Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.
Though no carousels are ordinary, many are extraordinary. These 19th-century inventions, referred to as merry-go-rounds in the U.K. and Europe (where they turn clockwise; in the US they turn counter-clockwise), are still quite popular though today there are less than 200 vintage carousels with hand-carved wooden horses still operating in the U.S. And before you write off carousels as just for kids, be assured adults can enjoy them too (especially when they revolve around a bar). The best way to ride a carousel is to curb all restraint, leaning back in the saddle and letting your hair blow freely in the wind. As you travel the U.S. with your little ones in tow, these out-of-the-ordinary carousels are worth going out of your way for.
Kit Carson County Carousel: Burlington, CO
Established in 1905 and moved to Burlington in 1928, this carousel at the Kit Carson County Fairgrounds is said to be the only antique carousel in the country retaining its original paint. It is a 3-row, stationary carousel—the 46 hand-carved horses and other animals (zebras, tigers, giraffes) do not go up and down. This was once one of the fastest carousels in the country, hitting 12 miles per hour. Music is provided by a rare 255-pipe Monster organ, the most complete of three still in existence.
Book a Burlington, Colorado hotel here.
Columbia Carousel: Gurnee, IL and Sunnyvale, CA
These two sister carousels greet guests as they enter Six Flags Great America parks. Holding the record as the world’s largest, they are 10-story-high double-deckers populated with 106 fiberglass reproduction horses, other animals, and chariots. Oil paintings depicting American history decorate both rides, and more than a thousand lights line the gazebos.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge: New Orleans, LA
Overlooking the French Quarter’s famous Royal Street, this unique revolving bar at the Hotel Monteleone has been spinning since 1949—more than 70 years—and is for when the kids are tucked into bed. The slowly-revolving bar platform completes a rotation every 15 minutes, while the bartenders stay put crafting cocktails on the inside circle which is stationary. Sitting on one of the 25 bar chairs is free with the purchase of a cocktail, and guests here also enjoy excellent people watching. Riders must be age 21 or older.
Book the Hotel Monteleone here.
The Flying Horses Carousel: Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Built in 1876 when it was stationed at Coney Island in New York, this unique carousel was moved to Oak Bluffs in Martha’s Vineyard in 1884. It’s the oldest platform carousel in the U.S. and has two ring dispensers–one on the inside of the platform and one on the outside. Riders who manage to snag a brass ring get a free ride. The horses, which are not attached to the floor but instead are suspended from a rotating center frame, appear to fly, and many have manes and tails made from real horsehair!
Book a Martha’s Vineyard hotel here.
Cedar Downs Racing Derby: Sandusky, OH
This racing ride originated in Cleveland in 1921, then moved to Cedar Point in 1969. One of only two racing derby rides in the U.S., this is the oldest. It’s a sort of inverted carousel, with the poles and mechanisms tucked underneath the platform instead of above. Horses have elongated bodies and outstretched legs, and they move forward and backward and up and down as they race along at 15 miles per hour—about twice as fast as a traditional carousel. Riders feel the pull of centrifugal force as they race the other 3 horses in their 4-across row.
Morgan’s Wonderland Carousel: San Antonio, TX
Morgan’s Wonderland is a unique non-profit amusement park that is completely wheelchair accessible and designed to accommodate all guests regardless of age or functional needs related to disability. Built in 2010, the carousel platform sits flush with the ground for easy on and off access. Animals are set three to a row and include African elephants and zebras, spectacular hybrid animals (one is part horse, part dragon) and even 11 traditional horses, but what is really awesome are the two custom chariots and two benches that move up and down—providing those in wheelchairs the same sensation as guests riding horses.
Book a San Antonio hotel here.
Jane’s Carousel: Brooklyn, NY
Built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, this vintage 3-row carousel was originally located in Youngstown, Ohio. Then, artist Jane Walentas bought it at auction in 1984 and moved it to Brooklyn where it now sits at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Over a period of more than 20 years, Walentas restored the 48 elegant carved-wood horses and 2 chariots, and now the carousel sits beside the East River in a transparent acrylic housing that provides a spectacular view of the lower Manhattan bridges and skyline.
Book a Brooklyn hotel here.
SeaGlass Carousel: Lower Manhattan, NY
Inspired by the New York Aquarium, which operated nearby from 1896 to 1941, this unique carousel populated with 30 giant fiberglass fish opened in 2015 at the Battery Conservancy. Riders climb inside a fish that moves up and down as well as around and in and out. LED lights make them shimmer. This carousel lacks a traditional center pole and instead moves over four turntables. Night time is the right time to experience this ride because that’s when it is glows most brightly and is especially magical.
Book a Manhattan hotel here.
Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.