23 Best Carousels in America

Great warriors riding majestic steeds, covered in sweat, blood, and perfume.

No, this isn’t a script from the new Game of Thrones Season (unfortunately). I am referring to the birth of the carousel.

What we know today as the go-to attraction for over-enthusiastic, cotton candy stuffed kids was originally developed in the 12th century to be a high-intensity training exercise. The method behind the madness?  Horsemen would ride around in circles trying to wack their opponents with a perfume-infused ball. Weird, I know.

These unique training conventions were quickly adopted for entertainment purposes. Carousels aren’t only known for wacky training exercises or attracting kids to amusement parks.

These iconic attractions offer something special that bring in people from all over the world, from all walks of life. Young and old alike. What is stopping mom and dad from hopping on and going for a nostalgic spin? Nothing! We aren’t going to judge.

Maybe it’s the spark of imagination when you get to choose which noble steed to ride into battle. Or which sea creature will take you on the next circular adventure. The mix of artistry and amusement also make carousels a prime target for romantic evenings. Maybe one of these featured in our article is only a short drive away from you!

No two carousels are built alike. Wood, metal, stone. Fast and slow. You could argue that it is more art than a carnival ride, especially considering some were meticulously hand-carved.

Each carousel featured below has a unique story to tell. Some have seen the world. A few have been featured in classic and adored films while some have stories to tell that will never be heard. One or two have even been given awards!

The actual number of carousels still in operation today is unclear. Of the thousands created, only a handful still exist. Many carousels in America are starting to be classified as National Historic Landmarks, which will help preserve the ones remaining.  

From horses to lobsters and planes to cars, here are the 23 Best Carousels we RAVE about!

The Best Carousels in America

2

Cedar Downs Racing Derby • Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Downs Racing Derby

This distinctive carousel on the shore of Lake Erie near Cedar Point Amusement Park was built in 1920 and was moved to its current location in 1967. With 64 horses, it artfully mimics a horse race and reaches a maximum speed of 15 mph – fairly impressive in the carousel world.

5

Looff Carrousel • Spokane, Washington

Looff Carrousel

This stunning carousel was originally was built in 1909 as a gift for master carousel craftsman Charles Looff’s daughter on her wedding day. It features elaborate decorations, hand carved horses, a tiger, a giraffe and a ring to catch.

10

House on the Rock • Spring Green, Wisconsin

House on the Rock

This majestic carousel features thousands of flashing lights, hundreds of angels suspended in air and lots of thrills. It is considered the world’s largest indoor carousel and is located inside of the House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI on top of Deer Shelter Rock, a sandstone formation located in the Wyoming Valley area.

14

Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome • Los Angeles, California

The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome on the Santa Monica Pier in the Los Angeles area was once a Looff carousel, but replaced by a Parker in 1990. Its location on the Santa Monica Pier is quite lovely and picturesque.

16

Tilden Park Merry Go Round • Berkeley, California

Tilden Park

This merry go round features four rows of hand-carved giraffes, horses, chickens, dogs, cats, lions and more. It was built over 60 years ago and is still running strong. Its beautiful park location in Berkeley, California makes it an idyllic setting for a carousel ride any time of year.

22

Six Flags Over Georgia • Atlanta, Georgia

Six Flags Over Georgia

This is one of the largest carousels in the USA, a five-row beauty that debuted in Chicago’s Riverview Park in 1908. Known as the Riverview Carousel, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

23

Trimper’s Rides • Ocean City, MD

Trimper's Rides, Ocean City, MD

This carousel from the 1920s located in a classic beach town is graced by a variety of animals, including an ostrich, pig, goat and a frog. It is one of numerous antique rides at Trimper’s on the boardwalk.

Morgan Bennett

Morgan Bennett is a freelance writer living in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. He is known locally as a craft beer evangelist and collector of obscure movie trivia.