7 Great Carousels Near DC for Kids

Glen Echo Park's Dentzel Carousel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by David Stuck
Glen Echo Park's Dentzel Carousel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by David Stuck

The light-hearted music of the band organ, the blur of bright colors, and the squeals of delight that surround a merry-go-round are something we longed for in in DC during the summer of 2020.

Thankfully, in 2021 many carousels are reopening, and the chance for your child to jump on their favorite painted horse and gallop around an endless track is again a possibility.

Below are seven of our favorite DC-area carousels,  from the recently refurbished horses of Glen Echo Park's Dentzel Carousel, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer, to the whimsical humingbird seats that twirl at the edge of the Potomac River on the Carousel at National Harbor.

The Best Carousels Near DC for Kids

1. Burke Lake Park Carousel — Fairfax Station, VA

Tickets can be bought online or in person  Surrounded by the scent of pine needles and winding forest pathways sits the Burke Lake Carousel. After riding the park's delightful merry-go-round you have the choice of boarding a miniature train that takes you along the edge of a lake or stopping by the ice cream parlor for a summer treat. 

2. The Carousel at National Harbor — National Harbor, MD

Humingbirds, tigers, and eagles twirl next to the sparkling Potomac River at the National Harbor's carousel. The stunning Capital Wheel, soaring 180 feet high with views of the Washington Monument, towers nearby, and a stop for ice cream and other goodies from the waterfront shops round out a perfect summer afternoon.

3. Clemyjontri Carousel — McLean, VA

Clemyjontri Park is filled to the brim with a rainbow of colorful slides, swings, and climbers, and the merry-go-round in the middle of it all provides a welcome breeze on a hot summer afternoon. Fourteen horses, chariots, and a spinning teacup add to the colorful scene. Since this carousel is recessed to ground level it is wheelchair accessible, as is the playground that surrounds it. 

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Ride along on the 1920s-era Herschell Carousel in Herndon. Photo by Don Sweeney

4. Frying Pan Park's Herschell Carousel — Herndon, VA

Animal lovers will have a ball at this carousel.  After riding the wooden horses on the 1920s Herschell merry-go-round, skip across the dirt road to check out the real horses living on the farm, along with pigs, goats, turkeys, and even peacocks.  A visit to this carousel with a small playground, friendly farm animals, and wagon rides cruising by is sure to keep the kids entertained.  

5. Glen Echo Park's Dentzel Carousel — Glen Echo, MD

Ride into history on this carousel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021. After undergoing a huge restoration, the 52 animals, including ostriches, lions, and giraffes are polished and ready to take you on a ride that is sure to have kids and parents hollering with glee.  

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Delight in the multicolored horses at Watkins Regional Park's Chesapeake Carousel. Photo courtesy of M-NCPPC, Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George’s County

6. Watkins Regional Park's Chesapeake Carousel —  Upper Marlboro, MD

Follow the yellow brick road to Watkins Regional Park's whimsical merry-go-round, where you can hop on rabbits, sea horses, and ostriches.  The merry-go-round is believed to have been originally created at the turn of the century.  A C.P. Huntington replica miniature train clickety clacks along the track nearby and the playground, based on  L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," includes ruby red slipper slides and green emerald climbing structures.  

7. Wheaton Regional Park's Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel — Wheaton, MD

The chimes of the band organ can be heard the minute you step out of the car, and if that doesn't get your kids running, then the sound of the miniature train chugging out of a nearby tunnel will. Built in 1915, the Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel was located on the National Mall until 1981, when it was moved to Wheaton's Regional Park. Kids can choose between 33 handcarved horses and three zebras. After a whirl, don't forget the playground up the hill and the Brookside Gardens next door, where butterflies and turtles are sure to make an appearance. 

Keep an eye on

Two carousels to keep an eye on:  Smithsonian's National Zoo Speedwell Conservation Carousel and the Carousel on the National Mall.

Although these two merry-go-rounds remain closed as of June 2021, the fun diversity of animal seats—from an elephant to an armadillo—at the National Zoo's carousel, and the historic views of the National Mall's merry-go-round, are incredible. 

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