I am not a very spontaneous person. I am a planner. I have every moment of each day planned. I am a mother of 3 small children, so my plans are flexible. Which really means I have five or six back up plans in case things don't go well. I had planned to take my bird obsessed children to the Raptor Museum on Friday. But when we found out late Thursday night that the Raptor Museum did not have live bird shows on weekdays, I needed a backup plan quick. I googled "fun things to do with kids in Charlotte" and found the Lazy 5 Ranch. I copied the address and we headed there instead.
I am so glad we went! It was an amazing day. The Lazy 5 Ranch is a privately owned zoo. They allow you to drive your van through a 3 and a half mile safari trail, roll your windows down, and feed the animals from your van. I thought that perhaps the animals would be behind gates and would reach their heads over to get the food. Nope. They are allowed to roam free on the reservation and block your car and knock on your windows until you feed them. Seriously. We laughed and we laughed, especially Molly, as the animals surrounded our car refusing to let us move forward. If we forced our way, they chased our car.
We saw giraffes, rhino, emus, llamas, rheas, pigs, cattle, deer, zebras, elk, camels, swans, and OSTRICHES! I have to admit, the ostriches were a little too intense for me. And I think all of their other animal friends felt the same way. Every time we tried to feed an animal that was not an ostrich, they ran up and pecked the other animals out of the way. And they were very messy eaters who spilled food all inside our car. (Unlike the very polite rheas who ate neatly and shared with the llamas). What a neat experience it was. At one point Chad was nipped by an ostrich. I jokingly commented, "How many people can say they have been bitten by an ostrich?" Andrew piped up, in complete dead pan, "How many people can say they have been bitten by an ostrich...I can say that, that is really easy." A few more years till this one gets sarcasm, I think.
After the safari, we parked our car and headed into the gift shop. The boys each picked out a stuffed animal bird toy that chirps and peacock feathers as souvenirs. Molly really wanted this purple hat, but for $13, we decided a picture of it would suffice.
In addition to the safari you can drive through, there is also a petting zoo. We spent over 2 hours walking through and looking at all of the animals. Not once did the kids complain or say they were tired or hungry. In addition to your normal petting zoo animals, there were dozens of different kinds of birds (which made my novice bird enthusiasts delighted). There was even an awesome Noah's Ark playground to play on.
I imagine that it is even better in the spring, with all of the new baby animals and the wagon rides and all of the animals on display (some were inside due to the cold temperatures). We will definitely visit again this spring. Though I can't imagine enjoying ourselves more than we did on Friday. It is so rare to find an activity that ALL 5 of us have a good time at, even the baby. Although, if I visit again, we will do the wagon ride instead. Our car needs to be detailed badly now. (yeah...no more llama slobber inside my car).
When it was time to go, we hopped in our van to go get some lunch. (It was 3pm and we had only had snacks since breakfast). However, our van wouldn't start. So while Chad called and arranged for a tow truck and rental car, the hungry kids and I went and spent another hour exploring the petting zoo.
I think that all of the fun we had that day together made the fact that our car broke down easier to handle. Even though we were stranded and hungry, seriously, no one complained. Not once. We didn't want to break the spell of our fun day. We laughed, and were grateful that it broke down in a parking lot instead of in the middle of the animal safari with the scary ostriches (the tow truck operator said he has towed several cars out of there over the years) or on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in the cold. We were grateful for great friends who covered for us and our responsibilities at the ward party that night. We hopped into one rental car, drove to the car rental place, changed it for a second, went to the repair shop, and then finally got something to eat around 6pm. I am so proud of my kiddos. They were real troopers. And I am grateful for fun backup plans!