Reptile Gardens has been a Black Hills fixture since 1937. Though this family-owned attraction originally emphasized entertainment over education, over the past few decades, it has upgraded the facilities to strengthen its scientific credentials. Now the world's largest reptile zoo, the gardens house more than 225 species and subspecies of exotic reptiles and amphibians, including Burmese pythons, king cobras, prairie rattlers, saltwater crocodiles and green tree frogs. The property is also home to prairie dogs, birds, insects, scorpions, tarantulas and two giant tortoises.
A large glass dome sits in the center of the property; the lower level holds alligators and crocodiles; the mezzanine features a variety of deadly snakes. In the middle of the dome, a tropical forest provides welcome respite on a hot South Dakota summer day. Here, orchids bloom amid lush foliage as lizards dart across the ground. In addition, the property features a Chinese-style garden; a children's playground with reptile-themed equipment; and three outdoor stages that host half-hour shows about snakes, birds and alligators throughout the day. (Brave youngsters even get the chance to touch a boa constrictor and baby alligator.)
Adult admission is $12; kids ages 5 to 12 get in for $8 (prices go up to $16 and $11 during the summer season from late May to early September).