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Trip List by NatParkTraveler

South Dakota w/ nine year old

27 Dec 2006  I read a book called Travel by the Book. There are so many literary places to go. My husband had grown up in SE Colorado near the Kansas border and his teachers read him many of the "Little House" Books. He had the series. I knew that third grade was a good year for these books and had planned it for several years. We began reading the first book right after our last summer vacation. and were still reading or listening to the DVDs while en route.
4.5 of 5 bubbles based on 7 votes

For our Summer 2006 trip, we rented an RV and drove to South Dakota. We had two goals in mind. One goal was to see everything about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Another goal was to see all the great National Parks on the way - see my other list on all the National Parks.

  • 1. Rocky Mountain National Park
    Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    We began our trip in Austin, TX (where we live) by renting our RV at Camper Clinic. They are friendly and helpful there! Then, we headed to SE Colorado to see my husband's Mom. That is how we ended up here.
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    I wrote all about Rocky Mountain NP in my NP GoList. You gotta see it!

  • 2. Wind Cave National Park
    Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

    We drove here from Rocky Mtn NP in one day - not too far. I have a complete writeup in my US National Parks GoList.

  • 3. Mammoth Site of Hot Springs
    Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, Hot Springs, South Dakota

    This is amazing. It is an "in situ" dig site. It is ongoing. I have never seen anything like it.
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    I enrolled my daughter in the Junior Paleontologist dig. You have to make reservations early for this. These are not real bones and I wish they had explained more about the process. However, she really loved it.
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    We took the tour, which was incredible. It is amazing to see this many Woolly Mammoths in one place and to actually see a dig going on.
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    I don't usually give a plug for the gift shop, but this one is very neat. It has all kinds of scientific toys you would not see anywhere else.
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    You gotta see this!

  • 4. Mount Rushmore National Memorial
    Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, South Dakota

  • 5. Custer State Park
    Custer State Park, Custer, South Dakota

  • 6. Crazy Horse
    Crazy Horse, South Dakota

    I had already decided not to do this on our trip. However, a guy my husband knew recommended it so we went. I am so glad we did.
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    See the film. It is a great story. The story will really inspire you about the entire project.
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    The sculpture itself is a work-in-progress. It still has a long way to go. You can see replicas of what it will look like. The vision is really the interesting thing here.
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    Okay, another plug for the gift shop. There are so many great Native American gifts here. They receive money for their work. I actually bought Christmas gifts here because it was so interesting.
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    If you are in the area, do not miss Crazy Horse - especially the film.

  • 7. Badlands National Park
    Badlands National Park, South Dakota

  • 8. Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial
    Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial, De Smet, South Dakota

    Five books were about this area. If you have read them, you feel that you know this town and many of its early people. This is definitely for fans of the books.
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    Seeing the Surveyor's House gives you chills. It is so amazing that it is there and you can see what the girls did and how small everything was. How did they get that many people downstairs?
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    Pa finally built a nice house in town. Many of their things are still there. You can really feel their presence there. You really get to hear what happened later on in their lives.
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    Part of the Homestead belongs to the Memorial. There is a marker of where their shanty was. I did not think it would do it, but I felt amazingly touched by it just knowing they were there. The trees for Ma, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace are near the house.
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    The gravesites of everyone except Laura are there. It makes everything feel so real
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    If you are a fan of the books, you need to make this trip!

  • 9. Ingalls Homestead - Laura's Living Prairie
    Ingalls Homestead - Laura's Living Prairie, De Smet, South Dakota

    I do have a review of this place. However, I will add to it.
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    You do not have to have read the books or be a fan to enjoy this place!!!!!
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    Plan to spend the night here. You can actually stay in a covered wagon or camp or stay in their rooms. The great thing is that when it is closed, you still get to play in the outbuildings and see the animals.
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    I was constantly aware of the Ingalls family being in this area. Our RV was parked within viewing distance of where the original shanty was.
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    There is a reproduced shanty - just like Pa built and a dugout. Both are "furnished" and are like playhouses. There is also a room with a real-size wagon like the Ingalls family traveled in - and it is small. All of these are available after closing.
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    There is a one-room schoolhouse, a barn, and other outbuildings that are open during the day and have all kinds of fun things going on in them. Shawn made a corncob doll and rope and took a pony ride.
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    The camping was basic, but with all hookups. We cooked outdoors. The people who run the place are great and helpful!
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    I wish we could have stayed longer. Our daughter had to stay a little bit and "help Ma" with the wash. Ma had a washboard and they hung out the clothes. Who would have known that we would have to delay our trip for this? My grandmother would've been perplexed!

  • 10. Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
    Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Walnut Grove, Minnesota

    This is a very good museum. There are several items of the Ingalls, but the interesting part are the houses.
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    This museum would appeal to those interested in that era. There were places to look at that were from that time.
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    We did drive by the church that has "Pa's Bell" that he did not buy new shoes to contribute to. The bell is still there.

  • 11. Ingalls' Homestead
    Ingalls' Homestead, Walnut Grove, Minnesota

    This is the "Banks of Plum Creek" homesite. The dugout and home are long gone.
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    If you are a fan, you have to visit this place. If not, it will not interest you.
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    You pay a fee to get into the property. You just put the money into a box. You drive to an area and park. There is Plum Creek.
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    Follow the path and you really can see the depression of the dugout. I really got chills here. We really loved this book. It was my favorite one!
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    You cross a bridge to get to the dugout area. This is a beautiful setting and it is amazing how close they were to the creek. You can really picture the happenings here!
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    Gotta see this if you are a fan!

  • 12. Sod House on the Prairie

    This is a really neat place to stay. The sod house is very nice and there are several other buildings to look at.
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    The people who run the place are wonderful! You are the only visitors here after closing time. You stay in a sod house that is fairly large with two kerosine lanterns. We really enjoyed using them. The sod house does not smell "soddy". I think it probably had to have something done to make it available for rental. The beds are comfortable and there is an air conditioner if you need it.
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    There are outhouses, but there is also a nice indoor bathroom. I think everyone uses this one. There is also another room where you have electricity and can make coffee in the morning for yourself. This is our style of roughing it.
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    Okay, the breakfast. They prepared the most amazing turnovers - fresh. All the baked items and fruit were amazing. You could almost stay there for the breakfast alone.
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    There is a field across from the sod house which is beautiful - and I think we saw a badger. We have never seen one, but I think we did. Wow!
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    If you are anywhere near this area, stay here! If you live anywhere close to here, visit here just to stay for the experience.

  • 13. Iowa Braille School
    http://www.iowa-braille.k12.ia.us/

    This is the school that Mary Ingalls attended in Vinton, Iowa. I emailed them to see if we could visit and they said yes.
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    We made an appointment for a tour. An alumni, Julie, gave us a tour. She had gone to school here all twelve years and was blind. She was so fun. There was another Mom with two daughters on the tour. Julie showed them how to use the typewriters and other devices in the classroom. She had a great sense of humor and the kids really liked her. At one point, I had to tell her that the kids understood the Braille portion, they just did not know what a typewriter was. We both laughed because we are about the same age and had grown up using a typewriter.
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    This is such a wonderful school and we got a lot of insight into how wonderful it was and is to go to school here. Another person who works here said that they have to stay open, but enrollment is down. Most kids go to Public School. However, they do not get to do all the things they get to do at the IBS. This has such a great music department and their own clubs and other things just for the blind.
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    There is a historical wing that shows many of the things that Mary talked about in her letters home. There are devices for tying shoes, weaving, and all kinds of ways to make their lives functional.
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    This was one of our best experiences of the trip. If you cannot go to Vinton, find a blind school near you and take your children. This will appeal to anyone - not just Infalls' fans. I believe that all three of us learned a lot that day!

  • 14. Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave
    Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave, Hannibal, Missouri

    We camped at the campground here. I wish we could've visited the town. We will later when our daughter is reading Mark Twain. This is the cave he played in and which inspired him in Tom Sawyer.
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    The campground is nice and the people who run it were nice. The RV sites were bland, but we had hookups. We had camped in National Parks with no hookups and lots of beauty so this was our tradeoff. Of course, we were back in the humid, hot area of the country so air conditioning weighed more. The other sites were much nicer! However, I'd stay here again for the location.

  • 15. Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum
    Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, Mansfield, Missouri

    This is the motherlode for Laura fans! So many of her belongings are here. This is for Laura fans only!
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    We only visited the home that she and Almanzo built and the museum. The museum was amazing. Seeing Pa's fiddle was like seeing Pa. The tea set that Laura received in Plum Creek was there, Laura's papers she wrote in school, her certificates and many of her parents' and sisters' belongings were there.
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    I felt like I had gotten to know Almanzo through Farmer Boy (which I loved) and the last few books. You realize what a nice man he was when you see his home. He really loved Laura. They were both just really nice, simple people that have become main characters in many of our lives. When you visit their home, they become real people - and you really like them a lot.
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    If you are a fan and are wondering (like I was) if this last part of Laura's life is worth seeing, it is! This is the comprehensive view of her life!

  • 16. George Washington Carver National Monument
    George Washington Carver National Monument, Diamond, Missouri

    This is GWC's boyhood home. We watched a film about him. His life is so interesting and he was such an amazing and good person. His contributions and thoughtfulness make him so appealing. This museum really brings him to life!
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    To understand him, you have to see his home and area. He spent so much time just looking at nature. He was all about using what you have wisely and enjoying what nature gives you!
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    The Junior Ranger booklet is wonderful, except they don't have a patch yet - just a badge. I hope they get one soon.
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    There is a science lab to look at. We had fun there and it did point out many of his discoveries. You have to keep in mind that we take so many of his discoveries for granted now - that you can use certain products to make others. He really introduced that concept to many people.
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    GWC has done more for all of us than most scientists have. On a regular basis, we use his knowledge. Why did he do it? Because he was a curious person mainly. And he was very intelligent. He really makes you understand what makes a person accomplish things - curiosity!

  • 17. Devil's Den State Park
    Devil's Den State Park, West Fork, Arkansas

    This was our last campground on our way home. Arkansas is a beautiful place to camp - and Devil's Den is gorgeous.
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    Even the RV sites are nice here. This is a large State Park and there is so much to do here. We were just here for one night, but will defnitely return some day. The restrooms and hookups were very good!
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    I highly recommend this campground. Stay at least one day and view the sites!