15100 Mooresville Road
Mooresville, NC 28115
The Lazy 5 Ranch is a popular attraction in the Charlotte area. Just up the road in Mooresville, you can load your car up with folks and drive a 3.5-mile route. You’ll have a chance to see more than 750 animals from all over the world. Rhinos, giraffes, zebras, watusi and many others are there for the ogling. Lazy 5 also has open air, horse-drawn wagons, but those require a reservation. For those who like their animals up close and personal, there is a small petting zoo as well. This is a privately owned and operated animal ranch and it does not accept credit or debit cards, so be sure to bring cash.
9395 Hutchinson Lane
Charlotte, NC 28216
This family-owned business prides itself on its relationship with its animals. Darby Acres has raised many of the creatures on the farm since birth and are USDA licensed. It has a petting zoo complete with goats, mini pigs, ferrets, chinchillas, bearded dragons, prairie dogs, ducks and more. When you’ve had enough petting, take a horseback riding lesson or a pony ride. It’s a great place for kids of all ages.
385 Ostwalt Amity Road
Troutman, NC 28166
Zootastic Park is a family-owned park that’s fun, interactional and educational. There is a Barnyard Petting Zoo with singing dogs, goats, porcupines and donkeys. In the Western Town, you can learn all about life in the Old West, animals and the wagon trail. Later, check out the Safari Trail, a covered walk where you can get close to antelope, camels, bison, red kangaroos and more while walking along the path. When you’re tired, take a break and watch the three tigers play.
1658 Sterling Road
Charlotte, NC 28209
This is a great spot to take younger kids. This museum is a very user-friendly museum and provides information about wildlife through the use of live animal exhibits and interactive education programs. The museum is home to a skunk, groundhog and screech owl, along with many other small critters. There is storytelling and puppets. One of the highlights is the butterfly room. You and your children can walk among butterflies and smile as they land on you. Watch as they taste the flowers and enjoy life.
301 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Among the many fabulous activities at Charlotte’s Discovery Place is a small aquatic petting zoo. Downstairs, just across from the Rain Forest, is a small lab with starfish, stingrays and other water creatures that you can touch. Your child’s response to the textures and reactions are worth the trip. When you’re done there, check out the Rain Forest and watch as birds fly across the trees. Upstairs are a plethora of fun activities, including duck tape shoe making and activities that will keep your children active and creative.
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Lauren J. Walter is a freelance writer covering all things Charlotte. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.