Safari Adventure at Lazy 5 Ranch
Mooresville calls itself Race City USA, but amid all the NASCAR team shops and attractions such as the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame, lives something a little bit wild. It's the Lazy 5 Ranch, which is an ideal place for a quick and fun safari with the kids.
The ranch is a privately owned animal habitat that offers visitors a 3.5-mile trek where you will see animals from six different continents. Zebras, giraffes, camels, llamas, deer, bison and many other creatures make up the 750 animals on the property.
Located just off Highway 150 East near Mooresville, the Lazy 5 Ranch allows folks to either drive their own cars through the park or take a horse-drawn wagon ride. Both options allow children to get up close and personal with the ranch's collection of exotic animals.
Henry Hampton is the owner of the ranch and has worked with exotic animals for more than 35 years. Before opening Lazy 5 in 1993, Hampton allowed school groups to come to his property and see his animals. Soon, he realized that the park could have a great deal of interest to the public.
In addition to being a habitat for exotic animals, the Lazy 5 Ranch is also host to a number of endangered species such as the Ring-tailed lemur and a Grevy's zebra.
But the real appeal of the ranch is that it gives a child the ability to interact with animals from all over the world. You'll have to make a reservation, and spend a few extra dollars, for the wagon rides, but it's well worth it. It's an old-fashioned hayride through an exotic animal habitat. On the ride, a guide will take you through the ranch and get you close enough to feed and pet many of the animals. There aren't many places in the Southeast where your child will be able to give a handful of feed to a giraffe and rub its nose while it grazes.
The ranch also has areas where visitors can walk about and see smaller farm animals such as goats and pigs. Like the larger creatures, these animals live in their own preserve and can be observed in a more natural setting.
Since its opening, the park has grown into an ideal destination for parents and children. In addition to wagon rides through the park, the Lazy 5 Ranch has several other attractions on-site. There is a blacksmith's shop next to a 100-year-old horse barn, which is part of the original property from when it was an agricultural farm. There are ample areas for picnicking and a large playground area with a kid-size replica of Noah's Ark.
If you have an animal-obsessed child with a birthday on the horizon, you might want to consider the Lazy 5. The ranch offers a variety of birthday party packages for smaller groups of 8 or larger gatherings of 15 or more. Each package features a ride around the ranch on a horse-drawn wagon and a bucket of feed to give the animals. The ranch can also accommodate larger gatherings under a big-top-like tent.
If You Go
Lazy 5 Ranch
15100 Hwy 150 East
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. until one hour before sunset
Sunday 1 p.m. until one hour before sunset
Admission: Adults $8.50 - Add $5 for wagon ride
Children (2-11) $5.50 - $3 for wagon ride
Children under 2 are free
Seniors $5.50 - $3 for wagon ride
Michael Huie is a Winston-Salem freelance writer and father of one.