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.)
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 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.