On our return trip from Bismarck back to Iowa City we decided to take a few tourist pit stops along the way. Our destination for the evening of Memorial Day was Le Mars, IA. We veered off the beaten path just a bit and decided to stop by De Smet, SD to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites since we were just finishing the book series together. It’s been a favorite series of mine for years (I’ve been to De Smet before back in 2002) but it was Andrew’s first time “reading” the whole series. The deal is I am is “book on tape” and read books aloud as we drive on road trips or late at night before bed.
As we drove into De Smet from the North side of town, we went past the actual Wilder claim land plot. There’s a small sign on the side of the road that talks about that. Then we headed to the visitor center. They have a nice gift shop area there and that’s where you can pick up a map for a self-guided tour of the town. You can pay the few bucks to take a guided tour that will get you inside three of the buildings located just outside the visitor center (the surveyor’s house and two school buildings.) We weren’t so concerned about seeing the inside of the buildings so just opted for the self-guided. You can still peek inside the Brewster school building even when not on the guided tour.
As a huge fan of the series I also had to take a picture of the bathrooms located in the park across the way because I thought the signs were pure genius.
After checking out the buildings near the visitor center, we drove down to main street and got out to walk around. Each building that was numbered on our map also usually had a sign in the shop window that detailed what was located in that area during Laura’s time in De Smet. This was especially nice on Memorial Day since none of the shops were actually open. We could easily walk up and down the street reading signs without being in anybody’s way. From there we headed out west of town towards the cemetery. Ma, Pa, Mary, Carrie and her husband, Grace and her husband, and the baby boy that was born to Almanzo and and Laura are all buried there, along with countless family friends who were mentioned during the book series. The map we received in the visitor center helped give details about who was located where given that some have different names in real life compared to the names given in the book. All of the immediate Ingalls family is buried in the same plot of land space with signs leading the way so that you can find them easily.
On our way out of town, we drove back east and drove past the site of the Ingalls homestead. They now also have a nice area there where you can reenact what life would have been like for the family on the homestead. We didn’t choose to visit that part as it is geared more for families, but it was still fun to drive past and especially to see “Big Slough”. Our final stop was to drive down a road that now seems mainly industrial and forgotten so that we could have a view of Silver Lake.
It was fun to revisit the site for me and now I’m looking forward to visiting other Laura sites that I haven’t visited yet, or revisit Pepin, the one other site I’ve been to previously. We definitely be making a trip down to Mansfield, MO to see Almanzo and Laura’s final home and visit there grave sites sometime during our year left here in Missouri.
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