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.
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:
In Montmartre, Paris, France:
Near the Eiffel Tower in Paris:
In Florence, Italy:
A double-decker carousel in Cannes, France:
The first photo in this post and the one below are from a hand-carved carousel (from 1895) in Seaport Village, San Diego, California:
At the Bellagio Conservatory in Las Vegas, Nevada (decorative only):
Look at those painted panels!
Have you ever seen a carousel in an unexpected place? Tell us where it was in the comments below!