Carousel rides are a whimsical part of childhood we all cherish. Make new memories with your kids by giving them a whirl on an enchanting carousel they’ll always remember. From prancing horses and roaring tigers to hand painted murals and antique works of art, scroll down for where to pony-up for the ride of your life!

photo: Brianne Grajkowski

Seaport Village

The enclosed, hand-carved carousel in Seaport Village was built in 1895. A ride around this carousel is a must-do after walking around all the nearby shops. With 54 animals and two horse-drawn carriages, there is sure to be a spot for every animal lover. So even if you see a bunch of kids waiting for a turn, don’t leave — you’ll never wait longer than a few minutes.

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Cost: $3/person

849 West Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101
Online: seaportvillage.com/entertainment/attractions

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San Diego Safari Park's Conservation Carousel

Choose between 60 colorful, rare and endangered animals to take a spin on––including a giraffe, rhino, zebra, or a cheetah, at the Conservation Carousel located inside the Safari Base Camp at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Unlimited rides cost $6.

15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd.
Escondido, CA 92027
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to closing
Cost:  $6/all-day wristband (also budget for admission to the park)
Online: sdzsafaripark.org/conservation-carousel

South Coast Plaza

With two carousels and your favorite retail stores, you should give South Coast Plaza a turn. Start at the Level One carousel on Bristol Street that sits right next to babyGap and Gymboree go for a spin, shop then head to the other side of the mall. There are over 40 restaurants, including Ruby's Diner and Rainforest Cafe which is perfect with the crew in tow. Take a stroll through the plaza and cruise across the bridge to Level One Bear Street and take a second carousel ride. Further, it's good to know there's a family restroom and strollers for hire.

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m-8 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Cost: $1/person

3333 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
800-782-8888
Online: southcoastplaza.com

photo: Friends of Balboa Park

Balboa Park

The carousel at Balboa Park was added in 1910 right by the San Diego Zoo. All of the animals are original and hand-carved (minus two pairs). The hand painted murals at the top of the carousel are also original works of art. This 5-minute ride also includes the old brass ring game – one of the few carousels in the world still offering it. The lucky winner gets another ride around.

Mark your calendar for National Carousel Day July 25th, when kids can ride this carousel for free from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Hours: Saturday, Sunday and school holidays, 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $3/person

2920 Zoo Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101
Online: balboapark.org/balboa-park-carousel

Irvine Spectrum

Round and round you go! You'll find an antique carousel with plenty of different animal choices right in the middle of fabulous shopping, restaurants and a movie theatre. Even more, there's a giant wheel to get up and away too! Further, if you head down by Target you'll find a great new climbing playground where littles can explore for free. Also, with restaurants like Dave & Busters, Luna Grill, The Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen, there are a ton of places to grab something to eat.

Hours: Sun.-Thur., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Cost: $3.00/person if above 42". Under 42" kids only require an adult ticket.

670 Spectrum Center Dr.
Irvine, CA 92618
Online: irvinespectrumcenter.com

The Great Park Carousel

This carousel is perfect for half-pints who want to ride something besides a horse. Yes, there are horses, but there's also a pig, cat, panda, reindeer, zebra and more to choose for your three-minute ride. When done riding the carousel, you can make it a play day. Check out (for free) a football, soccer ball, basketball, Bocce ball set, Frisbee or jump rope from the Visitors center and play til your heart's content. Pack snacks or a lunch for eats when everyone gets hungry.

Hours: Thurs., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Closed Mon.–Weds.
Cost: $2/ride; $3/all day

Orange County Great Park
6690 Marine Way
Irvine, CA 92618
Online: cityofirvine.org

Belmont Park

The Liberty carousel at Belmont Park is an antique reproduction that looks just as authentic as an original. Located at the entrance of the park, it’s sure to grab your kids’ interest. There are a few rides at Belmont Park but the carousel really appeals to toddlers. The scary roller coaster in the background may be a better pick for the school-aged kids. The sweet part about the Liberty carousel is that it’s right by the beach, perfect for washing off all that cotton candy from the park.

Hours: Mon.-Thurs., Closed; Fri. & Sat., 11a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Cost: $4/person

3146 Mission Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92109
Online: belmontpark.com

Santa Monica Pier Carousel

Built almost 100 years ago and restored in the 1980s, the Santa Monica Pier Carousel is housed inside the historic Looff Hippodrome. Make a day of it. First, give the carousel a whirl. (Good to know that the moving animals are on the inside!) Then, enjoy an ice-cream cone at the nearby sweet shop. Next, stroll through the rest of the Pacific Park amusement, then end up checking out the sea creatures at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

Hours: Check website. Varies with the season.
Cost: $2/adult, $1/child

200 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310-458-8901
Online: smgov.net

-Brianne Grajkowski and Nikki Walsh

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