And it's not Disney World. (I know, I know, I'm a huge Disney fan, but this place even beats out Disney...)
Where is it?
The Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota.
Two years ago, my mother and I took Little Girl there for her first visit. She loved it so much that when her birthday came around the next summer, she thought we should have her birthday party in South Dakota. It's a long way to South Dakota... a very long way.
When the kind folks at the Homestead heard of Little Girl's request, they sent some of South Dakota to her! How excited she was to receive a gift from the Homestead staff, a card, and pictures of her beloved kittens!
So when I told her this year that I was going back to South Dakota and asked if she wanted to come, of course the answer was yes! I was a little worried about taking her away from her mother so long -- we'd be gone a week after all. But she maintained that she wanted to go and so we went.
Was it as good as we remembered it being? Actually, it was better.
We spent large parts of THREE DAYS (and a night) on the Homestead, and didn't want to leave then. And as a result, I've come home with a Little Girl who is very knowledgeable about various aspects of pioneer living.
What can a little girl find to do on the Ingalls Homestead for three days? She can ride a horse... or a miniature horse... or a pony cart. Or all three, several times. Cuddle with kittens. Handle a team of horses or mules pulling a wagon. Cuddle with kittens. Pump water and carry the pail back with Ma. Do the laundry, pioneer-style. Cuddle with kittens. Wear prairie dresses with pinafores and sunbonnets and go to school. Ring the school bell. And cuddle with kittens. Go for a walk across the prairie at night. Pretend to be blind and let your friend play Laura and guide you as you walk. Spend the night in a covered wagon. During a thunderstorm. (Awesome!) Make corncob dolls (and corncob butterflies! lol) Twist hay, grind wheat, and make a jumprope. Oh, and lest we forget, cuddle with kittens.
I think by the time we left, she was a little TOO educated. At one point at the school, she wanted to leave to go back and see the kittens again (granted, we'd been there over an hour at this point, for a special session) and I told her sorry, there was nothing I could do about it. (You take a wagon there as the school is on the opposite end of the Homestead from the rest of the activities.) "I can't drive the wagon!" I protested as she continued to beg.
"I can!" she retorted.
Yes. She certainly could. After all, she'd done it numerous times already. Confident little thing.
And then she and her little friends, on the last morning there after our covered wagon sleepover party, wanted to do the laundry. We headed down, talking amongst ourselves, while the little ones ran on ahead. A staff member was always at the shanty to assist with the laundry so we saw no need to rush.
When we rounded the corner, we saw our four small children doing the laundry. One was scrubbing, one was rinsing, one was putting the cloth through the wringer, and the last was hanging up the clean cloths on the clothesline. The Homestead folks weren't there yet so our children had helped themselves, and astonishingly, were doing the laundry correctly and had formed their own little assembly line! I wonder what they thought when they showed up later that morning and discovered their nicely folded cloths all washed and hanging on the line? :)
Anyhow, it was a wonderful vacation and Little Girl can't stop talking about it. Thank you, Ingalls Homestead, for sharing Laura's land with the rest of us and for spoiling our little ones rotten.
We will be back!