Ingalls Homestead Review De Smet, SD

This post may contain affiliate links and ads. Read our disclosure policy here.

Ingalls Homestead Review De Smet, SD

From time to time I will go back and read various travel pieces that I have written over the years.  Today I was re-reading my Laura Ingalls Wilder Road Trip post that summarizes our summer visit to various places mentioned in Little House on the Prairie book series.  As much as I love the fact that the post includes our experiences at ALL of the Ingalls sites that we visited in one post, I realize the need for some individual posts for readers who are only interested in visiting some but not all of the Little House spots.

After our stay in Walnut Grove, MN this summer, we drove west for just a couple of hours to the small town of De Smet, SD.  De Smet is the setting for the the following Little House books: By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years and The First Four Years.

We arrived in De Smet feeling a little high on Laura Ingalls Wilder history and were ready to do some more exploring. We were lucky enough to grab 1 of only 4 RV campsites at Ingalls Homestead which sits just outside of town. The Homestead also offers tent camping (you can literally just pick a spot and pitch your tent out on the prairie) and they have a few bunkhouses you can rent that are shaped like, you guessed it, giant covered wagons!

Ingalls Homestead Review



We pulled into our campsite and had water and electric at the site. Note – this campground does have a dump station but it is only for gray water, not black.  The RV sites are pretty close to each other, but not terrible.

As you might have already guessed, the place is named Ingalls Homestead for a very good reason. When the Ingalls family headed west from Walnut Grove, MN this was the very exactly EXACT plot of land that Charles Ingalls decided to homestead. In other words, the place is steeped in LIW history. From the campground you have sweeping views of prairie from just about every angle.

The only (and I mean ONLY) disappointment we experienced here was the big, gigantic, blinding, night-sky-ruining flood light on the back of the building. (Yes, I totally understand the need for a security light and visibility for tent/wagon campers getting to the bathrooms – but it was so bright and so far-reaching, it really took away from the night sky experience which we had been looking forward to.)

When you stand on your campsite at Ingalls Homestead, you are on a big hill that overlooks prairie land in all directions. The actual “Ingalls Homestead” is a living history farm (I’ll delve into that in a few minutes). As you gaze over the prairie, you might notice a large history marker on the hill and a bunch of large trees closer to the road. The marker notes the existence of the Ingalls residency on that property and those trees are the actual Cottonwood trees that Pa himself planted, well over 100 years ago.

Ingalls Cottonwoods

Looking out at the land in front of you there are several buildings that are part of the Ingalls Homestead experience. It’s not hard to imagine Pa’s crops growing in the field by the replica house… and yes, the Big Slough is also visible (the very same one that Laura and Carrie got lost in as they walked back from town with the new blade for Pa’s plow).

Covered Wagon Ingalls Homestead

Adjacent to the Ingalls Homestead is the pageant ground where you can catch yet another Little House themed play in an outdoor amphitheater if your stay coincides with their Wilder themed weekends. We actually caught the show our first night in town. De Smet was celebrating Laura’s 150th birthday year that weekend and had Alison Arngrim and Dean Butler (Nellie and Almanzo from the television series) in town for various events. The events included a Q&A session before the show, so that’s the night we went. We had a wagon ride around the property (included with pageant admission) and then settled in for the Q&A and pageant. While the outdoor amphitheater in De Smet is set in a gorgeous location, the fact that the sun was setting for the entire first half of the show took its toll. We were hot, tired, and had to squint to see. Pair that with an exhausted Landon who was not at all interested in sitting and we totally bugged out during intermission.

Alison Arngrim Dean Butler De Smet

Back across the field at our campsite, we enjoyed a campfire and took in the sunset views. I could look across this prairie every day and never tire of its beauty and the history that is wrapped within.

Ingalls Homestead

Ingalls Homestead

On our second day in De Smet we spent the entire morning enjoying the living history activities at Ingalls Homestead. What a great place!! Admission is not included in your campsite fee if you are staying there, but we all agreed that it was well worth the price. There are so many things to do! The kids had a blast checking out the dugout and claim shanty. Then they pumped water from the water well, checked out the garden and we paid a visit to “Ma’s house” which is a replica home based on the one Pa built for the family on this very land. Inside the house were two ladies dressed in period costume who were full of Ingalls and other pioneer era knowledge.

De Smet Ingalls Homestead

Prairie Walk

Pumping Water

Ma's House

After the house we headed down to the barn. The kids took a pony ride and drove a pony cart before we all piled into a covered wagon to enjoy a ride across the prairie. I thought we were just heading for a quick wagon ride. Not only did all of the kids get a chance to drive the team of horses, but we stopped at one room schoolhouse for a bit.

Pony Ride

Wagon Ride

Landon Drives

Horses to Schoolhouse

Inside the schoolhouse we were greeted by a teacher who led the kid through a couple of mini lessons and games, while giving us some more history about the actual schoolhouse as well as some Laura factoids. As school was dismissed the kids got to help her ring the bell! We loaded back up on the wagon and took our ride across the field to the barn.

Ringing Schoolhouse Bell

Make sure you stop in Flindt’s Garage before you head back up the hill as there are several fun Little House related activities for the kids to do. They can make corn cob dolls like Ma made for Laura (or they can make corn cob superheroes or ninjas if dolls aren’t their thing).

Ingalls Corn Cob Doll

De Smet

Our kids also made their own jump ropes.

The third activity in the garage was a demonstration on how to make the hay twists that the pioneers resorted to burning during The Long Winter after their other fuel sources (coal, wood) were depleted.

DIY Jump Rope

Jump Rope

The Long Winter

Ingalls Homestead was not only a wonderful location to stay overnight but we cannot recommend the living farm enough as a family friendly attraction to visit with the kids!

We spent way more time exploring Ingalls Homestead than we figured on, so it was mid-afternoon before we headed towards town for some more sightseeing.

If you have a couple of hours to spend in the town of De Smet, I highly recommend taking the Historic Homes Tour from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. You can read all about our experience with the Historic Homes Tour, as well as other spots in De Smet, SD to visit in our Laura Ingalls Wilder Road Trip Itinerary post.


Ingalls Homestead Review De Smet SD

Some other posts you might enjoy…

5 Fabulous Reasons to Visit Wildwood and Morey's Piersroad trip activities for kids12 Important Things to Do BEFORE Leaving for Vacationcar road trip boredom buster toddler landon plays cards titleFREE Printable Camping Trip Planning KitLaura Ingalls Wilder Road Trip ItineraryFREE Disney Vacation Planning DVDYellowstone National Park Summer Road Trip ItineraryFREE Printable Vacation Journalmine train disneyLily with Adventure Bucksdisney cruise vacationdisney dream cruise review mama cheapsHow to Ship Snacks (and More) to Your Disney Resortchild swap disney disney world ride rider swap cropped titleCampground I Spy Free Printable GameWhat to Pack for the Amusement ParkRocking Horse Ranch Review10 Cookies You Must Make Into Smores TreatsDIY Dollar Store Road Trip Treasure Box

2 thoughts on “Ingalls Homestead Review De Smet, SD”

  1. What an enjoyable post. Everything is so reminiscent of “Little House On The Prairie” series. Thank you fro sharing.
    Marilyn and Marion


Leave a Comment