Painted Ponies by William Manns

Want a classic coffee table book on carousel horses? We’ve got you covered! ‘Painted Ponies’ is a classic coffee table book published in 1986 featuring the story of antique carousel art. Marvel at the detail of carved carousel horses created by the most renowned carvers. Painted Ponies has over 650 colour photographs and is a window into a bygone world which is, slowly but surely, being revived by restorers and visitors right around the world.

What could be a more Steampunk travel experience than going back in time on a carousel ride? From California to Connecticut, you too can be transported to a gentler, nobler time. Indulge your nostalgia, a sense that time is a circle and ride a horse in slow motion. We’ve got the goods for you, no matter what side of the States you live on! And for all us overseas visitors, we’re going to have to travel to get there!

Children love carousels – often termed merry-go-rounds – even the mass produced dinky ones you see dotting the walkways of malls.

But what of authentic old carousels? Lovingly hand produced by master craftsmen, they continue to swirl…yet just remember… in the early 1900’s when carousel rides were at their zenith, their rotational speed of 15 miles per hour was faster than anything! Hang on!

We recently visited Westfield Topanga just 30 minutes northwest of downtown Los Angeles to attend my favourite twins’ 1st birthday party.  We were pleasantly surprised to find an unusual double decker carousel ride indoors, on the first floor in front of the Target store.

Topanga Westfield is at 6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Canoga Park, California.

And just because babies are adorable…here are the twins (pic used with kind permission of their mom)!

By the way, the ‘smash cakes’ the girls are just about to plough into are from The French Confection Co. run by Mademoiselle Mallory in Burbank!

Here’s The French Confection Co.’s awesome Instagram feed

And The French Confection Co.’s amazing Facebook page
We love them because not only are their era-inspired cakes works of art, they taste sensational!
But back to carousels…food is distracting! We’ve just discovered the MOST DIVINE carousel related place ever: The New England Carousel Museum! In Bushnell Park stands a 1914 vintage carousel. Made by Stein and Goldstein, the 24 sided pavilion houses 48 hand carved wooden horses and 2 lover’s chariots that rotate around a Wurlitzer organ belting out the tunes in its lovably strident fashion.
This carousel is one of only 3 remaining Stein and Goldstein Carousels left in the world. The flamboyant horses with their flared nostrils, big teeth and wild eyes are decorated in colourful cabbage roses. The restoration work on each piece has been lovingly accomplished with the support of donations.

The museum has great hours for summer – open 10 am – 5 pm, Wednesday to Sunday in July and August. GO, GO, GO!!!

A Little History of the Carousel

The carousel was first invented in France in the early 1600’s and was used to train young men for tournaments. The goal was to snare the brass ring – so THAT’s why there’s a brass ring that a carousel rotates past! The concept evolved and carousels as amusement rides became popular in America between 1880 and 1930. During this time, around 5000 carousels were built. About 130 remain in operation across America. 

Many carpenters, blacksmiths and carvers came from Russia, Germany and other European nations; they moved to America to start a new life and with them brought their traditions of fine craftsmanship. So really, the carousel owes much of its colourful history to these marvellous immigrants whose determined spirits were matched by their imaginations!

Image: By Tony Fischer [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Charles Looff

Charles Looff emigrated from Denmark, became a furniture carver by day and by night, built the very first carousel which was then installed at Coney Island. The fare was 5 cents! Coney Island can also lay claim to being an important marker in Steampunk history: it was the centre of new technological developments including electric lights, roller coasters and baby incubators. It was through the power of steam that carousels became bigger. Charles Looff attached his carousel making workshop to the carousel he built at Coney Island and a new industry was born!

Interestingly, railroads were amongst the first companies in America to purchase carousels for the amusement of customers. What a way to pass the time whilst you waited for your steam train to arrive and whisk you away for a day in the country!

Sonoma Railroad Carousel

Where’s a carousel near me in the good ol’ US of A? Here’s a list to get you started!

Ride the 1880’s Herschell-Spillman Steam Carousel at Santa Monica Pier Carousel in Los Angeles

Go west to Santa Monica! The ramp at Ocean and Colorado is the most direct route by road. Parking is available on the Pier deck.

Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, Los Angeles

Located in Park Centre between the Los Angeles Zoo and the Los Feliz park entrance.

The Smithsonian Carousel, Washington DC

National Mall, Washington DC.

This is a favourite of ours as it played a beautiful role in civil rights history. In 1981, it was moved to the National Mall to replace the older, smaller carousel which had experienced a lot of wear and tear. Once operated in the segregated Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland, it opened to African Americans in August 1963 with an 11-month old girl being the first African American to desegregate the park when she rode the carousel.sade with love by volunteers and based on the vision of Chuck Kaparich, visit their website to discover the rich history and the waves of love that keep the restoration work alive and accessible to more people as time  goes by.

You can read order the fabulous book ‘Round and Round Together: Taking a Merry-Go-Round Ride into the Civil Rights Movement from Amazon here:
Cedar Downs Racing Derby in Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky, Ohio. It’s as hour east of Toledo and an hour west of Cleveland.

It’s a carousel and a race – 1 of only 2 extant racing carousels in the USA which began operating in 1920. You’ll ride in four-across rows and horses trade the lead back and forth as you race for the finish line!  7805 Southeast Oaks Park Way, Portland

A Carousel for Missoula, Montana

Oaks Amusement Park Carousel

Carousel Drive, Missoula, Montana

Made with love by volunteers and based on the vision of Chuck Kaparich, visit their website to discover the rich history and the waves of love that keep the restoration work alive and accessible to more people as time  goes by.

The 1902 Herschell-Spillman Carousel on the Ocean City Boardwalk, Maryland Photo Credit: Rachel Smith Photography

First Street and The Boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland
The San Francisco Carousel at Fisherman’s Wharf
So many ways to get there! Here’s their directions page: