From the tallest, two double-deckers, even a carousel devoted to Alice in Wonderland, the Bay Area is home to some merry-go-rounds that are just as fun today as they were (a hundred) years ago. There’s something so satisfying about this simple amusement that kids of all ages can appreciate. Read on for more details about our favorite places to go for a ride…

yerba_buena_carouselPhoto by Erin Feher

San Francisco

Golden Gate Park Carousel at Koret Children’s Playground
Make your own history with the kiddos at one of America’s oldest playgrounds. Now called the Koret Children’s Quarter, it first opened on this spot in 1888 and is thought to have been the nation’s first public playground. The carousel opened the same year but the current carousel was built in 1914 and installed after the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island. Cost is $2/adults; $1/child 6-12; children 5 and under are free with paying adult.

Open 10:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. every day; longer hours during summer; visit the website for details.

320 Bowling Green Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, Ca

Online: sfrecpark.org/koret-childrens-quarter

Enjoy a full day of free rides on San Francisco's historic 1906 carousel. The newly-restored carousel located in Yerba Buena Gardens at the Children's Creativity Museum features hand-carved wooden animals, including giraffes, rams, dragons, horses and even a lion...oh my! All ages will delight in this beloved merry-go-round. *FAVORITE*Photo courtesy Children’s Creativity Museum

The Leroy King Carousel at Children’s Creativity Museum
Located just outside the Children’s Creativity Museum in Yerba Buena Gardens, this spinning piece of SF History was built in 1906 and made kids smile for nearly 50 years out at Playland. Relocated to the SOMA neighborhood in 1998, it was spruced up (and renamed) in 2014. $4 will get the kiddos, or you, two rides around — or $3 with museum admission.

Open every day, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

221 Fourth St.
San Francisco, Ca

Online: creativity.org/carousel

sf zoo carouselPhoto of Eugene Friend Carousel by Amber Guetebier

Eugene Friend Carousel, San Francisco Zoo
Next time you visit the San Francisco Zoo don’t miss the menagerie of 50 animals on the gorgeous 1921 Dentzel carousel. Restored in 2006, it’s well worth the small fee to ride it. Located near the Children’s Zoo. Cost is $3/ride; adults ride (standing) for free with ticketed child.

10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Online: sfzoo.businesscatalyst.com/…ore/rides.htm

Photo of San Francisco Carousel at Pier 39 by “jrdlngr‘ via Flickr Creative Commons

The Carousel at Pier 39
The only double-decker carousel in San Francisco, it’s an Italian made merry-go-round with an aquatic theme: sea lions, dolphins, and sea dragons grace the two floors. $3/ride.

Open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily year-round. Open till 10 p.m. in Spring, and from May to September carousel is open until 11 p.m.

Pier 39, Level 1
San Francisco, Ca

Online: pier39.com/san-francisco carousel

tilden park carousel by Kristina P via YelpPhoto of Tilden carousel by Kristina P. via Yelp

East Bay

Tilden Park in Berkeley’s Merry-Go-Round
After visiting all the real animals in Tilden Park, take a ride on a pretend one (or the highly coveted dragon) at this turn-of-the-century carousel, featuring hand-carved wooden horses. The old-timey vibe extends to the calliope music playing as the animals whirl around. And weatherproof shield encloses the carousel, ensuring that it’s never too chilly for a ride! Rides are $3, or $15 for a book of 7 ride tickets.

Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Monday, weather permitting.

Entrance on Central Park Dr., south of Little Farm
Tilden Park, Berkeley
Online: ebparks.org/tilden

 

Photo of Oakland Zoo Carousel by Mike Liu via Flickr Creative Commons

The Oakland Zoo Carousel
The Conservation Carousel at the Oakland zoo include Siberian tigers, black rhinos, gorillas, giant pandas and many more. Located in Adventure Landing where you’ll find several other rides suited toward your little trekkers. And at just $1.75 a ride, you can probably afford to go around and around again! (Standing adults ride free). Carousel is located in a special kiddie rides area; Zoo admission not required. (Note: Parking lot entry fee: $10 for non-members.)

Open weekdays 11 a.m.-4pm; weekends 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas)

9777 Golf Links Rd.
Oakland, Ca
Online: oaklandzoo.org 

Photo of refurbished Flecto Carousel courtesy of Children’s Fairyland

Children’s Fairyland’s Carousels, Oakland
Treat the under-fives to a gentle twirl on the super-cute 1956 Wonder-go-Round, with characters from Alice in Wonderland as their trusty steeds, or let the school-aged crowd ride the more traditional Flecto Carousel, which was recently refurbished to stunning brightness in 2016. All rides included with admission ($10 per person, ages 1-100).

Park is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekdays and until 5 p.m. on weekends.

699 Bellevue Ave.
Oakland, Ca
Online: fairyland.org

Kennedy Park in Hayward
Not only is there a carousel at this little local’s secret, there’s also a train, a petting zoo, and a playground. Carousel rides are $2 for kids and adults.

19501 Hesperian Blvd.
Hayward, Ca 
Online: 
haywardrec.org/kennedypark


Arrow Development’s classic metal carousel at Pixieland, photo by Denise M. via Yelp

Pixieland in Concord
The now-antique metal carousel, was brand new when it was installed for the mini-amusement park’s opening in the 1950s. Adults watch from the sidelines while kids ages 2-to-12 enjoy going round-and-round. This and the other pint-size rides are 1 ticket each, at $2.25 per ticket, with several bulk-discount “fun pack” options available.

2740 E. Olivera Rd.
Concord Ca
Online: pixieland.com/our-rides

great america carousel bruce w via Yelp

Photo of carousel at Great America by Bruce W. via Yelp

South Bay/Peninsula

Great America’s Carousel, Santa Clara
This double-decker carousel is one of the tallest in the world and has been an iconic spot for photos for generations. Cost is included in price of admission. Kids 48” and under must ride with a grown-up.

Open during park hours, from 10 a.m. daily

4701 Great America Pkwy.
Santa Clara, Ca
Online: greatamerica.com

happy hollow zoo san jose carouselPhoto of Happy Hollow Zoo by 5112 via Flickr Creative Commons

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo Carousel
The rides at this little zoo in San jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood include the Keep-Around-Carousel which features endangered species characters. Cost is included in admission.

300 Senter Rd.
San Jose, Ca

Online: hhpz.org

Editor’s Note: As of publication date of this article, the Arena Green Park Carousel in Guadalupe River Park is closed due to budget cuts.

And as of March 2017, the Bill Mason vintage carousel at Oak Meadow Park at the Billy Jone Wildcat Railroad in Los Gatos is closed for repairs and maintenance. 

Let us know if you’ve been to either of these carousels recently or if they have reopened! 

—Amber Guetebier and Julie Feinstein Adams