Updated April 2014
Depending on who you are, visiting a place called Reptile Gardens might sound like a dream come true or your worst nightmare. For our lizard-loving four-year-old, it was fantastic. The Reptile Gardens is a reptile zoo just outside of Rapid City, South Dakota, and it’s a fun destination for families.
The Reptile Gardens’ boasts 225 species of reptiles – more than any other zoo in the world. You’ll also find exotic birds, a bald eagle, bugs and a small prairie dog town. Plan for a lot of fun photo ops along the way.
Upon arrival, get the schedule of shows for the day. There is an alligator show, a snake show and a bird show. We skipped the bird show but we saw the alligator show twice. The shows are both fun and educational and the audience gets a chance to ask questions and pet a snake or baby alligator afterward. Tip: Arrive 10-15 minutes early for the shows to get the best seats.
While most of the attractions are outdoors, many of the Reptile Gardens’ most interesting exhibits are inside the SkyDome. Inside, you will find Maniac – a gigantic saltwater crocodile, a komodo dragon, and some of the world’s most venomous snakes like the king cobra and black mamba. In the middle of the dome is a garden where small lizards, macaws and other exotic birds roam freely. My son was especially excited to spot an elusive basilisk lizard here.
Another of our favorite parts of the Reptile Gardens was the tortoise yard. There are currently two giant tortoises that roam the yard freely and don’t mind being touched and hugged by gentle visitors. Our kids also liked the prairie dog town where they got a close-up look the cute little critters through plexi-glass domes.
Ask for a Vacation Pass when you pay for admission. This will allow you to return to Reptile Gardens at no charge anytime during your trip to the Black Hills. We enjoyed our first visit so much, we came back a second time during our trip.
Good to Know
Where: 8955 S. Highway 16 – six miles outside Rapid City on the way to Mount Rushmore.
When: April – November
How Much: Prices change seasonally. During the peak summer season:
- Adults $16.50
- Seniors $14.50
- Children (5-12) $11.00
- Children (0-4) FREE
How Long: 2-4 hours. The Vacation Pass allows you the flexibility to divide your time between two or more visits.
Amenities: gift shop, cafe