Location: 20812 Homstead Rd
DeSmet, SD 57231
Price: $12 per person 5 and older
Smashed Penny Machine: No
I was a big fan of the Little House on the Prairie books growing up. I won’t lie when I saw how “close” our South Dakota trip was going to take us to my childhood dream; I just HAD to go. Parts of our group were not real happy with the 3+ hour detour when I originally suggested it but by the end everyone in our group had a lot of fun.
We had spent the night in Sioux Falls. The homestead was about an hour and forty-five minute drive from Sioux Falls. The homestead is a little outside of the town of DeSmet on a gravel road. There is good signage directing you there and the GPS found it with no problem. There are accommodations on the property and I really wish we could have stayed the night, but you have to bring your own linens. Sadly, we didn’t have the room since this was only one night of a nine-day vacation with fifteen people.
We arrived about 9:30 in the morning, so the weather was still mild even for mid-July. But it was hot by the time we left around noon. So pack some water bottles and wear sunscreen there isn’t a lot of shade. There were several other families walking around but the farm is so spaced out that it never really felt busy. Although by the time we got back to the car I was surprised to see the parking lot was nearly full.
Since we had two babies on this trip we took our folding umbrella style stroller. The path around the grounds isn’t paved but the ground was firm enough that we could push the stroller without too much difficulty. However unless you have really little ones like we did I wouldn’t bother with a stroller. The tour didn’t require that much walking (probably about a mile or so total) and toddlers and bigger kids are going to want to run around and touch everything.
It’s hard to say what the kids enjoyed the most. The two middle kids (4 and 6) loved hand-washing clothes (why can’t I get this level of help at home), playing with the working pump well and driving the pony cart. The little ones were excited with anything to do with animals. The 10-year-old fell in love with the kittens at the stables. The thirteen year old seemed unimpressed with everything (isn’t that standard for teenagers) but since he didn’t complain about being hungry until we had been there well over two hours I know he was having fun.
The adults all agreed that the staff was the best part about the place. Everyone was super friendly and extremely knowledgeable. Everyone that we spoke to KNEW the books and they knew tons about prairie life in general. My personal favorite part about the stop was the trip to the one room school-house. Each kid was allowed to drive the horse-drawn covered wagon. The school teacher did a small lesson engaging each of our age groups just like a real one room school-house would have worked.
The gift shop (also where you pay admission, bathrooms are located and there is a small educational film about the family) had a nice assortment of Ingalls themed items, prairie themed items, books (both from the series and the time period in general) and period style clothing. The girls each enjoyed picking out their own prairie bonnet. Another great perk of the stop was there were several opportunities for the kids to make their own souvenir toys like Laura and her sisters would have played with. Our kids each made a button game, corn cob doll and jump rope. Each of these were free to make and keep (the line to make the jump rope did get a little long at times because they can only make one at a time).
We spent about 2.5 hours here. We probably could have spent a little more time as they had a special speaker that was going to tell true tales from people who had lived in the area during the same time as the Ingalls. We skipped that as the kids were ready for lunch and we had to make it to Rapid City that evening. There were picnic tables available by the gift shop so you could pack a lunch. The town of DeSmet also has a few other Ingalls and prairie based attractions so if you were vacationing in the Sioux Falls area you could make an easy day trip out of the area.
Overall impression: We had a great time. I would highly recommend.