A carousel ride can be the best few minutes of your day. For us grownups, they evoke the fun of our youth, which we get to relive through our children as they gleefully dash to the horse, frog, turtle or even ostrich of their choosing. Usually associated with amusement parks and carnivals, the Washington area has many to choose from at its many county parks and National Mall. Here are 11 to suit any fancy and ability.

Photo: Nicholas Smith via flickr

Chessie’s Carousel at Lee District Park
Part of the Chessie’s Big Back Yard playground and Chessie’s Trail nature park, this carousel features animals of the Chesapeake Bay watershed such as a turtle and hummingbird. The carousel, which opened in 2017, is fully accessible to children with mobility challenges. There’s even a bench to which children in wheelchairs can transfer that moves vertically just like the animal seats.

Where: 6601 Telegraph Road, Franconia 
When: 
11 am-6pm weekends only March 31-May 25 and Sept. 4-Oct. 28, 11 am-7 pm daily June 15-Sept. 3
How much: 
$2-$3
Online: 
fairfaxcounty.gov

The National Carousel
A welcome splash of color on the iconic National Mall, this carousel was built in 1947 and is one-of-a-kind because the horses are four abreast. Originally built for the Gwynn Oak amusement park near Baltimore, the carousel and its jumping ponies, one sea dragon and several unmoving seats moved to the Mall in 1981. Stop in at one of the Smithsonian museums while you’re there and grab a snack from the many food trucks camped out in the area.

Where: National Mall, in front of the Smithsonian Castle
When: Daily, 10 am-6 pm
How much: $3.50 per ride
Online: nationalcarousel.com

Dentzel Carousel at Glen Echo Park
This hand-carved carousel’s most notable feature is the 1926 Wurlitzer Band Organ that plays as the ride turns. Choose from animals such as horses, ostriches and lions. The carousel is a perfect way to punctuate a trip to this fun-filled park, which also has The Puppet Co. children’s theater, Adventure Theatre for children and an aquarium. Note: April 27, 2019, is Carousel Day, the first day it’s opened for what will be a shortened season because of scheduled repairs that will start in July.

Where: 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo 
When: 
See website for hours
How much: 
$1.25
Online:
 glenechopark.org

Photo: Will Graham via flickr

Burke Lake Park Carousel
This carousel may be small, but kids’ love of it is mighty. Especially because it sits between a shaded playground and the embarkation point for the Miniature Central Pacific Huntington Steam Engine. Did we mention it’s also a stone’s throw from an ice cream parlor and mini golf course? Boat rentals are also available for those interested in going on the lake, but the 4.7-mile trail is flat and kid-, stroller- and bike-friendly. Note: The carousel will reopen on weekends April 2 and daily Memorial Day-Labor Day.

Where: 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station 
When: 
See website
How much: 
free/rider under 2, $2 on weekdays, $3 on weekends
Online: 
fairfaxcounty.gov

The Carousel at National Harbor
As if the Peeps store, Capitol Wheel and beachfront weren’t enough to do at National Harbor, there’s also the 36-foot carousel. Part of a new playground area, the carousel sits at the harbor’s north end and overlooks the Potomac River. Bonus: Birthday party packages are available.

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Where: 137 National Plaza, National Harbor
When: 
noon-8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, closed Monday-Thursday
How much: 
$7/child, adults ride free with paid child
Online: 
nationalharbor.com

Clemyjontri Park Carousel
Situated in the middle of this 2-acre park that caters to children of all ages and abilities, the carousel is recessed to ground level to accommodate wheelchairs. Chariots, a spinning teacup and 14 prancing steeds give riders a few moments of respite after climbing, sliding and monkey-barring their way around the rest of the park.

Where: 6317 Georgetown Pike, McLean 
When: 
See website
How much: 
$2 on weekdays, $3 on weekends
Online:
 fairfaxcounty.gov

Photo: Thomas Hawk via flickr

The Chesapeake Carousel at Watkins Regional Park
Dating to 1929, this carousel has had a home at Watkins Regional Park since 1977. It includes horses, bison, a rabbit and a hippo, but the power seat is “a rare articulated kangaroo,” according to the National Carousel Association, which has jointed legs that appear to hop as the carousel spins. While you’re there, hop aboard the park’s miniature train and play a round of mini golf.

Where: 301 Watkins Park Drive, Upper Marlboro 
When: 
See website for hours
How much: 
$2/resident of Montgomery or Prince George’s counties, $2.50/nonresident
Online: 
mncppc.org

The Carousel at RIO Washingtonian Center
Presented by the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, this Americana-themed carousel has 30 dancing horses, whimsical characters and two chariots that can hold up to 38 adults and 30 children. It also has wheelchair access. Riders under 42 inched must be accompanied by an adult. Note that the carousel is conveniently situated next to an interactive playground and a lake with paddleboats, which are available during the summer for $15-$25.

Where: 209 Boardwalk Place, Gaithersburg 
When: 
Reopens March 16, 2019
How much: 
$6/day pass, $27/five-day pass ticket book
Online: 
riowashingtonian.com

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
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

8221201763_64e4c4ce28_zPhoto: Smithsonian’s National Zoo via Flickr

Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel at the National Zoo
Take a spin on an endangered species on this solar-powered, 42-foot (in diameter) carousel, which opened in 2012, and do a good deed in the process. All proceeds go to the zoo’s conservation and animal care. Plop down on a giant panda, zebra or Asian elephant to take a break from walking the zoo’s 163 acres, which 2,700 animals call home. Riders shorter than 42 inches must be accompanied by an adult.

Where: 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW 
When: Daily, 10 am-6 pm from March 1-Sept. 30, 10 am-4pm from Oct. 1-Feb. 28
How much: $3.50 per ride
Online: nationalzoo.si.edu

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
Online: montgomeryparks.gov

—Stephanie Kanowitz

featured image: star5112 via flickr 

 

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