Loftus and his store are mentioned. This store sits downtown the Little Town of De Smet.
This store is packed with Laura Ingalls Wilder items. We couldn’t leave the store without a little stuffed Jack the Bulldog and Black Susan.
I also bought a children’s storybook version of the Little House books for Kristin. We love these books; the pictures are so beautiful. It’s a good way to introduce kids to the stories before reading the originals. We got Summertime in the Big Woods. If you would like to purchase this book or one of the others, I’ve provided a link below.
We did check out the Memorial Society, but we were too late for a tour that evening, and the first tours in the morning were filled by school groups. We were just out of school ourselves; school was in session here.
Kristin is holding her new Jack. Black Susan is on the ground on the other side of the picture.
We decided to check out the gravesites before heading over to the Homestead. It was just a short drive, and there are signs to get you to the graves of Pa, Ma, Mary, Carrie, and Grace. You can even see the grave of Almanzo and Laura’s baby son.
There is a sidewalk to help maintain the area. It was such a peaceful place when we were there. In fact, the whole area was peaceful.
Finally, were on our way to the Ingalls Homestead! Not only were we going to visit, but we were going to sleep in a wagon on the very Prairie where Laura lived. I was prepared, too. I had previously purchased a “prairie dress” so that Kristin could act out what it would be like to live as a real pioneer girl.
We toured the buildings and activities first. The entrance fee of $12 per person was really reasonable. It covers all of the activities and buildings.
The weather was perfect! It was still pretty cool in late May in South Dakota. We took a wagon ride out to a little school on the property where a teacher rang the bell letting us know it was time for class. The teacher also discussed a typical school experience and clothing. We then had time for Kristin to ride in the pony cart and then the pony. Jeff practiced his roping skills on Kristin. Then we all twisted hay, created some rope, and made a corn cob doll. Such fun!
After all of this fun, it was time to set up our camp for the night.
There are regular campsites, but we were staying in one of four wagons available for camping. When I made the reservation, I asked for a larger wagon. We received one. No one else was staying on the property that night. There is also a little cabin you can rent. At the time we were there, workers were scraping off old paint to get it ready for a fresh coat. We were there pretty early for the tourist season, but we often try to travel as early as we can to avoid crowds.
After we settled in, we prepared a feast just like Ma would have made. Okay, so it was hot dogs roasted over a campfire and chips, but it was still tasty. Henry, the resident cat on the property, certainly wanted in on the hot dogs. Henry will probably be your best friend while you are there. He wanted to sleep in the wagon with us!
We finished up dinner, and the sun began to set. The workers went home, and we were alone on the prairie. This was the best part. It was just the three of us, and I could use my imagination and see the Homestead as Laura might have. There are some farms around, but it was very quiet. And I found myself thinking that I was glad to be alive to enjoy the beauty of the prairie at night, and that Laura must have felt the same way many times.
After we walked around the Homestead that night, we made our way back to our little campfire. I didn’t want the evening to end. Kristin sat next to me with her little lantern, and we watched the stars and the prairie. Soon, we curled up in our l beds in the wagon and had a restful sleep.
The next morning, a worker stopped by on a four-wheeler and asked if Kristin wanted to gather some eggs and feed some calves. Off she went while we packed up the car.
Before we left town, we stopped by the house in town that Pa built. As I stated previously, we didn’t make time for the tour.
We also drove out to what would have been Almanzo and Laura’s claim. It is now just prairie.
If you would like to read even more about the real story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I suggest reading Prairie Girl: An Annotated Autobiography. I really enjoyed this book, and I have a deeper understanding of the life that Laura lived before her marriage. The link to purchase this book is below.
We had such a wonderful time! I would encourage anyone who is thinking about making this trip to go for it! And sleep in the wagon. The Ingalls Homestead is an experience you will never forget!