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12 antique carousels that are still in rotation

While they're something of a rare breed, working vintage carousels still exist. The craftsmanship adds to the pleasure of the ride. Photo by Chelseavictoria/

For every century-old American icon that has been saved, thousands have been lost. This is especially true of carousels from the late 1800s and early 1900s—moving works of art with wooden horses and other animals hand-carved by European masters and decorated with exotic paintings.

Charming merry-go-rounds gave way over time to more exciting rides. Meanwhile, collectors so prized carousel horses that it made financial sense for amusement parks to sell the rides rather than continue the upkeep, especially during hard economic times.

“About 3,500 wooden carousels were built from the late 1800s until the early 1930s,” says Patrick Wentzel, president of the National Carousel Association (NCA). “Today fewer than 250 remain—precious pieces of history to be revered for their craftsmanship and beauty. An operating wooden carousel is one of a very few century-old artifacts you can touch and experience with a ride.”

Though vintage wooden carousel animals are preserved in private collections, the magical experience of riding a carousel is increasingly rare. Here’s a sampler of 12 locations where it’s still possible.


Many of the country’s historic carousels were crafted in Philadelphia by the Dentzel Carousel Company (DCC) and the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC). About 2 dozen carousels still operate in the state, including some recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Here are a few:

1. Pen Argyl

Giraffe seats aboard the Weona Park Carousel.

Weona Park’s carousel celebrated its 100th year in 2023. The giraffes are thought to be carved by the Muller brothers or Salvatore “Cherni” Cernigliaro, celebrated carousel artisans. Photo courtesy Patrick Wentzel

The pride of this small town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the carousel at Weona Park. The carousel celebrated 100 years of operation in 2023 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. DCC carvers created the 34 wooden horses and 10 other animals between 1890 and 1917. Some reputedly retain their original factory paint.

Legend has it that when the city couldn’t afford a new carousel in the 1920s, Gustav or William Dentzel assembled one with all stationary horses (“standers”) rather than the more expensive “jumpers” that move up and down.

Park is typically open early June through September. Free admission; carousel rides, $1.

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2. Elysburg

One of the horse seats on the Grand Carousel.

This is one of the 63 horses on the Grand Carousel at Knoebels Amusement Resort, which also features a carousel museum. Photo courtesy Knoebels Amusement Resort

The family-owned Knoebels Amusement Resort opened in 1926 and is home to 2 carousels. The park’s Kiddieland has a small 1910 carousel with 16 jumping horses, 12 standing horses, and 2 chariots.

In contrast, the 1913 Grand Carousel is one of the world’s largest. Built by Kremer’s Carousel Works on Long Island, New York, Knoebels founder Henry Knoebel purchased it from a New Jersey park in 1941. It features 63 horses (27 jumpers and 36 standers) carved by Charles Carmel, a Russian-born immigrant. His Coney Island–style horses are flashier and more animated than DCC’s refined, realistic Philadelphia style.

The carousel’s music comes from 3 vintage organs, one of which was manufactured in 1888 in Germany. Knoebels also has a carousel museum with more than 50 figures, scenery panels, and other items dating to the 1870s. Park is typically open on a varied schedule April through October. Free admission; carousel rides, $2.50.

3. West Mifflin

Kennywood Merry-Go-Round

Near Pittsburgh, a lion (pictured) and a tiger join 62 horses on the Merry-Go-Round at Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy Patrick Wentzel

A national and local historic landmark, the classic wood carousel purchased in 1927 from DCC is still in its original Kennywood Park location. William Dentzel, who carved many of the figures himself and supervised others’ work, was ill with cancer, so the ride missed its intended date for the 1926 Philadelphia Exposition. He sold the magnificent carousel to Kennywood’s owners in 1927 for $25,000.

Nearly a century later, the carousel’s 50 jumping horses, 12 stationary horses, a lion, a tiger, and 4 ornate chariots rotate to the sounds of a 1916 Wurlitzer Marine band organ, one of the oldest organs of its type.

The merry-go-round is stunning at night, when more than 1,400 50-watt lights glitter and reflect in the ride’s myriad mirrors as it spins. Park is typically open on a varied schedule May through December. Admission prices start at $39.99; carousel rides are included.

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4. Hershey

The Chocolatetown carousel inside Hersheypark.

Located in Chocolatetown, Hersheypark’s carousel has 66 horses. Photo courtesy Hersheypark

Milton S. Hershey founded Hersheypark in 1906 for the enjoyment of his chocolate factory employees. It has since grown into Pennsylvania’s largest amusement park, spanning 121 acres. While historic carousels have spun at the park since the early 1900s, the centerpiece of Hersheypark’s Chocolatetown is its carousel. Known to afficionados as PTC #47, it’s the 47th carousel built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.

PTC master carver John Zalar probably created the 42 jumpers, 24 standers, and 2 chariots in 1919. Zalar sculpted religious statues in his native Austria before immigrating to the U.S. in 1902. He found work with carousel carver-builder Charles Looff in New York before joining PTC. Zalar, who died in 1925, carved large, realistic horses with wind-tossed manes and an ethereal, floating quality, as seen at Hershey.

Park is typically open on a varied schedule April through New Year’s Day. Admission prices start at $36.99; carousel rides are included.

5. Farmington

Nemacolin carousel lit up at night.

This small carousel arrived at Nemacolin in pieces. A 3-year restoration ended in 2020; resort guests may ride it for free. Photo by Jordan Millington Liquorice

Several years ago, Nemacolin resort president Maggie Hardy-Knox acquired a deconstructed carousel originally made in 1920 by the Allan Herschell Company in North Tonawanda, New York. Restoration of the 20 horses, 2 chariots, decorative shields, and paintings began in 2017. Three years later, the restored carousel opened to guests under a midway on the resort’s grounds.

Resort rates start at $649. Carousel rides are free for resort guests, typically from mid-May through October; closing dates vary depending on when the horses are stored for the winter.

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Ohio is home to more than 20 carousels, but according to the National Carousel Association only half of them are classic wooden rides. Many early carousels created at the turn of the century were lost to fires, storms, or neglect.

Collectors began taking an interest in the 1960s and started buying horses from those carousels that remained, with some parks using metal or fiberglass figures as replacements. Here are some carousels saved by preservationists and interested citizens’ groups.

 6. Cleveland

A chariot decorated with cherubs on the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel.

This example of Cleveland’s history is now located in a museum that is devoted to that subject. Photo by Rob Erick/Cleveland Carousel Society

Among the most roundabout odysseys undergone by an antique carousel is that of the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel (PTC #19), which survived thanks to the efforts of passionate carousel aficionados.

The ride—with 44 jumpers, 14 standers, and 2 chariots on a 60-foot platform—arrived on Cleveland’s waterfront in 1910. Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, purchased it in 1969. It remained on the East Coast until that park changed hands in 1996, when new owners sold the carousel. Three Cleveland groups—the Trust for Public Land, Cleveland Tomorrow, and Euclid Beach Park Now—played active roles in returning the carousel to the city, and the Trust bought it at auction in 1997.

Work on the horses began immediately, but funding a suitable building to house the carousel took time. In 2014, the restored carousel finally reopened in a glass-walled pavilion at the Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society. Museum admission (adults, $15) includes carousel rides.

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7. Sandusky

A horse on the Cedar Point Midway Carousel.

Cedar Point’s Midway Carousel would provide a pleasant change of pace after experiencing some of the park’s plethora of roller coasters. Photo by Chris Benson

Cedar Point, a 364-acre amusement park on a peninsula jutting into Lake Erie, is home to 2 classic wooden carousels on the National Register of Historic Places—and a rare “Racing Derby” ride the park calls a “carousel race.”

Built in 1912 by Daniel and Alfred Muller of DC Muller Brothers, the Midway Carousel is Cedar Point’s oldest operating ride (since 1946) and occupies pride of place at the park entrance. One of the few remaining creations by Daniel Muller, a formally trained sculptor, the carousel contains 60 horses in 4 rows—all jumpers except the outside row—and 4 chariots, with music provided by a Wurlitzer band organ.

The Kiddy Kingdom Carousel is a magnificent Dentzel menagerie carousel built in 1924. It’s been a popular ride at the park since 1968, when it came from Hunting Park–Germantown in Philadelphia. Its 2 chariots, 27 jumpers, and 14 standers accompany 2 bears, 2 ostriches, 4 rabbits, a lion, a mule, and a tiger that feature some decorative touches by Daniel Muller.

The Midway features Cedar Downs, a Prior & Church Racing Derby built in 1921 and moved to the park from Euclid Beach Park in 1965. One of only 2 such rides remaining in the U.S., it has 4 rows of 64 wooden horses caught in full gallop. Arranged in groups of 4, the racers move forward and back on 6-foot-long tracks to simulate a horse race. Fred Church and Tom Prior, who built many early roller coasters, patented their Racing Derby design in the early 1900s.

Park is typically open on a varied schedule from mid-May through October. Admission prices start at $49.99; carousel rides are included.

8. New Philadelphia

The classic wooden carousel at Tuscora Park was built in 1928 by Spillman Engineering in North Tonawanda, New York. The company specialized in portable, county fair–style carousels, which feature figures with smaller bodies so they could be taken apart and moved among fairs and festivals.

In operation on-site since 1941, the Tuscora Park carousel’s 36 jumping horses and 2 chariots in 3 rows travel around 14 original oil paintings. Park is typically open late May through mid-September. Free admission; carousel rides, $1.50.

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9. Mason

An armored horse on the Grand Carousel in Coney Island Park.

A 1937 flood carried some of these horses downriver from Cincinnati to as far away as Memphis. The Grand Carousel is now located at the Kings Island amusement park north of the city. Photo courtesy Kings Island

Built in 1926, historic PTC #79 was located at Cincinnati’s Coney Island Park from 1926 to 1971 and moved to Kings Island when that park opened in 1972. With 28 wooden jumpers, 20 standers, and 2 chariots in 3 rows, the Grand Carousel moves to music provided by a 1918 Wurlitzer.

Several horses swept away when the Ohio River flooded in 1937 were eventually returned from as far away as Memphis. In 1968, the carousel was completely restored; hand-painting the horses took 7 months. They have been restored several times since, including in 2022, and display the splendid realism for which PTC figures are known.

The park estimates that the Grand Carousel has given more than 42 million rides. Park is typically open on a varied schedule April through December. Admission prices start at $49.99; carousel rides are included.

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10. Powell

The 1914 Mangels/Illion Grand Carousel was a fixture of 2 other regional parks (Olentangy and Wyandot Lake) before being restored and installed in a new building at the Columbus Zoo in 2000, where it has operated ever since.

German-born William Mangels moved to New York in 1883 and became a major figure in the manufacture of amusement park rides. He developed the mechanism still used today that enables horses to move vertically as the carousel turns.

Mangels partnered with Marcus Illions, a master carver with a flair for dramatic Coney Island–style figures with wild manes and elaborate decorations. The Columbus Zoo Grand Carousel, with 52 jumping horses and 2 chariots, is one of the few remaining examples of Illions’ work. The zoo is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas; Adults, $29.99 ($19.99 for Franklin County residents); carousel rides, $2.

You may also like: The best parks and gardens in Columbus, Ohio

More carousels

While no intact century-old carousels remain in Kentucky or West Virginia according to NCA lists, vestiges exist in both states.

11. Kentucky

A carousel horse sporting a Louisville Zoo badge

The carousel at the Louisville Zoo has some of its original parts, but the horses are all fiberglass replicas. Photo courtesy of Louisville Zoo

In Kentucky, the Louisville Zoo is home to the Conservation Carousel, which is actually PTC #49 from 1919. It still has original parts, including rounding boards and scenery panels (with new paintings), but a 2000 restoration replaced its 48 wooden horses and 2 chariots with fiberglass replicas.

In keeping with the conservation theme, the zoo has since replaced many of the replicas with hand-carved and painted endangered animals, including a poison dart frog, rhino, snow leopard, and jaguar, in keeping with the conservation theme. The transition continues as donors commission wooden animals for the carousel.

The zoo is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Adult admission starts at $16.50; carousel rides, $3.50.

You may also like: 5 unusual outdoor adventures in Kentucky

12. West Virginia

Huntington’s Camden Park, the only amusement park in West Virginia, opened in 1903 as a picnic ground at the end of a trolley line. It soon acquired a classic wooden 1903 Spillman Engineering carousel with county fair–style horses and chariots that remain part of the ride today. Facing financial stresses in 1992, the park sold the original wooden horses and replaced them with aluminum models created by New York’s Allan Herschell Company.

Park is typically open on a varied schedule May through October. Adult admission, $22.99; carousel rides are included.

West Virginia resident Dale Leatherman is a past president of the Society of American Travel Writers.

You may also like: 6 best places to go hiking in West Virginia

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