Brooklyn’s waterfront has long been famous for its skyline view, but now there’s a new way to enjoy it: from Jane’s Carousel. Built in 1922, the restored carousel spins within a modern glass shed below the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
It took exceptional devotion to complete the 27-year restoration of Jane’s Carousel, but most of us can easily relate to the nostalgic appeal of a merry-go-round: the sound of the organ, the whimsical animals, the lights reflected in the mirrors. And while carousels aren’t likely to be the reason you travel, they’re often placed somewhere iconic (Boston Common) or beautiful (Santa Monica pier), where you’d be drawn naturally. The ride is an added, affordable delight.
Today, roughly 400 carousels are in operation across America. Read on to see our favorites.
Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel, Los Angeles
Many of the 66 hand-carved figurines at the Los Angeles Zoo’s $2.5 million carousel—an Asian elephant; a mountain tapir; a lowland gorilla—were inspired by the zoo’s own endangered animals.
Cost: $3; lazoo.org.
Smithsonian Carousel, Washington, DC
This wood-and-metal carousel, built in 1947, sits right in front of the Smithsonian Castle, adjacent to the National Mall. Try to catch a ride on the horse-dragon hybrid figure; the carousel’s only fantastical creature stands out from the run-of-the-mill horse and chariot figures.
Cost: Free; visitingdc.com.
Crescent Park Carousel, East Providence, RI
This massive carousel has been the central fixture of Crescent Park since 1895 and highlights the handiwork of Charles I. D. Looff, one of the first and premier carousel builders. It was almost scrapped in the late 1970s, but a group of locals rallied to help save the carousel, which has since been added to the National Register of Historic Sites and Places.
Cost: $1; 75 cents on Thursdays; eastprovidenceri.net.
Riverview Carousel, Six Flags Over Georgia, Austell, GA
This carousel takes a classic approach: all of the figures are horses, racing alongside four multiperson chariots. You’ll note some signs of wear and tear on some of the wooden figures, but that just adds character to this century-old historic landmark.
Cost: $39.99–$54.99 for park tickets; sixflags.com.
Looff Carousel, Spokane, WA
A giraffe, a tiger, a pair of Chinese dragons, and many horses add up to 57 hand-carved wooden creatures circling this 1909 carousel in Spokane’s Riverfront Park. Be on the lookout for the oh-so-coveted Miss Liberty, a horse decked out in red, white, and blue.
Cost: $2; spokanecarrousel.org.
San Francisco Carousel (Photo: Aidan Hornsby)
Designed and built in Italy, this double-decker delight stands out for its hand-painted scenes of local landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, and even the sea lions that take up residence—or at least idle away afternoons of sunbathing—by Pier 39. Of the 32 seats, riders can choose a traditional horse or something a little different, like a panda bear or sea dragon.
Cost: $3; pier39.com.
Santa Monica Pier Carousel, CA
There’s plenty of old-time fun to be had on Santa Monica’s famed oceanfront pier, where you’ll find this nearly 100-year-old carousel. Restored in 1990, the ride is one of just 70 or so left in the world made entirely of wood. Go for a spin as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean—it’s about as picture-perfect as a carousel ride can get.
Cost: $1; santamonicapier.org.
Cedar Downs Racing Derby, Sandusky, OH
In a fitting twist, the 64 horses move forward and backward as they “race” each other around this 1925 carousel. While it might not seem über-speedy, at 15 miles per hour, it’s one of the fastest carousels you can ride.
Cost: $19.99–$45.99 for park tickets; cedarpoint.com.
Jane’s Carousel, Brooklyn, NY
Originally built in 1922, Jane’s Carousel recently emerged from a 27-year restoration. Its 48 glass-eyed horses, housed in a Jean Nouvel–designed pavilion that sits riverside in Brooklyn Bridge Park, feature ornate saddles and gold-leaf detailing.
Cost: $2; janescarousel.com.
Trimper’s Rides, Ocean City, MD
Built in the 1920s, this carousel is one of few of its age with a menagerie of animals, including a pig, an ostrich, a frog, and a goat. After taking a spin, check out the other antique rides at Trimper’s on the boardwalk of this classic beach town.
Cost: $2; trimpersrides.com.
See More of America’s Best Carousels