clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

The Bay Area’s best carousels, mapped

Go for a spin on these historical gems

View as Map

Carousels are often a shared part of childhood nostalgia, but as we get older they are usually brushed off as entertainment for toddlers and overlooked at amusement parks for faster thrill rides with 90-degree drops or circular loops.

But what these slowly spinning mechanical contraptions lack in speed and adrenaline, they make up for in history and architectural beauty.

Around the Bay Area, there’s no shortage of these historical relics—many of them renovated—that have been cherished by generations of riders from the rolling hills of Sonoma to the urban playgrounds of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Here are some of our favorites.

Read More

Herschel-Spillman Carousel

Copy Link

Located at the Koret Children’s Quarter playground, this carousel is the third reincarnation of the ride since the park opened. It has enchanted children with its collection of carefully crafted creatures from dragons to classical horses. The current carousel was created in 1914 by the Herschell-Spillman Company, and made an appearance in the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island, before coming to the park in 1940.

#carousel

A post shared by Emma Proctor (@egacc) on

San Francisco Carousel

Copy Link

This double decker delight is one of the main attractions at Pier 39 for kids and adults who want to experience a classic ride from new heights. Imported from Italy, there’s a sea creature theme with sea lions, sea dragons, and dolphins that matches the surround waterfront theme perfectly. At night, 1,800 twinkling LED lights add an extra magical touch.

A post shared by Gabriel Dias (@fdgabriel) on

Leroy King Carousel

Copy Link

As a highlight of the Children’s Creativity Museum, this century-old carousel has some stories to tell. Constructed in Rhode Island by famed craftsman Charles I.D. Looff in 1906, the move to San Francisco was delayed due to the earthquake. Finding a longtime home at Playland amusement park on Ocean Beach, this carousel was finally moved to its current location after years in storage and was named after former SF redevelopment commissioner Leroy King.

Photo by Brock Keeling

Eugene Friend Carousel

Copy Link

Handcrafted by William H. Dentzel in 1921, this carousel showcases the intricate detail of wooden artwork that was popular on merry-go-rounds until the Great Depression. This is one of only seven remaining carousels created by Dentzel in the country. It honors Bay Area philanthropist Eugene Friend.  

Photo by mliu92

Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round

Copy Link

This menagerie carousel was created by the Herschel-Spillman Company in 1911 and is one of the last antique carousels in the country. It’s on the list of National Register of Historical Places, having found a home in Southern California before its current home, Tilden Park, in 1948. Much of the original machine still exists, including the seven-and-a-half horsepower Westlinghouse electric motor.

A post shared by Karla May (@karlamayyy) on

Wonder-Go-Round

Copy Link

This Alice In Wonderland-themed carousel was installed in Oakland’s Children’s Fairyland in 1965, and has been delighting generations of small fans ever since. There are only a few seats, but every one of them features a Lewis Carroll-inspired character, from the toothy walrus to the Mad Hatter himself.

Photo by Annie Wong

Conservation Carousel

Copy Link

Located in the midst of rides at Oakland Zoo’s Adventure Landing, riders can choose from giant pandas, black rhinos, and Siberian tigers to take them on a spin. Zoo admission is not required, since the carousel is located in a separate ride area.

Photo by Trisha Fawver

Kennedy Park Merry-Go-Round

Copy Link

Within a neighborhood park, this carousel has plenty of nostalgia for families in the area. Grab a picnic and mingle with local tots who never fail to be mesmerized by the dancing horses.

A post shared by Kendens_world (@kendens_world) on

Pixieland Antique Carousel

Copy Link

One of the rides within a beloved mini-amusement park, this metal carousel has been going strong since the 1950s when it was first installed. Generations of local kids have reveled in choosing a colorful horse of their own to race to the finish line.

A post shared by Hunter Wimmer (@hlwimmer) on

W.E. “Bill” Mason Carousel

Copy Link

This historic treasure was built in Great Britain for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and was shipped to the U.S. around the horn of South America to its current home in Los Gatos. The wooden horses are from such renowned carvers CW Parker, and the Wurlitzer-type organ helps transport riders back in time.

It was too hot on our run so I decided to take pics instead

A post shared by Niki Jaimes (@gypsyjaimes) on

Carousel Columbia

Copy Link

Not for those who fear heights, this double-decker carousel at Great America in Santa Clara is one of the biggest in the world at 100 feet high. It has been an iconic spot in the park since 1976, with its signature gold spire. During the holidays, it’s worth seeing decked out in its seasonal best with giant wreaths and twinkling lights.

Photo by Jeremy Thompson

Keep-Around-Carousel

Copy Link

As part of Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, this merry-go-round features endangered species. Kids can choose from lifelike crocodiles or jaguars to hitch a ride on. (Most of the characters are also endangered species.) Rides are included in the price of admission.

Photo by Eric E Castro

Iron Horse Carousel

Copy Link

Trains may be the main stars of Sonoma Train Town Railroad, but the carousel is a favorite for many pint-sized visitors. This ride was the first amusement park attraction brought over in 1995. Going along with the railroad theme, there are detailed pictures of trains decorating the exterior of the carousel.  

A post shared by JiYoung Shin (@202m) on

Howarth Park Carousel

Copy Link

Nestled within a local city park, this carousel delights with 30 brightly colored horses and two chariots for those who want to stay more grounded. Thousands of lights illuminate the ride during the day giving it an extra sparkle.

Herschel-Spillman Carousel

Located at the Koret Children’s Quarter playground, this carousel is the third reincarnation of the ride since the park opened. It has enchanted children with its collection of carefully crafted creatures from dragons to classical horses. The current carousel was created in 1914 by the Herschell-Spillman Company, and made an appearance in the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island, before coming to the park in 1940.

#carousel

A post shared by Emma Proctor (@egacc) on

San Francisco Carousel

This double decker delight is one of the main attractions at Pier 39 for kids and adults who want to experience a classic ride from new heights. Imported from Italy, there’s a sea creature theme with sea lions, sea dragons, and dolphins that matches the surround waterfront theme perfectly. At night, 1,800 twinkling LED lights add an extra magical touch.

A post shared by Gabriel Dias (@fdgabriel) on

Leroy King Carousel

Photo by Brock Keeling

As a highlight of the Children’s Creativity Museum, this century-old carousel has some stories to tell. Constructed in Rhode Island by famed craftsman Charles I.D. Looff in 1906, the move to San Francisco was delayed due to the earthquake. Finding a longtime home at Playland amusement park on Ocean Beach, this carousel was finally moved to its current location after years in storage and was named after former SF redevelopment commissioner Leroy King.

Photo by Brock Keeling

Eugene Friend Carousel

Photo by mliu92

Handcrafted by William H. Dentzel in 1921, this carousel showcases the intricate detail of wooden artwork that was popular on merry-go-rounds until the Great Depression. This is one of only seven remaining carousels created by Dentzel in the country. It honors Bay Area philanthropist Eugene Friend.  

Photo by mliu92

Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round

This menagerie carousel was created by the Herschel-Spillman Company in 1911 and is one of the last antique carousels in the country. It’s on the list of National Register of Historical Places, having found a home in Southern California before its current home, Tilden Park, in 1948. Much of the original machine still exists, including the seven-and-a-half horsepower Westlinghouse electric motor.

A post shared by Karla May (@karlamayyy) on

Wonder-Go-Round

Photo by Annie Wong

This Alice In Wonderland-themed carousel was installed in Oakland’s Children’s Fairyland in 1965, and has been delighting generations of small fans ever since. There are only a few seats, but every one of them features a Lewis Carroll-inspired character, from the toothy walrus to the Mad Hatter himself.

Photo by Annie Wong

Conservation Carousel

Photo by Trisha Fawver

Located in the midst of rides at Oakland Zoo’s Adventure Landing, riders can choose from giant pandas, black rhinos, and Siberian tigers to take them on a spin. Zoo admission is not required, since the carousel is located in a separate ride area.

Photo by Trisha Fawver

Kennedy Park Merry-Go-Round

Within a neighborhood park, this carousel has plenty of nostalgia for families in the area. Grab a picnic and mingle with local tots who never fail to be mesmerized by the dancing horses.

A post shared by Kendens_world (@kendens_world) on

Pixieland Antique Carousel

One of the rides within a beloved mini-amusement park, this metal carousel has been going strong since the 1950s when it was first installed. Generations of local kids have reveled in choosing a colorful horse of their own to race to the finish line.

A post shared by Hunter Wimmer (@hlwimmer) on

W.E. “Bill” Mason Carousel

This historic treasure was built in Great Britain for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and was shipped to the U.S. around the horn of South America to its current home in Los Gatos. The wooden horses are from such renowned carvers CW Parker, and the Wurlitzer-type organ helps transport riders back in time.

It was too hot on our run so I decided to take pics instead

A post shared by Niki Jaimes (@gypsyjaimes) on

Carousel Columbia

Photo by Jeremy Thompson

Not for those who fear heights, this double-decker carousel at Great America in Santa Clara is one of the biggest in the world at 100 feet high. It has been an iconic spot in the park since 1976, with its signature gold spire. During the holidays, it’s worth seeing decked out in its seasonal best with giant wreaths and twinkling lights.

Photo by Jeremy Thompson

Keep-Around-Carousel

Photo by Eric E Castro

As part of Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, this merry-go-round features endangered species. Kids can choose from lifelike crocodiles or jaguars to hitch a ride on. (Most of the characters are also endangered species.) Rides are included in the price of admission.

Photo by Eric E Castro

Iron Horse Carousel

Trains may be the main stars of Sonoma Train Town Railroad, but the carousel is a favorite for many pint-sized visitors. This ride was the first amusement park attraction brought over in 1995. Going along with the railroad theme, there are detailed pictures of trains decorating the exterior of the carousel.  

A post shared by JiYoung Shin (@202m) on

Howarth Park Carousel

Nestled within a local city park, this carousel delights with 30 brightly colored horses and two chariots for those who want to stay more grounded. Thousands of lights illuminate the ride during the day giving it an extra sparkle.