There’s something about carousels–those gently galloping ponies, the breezy whirl and spin, the graceful organ music and happily waving crowds–that cement the experience of riding one into our childhood memories forever. In addition to the popular downtown carousel on the National Mall, here are four more that are worth checking out. Not only do they offer old-fashioned fun, but several have very interesting histories to boot.
Photo: Will Graham via Flickr
Burke Lake Park
The carousel at this 888-acre park is just icing on the cake. There’s mini golf, fishing spots, an ultimate frisbee course, outdoor volleyball courts, around-the-lake hiking, and more. The cherry on top, the carousel is flanked by an ice cream parlor, a miniature train and a playground, and it’s the sweetest way to end your day at the park.
Where: 7315 Ox Rd. (Fairfax, Va)
When: Weekends, Apr. 1-May 26; daily, May 27- Sep. 4 (11:30 am-5:30 pm)
How much: $2/weekdays; $3/weekends
Carousel on the National Mall
You can’t visit D.C.’s downtown mall with the kids without taking a spin on this old-fashioned carousel, built in 1947 and featuring 60 original ponies and a colorful canopy. The paint may be peeling and the music a little crackly, but there’s something special about taking a whirl against the backdrop of the city’s history-rich landscape. Make it a full experience and stop at one of the nearby popcorn wagons or ice cream stands for a before or after treat.
Where: National Mall, in front of the Smithsonian Castle
When: Daily, 10 am-6 pm
How much: $3.50 per ride
Clemyjontri Park Carousel
This tot-friendly, elaborately decorated carousel features chariots, a spinning teacup and 14 prancing steeds to inspire your youngster’s imagination. The carousel is recessed to ground level, making it wheelchair-accessible, and easy for children to transfer to the teacup. This is one the kids could easily ride with Grandma!
Where: 6317 Georgetown Pike (Mclean, Va)
When: (May 26-Sep 1) Mon-Fri, 9:30 am-1 pm; weekends, 9:30 am-6:30 pm.
How much: $2/ride
Dentzel Carousel at Glen Echo Park
Glen Echo Park’s beautiful, hand-carved Dentzel Carousel is an iconic feature of Maryland’s popular family park. The carousel was made by the legendary Dentzel Carousel Company in 1921 and installed in a 12-sided canopy building at the park. Known as a “menagerie carousel” because it features many different animals, the Dentzel has 40 horses, four rabbits, four ostriches, giraffe, deer, lion, and a tiger. It spins to the music of a Wurlitzer band organ, only 12 of which are known to exist in the world. If you have a tot who is head-over-heels in love with carousels, give her an unforgettable ride here.
Where: 7300 MacArthur Blvd. (Glen Echo, Md)
When: (May-August) Wed, Thurs, and Fri, 10 am-2 pm; Sat–Sun, 11 1m–5 pm
How much: $1.25 per ride
The Chesapeake Carousel
This classic, old-fashioned carousel was designed and built by the late Gustav Dentzel, one of the first professional carousel-builders, who carved and created carousels from 1870 until 1928, and worked to perfect natural and realistic-looking animals and menagerie. The Chesapeake Carousel has gone through a number of restorations, but still maintains it classic, old-timey feel and appearance.
Where: 301 Watkins Park Dr. (Upper Marlboro, Md)
When: (May-Aug) Tue-Sat, 10 am-7 pm; Sun, 12 pm–5 pm
How much: $2/ride for residents; $2.50/ride for non-residents
Lake Accotink Park Antique Carousel
Finished in 1945, the Lake Accotink carousel features 26 hand-carved horses, each with a look all its own. Students in the Lake Accotink Park art classes hand-repainted all the horses in carnival-worthy colors. A spin on this ride is essential after a day spent pedal boating, biking, playing mini-golf, and picnicking at the lake.
Where: 7500 Accotink Park Rd. (Springfield, Va)
When: (June – September) Weekends and holidays, 11 am–8 pm; Mon–Thurs, 12 pm–6 pm; Fri, 12 pm–8 pm
How much: $3 per ride
Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park
The Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel, built in 1915, is also housed in its own building and features 33 hand-carved jumping horses, three zebras, and two chariots. This carousel entertained children on the National Mall from the 1960s to 1981, when it was moved to Wheaton Regional Park. It now makes a fine accompaniment to Wheaton Regional’s miniature railroad.
Where: 2002 Shorefield Rd. (Wheaton, Md)
When: (May–Sep) Mon-Fri, 10 am–6 pm; Sat–Sun, 10 am–7 pm
How much: $2 per ride
Photo: Smithsonian’s National Zoo via Flickr
The Speedwell Conservation Carousel
This gorgeous, custom-carved carousel features 56 animals–including giant pandas, Komodo dragons, and cheetahs–and two handicap-accessible chariots, all divided into four habitats: aquatic, forest, grassland, and desert. It is one of only a few solar-powered carousels in the world. Beautiful, educational and fun, this one is a must-see and must-ride for the whole family. Tickets can be purchased at the carousel and in the National Zoo gift shop.
Where: 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW (National Zoo)
When: Year-round, 9 am-5 pm
How much: $3 per ride
Did we miss your favorite carousel? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
—Katherine Gustafson and Jamy Bond