After realizing that I had several Groupons to use (please tell me I am not the only one), I discovered one that I had bought to the Circle G Ranch in Strawberry Plains, TN. I thought it would be a good one for a “Family Fun Day” which is a silly family tradition where we load the kids up for an unknown adventure and announce “Family Fun Day!” This one was actually going to be a surprise for me since I had not asked about or researched the Circle G Ranch at all. (Read: impulse Groupon buy!)
Advertised as an outdoor Safari Adventure, a three mile drive through an exotic animal park where the animals come right up to the car to be fed. The park is not kidding. The animals come RIGHT up to your open windows and stick their head in wanting to be fed. The kids learned fast that if you threw the food away from the car, the animals would go for it and move away from the car. They used this technique often! In some cases, throwing the food alerted more animals to come to the car and at times our honda minivan was surrounded by zebra, llama, deer, goat, and buffalo all sticking their head in different windows. A little disconcerting, but you get used to it! The zebras would literally run right next to the car hoping for more treats….crazy!
My super safety conscious kids, ages 5 and 8, laughed nervously (very nervously!) as they leaned as far away from the window as physically possible and threw food out. It never occurred to them they could shut the window, but my husband and I were having too much fun watching them to tell them. None of the animals were aggressive, so when we all relaxed a little-especially the kids, it was quite fun! You are able to drive through again for free, but once was enough for us. There is also a petting zoo at the end which we did with out leftover food, three buckets for $10. While it’s not something I would do often, it was a perfect Family Fun Day that the kids are still talking about.
1. We drove our minivan, but it might have been better to drive our other car (an older Explorer) just because the gravel road is bumpy and steep at times, but it was fine. I was worried about some horned animal scratching our car, but it never happened. I vaguely remember a sign saying something like “Drive at your own risk.” They do rent a “jeep” for $15 that is actually just an old Explorer, but I don’t think that is necessary.
2. The Website is ridecamels.com (they do offer this as well, but we did not ride them). Adults are $9 and kids are $7, but we used a $16 Groupon which was definitely worth the price.
3. I actually still have buffalo snot on my side window because it makes me and the kids giggle every time we notice it. I will wash it off soon, but thankfully will still have the hilarious videos (a must have for the trip!)
Circle G Ranch is located at 831 Thorngrove Pike in Strawberry Plains on over 100 acres. Over 500 animals run freely at CGR, where they are open seven days a week from 10 am – 5 pm.
Beth Bowen is a wife and mom to two kids, ages 8 and 5. A UT graduate, she and her family are happy to be back in Knoxville after living in Kentucky for several years.