From the December 2018 issue

The Reptarium Amphibian and Reptile Zoo in Utica

Utica's new amphibian and reptile zoo, The Reptarium, offers kids the chance to get up close and personal with cool slimy and scaly critters – and learn about them, too.

the reptarium in utica

Prepare your little ones for something new and exciting at The Reptarium in Utica.

Housing more than 215 reptiles and amphibians, this new kid-friendly reptile zoo has a scaly or slimy animal for everyone – like a python, a two-headed king snake, a 100-pound albino snapping turtle, chameleons, a frilled dragon (think Jurassic Park), a tortoise, a 5-foot Asian water monitor lizard named Elvis, and an albino Nile monitor lizard (the only one held in captivity).

Owner Brian Barczyk says he aimed to open a place like the kind he always wanted to go to as a kid.

“The reptiles at the zoo were always behind glass,” Barczyk says. “I want kids to be able to touch them.”

That’s what kids can do at The Reptarium, he says, and it’s a great experience for visitors. So how can parents know the animals are safe? Barczyk has spent the majority of his life handling these reptiles on screen – just check out Venom Hunters on the Discovery channel or his YouTube channel to see his daily vlogs.

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The Reptarium also hosts events alongside their normal business hours including private tours, birthday parties, movie nights, sensory-safety nights and “get out your fears” nights. Some of these kid-friendly events are free, while others cost between $10 and $20.

“Keep close eyes on the website for after-hours events,” Barczyk says.

Visit The Reptarium

  • Address: 45559 Van Dyke Ave., Utica
  • Phone: 586-884-6941
  • Hours: 4-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3-8 p.m. Sunday
  • Cost: $10/person, free/ages 3 and under

Top 3 Reptiles for Kids

Looking to get your child an exotic pet? Barczyk says that reptiles are great picks for kids and offers these critters as his top choices.

Bearded Dragon

These lizards will cost parents about $50-$60; plus the cost of a 40-gallon tank. Their diet is simple and primarily consists of crickets earthworms and cockroaches.

Barczyk adds that they’re perfect for kids because they’re easy to handle and super cool.

Leopard Gecko

These critters make great pets to both reptile parents and total newbies.

They come in various colors, making them a total draw for kids and run between $50-$60. You’ll need to purchase a 10-gallon tank to house them and provide them a rich diet of crickets, wax worms and superworms.

Ball Python

Mom may not be too sold on having a snake in the house but kids who are interested will love having a ball python.

These snakes, according to Barczyk are big, but not too big – about two to five feet long – and are cute.

They’ll run you about $80-$90 up front, require a 40-gallon tank and a supply of yummy rodents to stay healthy.

Still not sold on the idea of having a reptile as a pet? Check out one local pet shop owner’s advice and what pets he recommends for those still on the fence.

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