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What We Do

Our mission is to offer Guests an amazing experience while positively contributing to the future of our animal residents, as well as our community, by educating the public about important environmental issues and working closely with many major zoos worldwide to promote species survival.

Family owned and operated since 1937

Founded in 1937 by our reptile-loving patriarch, Earl Brockelsby, Reptile Gardens has steadily grown to one of the most popular South Dakota attractions, drawing crowds from all over the Midwest and beyond. We are the largest reptile zoo in the world, housing more species of reptiles than any other zoo or wild animal park.

Our second and third generations are dedicated to carrying on Earl's legacy, not only by having top-notch displays, but while also offering outstanding hospitality. This latter quality was honored by the State of South Dakota in 1994 when we became the second recipient of the George Mickelson Award for Great Service to South Dakota visitors.

Today, we continue on as a family business with Earl's nephew, Joe Maierhauser, as the President, Chairman of the Board, & CEO; Earl’s sons, John as director of public relations, and Jeff as Assistant General Manager; his daughter, Judee Oldham, is the corporate secretary and her son, Jeff Oldham, is Assistant General Manager.

 

Preserving the legacy

Image of the original building in 1937 for Reptile Gardens.

Since our beginning, we have provided a great entertainment experience for literally millions of visitors by giving them the chance to observe exotic animals up close.

We place a huge emphasis on finding really rare, unusual or beautiful animals*, as well as legendary animals like the deadly Boomslang, the elusive Bushmaster, or even the common garter snake many Guests encounter on a regular basis. We also pride ourselves on creating fun reptile enclosures with minerals, woodcarvings, and photos.

But, we’re not just about the animals! We also showcase a myriad of flowers and flowerbeds, orchids and bromeliads - expanding the park far beyond what Earl could have imagined.

*Most of the animals in our collection are zoo trades; they are not captured in the wild. We also work closely with each of our animal’s native country and strictly comply with all government regulations.

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Activities

Main Exhibits

Shows

Shops

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Animals

Snakes

Other Reptiles

Amphibians and Bugs

Native to South Dakota

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Botanical Gardens

Indoor

Outdoor

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About Us

Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing or go on a 3D safari. Our very own old west ghost town as numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with some of the most exotic birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

Don't miss your chance to Pet a Python!  Our snake handlers ar here to talk about any questions or myths you've heard about snakes. Don't forget your camera! Our pythons are very photogenic and love to photos with you!