When we arrived here, everyone greeted us very warmly explaining which buildings housed the restrooms and refreshments and giving us tickets for a free buggy ride. The seats for the pageant are benches, so we brought our chairs to be more comfortable. There was a lot of room between the benches, so we just set them up in front of them. The pageant itself was ok; if you expect it to be the quality of a Broadway show (or any professional production for that matter), I would suggest not going. My children, for the most part, enjoyed it - especially the school house scenes (even though I believe that the performance was too far away from the seats). If you go, make sure to cover yourselves in bug spray. Next year, they are doing "These Happy Golden Years".
I would recommend beginning your time in De Smet here. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society and their gift shop is next door to the Surveyors' House and it is one of their members who gives the tour of the Surveyors' House along with a map of De Smet where many sites of interest are marked. Also, you pay for your tour of the Surveyors' House and the Ingalls' Home here. The Surveyors' House is the original house but it has been moved from its original location. The tour was interesting - you couldn't take pictures inside the house itself but there were postcards available if someone simply had to have a picture of anything inside it. The tour guide was informative and did not limit her information to Laura's books, but to how the Ingalls family as pioneers lived. Touching things here was not encouraged which was difficult for my children who wanted to touch everything, but the guide's talk did keep their attention.
If you plan to go to the cemetery, make sure to pick up a map of it at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. There are eleven graves of interest labeled on it. The Ingalls' family graves are in a row of five - Carrie, Mary, Baby Wilder (Laura and Almanzo's son who died before they could name him), Ma, and Pa. Grace is buried with her husband a short distance away. Since Carrie married a widower, she is buried here instead of with him. In addition to the Ingalls' graves, you can also see the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Boast, Mr. Loftus, and other characters from the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. It is certainly eye-opening to realize that these people of whom you've read are real (which is always more evident to me when I see their gravesites).
The Ingalls Homestead is perfect for children and adults alike who want to experience life on the prairie in the 1880s. The site is geared toward children and touching things is encouraged. Children are given a scavenger hunt before they enter the homestead area to find information about the Ingalls family and how the pioneers lived. Children can take pony rides, enter a dugout (sod house), see a demo of how to twist hay and learn why the pioneers did this, grind wheat, and make their own ropes. The well that Pa dug is still there and children can pump water from it and there were some farm animals that you could pet. My husband who had never read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books thought that the Homestead Site was very informative and my children loved how hands-on the site was. They even received an ice pop for being able to answer the questions from the scavenger hunt - perfect for the hot weather. Be sure to check out the five cottonwood trees that Pa planted in the corner and the marker that was placed there.
This house is the last house that Pa built and the last house where Pa, Ma, and Mary lived. Carrie and Grace both lived here and Laura visited here before Pa died, too. A lot of their possessions are no longer here, since the owner after them got rid of a lot of their belongings. But, there are some interesting things such as some of their signed documents, Mary's braille Bible, and the cupboards that Pa built. If you go, be sure to look in Mary's room to see how they insulated their house. If you are a Rose Wilder Lane fan, the upstairs contains quite a few of her belongings. There are guides from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society who give you some history of the family and help you know what to look for throughout the different parts of the house. The guides are very informative and full of anecdotes. You cannot take pictures of the interior of the house but you can buy postcards of the interior.
In the one room school house (across the street from the Surveyors' House) are a lot of activities geared toward children. They were able to write their names in Braille, make a covered wagon, try on pioneer clothing, and play with toys that were typical of that time period. Our children really enjoyed these activities (especially writing their names in Braille) and it was perfect for them to have this outlet after not being able to touch everything that they wanted to in the Surveyors' house. There is also a replica of the Brewster school next to the Surveyors' House. There are McGuffey's readers on each desk (be sure to read the last page of them) and a slate. I would suggest going to the Brewster replica before the one room school house across the street if you have children since there are so many activities in the one across the street and virtually none in the Brewster replica.
This is a serious of replica building to what was there or what could have been in the area. The house and barn of Laura Inglalls Wilder, have been rebuilt on the site. There are many hands on activities to participate in. Then they have brought in a school house, church and dug a house in the side of a hill to replicate what was in the area. It is a good step back in history. Much better than what it was 35 years ago, the first time I visited the place.
It is possible to visit the cemetery in De Smet and see the Ingalls gravesites (Charles and Caroline Ingalls, Mary, Carrie, Grace and the infant son of Laura and Almanzo Wilder).
The Ingalls townhouse is where you can see the most. It is filled with things a fan will want to see. Apart from the surveyor's house, I thought this was the most interesting location.