Weekly Top 10: Top Theme Park Carousels

February 23, 2015, 12:02 PM · Carousels might be the oldest enduring type of theme park attraction. Most major theme parks today include a carousel, often located in a prominent central location in the park. While many theme park attractions, notably roller coasters, see their popularity decline with age, carousels remain popular from generation to generation. Indeed, many of the carousels you'll find in theme parks today were around 100 or more years ago, entertaining children in parks and fairs before eventually being purchased by today's parks and restored. Heck, Disney corporate legend says that Walt Disney envisioned Disneyland while sitting and watching his daughters ride the carousel in Los Angeles' Griffith Park.

Here are 10 of Theme Park Insider readers' favorite carousels at top theme parks around the world. All Theme Park Insider readers (that includes you!) can rate all the rides, shows, restaurants, and hotels we cover on the site. Just visit our Park Reviews and Hotel Reviews pages to start. Readers who register with Theme Park Insider can submit reviews and photos of the attractions they rate, too. (Registration is free, and takes just a moment.)

10. King Triton's Carousel
Disney California Adventure

King Triton's Carousel

Not every carousel on our list features the traditional horses to ride. Disney California Adventure's carousel refreshes the genre with fish and other undersea creatures from and inspired by The Little Mermaid.

9. The Riverview Carousel
Six Flags Over Georgia

The Riverview Carousel

Classic carousels earn plenty of love from our readers, including Six Flags Over Georgia's 1908 PTC Carousel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

8. Columbia Carousel
Six Flags Great America

Columbia Carousel

Six Flags parks might be known for their roller coasters, but it's the Columbia Carousel that stands as the icon of Six Flags' Chicago-area park, a double-decker carousel that claims the title of world's tallest carousel, with its twin at the California's Great America park in Santa Clara, California.

7. Carousel
Ferrari World

Ferrari World Carousel

Want to ride some Prancing Horses? The Prancing Horse is the symbol of Italy's ultra-luxury sports-car manufacturer Ferrari, so in Abu Dhabi's Ferrari World, the "horses" you get to ride on its Carousel are miniature Ferrari prototypes.

6. Caravan Carousel
Tokyo DisneySea

Caravan Carousel

Another double-decker carousel, Tokyo DisneySea's Caravan Carousel stands in the park's Arabian Coast land.

5. King Julien's Beach Party-Go-Round
Universal Studios Singapore

King Julien's Beach Party-Go-Round

Take a ride on Marty, Alex, Gloria, Melman or one of the other many characters from DreamWorks Animation's Madgascar, in this popular carousel from Universal Studios Singapore.

4. Caro-Seuss-el
Universal's Islands of Adventure


Or jump aboard one of the many whimsical creatures inspired by the works of Dr. Seuss on Universal's most popular carousel, at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure.

3. Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

The Magic Kingdom's carousel represents all the Disney Fantasyland carousels, standing in the middle of the land at the Disneylands in Anaheim, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong, as well as in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. This one dates from 1917, built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. as the Liberty Carrousel for Belle Isle Park in Detroit.

2. Stoomcarrousel

Efteling's "Steam Carousel," now powered by electricity, dates from 1895 and features horses, pigs, gondolas, and coaches, turning to the music of an Gavioli organ.

1. Cedar Downs Racing Derby
Cedar Point

Cedar Downs Racing Derby

Cedar Point's carousel wins the top spot on our list for making manifest what many of us imagined on our first carousel rides — that our horse is actually racing the other horses on the ride. Will we make it to the finish line first? Well, if we don't, we always can ride again!

What is your favorite carousel, in a theme park or not? Please tell us in the comments.

Replies (22)

February 23, 2015 at 12:07 PM

I'm very sad that the Grand Carousel at Knoebels couldn't crack this top 10. It's one of the few left in the world where you can still grab rings, and is quite fast.

February 23, 2015 at 12:42 PM

Actually I'm not sure Knoebels is IN the parks guide for TPI anymore, although I want to make a plug for it. Possibly not a large enough park by numbers, but surely a park with outsize influence on the theme park world? Knoebels has two excellent carousels, and even the smaller one has an exquisite original pipe organ. Robert, can we get Knoebels back?

February 23, 2015 at 1:03 PM

I follow TPI through RSS feed and rarely make my way over to the site, but I had to come over an plug the Grand Carousel at Knoebels myself. But nothing else compares to leaning out to try and catch the brass ring (or being the employee 'runner' to follow it and get it back!). It's also one of the few carousels that uses actual horse tails instead of carved ones.

February 23, 2015 at 1:06 PM

I'm glad to see Cedar Downs ranked first on this list, but I agree with Russell and Jonah. The Grand Carousel at Knoebels is better than anything on this list, and the 1911 Looff Carousel at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk belongs here too (it's the only other one I've seen with a working ring dispenser). When it comes to big rides, these lists are great, but for smaller rides I've found the parks not featured on TPI often have better attractions than those that are.

February 23, 2015 at 1:06 PM

Mildy disappointed that they didn't share the listing on the double decker with both parks listed.

Also wish you had listed the 2 other rides similar to Cedar Downs. Rye Playland and Pleasure Beach Blackpool have the only other 2 of those that I know of. Rye has the fastest as far as I know but CP's is definitely the best taken care of.

February 23, 2015 at 1:47 PM

Great so see the carousel of the Efteling in The Netherlands on the second place. It is a beauty and it's building is also stunning.

February 23, 2015 at 1:51 PM

Cedar Downs is a great ride. Always loved it, and really wish that the very similar ride at Rye Playland still raced.

However, my favorite carousel is Jane's Carousel in NYC (http://janescarousel.com/). Not in a theme park, but with amusement park roots, it came from Idora Park in my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio to my new home, New York. Definitely take it for a spin after walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Nested inside an amazing glass cube, it has the best view of any merry-go-round on the planet.

February 23, 2015 at 2:01 PM

This list can't really be considered as fully accurate due to the lack of classic parks in the TPI database, which are where all the best Carousels are (Knoebel's, Trimper's, Etc.)

February 23, 2015 at 2:22 PM

Wow, I had no idea how many great carousels are out there! And now all the commenters have me dying to see the one at Knoebel's!

Of this list, I love the classic look of the MK carousel and the double-deckers are beautiful. But my favorite from this list, if I ever get to see it in person, would probably be King Triton's due to the use of undersea critters.

My personal favorite of carousels I've actually seen or ridden is the one at Audubon Zoo in New Orleans -- it has all sorts of zoo creatures, including a hippo!! :-)

February 23, 2015 at 2:35 PM

Very glad the Riverview Carousel at SFOG made the list. Spurgeon Richardson, long time park President always referred to the carousel as, "The Fine China" of our park. It really is one of the loveliest rides in the world, and it is in such a beautiful location as well. It's also one of the last, if not the last original five abreast carousels left in the world.

February 23, 2015 at 2:53 PM

Whenever we go to an amusement park, I always try to check out the carousel. Most of the carousels around the country are antiques. The one in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was purchased by Disney from Olympic park here in New Jersey.

February 23, 2015 at 3:19 PM

We removed Knoebels in the last listings purge because we had so little traffic to those pages and so few votes that it just wasn't worth keeping the park on the site with such poor response. Of course, overall traffic has grown since then, and if people are committed to helping maintain those listings, voting on them and referring people to them, I'd be happy to put the park back in the listings. I'd just need someone to send me a complete list of attractions and restaurants that I could easily copy and paste into the system.

February 23, 2015 at 4:03 PM

Carousel @ Blackpool Pleasure Beach is pretty spectacular. Similar to your Number 1.

February 23, 2015 at 4:44 PM

Robert, I'm game! That sounds like a fun weekend project. Worth it I think to get those attractions up on the site. And I make an annual pilgrimage, so I'll be sure to review as many of the attractions as possible, and start a thread on the discussion board to encourage others to do the same!

February 23, 2015 at 5:27 PM

This is probably TPI's weakest top 10 list since many of the best & most historical carousels are from parks that TPI doesn't cover. Always considered one of the top carousels among enthusiasts is Kennywood's Merry Go Round, the Grand Carousel. It was built by William Dentzel in 1926 and placed in Kennywood in 1927. It was his last carousel.And it's still there.... From the book Kennywood Roller Coaster Capital of The World, by Charles Jacques 1982, "For both young patrons and the young at heart, a new full sized four row carousel was purchased from William Dentzel of Germantown. It had been built originally for the Philsdelphia Susqui-Centennial of 1926. Dentzel missed the deadline and it was completed with only two weeks to go in the exhibition. He sold it to Kennywood for $25,000. Although he was seriously ill, and died early in 1928,Dentzel left his sick bed to supervise the installation in a new $10,000 steel frame building. The carousel turntable was 54 feet in diameter. It had 50 jumping horses, one lion, one tiger, and 14 stationary horses along with bench seats, all of which was lighted by 1,400 fifty watt mazda bulbs.".....Music for the carousel is supplied by a 1916 Wurlitzer Musical Organ. The carousel is located next to the park lagoon and has always been the traditional meeting place for families. And it's also themed and used for the Halloween Horror Nights and the Christmas Holiday Celebration. And the carousel has been declared a Historical Landmark.

February 23, 2015 at 8:41 PM

Loved Cedar Downs when the Rao Family (guest starring Jim & Anton Koehl) visited Cedar Point last summer. It was probably the biggest surprise of the entire trip. It is a fantastic take on an all too common attraction, and something no Cedar Point visitor should skip.

As an honorable mention, my disowned home park, Worlds of Fun, has a restored and renovated 1926 M.C. Illions carousel, previously of the chain's Geauga Lake park, called The Grand Carrousel. They really did a fine job in restoring this classic attraction, to the point that I do strive to visit it at least a few times each summer.

February 23, 2015 at 6:47 PM

Nice to see SFGA get a place. The double decker is truly the gem of the park. It's the park that has all the right things in place, but is still held back.

February 24, 2015 at 4:25 AM

A shame we don't have Phantasialand on the site - they have a gorgeous (and perfectly situated) old-school double-decker.

February 24, 2015 at 5:55 AM

Can we put in an honorary mention for the carousel at the National Zoo in Washington DC? All different animals to ride from ostriches to wolves to big cats. Magical!

February 28, 2015 at 11:00 PM

Carousels are the first "big person" ride that most of us remember from our childhood and deserve all the praise we can give. It seems the roller coaster people have dominated in TPI for a while but carousels are fundamental rides for all parks.

As a sad note, the carousel that was my favorite childhood memory was destroyed by fire 2 years ago when the Seaside Park, NJ boardwalk was destroyed by fire. I don't know any details about its age, maker or origin except that it was old and an important part of my life.

{EDIT} I did some research and discovered that the old carousel (a classic Illions model purchased from Coney Island in 1955) from my childhood with the wooden carved horses with real horse-hair tails was sold in the 1980s and a new, fiberglass animals carousel was the one destroyed in the 2013 fire. I hope the old carousel is providing fun to others where ever it went to.

I also discovered that the other Seaside Height carousel, an old one in the Casino Pier area, has closed in late 2014 and will be/has been sold. This summer will be the first year since about 1915 that there will be no carousel on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

February 25, 2015 at 5:07 AM

what about Les Machines?

February 25, 2015 at 7:56 PM

The Loof Carousel at Santa Cruz Boardwalk also has rings and is in a park not on the site. I've probably ridden it as much as every other carousel combined.

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