Motorized animal rides to begin around The Empire Mall

Feb. 12, 2021

Your eyes won’t be deceiving you: Starting today, you’ll see large stuffed animals being ridden around The Empire Mall.

Animal World is expanding to Sioux Falls, offering electric animal rides for kids – or kids at heart.

The move was driven by another move – when new franchisee Michele Kumar decided to move to Sioux Falls from Atlanta and the man who bought her house turned out to be the founder of Animal World.

“He said, if you found a really good mall, you could open one,” Kumar said.

Her 15-year-old daughter took it from there. Kumar, whose multiple sclerosis is aggravated by the heat, wanted to live somewhere that was drier and cooler.

“My daughter likes the area,” she said. “I still don’t quite understand other than the fact that she can drive here, but we came and we loved it and now we’re here.”

They moved at the end of 2020, and while her background is in nursing and most recently included writing online book reviews, “when I sold my house, I just wanted to do something different and fun, and this just seemed like something new to do.”

Her son also will help run the business, which includes large plush, motorized animals with handles that “you can literally drive around the mall,” Kumar said. “And they can hold 300 pounds, so parents can ride with kids.”

Another line of electric motor scooters goes slightly faster, she said.

“You can turn the handles this way or that way, and it will just go wherever,” she said.

The animals and scooters will use a designated route starting near the Sanford Children’s play area and circling around by the food court.

Rides typically last from five to 40 minutes and start at $5.

“Parents can walk beside them, and they can book blocks of time for a party and bring friends,” Kumar said.

There will be eight animals and seven motorbikes to start.

Guests also can purchase plush animals sporting T-shirts showing their ride through the mall.

“We’re really excited to be doing this,” Kumar said. “It’s a small family business … and we’re just doing something different.”

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Motorized animal rides to begin around The Empire Mall

Your eyes won’t be deceiving you: You will soon start to see large stuffed animals being ridden around The Empire Mall.

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