Carousel Horseback Riding Vacation
While I’ve always preferred riding live horses to carousel horses, not everyone can afford or wants to go on a horseback riding vacation. Perhaps you have little children who love horses, yet simply aren’t ready for a horseback riding vacation. Maybe merry-go-round horses fit your horseback riding vacation budget better than a dude ranch riding holiday?
While more than 7,000 carousels once existed in the world, just 300 remain, with four carousels located in San Francisco and many scattered throughout California.
I’ve had the pleasure of riding carousel horses in Berkeley’s Tilden Park, San Francisco’s Yuerba Buena Gardens, at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Vacaville’s Nut Tree.
Here is a list of some of the Best Carousels available for an affordable horseback riding vacation in California:
Golden Gate Park Carousel
Martin Luther King Drive and Bowling Green Drive, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Adults $1.50, children $.50 per ride
Nut Tree Carousel
1681 East Monte Vista Avenue, Vacaville, CA
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fri. – Sat. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (rides closed on rainy days)
Cost: $2 per ride
First Level at the North end, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cost: $3 per ride
San Francisco Zoo Historic Dentzel Carousel
1 Zoo Road, San Francisco, CA
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Cost: General Admission $11 adults, $5 children; San Francisco residents $9, $2.50 children
Dentzel Carousel History
The Dentzel Carousel was built by William H. Dentzel in 1921. This hand-carved wooden carousel is one of the finest examples of an expensive and lavish art that ended during the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Carousel horses these days are made of cast metal and fiber glass. The Dentzel Carousel is located near the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Cost: $3 per ride or purchase an all day unlimited ride wristband
One of the Last Brass Carousel Ring Machines in the Country
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s Looff Carousel, built in 1911, features one of the last brass ring machines in the country. In 1987 the U.S. Park Service declared the Looff Merry-Go-Round a National Historic Landmark along with the 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster. As a child growing up in Northern California, I have fond memories of grabbing that brass ring and aiming it for the clown’s mouth. I can’t remember if I ever landed that brass ring, but I’ll never forget my visits to ride the carousel horses on Santa Cruz, California’s beach boardwalk.
Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round
600 Canon Drive, Kensington, CA
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends
Cost: $2 per ride
Tilden Park Merry Go Round listed on the National Register of Historic Places
Where else can you ride a frog or an ostrich other than the Berkeley hills of northern California? Built in 1911 by the Hershel Spillman Company for Ross Davis, the Tilden Park Merry Go Round as had a tilt a whirl history. It began its carousel circuit appearance in San Bernadino County in a Urbita Springs Trolley Park from 1912-1916. The carousel then visited San Diego, but was put in storage until 1935 due to poor weather. After a short stay at Griffith Park in Los Angeles and more time in storage, the historic carousel made its way to Berkeley, California’s Tilden Park in 1948.
Yerba Buena Gardens
Corner of Fourth and Howard streets, on the Rooftop at Yerba Buena Gardens
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Cost: $3.00 for two rides
San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown Rides Yerba Buena Gardens Carousel
Yerba Buena Gardens opened in San Francisco, California on October 11, 1993. In 1998, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown opened the Children’s Garden and took the first ride on the newly restored Carousel.