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Grab the Brass Ring! Old-Fashioned Carousels You Can Still Ride Today

Written by Gabby Teaman

Like many other tourist attractions, carousels have gotten bigger, bolder, and more extreme over the years. You can find everything from aquatic carousels to double-decker carousels these days!

However, there’s something to be said about old-fashioned carousels. They can date all the way back to the 1800s. And, they often showcase things like steam engines, brass rings, organ music, and hand-painted wooden horses. Riding them can bring back all kinds of nostalgic memories from childhood, too.

If you’d like to revisit the days of clutching a carousel pole with sticky, cotton candy fingers, here are just a few vintage merry-go-rounds that you can still ride.

Stoomcarrousel (The Netherlands)

Baby on a carousel

Located in Efteling, a fantasy-themed amusement park in The Netherlands, the Stoomcarrousel is a relic of the past in more ways than one. It was constructed sometime in the 1890s and powered by a steam engine. By the 1970s, it had been converted to electric power, but its old-fashioned gears and mechanics are still visible on the ride, giving it an almost steampunk look. It also boasts music from one of the last Gavioli pipe organs in existence. Taken all together, a spin on the Stoomcarrousel will feel just as magical and out-of-time as the park itself. You’ll definitely feel like you entered a fantasy realm!

Jubilee Steam Gallopers (England)

Mother and child on carousel

The Jubilee Steam Gallopers is part of Carter’s Steam Fair, a traveling English “funfair” filled with vintage rides from the 1890s to the 1960s. It’s just as charming as it sounds, offering a mobile trip down memory lane to anyone who wants to climb aboard a horse or chariot. Like the Stoomcarrousel, it was built on steam power, but it still uses its steam engine to this day. It also boasts one of those ultra-rare Gavioli pipe organs that’s way more impressive than your typical carnival music. Last but not least, it runs in a clockwise direction: regular merry-go-round horses turn counterclockwise. So check out some cheap flights to London and send your family back in time on the Jubilee Steam Gallopers.

Related: Five Kid-Friendly Outdoor Activities Your Family Should Do This Summer

San Francisco Carousel (California)

Old-Fashioned Carousels You Can Still Ride Today in san francisco

Also known as the Golden Gate Park Carousel, this vintage ride has been in operation since 1914. However, it hasn’t always been in San Francisco. It’s toured the country from Portland to Treasure Island, and it was even featured at the 1939 World’s Fair; black-and-white photos show kids and adults alike grinning from atop their perches. The carousel menagerie includes horses, tigers, dragons, camels, ostriches, and giraffes. There are also a few benches with beautiful, colorful illustrations that evoke feelings of childhood whimsy. If you’re looking for another dose of nostalgia after riding, say, a San Francisco cable car, hop on the San Francisco Carousel!

The SeaGlass Carousel (NYC)

Old-Fashioned Carousels You Can Still Ride Today in new york

[Above image “SeaGlass Carousel” by Allison Breier on Flickr – licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0]

The SeaGlass Carousel is a modern marvel. Though it’s not an old-fashioned carousel, it combines traditional architecture with contemporary technology to create something both new and old all at once. Everything has an “under the sea” theme, and riders crawl into large, three-dimensional fish with holes carved out for seats. As the carousel turns, ethereal music plays, and the fish appear to shimmer and glow like sea glass. The experience is not unlike being submerged underwater with bioluminescent creatures. If you’ve always wanted to live like Ariel, the SeaGlass Carousel is your chance to get your Little Mermaid on!

Flying Horses Carousel (Massachusetts)


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Another ride that will send you soaring on clouds of fancy, the Flying Horses Carousel is so old that it’s actually been designated a National Historic Landmark. It was originally part of a traveling carnival in the 1870s before settling into permanent residence at a park on Martha’s Vineyard. The claim to fame of the Flying Horses is that its horses are suspended to the central platform by chains; it’s the oldest operating carousel in the U.S. to still have this feature. Back in the old days, it was also turned by a real, living horse, and its music was played by a hand-cranked organ! Today, the ride has been automated, but it still retains its old-fashioned charm and style.

About the author

Gabby Teaman

Gabby Teaman is a content writer who loves writing (of course!), editing, food, and the Oxford comma. When she’s not writing for Fareportal, she can be found Snapchatting videos of her puppy, blasting show tunes, or watching Netflix, all while trying to read everything in sight.

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