|Note:||Closed December through February|
|Location:||8955 S Highway 16 Rapid City, SD 57702|
|Hours:||Summer Season: July 1 - September 3 8:00 am to 5:00 pm *We stop admitting guests at 5:00 pm, but the grounds and gift shop will be open until 8:00pm. Fall Season: Sept 4 – Oct 31 9:00 am to 4:00 pm *Last admission at 4:00pm Late Fall Season: Nov 1 – Nov 30 9:00 am to 3:00 pm *Last admission at 3:00pm Spring Season: March 3 – May 24 9:00 am to 4:00 pm *Last admission at 4:00pm|
|Cost:||Summer Season - May 25 - Sept 3 Adults - $18.00 | Seniors (62+) - $16.00 | Children 5 – 12 - $12.00 Fall Season - Sept 4 – Oct 31 Adults - $14.00 | Seniors (62+) - $13.00 | Children 5 – 12 - $10.00 Winter Season - Nov 1 - 30 Adults - $10.00 | Seniors (62+) - $10.00 | Children 5 – 12 - $7.00 Spring Season - March 5 – May 24 Adults - $14.00 | Seniors (62+) - $13.00 | Children 5 – 12 - $10.00 Children 4 & Under - FREE Military Discount Rate - *Includes Serviceperson & Spouse Summer - $16.00 | Fall - $12.00 | Winter - $8.00 | Spring - $12.00|
South Dakota is well known for Mount Rushmore of course as well as the Crazy Horse Monument, the Badlands, and tons of must see places. Did you know there is a must see place just 6 miles south of Rapid City and on the way to Mount Rushmore? Reptile Gardens is an amazing adventure for the whole family and we consider it a must see!
During our travels we try to experience a little bit of the world around us. Nature for sure but also local museums and gardens and must see sights and experiences. When we were in South Dakota we of course went to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore but we also checked out Reptile Gardens. Our family considers this a must see if you are in the area and yes I will tell you why.
From the outside it doesn’t look like much and you might be thinking what I was, “reptiles, yay snakes and lizards” or my daughter, the Diva was thinking “yay snakes!! I hope I can see them up close or watch one eat” while my son, the Gentleman was thinking “yay alligators and crocodiles! I hope they have a komodo dragon too” While they do have all of those things, though we didn’t see a snake eat, they also have SO MUCH MORE.
I mean the name isn’t a clever ploy to get you in there, they really have gardens in there and they are gorgeous! Seriously, the flowers and trees are amazing and they even have a bit more than reptiles. We saw a Bald Eagle, a prairie dog town (they were barking a lot when we went near them which we had never heard) and a handful of insects and spiders…which was not a highlight of my experience but still pretty neat.
I don’t mind spiders and thank them for eating mosquitoes but cockroaches…just no. Sorry, tangent but seriously I cannot talk positive enough about this place. I thought it was going to be a small zoo type thing and boy was I wrong and happily so. We checked out the prairie dogs first because it was near the first of several shows they offer during the day. We learned a bit about why they bark, how their “towns” work and even that they have rooms inside their underground network.
Next was our first show. It was about snakes and was informative and the speaker, Trey (sorry if I spelled that wrong!) was hilarious and knowledgeable with questions. It didn’t feel scripted at all so I have no idea if it was supposed to be or not but he did a fantastic job and held both the kids attentions the entire time…I have no idea how to do that still.
If you want to take pictures I would recommend being up higher as there is a glass or plastic wall around the stage. He puts snakes down for their and his safety sometimes while talking so the glass if for our sanity I think…and probably safety as well. He covered a lot of various types of snakes including some poisonous ones and the one that you should worry about and watch for when in South Dakota, the prairie rattlesnake.
We learned that if you are hiking or walking and you hear the rattle of a snake, freeze and slowly take a small step backwards until you don’t hear it then keep going backwards away from the area. The snake rattles to warn you and doesn’t actually want to bite you…but it totally will if you keep pushing it.
He let everyone touch a non-venomous snake at the end of the show and answered questions. I won’t spoil the rest of the show but you need to see it when you go so plan accordingly. After that we made our way to watch the alligators get fed. Once again our crazy pal Trey was there with animals that could kill him! You have to LOVE these creatures to work this close with them. He clearly loves his job.
He walks in with a bucket of I think chicken and a stick with a confidence you only have when you know you are going to be awesome and people are watching. He uses the stick to keep jaws away as well as tap a gator on his head to gauge if they have eaten recently or not, I think. He tosses chicken towards the mouths of those who look hungry or that he remembers needs to eat. He even made a few work for it by holding it a bit higher and the gators raise themselves up a bit and open their mouths til the chicken drops in.
It was neat to watch actually and you can sit in some stands or stand but there is a tall glass wall that protects you and the gators so again for pictures watch for glare. The other show is a bird show but we didn’t get to see that one. We got distracted by the giant tortoises! Ginormous ones!
There is an employee letting you know that no these giant creatures will not bite you unless you try to put your hand in its mouth or feed it. So amazing! We learned about the shells of tortoises and turtles and now I want to help rescue sea turtles…
There is an amazing koi pond area with a waterfall, called Tortuga Falls, that has a lot of koi fish and some turtles. Beautiful and quiet area where I can imagine drawing or writing….but I was with kids and they don’t seem to like quiet. They did enjoy the area though but really wanted to find a komodo dragon after we saw a sign for one. So into the dome we went!
There are two floors and so much to see inside! Various alligators and crocodiles including a gigantic one! Pictures do not do it justice. Of course they have the komodo dragon which was exciting to see but also a lot of snakes and other lizards including the bearded dragon and an anaconda! It looked like a baby but I have always wanted to see one so I was excited.
There was a section with insects including blech, cockroaches, and the ever beautiful black widow spider. Even the habitats were beautiful and well thought out. There was a small doll size kitchen with dim lights to show the cockroaches which while gross to me was neat. I liked the black widow display with la muerte which was very pretty.
Among other displays there was a giant fossilized sea turtle! It was massive and while I have seen documentaries and knew they existed at this size, still couldn’t believe it. Gorgeous specimen! Just below is the inside garden area where they have a giant cactus, a shy bird called Ruby, and a snake that chills above unsuspecting visitors but under a watchful employee. Don’t worry it’s harmless.
I felt like I was in a jungle in there! It wasn’t a big area but it was beautiful and there were quite a handful of animals in there you can see including turtles, lizards, tortoises and birds. I loved all the plant life though. So pretty and the Diva’s favorite part of the whole visit except for the snake show. The Gentleman loved the snake show and alligator feeding but now wants a bearded dragon…which we said no to.
If you homeschool, like us, or want to have your school visit (if you live nearby) they have a page with educational materials for various ages. I wish I checked that out further before our visit but we are printing out the questions to research on our own. There are also answer pdf’s which I LOVE! It is truly wonderful how they offer educational worksheets especially for us since our visit was also a field trip!
There is something at Reptile Gardens for everyone even if you don’t like reptiles. We will definitely be back when we visit South Dakota again and will be telling anyone visiting there to stop by as well. So if you are vacationing in the area or driving through you should stop by Reptile Gardens. You will have a wild adventure!
Show us your Reptile Garden Adventure! @MyGeeklings @ReptileGardens