Matt spent the weekend in Ohio golfing with his high school best friends so I had the kids all to myself all weekend. I wanted to do something extra special with them and we were all itching to get out of the house so we made a trip to Lazy 5 Ranch, a drive-through zoo with all sorts of exotic animals in Mooresville, North Carolina. It poured down rain the entire 45 minute drive there and magically cleared up as we pulled in and saw our first llama of the ride.
The experience was an absolute blast…and a little terrifying at times, I’m not gonna lie. All of the animals are incredibly friendly and will come right up to your car and practically try to climb into your passenger seat if your window is down. For the most part, it was super fun and hilarious to have an ostrich poke it’s head through the window or a giraffe sweep down through the sunroof.
And then there were some massive animals that really terrified the kids…like the yaks, cows, etc. which were absolutely not afraid at all to join the party inside the car. And by “party,” I mean Caroline hysterically screaming at the top of her lungs and Thomas launching his body over the backseat into the trunk of my SUV to hide while I frantically tried to roll up the windows.
Let me be clear, the animals are very friendly and we never once felt unsafe. However, it’s not every day that an American Bison or a Texas Longhorn is knocking on your car window to say hello.
After a few shrieks, a super nice animal keeper pulled up on a horse next to us to inform us that we needed to hang our buckets out of the window to feed the animals otherwise they will reach into the car as far as possible for food. Once we figured that out, and I promised the kids that under no circumstance would I roll down the windows anywhere near a cow, we were set!
The ranch is home to over 750 domestic farm animals and exotic species from 6 different continents. Admittedly, I didn’t even know what some of the exotic animals were — like brahmas (which are like a hybrid of a cow and llama from India!), zebus, watusi and more. We saw and fed SO MANY types of elk, antelopes and deer (some of the most gorgeous white deer I’ve ever seen in my life), tons and tons of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, llamas and more. The only animal you are not allowed to feed are the zebras (they are aggressive if you feed them). There were also camels, bison, yaks, water buffalo — you name it, it was there — even kangaroos! Yes, KANGAROOS!!!
Lazy 5 Ranch Tips
If you’ve never been to Lazy 5, you need to go! It’s a blast for kids and adults of ALL ages and I highly recommend impressing your out of town guests with this experience too. It’s crazy that you don’t have to drive very far from Charlotte to hang out with kangaroos and water buffalo!
Although this was not my first trip, it has been 10 years since Matt and I visited Lazy 5. It was actually one one of our first dates! Anyway, I learned a few things during this experience with kids like…
- Arrive early! We got there shortly after they opened and by the time we were done the line at the ranch entrance was long. Once inside the gate, the traffic moves slow (5 mph is the max speed limit) and is often backed up throughout the popular areas of the ranch — like the giraffe area! Prepare to be stopped for periods of time too because the animals will swarm your car preventing you from moving forward (and you are NOT allowed to honk or flash the animals with your headlights because it gives them heartburn). It took us about an hour (with light traffic) to get through the safari, which brings me to my next tip…
- Make sure the kids go potty before you begin the experience. There are porta-potties at the entrance/exit.
- Buy more buckets of feed than you think you’ll need. I made the rookie mistake of buying only two buckets (one for each kid) and we ran out of food about 3/4 way through (thankfully I had remembered to ration some of our pellets for the giraffes). Also, the animals will eat right out of the bucket and they are a force! The entire path is littered with buckets that have either been ripped out of hands that weren’t holding them tight enough or from terrified kids throwing their buckets out the window. Or worse, you may drop an entire bucket of pellets inside your car (ahem, Caroline!!!).
- Bring antibacterial wipes. You will need them for your hands and to wipe all of the animal slobber off your windows/doors.
- Splurge on the wagon ride experience! Due to COVID, the wagon rides were suspended so we only had the drive-through option (which worked out well since we had to roll our windows up anytime we saw a cow approaching us). However, the wagon ride is INCREDIBLE. During my first Lazy 5 experience, we opted for the wagon ride and it was truly amazing. Not only do you have insanely close access to all of the animals, your wagon driver can give you so many more facts, tips and information on the animals as you slowly roll through.
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