Also known as Laura’s Living Prairie, a visit to Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota is like stepping directly into "Little House on the Prairie". Fans of the prairie lifestyle as well as Laura Ingalls Wilder fans will enjoy this little piece of history. The Homestead is the historic home of well-known author of the Little House on the Prairie series of books, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
It was constructed in 1887 by her father, Charles, and the family lived there until 1928. Charles Ingalls also made many of the furnishing located in the home. The home was purchased by a non-profit historical society created to memorialize Laura in 1967 and it opened to the general public in 1968. It became an official historic place on the registry in 1975.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Make sure to check out all the attractions and exhibits while visiting the Ingalls Homestead! They all help form a complete picture of the author’s life as well as what life was like during the late 1800s and early 1900s in South Dakota.
One Room Schoolhouse - Visitors to the one room schoolhouse can dress like the citizens of the time - pinafores, bonnets, straw hats, etc. The schoolhouse is staffed with a teacher who, through a combination of stories and history, teaches lessons similar to those that would have been taught there on a regular school day in the 1800s and 1900s.
Covered Wagon Ride - One of the favorite attractions at the homestead is to take a ride on the covered wagon. Visitors can even drive the horses or mules! The wagon trip heads out from the one room schoolhouse and across the prairie.
Hay Twisting - From the story The Long Winter, by Wilder, guests will see and learn how they made sticks out of twisted hay and used them for fuel when the trains were unable to bring the town of De Smet supplies due to the extreme weather during the winter of 1880 through early 1881. They used that fuel to help make bread.
Corn Cob Dolls - An early favorite of children on the prairie, before rag dolls, was corn cob dolls. Visitors will learn how to create them, shelling it themselves with tools available at the time before swaddling it in a handkerchief blanket and taking it home.
Pony Cart - Children can also try their hand at driving their own pony cart! This is perfect for less experienced riders, as they can ride the saddled ponies as well while they are being led by a guide.
Jump Rope - Bailing twine can actually make an awesome jump rope! With the use of a machine and experienced help, children can make their own and spend time using it!
Washing Clothes - Much to many parent's chagrin, children actually love washing clothes when visiting the homestead! Simply use the washboard to wash clothes, rinse them off, send them through a wringer, and hang it on the clothesline to dry.
Children are often the desired audience at the Ingalls Homestead and it is strongly encouraged that they visit and get hands on with history. Structured field trips can be arranged by calling the site and asking to speak with the staff. However, as the homestead of run and managed by a small family without a large staff, it is generally recommended that classes are smaller in size to make them more manageable for the staff at the home.
All of the activities on site are designed for and accessible to children: visiting the one room schoolhouse (ask ahead of time if there are any special lessons desired as the staff may be able to work with classes), wagon and pony rides, corn cob doll and jump rope making, and just letting off some steam running around. Plan on spending two hours there or just make an afternoon of it! It is a great opportunity to introduce students to prairie living.
There is a great gift shop located on the homestead, perfect for guests wanting to take home a little piece of their visit (besides the corn cob doll, although they do sell a kit to make one at home). Pick up a t-shirt, some official prairie clothing (like bonnets and prairie dresses), craft kits (learn how to quilt or braid rugs), book, toys, and other gifts. There are even copies of some of Wilder’s most well-known books and stories!
Ingalls Homestead, 20812 Homestead Road, De Smet, SD, 57231, Phone: 800-776-3594 or 605-854-3984