Snakes, frogs, lizards and bugs.


We get it. To some it might not sound like the most appealing line-up, but if you skip out on a visit to Reptile Gardens, you’ll regret it. Although they do have a large variety of the above, they are also home to turtles, birds, prairie dogs, and some of the most beautiful displays of flowers in the area, making it an enjoyable visit for all. 


Green snake at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, SD
Photo Credit: @rogue.imperial

Yes, They Have Snakes

Don’t make the mistake of passing on a visit to Reptile Gardens because “snakes aren’t your thing”. To be honest, I wouldn’t go around claiming them as my cup of tea either – in fact when they cross my path outdoors, I find the experience to be less than pleasant. However, witnessing them at Reptile Gardens is a whole different, and dare I say fascinating, experience. For the most part, their collection of snakes resides in enclosures for you to view them. Once you’re separated by that sheet of glass, learning about them is intriguing, especially when they house some of the world’s deadliest snakes. Between the snake show and exhibits you’ll learn so much about these creatures that you might even come to appreciate them. 

Fun fact: this attraction actually started because of one young reptile enthusiast with a rattlesnake in his hat, but that’s another story.

Ok, enough about snakes – said no one from Reptile Gardens ever. There are plenty of other things to see during your visit, here are a few other fan favorites:


Kids look at gators at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, SD
Photo Credit: @chancellorben

Get to Know the Gators

When you’re roughly 1,350 pounds and stretch 16 feet you deserve some attention. That’s exactly what Maniac the giant crocodile gets, along with the gang of gators sitting poolside at Reptile Gardens. During a visit you’ll learn a variety of interesting facts about these misunderstood animals, like the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, or that alligators continue to grow throughout their lifetime. In fact, inside the Safari Room you’ll discover how small these creatures start off – making the growth and transformation to adulthood extremely impressive when you come across the adults. Reptile Gardens also offers a Gator Show that will have you on the edge of your seat. 

Fun fact: Maniac, Reptile Gardens' large salt water crocodile, is from Australia and was born in captivity in 1970.


family watching bird use a stamp at reptile gardens in rapid city, sd

Meet the Birds

Walk through the fascinating Avian Avenue! Open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend, this is where visitors can get up close and personal with birds from around the world. Avian Avenue provides the opportunity to stop and chat with the keepers at Reptile Gardens and get the answers to all your bird related questions. Favorites for many to see include Cheyenne the Bald Eagle and Darwin the Australian Kookaburra.
Hands-on activities to help keep the birds stimulated and happy are also available, such as making toys, petting a pigeon, or witness the their food preparation. You can also enjoy the collective chatter of tropical birds in the Safari Room.
Fun fact: Cheyenne the Bald Eagle became the Avian Ambassador at Reptile Gardens in 2001 after the US Fish & Wildlife Service found her with a severley broken wing in Nebraska. 


Child petting tortoise at Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, SD

The Fan Favorite Turtles & Tortoises

Did you know the earliest known turtles date back 215 million years ago? That makes turtles one of the oldest reptile groups! You’ll learn more interesting tidbits during your visit, and even be able to see an exact cast of the largest Archelon Turtle fossil inside the Sky Dome. This fossil was actually found not far from Reptile Gardens in the 1970's. Turtles and tortoises come in a variety of sizes and are fascinating to interact with. Many fall in love with the grandpa-like movements of the Aldabra Tortoises as they come to greet visitors, snack on some fruit, or do just about anything. During a visit you’ll get to know them by name, give them affectionate neck scratches and of course snap a few candid photos. 

Fun fact: You'll find a statue of the beloved Methuselah in Methuselah's Playground, the Galapagose tortoise died at 130 years old after a long and happy life at Reptile Gardens. 


family posing in front of living flowers wall at reptile gardens in rapid city

Explore the Gardens & Flowers

Hold up – Reptile Gardens isn’t just about Reptiles. From living walls to tranquil gardens, they go all out with their botanical gardens. Home to over 40,000 flowers and perennials, when things are in full bloom the grounds are a stunning array of colors. You can relax to the sights and sounds of Tortuga Falls and take in the perfectly manicure spaces of their many walking gardens. The Sky Dome is also filled with tropical plants and flowers, orchids, bromeliads, and more.


There’s more to Reptile Gardens than many expect and is worth exploring while on a Rapid City and Black Hills vacation. Reptile Gardens is a seasonal attraction open from March to November. You’ll find they’re iconic glass dome just six miles south of Rapid City on the road to Mount Rushmore

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