Fun Reptile Vacations
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Every year during the dog days of summer, my family would embark on a rolling adventure across this great land - a trip known as the family vacation.
I'd be crammed in the back seat with my brother, sister and our 75-pound prodigiously salivating boxer. All the while our sweaty thighs adhered to the solar-heated vinyl as the inevitable chorus rang out, "Are we there yet?" Oh, how I wanted to stop and see every attraction advertised on the garish roadside billboards that whizzed by every few minutes.
Back then it would have been great to have had a guide to herp attractions, so when Dad said no to the beckoning Gatorland billboard, I could have fired back with, "Well, what about...?"
Photo courtesy of Clyde Peeling's Reptiland
A secure glass enclosure allows these Reptiland visitors to go nose-to-nose with a huge reticulated python.
This article is that guide. Here, you'll find 40 U.S. herp-related attractions - everything from animal collections to amusing roadside curiosities, such as a giant turtle made entirely of wheel rims. There's enough to keep you and your family occupied all summer long. And just think: This listing doesn't include all the great reptile retail stores and zoo reptile houses you're likely going to pass along the way. If you stop at some of those, too, you've probably got enough info here to plan a six-month reptile road trip!
West Coast Ramblings
The small foothill community of Monroe, Washington, has more than just million-dollar views of the Cascades. Passerbys should stop by the Washington Serpentarium, which has one of the most complete collections of reptiles on the West Coast, including an alligator snapping turtle, an albino rattler, an Egyptian cobra, a frilled lizard, green tree pythons, Brazilian rainbow boas, green mambas, rhinoceros vipers, puff adders, Gaboon vipers, an albino alligator and dwarf caimans, just to mention a few. Kids and adults can hold 10 different snake species.
Lodi, California, is home to the Great Valley Serpentarium. Pay a visit to the free Snake Museum, which has about 150 natural-habitat exhibits housing numerous snakes, lizards, tortoises, frogs and arachnids. Many rear-fanged species, such as hognoses, false water cobras and mangrove snakes are also on display (they have the only known specimen of Kupang mangrove snake in the United States).
For fun, visit the Calaveras County Fair's Jumping Frog Jubilee at Angels Camp, California. The Frog Jubilee commemorates the famed jumping frog in Mark Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County with, of course, frog jumping contests and other events (including a kids' jumping contest). You don't even need your own frog; you can rent a bullfrog to compete. The 2005 Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee (theme: "Famous Authors and Awesome Hoppers") will be held May 19 to 22.
Photo courtesy of Jeff White/Frogtown
The annual Jumping Frog Jubilee, at Angels Camp, California, uses bullfrogs in various jumping competitions. The current world record jump is 21 feet 5¾ inches.