A visit to the Little House on the Prairie Homestead in De Smet, SD

Weeeeeee! What a fun day we had in De Smet. This place is the perfect place for a travelschooling adventure and I am SO excited to start writing the unit on it, but in the mean time let me tell you about De Smet and the homestead site.

First of all De Smet is a very small town in the middle of nowhere. You really need to drive a long distance from almost everywhere to see it. I enjoyed every minute of our drive to Alaska, but I just say that because you need to be sure you know what you are getting into.

De Smet, South Dakota
The small town of De Smet, South Dakota is the where Laura Ingalls Wilder spent many years of her childhood.

Also know there isn’t a lot there other than the Laura Ingalls sites all of which can be easily seen in one day or spread out over two days it you really want to go in depth.

Since we are moving and travelling with dogs we decided to stay in the “nearby” town of Brookings, South Dakota where there are a multitude of lodging options. I think if were were just coming without the dogs I would opt to stay in one of the few bed and breakfasts in De Smet or, better yet, on the homestead itself where there are several camping options.

Camping on the Prairie
The Ingalls homestead offers several camping options ranging from tent sites to covered wagons!

We woke up and drove the 50 minutes or so to De Smet and parked across from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes. There you can take a tour or just wander around and look at the homes. Because of COVID-19 the homes were currently closed and tours were not being offered, but when travelling with teenagers that is probably a good thing. My girls enjoyed visiting the houses and looking at the signs, but I think a tour might have been too much for them. (Traveling with teenagers has a lot in common with traveling with toddlers– it’s a pure delight, but you really need to know when enough is enough)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Homes in De Smet, South Dakota
In De Smet, South Dakota you can see up close several replica and original structures associated with the Little House on the Prairie books.

Afterwards we walked around town to see the Loftus Store which was honestly a bit of a shock at how modern it looks. This is one of two original structures on the main street of De Smet and Laura writes about it in her book. It’s a little gift shop today, but it was closed when we visited. (you guessed it–because of the pandemic)

You can also visit the House that Pa Built in De Smet. Though Laura never lived there and it isn’t mentioned in the books Pa built this home for Ma after Laura was married and living on her own homestead with Almanzo. Much of the home is still original including the cabinetry .

The House that Pa Built
Pa built this house himself after Laura and Almanzo married.

We then walked back to the car and picked up sandwiches at Subway and headed out to the homestead for a picnic. The Ingalls homestead in De Smet is just stunningly beautiful. For a city slicker like me the quiet of the prairie with just the sound of the breeze rustling through the shafts of prairie grasses was mesmerizing.

The sound of the shafts of prairie grasses swishing in the breeze is so relaxing.

And the flowers! You really can’t imagine how beautiful this place is.

The Ingalls homestead in De Smet also has an assortment of activities from hay rides and pony rides to making corn cob dolls and twisting rope. I imagine the activities change depending on the day you visit. (and you guessed it, because of the pandemic there were limited activities at the time of our visit)

We enjoyed our picnic and saw little prairie gophers hopping about. Laura writes about the gophers in the books and they sure are fast.

Prairie Gophers
Laura writes about how she tried to catch these little prairie gophers as a child and they still abound at the Ingalls Homestead.

Although the original Ingalls homestead structures in De Smet are long gone there are replicas on the site.

The visitor’s center and gift shop offers more information about the Ingalls family and there is also a small museum on the site.

We had a wonderful day in De Smet and it really makes the Little House on the Prairie books come alive to see that this is really where Laura lived and played and grew up. Laura Ingalls Wilder has capitvated so many with the stories of her childhood on the prairie and to see it all in real life is just pure magic.

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About Mary

Mary Stephens is a long time homeschooling mother of four: two still at home, one in seminary and one graduated from college. Mary holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Passionate about both travel and education she offers homeschooling tips and tricks as well as free travelschooling units on her website penciltreks.com. Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.

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