The Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead is located in the tiny town of De Smet, about a 100-mile drive to the northwest of Sioux Falls. This is only one Ingalls homestead of several that were immortalized in the books about her childhood Wilder authored between 1932 and 1943, and which have become American classics that have been translated into 40 languages and remain in print today. It is not Little House on the Prairie South Dakota that most people think of when they think of the author, as the book of that title is about the family's time in Kansas. Little House on the Prairie became the title of the popular 1970s and 1980s television series starring Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon that is still alive in reruns. Many of the stories that unfold on the television series are actually compilations of real incidents that occurred in several different places.
Most people think the Ingalls homestead was a single place, but the series of books spans three generations and an entire section of the Midwest where the family lived when Laura was a little girl. They include Little House on the Prairie South Dakota and places where she and her husband, Almanzo, moved after their marriage. If you look at a map of the United States, you will see that all these areas are geographically close to each other. The Wilder saga begins in Pepin, Wisconsin (Little House in the Big Woods), heads south to Independence, Missouri (Little House on the Prairie), moves north again to Walnut Grove, Minnesota (On the Banks of Plum Creek), and then to De Smet, South Dakota (Little Town on the Prairie). You can find extensive records of the author, donated by her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa.
It was while living at the Ingalls homestead in South Dakota that the young Laura met and married Almanzo Wilder in 1885. She lived here from 1879 to 1894, nine of those years as Mrs. Wilder. Stories of the time spent at Little House on the Prairie South Dakota and in De Smet are contained in the books The First Four Years and The Long Winter, as well as in the novel Free Land written by their daughter, Rose. While partially fictionalized, the Little House series of books provide an authentic picture of the pioneer history of the United States.
Little House on the Prairie South Dakota is today a living history museum operated by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead Memorial Society. This is one of the state's attractions that ranks highest on the list of visitors' most memorable. Some of the things to do here include taking a ride on an authentic covered wagon through the prairies. You can try your hand at pioneer activities such as rope making, wheat grinding, and corn shelling as well as making a corncob doll. Attend a class at the one-room schoolhouse, or take tours of an original dugout home and the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead houses and outbuildings. De Smet is also in the heart of the South Dakota Lakes Region, including the largest natural lake in the state, with wonderful fishing and great camping spots. South Dakota vacation packages are offered by some of the area's charming bed and breakfast inns, and they often include tours of the town and its historic buildings made famous in the Little House books.