Carousels Around the World

by Gray Cargill on March 20, 2013

Post image for Carousels Around the World

No, I’m not talking about baggage carousels. Heh. I’m talking about the beautiful, painted carousels with ponies that go up and down.

I adored carousels when I was a child. I didn’t often see them outside the county fair. But I was lucky enough to travel a bit as a child, and when I saw a carousel, I was drawn to it the same way I was drawn to books—as an escape from the mundane. The carnival music, the beautifully painted horses, the up-and-down motion they made as though they were galloping; it was like a storybook come to life.

The enchantment waned as I grew older. I put them away along with my dolls and stuffed animals. Carousels were replaced by ferris wheels, then teacup rides, and then by The Octopus–which ruined me for spinning, circular rides forever in a single, dizzy afternoon of staggering between trash cans around the grounds of the county fair, trying not to throw up.

Carousel Horse

I didn’t give carousels another thought until I started seeing them everywhere in my travels–in both the U.S. and Europe. I’ve seen them in parks and carnivals, of course, but also along boardwalk promenades and in the middle of city centers. I’ve seen them used as children’s rides and I’ve seen them used decoratively. New Orleans’ Hotel Montelone even has a Carousel Bar (that rotates!).

In this age of video games and computers and high-speed dueling roller coasters with forward and backward loops, how has this simple ride managed to maintain its timeless appeal? Is it the nostalgia factor? The reminder of a time in our lives when we were innocent? Or is it just that they’re so beautiful?

I think for me it’s the artistry. Taken as a whole, or scrutinizing each part, the carousel is a work of art. It’s a ride. It’s a toy. It’s a giant music box. It’s a painting. It’s a sculpture. And no doubt about it, it’s way classier than a bounce house. Here are some photos I’ve taken of the carousels I’ve encountered on my travels. I hope they put a smile on your face as they do mine.

In the medieval city of Avignon, France:

Avignon

In Montmartre, Paris, France:

Montmartre

Near the Eiffel Tower in Paris:

Eiffel Carousel

In Florence, Italy:

Florence Carousel

Carousel panels

Florence Carousel

A double-decker carousel in Cannes, France:

Cannes Carousel

Cannes Carousel

The first photo in this post and the one below are from a hand-carved carousel (from 1895) in Seaport Village, San Diego, California:

San Diego Carousel

At the Bellagio Conservatory in Las Vegas, Nevada (decorative only):

Bellagio Carousel

Look at those painted panels!

Bellagio Carousel

 

Have you ever seen a carousel in an unexpected place? Tell us where it was in the comments below!

 

Richard Crest April 3, 2013 at 3:21 am

I have ridden in a carousel when I was a kid and I want my child try it too. Those are really beautiful carousels across the world.

Gray April 3, 2013 at 6:57 am

I can definitely see the desire to pass the experience along to your children, Richard.

Lori March 25, 2013 at 7:07 am

I love carroussels – loved the since I was a little girl. I saw those in Paris – unfortunately it was rather windy and rainy last week when I was there, so I didn’t took a ride in them (I saw 3 😉 ). Maybe next time, in Paris or elsewhere.

Gray March 25, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Too bad the weather wasn’t cooperative, Lori, but I’m sure you’ll see plenty of others on your future travels. They seem to be everywhere!

Leslyn Scheider March 24, 2013 at 9:47 am

Have you seen what is supposedly one of the oldest carousels in the US, in Watch Hill, RI ? Was quite a few years ago, not sure if it is still there.
Very nice article, thanks for sharing !

Gray March 24, 2013 at 10:53 am

Not yet I haven’t, Leslyn. Sounds great, though.

Elle of Solo Female Nomad March 24, 2013 at 5:37 am

Loved these entertaining photos – it was fun to see the differences between each country!

Gray March 24, 2013 at 8:10 am

Thanks Elle!

Alouise March 21, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Love these photos. When I was a kid the carousel was my favourite ride at the fair. The only strange place I’ve seen a carousel is in a mall, but then it was in at the Galxyland Amusement Park in West Edmonton Mall, so maybe it’s not that strange.

Gray March 21, 2013 at 9:09 pm

No, definitely not strange, Alouise. But I’ll admit, I had never heard of Galaxyland before, so I had to go check it out. Wow! That is cool.

JoAnn March 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I love carousels. I’ve ridden the one in Montmatre, Paris.

Gray Cargill March 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Have you, JoAnn? I’ve never actually seen any adults riding them. That’s fun.

Ann Steiner March 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

In Comerica Park baseball stadium, Detroit, MI.

Gray Cargill March 20, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Okay, I definitely wouldn’t have expected one there, Ann. That’s cool!

lee March 20, 2013 at 9:39 am

The New Jersey town of Sea Side had two wonderful, antique carosels that were located in indoor amusement centers. In October the hurricane destroyed the entire town and I only hope when I return that they have found all the horses and lions and the camel that I photographed in all seasons of the year. The town will rebuild.

Gray Cargill March 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Oh that is sad, Lee. I’m sorry to hear it.

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