A Day At Reptile Gardens: The Guinness World Records Largest Reptile Zoo
- Date Visited: July 29, 2021
- Address: 8955 US-16, Rapid City, SD 57702
- Phone: (800) 335-0275
- Hours: Daily 9 AM-6 PM
- Price: Adults $20 - Changes on off-season for complete listing of all age prices check website.
Reptile Gardens is an animal park located outside of Rapid City, South Dakota.
In the 2014 and 2018 editions of the Guinness Book of World Records, it is listed for being the world’s largest reptile zoo. I
It has more species and subspecies of reptiles, around 225 actually, than any other zoo or wild animal park in the world!
Originally named the Black Hills Reptile Gardens, founder Earl Brockelsby officially opened its doors on June 3, 1937.
The admission price at the time was ten cents for adults and five cents for children. When it opened the zoo consisted of only an 18 by 24-foot building with a handful of specimens on display.
Over the years exhibits were added and in 1965 the facility moved to its current location to allow for construction of the highway.
The Sky Dome, which included a Safari Room, was one of the new attractions added to the zoo after the move. The zoo is still family-owned and operated today.
The first thing we did after paying for our tickets was head to the outdoor auditorium for the snake show.
The snake shows are held multiple times throughout the day. A trained snake handler brought out various venomous and non-venomous snakes providing information on the species as well as snake safety.
The young man provided a wealth of information on snakes and put on quite an entertaining show as well.
They even presented a cobra (which was safely kept in its box) during the show. At the end of the show, the python was brought out again and all those who were brave enough had the opportunity to touch it.
I believe the show lasted around 30-40 minutes and is definitely worth watching.
The Sky Dome serves as the central hub of the zoo. All the other areas are split into specific sections around it.
The Prairie Dog Town was a fun little attraction right by the snake show auditorium. These little critters are always enjoyable to watch.
A dome was placed in the middle of their exhibit so you could stick your head in and get up close and personal with these adorable mammals.
Cheyenne, the American Bald Eagle, is an avian ambassador at Reptile Gardens and has been there since 2001. A partial wing amputation left her unable to return to the wild so now she is living out her days in the comfort of the zoo.
The Aldabra Tortoises were one of my favorite residents of the zoo.
Multiple turtles were walking freely around their enclosures and you are given the opportunity to actually interact with these gentle giants. Employees were on hand to answer questions and you were able to touch and pet a few of the residents.
It was so cool!
In the Gators & Crocs Arena, you can see alligators, crocodiles, and caimans lounging around. Many of these giant reptiles can be seen taking a dip in the water or soaking in some afternoon rays on the greens.
For a small fee, you can go Gator’s Fishin’. We didn’t do this but watched another individual feed meat from a long pole to the hungry gators below.
Methuselah was a 130 year old, 600-pound giant Galapagos tortoise who was a long-time resident and mascot of Reptile Gardens before his passing in 2011.
A bronze statue and playground were dedicated to him a year later and is the perfect place for the kids to burn off some excess energy before the car ride home.
Tortuga Falls features lush tropical plants, a meditation garden, and a cascading waterfall.
Enjoy watching Koi swim in the pond and turtles bask in the sun. In the summer Darwin, the Australian Kookaburra, can also be found visiting this serene area.
Botanical gardens, flowers, and large rocks, minerals, and sculptures are featured prominently around the zoo grounds.
Avian Avenue is another neat little section of Reptile Gardens.
You have the opportunity to interact with staff members and multiple species of birds from around the world. Owls, hawks, falcons, and parrots were all on display during our visit and the staff was happy to answer our questions and show these guys off.
I love owls and the barn owl there was adorable.
The Spring Creek Gulch Fun-tier Town is a great little attraction for all ages.
There are a ton of photo-ops available along this old west-themed boardwalk and some fun games to participate in as well. For a few quarters, we hit up the Old West Shooting Gallery and had a fast draw contest with a cowboy.
Now let’s move on to the zoo’s main attraction, the Sky Dome. The lower level of the Sky Dome features crocodiles, amphibians, bugs, and more importantly Maniac!
Maniac is a male saltwater crocodile from Australia who is currently 16 feet 2 inches long and weighs roughly 1,350 pounds. He was born in captivity in 1970 and has been at Reptile Zoos since 2004.
When we rounded the corner and saw him we were blown away. This picture shows nothing of his massive size. You must truly witness this beast in person to appreciate how large he really is.
The Safari Room is located in the center of the Sky Dome.
This jungle oasis is filled with orchids, bromeliads, caladiums, and other tropical plants from all around the world. Sculptures from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia can also be found decorating the space.
Free-roaming lizards and frogs, as well as multiple bird species, hide among the trees. You really feel like you’re walking in the middle of a jungle and you never know what little creature you might find staring at you from a nearby leaf.
The mezzanine level of the Sky Dome overlooks the Safari Room and houses a majority of the zoo’s exotic reptiles. Gaze upon the Inland Taipan (the world’s deadliest snake) and the Rough Scaled Python (the world’s rarest snake) as you walk around the dome.
You will encounter a number of lizards as well as venomous and non-venomous snakes including pythons, mambas, cobras, and rattlesnakes. They even had a specimen of my favorite snake of all time on display, a Gaboon viper.
Each enclosure is also decorated with minerals, crystals, fossils, and sculptures from around the world. A lot of pieces displayed in the cases were as cool as the reptiles themselves.
A cast of the largest Archelon Turtle Fossil ever found hangs in the Sky Dome. Not only is it completely cool it provides the perfect photo-op for your social media accounts.
Though ticket prices were higher than we normally like to pay for attractions, Reptile Gardens was completely worth every penny.
We’ve noticed zoos always tend to have a higher price tag and seem to get higher every year. We had planned to visit last year, but circumstances thwarted our efforts so we made it a point to include it during our trip this year.
If you’re in the Rapid City area and only have time for one major attraction I would highly recommend this wildlife park. Make sure you have enough time to watch a snake show and don’t miss out on seeing Maniac.