Writing Horseback

Apr 28 2010

California Carousel Horseback Riding Vacation

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A Horseback Riding Vacation at the Nut Tree Plaza in Vacaville, California on a Palomino Carousel Horse

A Horseback Riding Vacation at the Nut Tree Plaza in Vacaville, California on a Palomino Carousel Horse

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

Bay Carousel Horse at the Nut Tree Plaza, Vacaville, California  - Not Your Typical Horseback Riding Vacation

Bay Carousel Horse at the Nut Tree Plaza, Vacaville, California – Not Your Typical Horseback Riding Vacation

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

PIER 39

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

Hours:

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.

Nancy Brown on a horseback riding vacation on the Nut Tree Plaza Carousel in Vacaville, California

Nancy Brown on a horseback riding vacation on the Nut Tree Plaza Carousel in Vacaville, California

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.


One response so far

One Response to “California Carousel Horseback Riding Vacation”

  1. Trisha Milleron 28 Apr 2010 at 9:10 am

    Wow – great childhood memories there! We drove down the PCH a couple of years ago and stopped at a couple of Carousels along the way, yes I rode on them :)

    There’s something just so wonderfully nostalgic about the music too – just like the ice cream trucks we chased after as kids – I think they get their music from the same place – it’s like a siren call to relive those fun, lazy days of our youth. Sigh.

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