With National Carousel Day fast approaching, wouldn’t it be fun to ride one of America’s most treasured carousels? After all, Americans have had a long relationship with amusement rides and many classic merry-go-rounds are still in operation! What’s more, since this special day only comes once a year and some attractions might be free or have gifts to mark the occasion!
The following list isn’t by all means meant to be a Top 10 Best Carousels in the U.S. But then again, this list does feature some of the oldest and most famous of them all.
1000 Surf Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11224
Cost: 3 Credits
No list of vintage carousels would be complete without having one from Coney Island. On the other hand, B&B Carousel is the last of its kind at this iconic seaside destination. Completed in 1906, this beautifully restored classic was built by architect William F. Mangels. Moreover, the colorful horses were originally carved by renowned “Michelangelo of carousel carvers” Marcus Illions. If that’s not enough, B&B’s music is provided by a 1917 German-made Gebruder Bruder organ.
Related: America’s Best Seaside Boardwalks
Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel
Cleveland History Center
10825 East Blvd.
Cleveland, OH 44106
Cost: Two free rides with price of admission. $6 for kids, $12 for adults.
Not all vintage merry-go-rounds still in operation are in amusement parks. In fact, this beautifully restored Philadelphia Toboggan Co. ride is inside a museum. But then again, this 1910 attraction is from a defunct lakeside park. In addition to horses and chariots, this distinctive carousel has a Greek god and cherubs. Incidentally, the Cleveland History Center has a number of notable museums, particularly the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum.
Forest Park Carousel
Forest Park Carousel Amusement Village
Woodhaven Blvd. & Park Dr.
Woodhaven, NY 11421
While Central Park’s famous merry-go-round remains closed, the one in Forest Park is a nice alternative. What’s more, the Queens version is original and older than Manhattan’s. Designated a NYC landmark, Forest Park Carousel is one of two surviving roundabouts created by master wood carver Daniel Carl Muller. Completed in 1903, it features two chariots and a beautifully restored menagerie. Additionally, Forest Park Carousel is blessed with the original band organ.
33 Lake Ave.
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557
A standalone attraction on Martha’s Vineyard, Flying Horses is America’s oldest platform merry-go-round. Originally built in 1876 as a Coney Island attraction by Charles Dare, Flying Horses eventually made its way to Oak Bluffs in 1884. Specifically, the ride is housed in a distinctive structure and features an assortment of colorful horses and chariots. It further is one of the country’s last roundabouts to have brass rings. A 1923 Wurlitzer #103 band organ provides music to its riders and onlookers.
Watch Hill Merry-Go-Round & Beach
151-153 Bay St.
Watch Hill, RI 02891
Cost: $1 inside, $2 outside, with brass ring
Although Flying Horses on Martha’s Vineyards lays claim as the nation’s oldest, a neighbor may be even older. Although Watch Hill’s Merry-Go-Round arrived in 1883, the belief is that this Charles Dare attraction may have been built in 1867. Either way, this amusement relic is the oldest with horses suspended from chains. Yet another classic is Crescent Park Looff Carousel in East Providence, currently under renovation.
Knoebels Amusement Park
391 Knobels Blvd. Route 487
Elysburg, PA 17824
Grand Carousel is one of two historic roundabouts at Knoebels yet not the oldest. But then again, the Kremer-built 1913 Grand Carousel is widely considered the world’s best. Furthermore, it’s also among the world’s largest, with 63 intricately carved horses and three chariots. The smaller counterpart yet equally impressive is a 1910 merry-go-round built from Stein & Goldstein. Located 70 miles north of Harrisburg, Knoebels is America’s largest admission-free amusement park.
602 Settler’s Landing Road
Hampton, VA 23669
Originally installed in 1920, Hampton Carousel is one of the more recent rides listed here. However, it is no less deserving than its older counterparts. Often called Buckroe Beach Carousel, Hampton retains its original horses, in addition to original mirrors and oil paintings. Made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, this National Historic attraction also features a 1914 Bruder band organ. In a nutshell, there is no better merry-go-round in the Virginia Commonwealth.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Cost: $6 or with All Day Wristband
The beautiful 1911 Looff Carousel is one of two National Historic Landmark rides at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Designed by German master carver Charles I.D. Looff, the iconic ride has 73 horses, two chariots and a brass ring toss. Additionally, this classic ride features three organs, including the original 1894 Ruth & Sohn organ. In addition to being one of the last antique rides on the west coast, it’s also one of few surviving Looff merry-go-rounds in the country.
5122 Kennywood Blvd.
West Mifflin, PA 15122
Cost: Daily passes only
Built in 1926 by William Dentzel, the Merry-Go-Round is one of three roundabouts at this historic amusement park. Moreover, it is the park’s largest and the last carousel built by the Dentzel Company. Equally important are its features, like 64 horses including jumping and stationaries, as well as a single tiger and lion. Lastly, the 1916 Wurlitzer #153 is considered the oldest of its kind and possibly the first to be built.
Santa Monica Pier Carousel
Santa Monica Pier
200 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Price: $2 adults, $1 children
Housed within the historic Looff Hippodrome, Santa Monica Pier Carousel is not the original Looff merry-go-round. Instead, it’s a 1922 ride from Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Nevertheless, PTC #62 has stood on the Pier for nearly 100 years and part of a National Historic Landmark. The classic wood carousel has 44 horses, two chariots and a 1926 Wurlitzer #146 organ. Although PTC #62 is not considerably rare, it is housed within a historically significant structure from 1916.
Surprise Bonus Pick
World’s Largest Indoor Carousel
House on the Rock
5754 Highway 23
Spring Green, WI 53588
The carousel at the House on the Rock isn’t exactly vintage. Nor can anyone ride it for that matter. However, it’s considered the world’s largest indoor merry-go-round. Even more surprising is of the 269 animals, there are no horses! Standing 35 feet high, 80 feet in diameter and weighing 35 tons, the enormous ride debuted in 1981. With that in mind, it might also be the world’s largest, whether indoors or outdoors.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.
During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS Radio, Engadget and Radio.com. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University, U.S. Army veteran and lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, California.