Carousels have a reputation for providing a magical ride to a dreamland that individuals of all ages can appreciate. This kind of unique enchantment comes to life at the Koret Children’s Quarter (formally the Children’s Playground) in Golden Gate Park – with a collection of glossy characters that include a dragon, camel, giraffe, ostrich, tiger, and of course, horses. For a small fee, you can enjoy a ride on the carousel. Choosing your friendly guide is sometimes difficult, as there are plenty of colorfully-hued creatures that delight, such as frogs, dogs, roosters, and pigs. During your rounds, take time to look at the inside panels of the carousel and absorb the painted landscapes highlighting the Bay Area.

golden gate park carousel

History of the Carousel at Golden Gate Park

It has been the tradition of one of the oldest children’s playgrounds in the United States to have a carousel as part of its environment. Since the playground opened in 1888, there have been three at Golden Gate Park. The current jewel that literally glistens in the park is a 1914 beauty built by the Herschell-Spillman Company.

At first, the carousel was powered by steam, but when PG&E offered to loan an electric motor to the park, officials gladly agreed to pay the remaining expenses. Leading a well-traveled life, the carousel appeared as one of the main sights at the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island, and also entertained at amusement parks in Los Angeles and Portland.

The illustrious, original carousel showcased 62 animal figures, decorative benches, alluring picture panels, and even an organ. The Herschell-Spillman creation enjoyed a long, continuous run until 1977 when a mechanism failed to work. Dubbed mechanically deficient, as well as lacking its initial visual appeal, the original carousel was sent to a restoration team for repair.

Paint was removed and the surfaces received a facelift, as missing parts were carved anew. The animals received a proper paint job with a radiant palette of colors. A German band organ was also installed in the carousel, which fills the air with an audio kaleidoscope of pleasure. The reopening of the revamped carousel took place in 1984 and was well received by the public.

Today, many come from near and far just to experience a whirl on the historic Golden Gate Park carousel.

Contact Details

Address: The Golden Gate Park Carousel is found at 320 Bowling Green Drive, between John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. This is adjacent to the Koret Children’s Quarter (playground) by the Sharon Building.

Phone: (415) 231-0077

Carousel Hours: The carousel is open on a daily basis.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Mondays through Fridays, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

From the day after Labor Day through the Day before Memorial Day, on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Thursdays and Fridays, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The last ride is set to take place 15 minutes prior to closing.

If you wish to reserve the picnic area adjacent to the carousel and playground, contact (415) 831-5500.

Carousel Ride Cost: Adults, ($2), children ages 6 to 12 years ($1 per ride), and children 5 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult. Please note that children under 40″ in height must ride with a paying adult.

Parking: When paying a visit to the carousel at Golden Gate Park, keep in mind that parking is located east of Bowling Green Drive, which is by the lawn bowling building. You will not be able to park by the carousel or the Sharon Building.

Interesting Fact:

Since the carousel is such a historic wonder, the playground has become a popular place for event planning, such as parties and weddings, where food concession and other perks are offered.