Living History Farms in Urbandale

Place/Event: Living History Farms
Location: 11121 Hickman Rd, Urbandale, IA 50322
Cost: $9-15 – see website
Grade/age range: Prek-12
Group size: large or small
Hands-on: Yes
Stroller friendly: Yes but the trail between farms is a dirt trail
Bathrooms: Yes
Food: Limited snacks. We always bring a picnic lunch to have at the car. You can bring snacks and drinks in. 
Water: Yes

Forget big informational signs or artifacts behind glass; you won’t find anything like that at this museum! It’s all about Hands-On History!

I spent the winter reading aloud the complete Little House on the Prairie series to my children and then we enjoyed the summer experiencing history!

I found my daughter a very long flower dress at the thrift store and made a little white apron. The gift shop at Living History Farms sells bonnets for a complete look. 

Living History Farms - Laura Ingalls Wilder quote

During our visits, several people told my daughter how cute she looked and she was ecstatic. She thinks everyone thought she worked there. I didn’t mention that the yellow membership sticker on her dress was highlighting she was just a visitor.

Living History Farms Horse grinding feed
The horse is grinding real corn for the real chickens.

Living History Farms is all Hands-On! There are a few places, for example, inside the mansion and the Tangen Family Home, where touching is more limited. But even in theses homes, there is still plenty of hands-on activities.

I recommend starting the day off by taking the tractor ride out to the 1700’s farm. It can easily take over an hour to visit all three farms. Little ones can quickly wear out from all the walking, so visiting the farms first and the town second makes for a much more pleasant day.

You’ll start a the Ioway Indian farm and then walk to the 1850’s farm.  The path continues down a steep dirt trail through the timber to the 1900 farm. If you have any children with accessibility issues, chat with the staff. They will be happy to help you see and do all the fun activities.

Living History Farms - 1850 Pioneer Farm Beating Wheat
Threshing grain.
Living History Farms - 1850 Pioneer Farm Barn
Working with antique tools.
Living History Farms- the fire is HOT
Blacksmith shop has a hot fire and iron work demonstrations. 
Living History Farms - one room school house learning
One-room school house lessons. 

We purchased a double membership to both LHF and SCI because of their reciprocal program benefits. You can also add in Blank Park Zoo! We have used our memberships at so many museums as we travel and have saved hundreds of dollars. 

Living History Farms- pump the water
Pumping water at the Tangen Family Home  in town.
LHF- old scale
Old scale.

We just love LHF! It’s a very big place and you can easily spend all day!

If you live in the area, I would recommend a membership and to come often. Sometimes we would just visit the town, or the farms. It’s hard to get everything done in one trip! Focus on the farm tours if you are limited on time.

Growing up in Boone, our home school group took an annual trip to Living History Farms every fall. We went back in the day before they changed the location of the 1700’s farm. When I was a kid, that farm was down a ravine in the woods and I loved it! It seemed so real and authentic.

I now appreciate the LHF as an adult, but with a new perspective. As a kid, the place was larger than life, another world…almost like a dream…

What did the LHF feel like to you when you were a kid?

Living History Farms Iowa

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