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Reptile Gardens: Exotic Black Hills Attraction is Fun for All Ages

Updated on October 31, 2011

The largest collection of cold-blooded animals in the world

Reptile Gardens, located in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, is one of the area's most unique attractions. With over 225 reptile specimens, Reptile Gardens has the largest collection of cold-blooded animals in the world.

The centerpiece of Reptile's Gardens is the Sky Dome, a three-story glass dome housing the majority of the reptile collection, including snakes, lizards, crocodiles, alligators, Komodo dragons and tortoises, as well as a collection of bugs that simultaneously scare and delight.

The center of the dome contains an enormous collection of exotic plants and birds, as well as turtles and smaller lizards. Entering through the plain wooden door is like opening the door to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory as one's senses are immediately overflowing with the sights, scents and sounds of a tropical paradise.

Reptile Gardens Has So Much More to Explore!

Kids love watching the prairie dogs romp and play in their village at the far end of the park. Another special resident is Cheyenne the Bald Eagle. Cheyenne is a rescue bird who was rehabilitated at Reptile Gardens and now makes her home there. Find her enclosure behind the dome.

Tortuga Falls is a formal garden, pond and waterfall. This serene area is walled-off from the main walkways, providing a tranquil hideaway that's perfect for a picnic lunch.

Last but not least, be sure to check out the giant tortoise enclosure. This is where you'll find South Dakota's oldest resident - Methusaleh - a giant tortoise from the Galapagos who celebrated his 130th birthday in 2011 with his customary birthday dinner of watermelon (there was cake for the humans that attended Methusaleh's party!).

Methusaleh and his friends spend the summer munching grass in their enclosure or napping in the sun while visitors walk the paths around them. Yes, you can pet the tortoises and take photos with them, but please remember they're living animals not boulders - please don't let kids climb on them!

Daily Shows All Summer Long

Reptile Gardens hosts several daily shows during the summer months, including a snake show, bird show, and alligator/crocodile show. The snake show takes place behind an enclosure, as poisonous snakes are part of the fun.

The bird show highlights a dozen species, from the exotic to the mundane. Cheyenne the bald eagle is the star of this show, but you'll also see a number of cockatoos, Amazon parrots, macaws, owls, hawks, doves and even some chickens and a crow. The bird show takes place next to the "enchanted village" which is set up like an Old West town -- a favorite place for kids to play and parents to snap pictures.

You won't want to miss the alligator/crocodile show, a crowd favorite. Learn why Reptile Garden's motto is, "Go Wrestle a Gator!", when you see the show's host do just that. The alligator/crocodile show takes places right next door to the bird show.

Orchids in the Sky Dome at Reptile Gardens
Orchids in the Sky Dome at Reptile Gardens

Visiting Reptile Gardens

Reptile Gardens is open from April through the end of December each year, but hours vary by season. From April 1 - Memorial Day, visit Reptile Gardens 7 days a week from 9am-4pm.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, hours change to 8am-7pm. After Labor Day, hours return to 9am-4pm until Halloween. From November 1 - the end of December, call 1-800-335-0275 before visiting to check on hours.

Reptile Gardens lights up their dome with holiday lights every December. It is a sigh to be seen!

Summer admission fees for 2011 are $15 for adults, $13.50 for seniors, and $10 for children ages 5-12. Children 4 and under are always free. If you're a visitor, be sure to ask for a visitor's pass, good for the duration of your stay in the Black Hills for one admission fee.

Where to find Reptile Gardens

A markerReptile Gardens -
8955 S Highway 16, Rapid City, SD
get directions

In Memory of Methusaleh

I am sad to report that on July 10, 2011, Methusaleh passed away.

Methusaleh was a Giant Galapagos tortoise who lived at Reptile Gardens. He was the oldest "resident" of western South Dakota.

The last time we saw Methusaleh was at his 130th birthday party at Reptile Gardens, June 11, 2011. Shortly after that, the staff of Reptile Gardens reported that Methusaleh was slowing down. He passed quietly on a beautiful summer morn.

Old friend, you will be missed.

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      Positivevibestechnician 6 years ago

      i visited there as a child and someday would like to go back very fun drive to the black hills.