Well, just as I predicted, the kids were up at the crack of dawn… literally the crack of dawn. The nice part about it was we were able to get loaded up and out doing things quickly. I fully expected today to be an absolute disaster as the kids didn’t get much sleep last night.
I was quite surprised when we had such a great day. I suppose I should take note that when my kids are adequately entertained, they can be really good. Sometimes our idea of what will be fun is different than the kids’ idea of fun. So they get bored and start misbehaving and I get irritated at them because they’re fighting.
I think it’s also easy to forget that kids will be kids. We’ll see other families who are traveling and having a grand old time. And it usually happens when we’re in a particularly rough moment. So we tend to think that the other family is perfectly awesome and that their kids behave all the time, when in reality I know it’s not that way. So I guess that’s my long winded way of saying that sometimes kids are bratty and sometimes they aren’t. And we lucked out on Saturday that they were little angels who were super fun to hang out with!
Heading into Rapid City, we had been watching the weather closely (not that you can really trust iPhone weather). They were calling for rain all day but kept pushing the start time back. We decided to cram in as much as we could in case the weather got really nasty, so after eating all you can eat pancakes at the campground, we loaded up and headed to Reptile Gardens.
I had read great reviews about Reptile Gardens, so we were pretty excited about it. We visited the dome first, which housed tons of snakes, birds, and reptiles. Max did a report on snakes in second grade, so he was very excited about seeing all the snakes. They had so many snakes on display, it was incredible… little snakes, big snakes, venomous snakes, non-venomous snakes, rattlesnakes, and cobras.
The bird aviary reminded me of butterfly garden at the botanical gardens. It was enclosed but the birds were allowed to fly around. There were canaries and quails running around and macaws hanging out in the trees. They had tons of turtles to look at too and a guy holding a snake that the kids could touch.
Downstairs in the dome, they had alligators, crocodiles, and various bearded lizards and such. The alligators and crocs were humongous… they had one that was 33 feet long! We’ve seen crocodiles at the Kansas City Zoo and they always look like they’re sleeping but these guys were really active, walking around their enclosures, splashing in the water.
After the dome, we headed to catch the tail end of the snake show. The guy doing the show was really knowledgeable. He brought out several different snakes including a cobra and a prairie rattlesnake (which is native to South Dakota). He talked about the different snakes and let them slither around on the stage (behind a plastic wall of course).
Max really enjoyed the snake show and I really liked the fact that it was the same guy doing all the shows. The times were staggered so you could watch all three shows (snake show, alligator show, bird show) right in a row. When the snake show was over, we headed over to watch the alligator show.
The trainer told us all about the differences between alligators and crocodiles (and caimans), he showed us how to wrestle an alligator (even I was impressed!), and then he fed the alligators. The kids really loved that show and the best part was the kids got to pet Fluffy, the baby alligator.
We skipped the bird show, but instead wandered around the outside animal areas, looking at the prairie dogs and the giant tortoises and playing on the small play area. And of course we hit up the gift shop on our way out (which was HUGE!). I found some car bingo boards and an I Spy road trip card game that were just perfect for what we needed. Overall Reptile Gardens was a great time and definitely worth the money.
Our next stop was Bear Country USA. Josh and I visited Bear Country on our honeymoon ten years ago and we just loved it, so we knew we wanted to take the kids for sure. In the first part of the drive through Bear Country, most of the animals were hiding in the tall grass. We let the kids unbuckle and they crowded around the windows looking at the reindeer, the bighorn sheep, and the bobcats.
Most of the drive through area was mildly interesting, but when we got to the bear section, it was very entertaining. There were tons of bears and they were all wandering around right near the road. The kids were so excited to see them so close up.
After we finished driving through the park, we parked our cars and walked through Babyland. They have tons of different baby animals though most of them were snoozing in their little houses. We made the full tour, popped into the gift shop, and then headed to the parking lot. Unfortunately, Josh’s parents’ car wouldn’t start.
We hung out in the parking lot for a little bit while they called a tow truck and we finally decided to go back and visit the babies. The keeper had the baby bears out playing and it must have been feeding time because most of the babies were out running around. So we walked around watching the baby animals for a little while longer and then decided to head to Mt. Rushmore while Josh’s parents waited for their tow truck.
The kids loved visiting Mt. Rushmore. We walked the entire Presidential Trail and peeked up at the massive faces on the mountain from several different vantage points. We had fun peeking in the little cave and playing tag on the wooden decks. And of course no trip to Mt. Rushmore could ever be complete without a stop at the gift shop. We bought several reader books for the kids before we called it quits for the day.
pancake breakfast at rapid city koakids looking at reptiles reptile gardensalligator show at reptile gardens rapid citykids touching baby alligatorkids playing on the playground at reptile gardensthings to do in south dakota reptile gardensbear country usasee the baby bears at bear country usasummer vacation to mount rushmorefamily trip to mt rushmorekids hiking presidential trail at mt rushmorefamily portrait at mt rushmore south dakotafamily road trip to south dakota mt rushmore

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