Category: Family Adventures

Rocky Ridge Farm: a Laura Ingalls Wilder site in Mansfield, Missouri

Rocky Ridge Farm: a Laura Ingalls Wilder site in Mansfield, Missouri

At the beginning of the year, we asked our girls to tell us one thing they wanted to do together as a family. Our oldest daughter picked rock-climbing for her activity. Our younger daughter told us she wanted to visit another Laura Ingalls Wilder site.

Two years ago, we traveled to the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota. Last year, we stopped by the Masters Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa on our way north to Wisconsin. According to our youngest, it’s become a bit of a tradition!

When we realized that our family travels would bring us less than two hours away from Laura’s Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri — well, we knew we had to go.

(Note: This adventure was not sponsored, and all opinions shared here are my own.) 

Laura Ingalls Wilder | Mansfield, Missouri

We arrived on a beautiful Saturday morning. All four of us were immediately impressed by the big, beautiful building that houses the museum and gift shop. We purchased our tickets and were invited into a small movie theater to watch a short, 10-minute video about Laura’s life in Mansfield.

Exciting the theater, we entered into a large room with 25-30 wonderful exhibits. We saw Pa’s fiddle, some of Laura’s clothing, and even a plate that survived a house fire early in the Wilders’ marriage. My girls especially loved the timeline running around the top of the room!

(Note: photos are not allowed inside the museum or either of the Wilder homes.)

Once we had our fill of the museum, we moved on to the gift shop. Since we have all the original Little House books (and some of the picture book versions), we told the kids they could each pick out a hat. Our oldest chose a pretty pink bonnet and our youngest (tactile learner) was immediately drawn to the coonskin caps. I also purchased a Rocky Ridge Farm magnet to add to our “adventure collection” on our fridge at home.

Rocky Ridge Farm | Mansfield, Missouri

Rocky Ridge Farm Tours

We had a picnic lunch outside before heading up the hill to tour the white Farm House. Our docent was incredibly knowledgeable and answered lots of questions from the entire group. I was especially fascinated by Laura’s library and writing area! I couldn’t stop staring at all the incredible wood accents throughout the house. It was definitely a comfortable home for the Wilders, which must have been a relief after Laura’s transient childhood.

From the Farm House, we took a paved trail (¾ mile, according to the gift shop clerk) “over the ridge” to the beautiful modern Rock House. We were told their daughter Rose had built for them after her success as a published author. (According to our docent, she rented the Farm House from her parents while they lived in the Rock House.) Honestly, as lovely as the Rock House is, I completely identified with Laura’s love for the Farm House and understood why she and Almanzo eventually moved back.

We loved our time out at Rocky Ridge Farm, despite the summer heat and Missouri humidity. I was glad it was our third location visit. Our first visit to the DeSmet Homestead “hooked” our kids on the excitement of living a prairie life. They’ve been totally engaged at the other two sites we’ve visited, despite the more adult exhibits and details.

Before leaving Mansfield, I asked my husband to drive by the cemetery. It was such a meaningful experience when we visited the Ingalls’ graves DeSmet, and I wanted to pay our respects to the Wilders. As famous and familiar as Laura and Almanzo are to us, it was humbling to see them buried in this small town cemetery just like their neighbors.

If you or your children love the Little House series, I highly recommend a visit to Rocky Ridge Farm, where Laura wrote her stories and lived out the last years of her life.

Family Adventures: Real-World Learning

Family Adventures: Real-World Learning

Are you thinking about a family road trip this summer? Our family believes in real-world learning, and travel is a great way to experience new things and build background knowledge with your kids. Family adventures don’t need to be expensive or complicated, either. Read on for our best budget-friendly tips for traveling with kids.

When you begin taking family adventures, you might want to start small with a day trip or overnight stay. Our kids are great travelers, but it’s taken years to build their stamina. (When they were very young, we would would drive overnight or during their nap time to make things easy on ourselves.)

Do your best to make the trip part of the adventure!

  • Pick out new activity books to do in the car.
  • Leave time in your schedule for short stops when the mood strikes.
  • Try geocaching for even more fun.

Want to read more tips about family adventures?

Budget-Friendly Family Adventures

You’ll be amazed how many free and cheap activities are available for families. Whenever we travel, we search for “things to do in — with kids” and pick two or three things that sound interesting. (Just last month, we found a fascinating airpower museum near the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa.)

In the last few years, we’ve toured the Nebraska Capitol Building, explored Fonferek’s Glen in Wisconsin, and marveled at the Sergeant Floyd Monument in South Dakota–all for free!

We also like to stop by the Chamber of Commerce or Visitor’s Center whenever we travel to a larger city. The staff usually have great recommendations, maps, and (sometimes) free items like posters or activity books.

Some of our favorite family adventures have happened by happy accident when we’ve followed intriguing road signs like Ship Rock (Wisconsin) and the Jolly Green Giant statue (Minnesota).

Free and cheap family adventures! {travel tips for parents}

Recently, we traveled to Omaha to meet up with some of our family members. Of course, Omaha is famous for the Henry Doorly Zoo, but we wanted to explore the city a bit more. We searched for the best kids’ activities in the area and got quite a few good recommendations!

Every one of these family adventures was FREE!

  • First, we visited the Lewis & Clark Landing near the banks of the Missouri River. We walked out on the Bob Kerrey Bridge and snapped a picture on the state line. We explored the exhibits in the Visitor Center, located within the National Park Service Midwest Regional Office. And then we walked out to find a geocache under a bench by the river’s edge.
  • We traveled out to Kenefick Park to learn more about the history of the Transcontinental Railroad and see two Union Pacific locomotives.
  • Finally, we stopped at Gene Leahy Mall to go down the big slides.

Every family adventure needs supplies! See what we keep in our adventure backpack.

Join the Parent Resource Room!Tell me about your favorite family adventures in the comments below!


Why Your Family Needs an Adventure Backpack

Why Your Family Needs an Adventure Backpack

Many, many years ago, there was a movie called One Fine Day featuring Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney as two single parents working together to juggle their kids and their jobs. One of the recurring jokes in the movie is that ultra-controlling mom Pfeiffer always has what she needs in her bag, from juice boxes to costumes for the kids. Clooney, more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants dad, even asks at one point, “Where I can get a bag like that?”

I’m not sure why that random movie fact has stuck with me for more than 20 years, but I had a similar moment last week when we met up with some friends at a fairground. One of my girls needed to use the bathroom immediately, so we walked to the Porta Potties right around the corner. As she came out of her little hut, I was waiting with wipes and some hand sanitizer, which made my friend crack a joke about being a Boy Scout. I joked right back, “I’m not a Boy Scout, I’m a mom.”

Our family tradition of carrying a backpack came right after the diaper bag years. Typically, our “adventure backpack” stays in the trunk of our family car, filled with all the supplies we tend to need most.

Whether your family adventures include travel or exploring the outdoors, an adventure backpack can make life with kids easier!

Young girl on dad's shoulders with text: 16 Must-Haves for Family Adventures

What is an adventure backpack?

Our backpack is a simple, two-shoulder bag that holds all the things our kids tend to need when we are hiking, geocaching, touring the zoo, or visiting an apple orchard. We keep it light enough that any one of us can carry it if needed–but not so light that we end up sunburned or covered in bug bites because the sunscreen and/or bug spray is in the other car.

What should we put in our adventure backpack?

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The type of backpack your family chooses depends on the types of activities you’ll need it for. Rarely do we hike more than a couple of hours and we typically drive right to our campsites, so we don’t need an actual hiking backpack. A regular school pack works just fine for our adventures, so long as it has lots of pockets for our supplies:

  • hats for everyone
  • sunscreen
  • umbrella
  • insect repellent
  • bandaids
  • wipes
  • hand sanitizer
  • tissues
  • pain reliever
  • flashlight
  • compass
  • whistle
  • water bottles
  • snacks (optional)
  • zipper bags for trash or nature collections
  • notepad and pencil

Where should we take our adventure backpack?

If your family is looking to have more adventures full of hands-on learning and fun memories, keeping a family adventure backpack in the car will be a lifesaver!

What do you keep in your adventure backpack?

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What is a family adventure backpack and WHY do we need one?