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California's Best Carousels

Classic Merry-Go-Rounds in California

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There's something about a merry-go-round that brings out the kid in all of us and California has plenty of places to indulge your urge to get dizzy. We've even got a couple of them where you can still grab for the brass ring.

Balboa Park Carousel, San Diego

©2010 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by permission.

Balboa Park
San Diego

Dogs, cats, deer, zebras, frogs and dragons are just a few of the party animals on this ride built in 1910. All but two hand-carved pairs are originals, as are the hand-painted murals and the military band music. It's also one of the places where you can still grab for the brass ring.

Bill Mason Carousel, Los Gatos

110 Blossom Hill Rd.
Los Gatos, CA
Phone: 408-395-7433

Originally built for San Francisco's 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, this carousel came out of retirement in 1980 and is a local favorite. Its history is uncertain, but its charm is not.

Conservation Carousel, Los Angeles Zoo

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Zoo and Jamie Phan
This one isn't a century old, but it's quite special with 66 artisan-crafted animal figures that include a komodo dragon, poison dart frog and a Sumatran tiger, along with a dung beetle chariot.

Golden Gate Park Carousel, San Francisco

320 Bowling Green Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco

This 1914 Herschell-Spillman carousel has moved around, starting at Lincoln Park in Los Angeles, making a stop at the 1939-40 World's Fair on Treasure Island before settling at Golden Gate Park. It has a lion and tiger, but no bear, just a menagerie of other beautifully-executed creatures

Griffith Park Carousel, Los Angeles

4730 Crystal Springs Dr.
Los Angeles, CA
323-913-4688

Built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company for San Diego's Mission Beach, it came to Griffith Park in 1937. Every horse is a jumper and a real beauty, with jewel-encrusted bridles and lots of decorative details. Its companion Stinson 165 Military Band Organ is said to be the largest carousel band organ on the West Coast.

Pier 39 Carousel, San Francisco

©2007 Betsy Malloy Photography. Licensed to About.com
Pier 39 San Francisco

Handcrafted in Italy, the new, double-decker is the only carousel in the U.S. decorated with scenes of its home city.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk Carousel

Getty Images/Stephen Dunn
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach St.
Santa Cruz, CA

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk carousel was built in 1911 by Danish woodcarver Charles I.D. Looff, making it the Boardwalk's oldest ride. If you ride on the outside, you can try to grab the ring (which is now steel instead of the traditional brass) and try to throw it into the clown's mouth.

Santa Monica Pier Carousel

200 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA
Phone: 310-395-4248

Built in 1916 by Charles I.D. Loof, it's rather plain by carousel-aficionado standards, but nevertheless, it may be the country's most famous merry-go-round. Besides showing up in lots of television shows and commercials, was the site where Paul Newman met Robert Redford in The Sting.

Seaport Village Carousel, San Diego

©2010 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
853 W Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA
619-232-4220

Hand-carved in 1895 by the renowned Charles Looff, it started out in Dallas' Fair Park and entertained folks in Oregon and up in Santa Monica before arriving in San Diego in 2004.

Tilden Park Carousel, Berkeley

Tilden Park
Berkeley, CA
510-524-6773

It's been here since 1950, but was built by Herschell-Spillman around 1911. It's one of two surviving "menagerie" style carousels made by this builder.

Zeum Carousel, San Francisco

Yerba Buena Gardens
221 4th St. at Howard
San Francisco, CA

Built in 1906 and at San Francisco's Playland-at-the-Beach from 1912 to 1972, it's been at Yerba Buena since 1998.

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