De Smet, South Dakota is about an hour and a half from Sioux Falls. But, if you’re on vacation in South Dakota and traveling with kids, the Ingalls Homestead is well worth a side trip. Multiple buildings, demonstrations and activities give kids a chance to experience life as it was for Laura Ingalls Wilder, growing up in a “little house on the prairie” over a century ago. Although the sites in the town of De Smet itself are nice, with tots in tow, you want to head out of town to Pa’s actual quarter section of tall-grass prairie where there is now a fantastic, hands-on living history farm that will entertain family members of all ages.
About two miles southeast of De Smet, South Dakota, which is about 100 miles from Sioux Falls taking I-29 North and US-14 West.
- $10 per person over 5
- Free for 5 yrs old and younger
- One-room school house
- Historic Barn
- Dugout house and burvee shanty
- Farm House
- Observation tower
- Play space
- Pony rides
- Live demonstrations and activities
- Wagon and buggy rides
- Gift shop
- Walking trails
What We Liked:
- This was an absolutely astounding amount of quality activity for the amount of money spent. Plan to stay the whole day – the kids will not lose interest.
- Every employee was wonderful with children. They engaged them, allowed them to try things themselves, asked questions, and rolled along with understanding when dealing with less-than-perfect behavior.
- My older daughter got to hold the reins on the wagon ride and was thrilled. That along with the buggy and pony rides made her feel really special, like she was really experiencing “prairie girl” life.
- The activities included a couple of craft projects that they got to bring home with them. For example, they had a chance to make a spinning toy with string and a button. It was simple enough for even my two-year-old to make and play with and even held their attention for a while in the car!
- All of the employees were dressed in period clothing, which always makes the atmosphere more realistic. They even had bonnets and aprons for the girls to wear at different parts of the site.
- The animals were close enough to touch and were living and being cared for in period-appropriate ways. There were cats roaming free and ponies tied up right out in the open to be patted.
- There were multiple types of buildings for the children to see. The real dugout and the burvee shanty were not structures they had seen before, but that were extremely common during the time of Laura and her family.
- All of the building were set up as if they were being lived in. They all had bedding, tables with fake food, tools and artifacts and pictures on walls. Nothing was roped off or seemed particularly breakable; the kids had lots of freedom to explore and roll-play.
- It is a very large facility. There are huge fields for running and playing, plenty of distance between buildings, and even a swing set. The children will leave satisfied and tired.
- This was the real deal, and they made you feel that significance. This was really where Pa had laid claim to land for their actual homestead. The observation tower lets you see out over this vast tall-grass prairie and really get a feel for what it must have been like to settle there so many years ago. If you are familiar with the books, you’ll recognize Pa’s cottonwood tree and other details of the landscape. I recommend reading On the Banks of Plum Creek en route. They have done a nice job creating an entertaining destination without ruining the historic magic of the place.
- The facilities are accessible and clean. They have snacks and drinks available and close parking.
What We Didn’t Like
Absolutely no complaints. Our day at the Homestead was one of our family’s favorite vacation days ever and we cannot wait to return.