This Under-the-Radar U.S. Town Is Known as the ‘Carousel Capital of the World’

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Published: December 2, 2023
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Binghamton is a mid-size town in New York with about 50,000 residents. Some states throughout the country have earned nicknames due to their rich history. For example, Binghamton is the Carousel Capital of the World! 

The first carousel was built in the late 1800s. How did this small city in New York come to be famous for these amusement rides? Let’s talk about it!

The Carousel Capital of the World
With 6 enclosed carousels in the city, Binghamton, NY, is the Carousel Capital of the World.

The outskirts of this city have a beautiful collection of vintage merry-go-rounds. These timepieces will take you back in time to when people would count down the days until the circus came to town. 

A partner at Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company named George F. Johnson would provide the 20,000 workers with plenty of amenities. These hard-working people would make 52 million shoes a year during the Great Depression. 

George would host parades, and events, and give his employees free access to libraries, theaters, golf courses, and carousels. As the shoe company continued to improve the region, they placed six festive merry-go-rounds across Binghamton between 1919 and 1934. 

Carousel at Recreation Park in Binghamton, New York on an overcast winter morning

Many of the carousels here are enclosed.

©Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

The company saw this as so much more than simply treating their employees to a fun afternoon. Johnson believed that it was a great way to lead a happy life and give children access to entertainment. 

They would never charge a penny for people to take a ride on a carousel. That’s not to say you’d get in for free! Riders would have to donate one piece of litter to a nearby trash can before they could hop on one of the gorgeously carved animals. 

Where Are Carousels in Binghamton?

The enclosed joy ride has a blue dragon that's front and center

©Jaclyn Vernace/Shutterstock.com

To this day you can ride the carousels around the city! They’re open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year and are free of charge. Here is where they’re located:

Ross Park

Within the Ross Park Zoo, you can find a carousel from Johnson. While it was donated in 1920, the impeccable merry-go-round was built in the late 1800s! The ride is inside a wooden pavilion. 

There are 16 sides, allowing a nice view while you’re inside. There are 60 horses in total. They stand four abreast, all of which are jumping, while there are two chariots as well! There’s room for the whole family here! 

Recreation Park

Next is the carousel at Recreation Park. This one is quite similar to the ride at Ross Park. It was installed in 1925 and has 60 jumping horses. The stunning piece of art sits inside an equally-beautiful wood pavilion. 

The horses and cupola have been restored in recent years. There is an original organ that plays familiar songs that you can hear all around the park. This is a favorite spot for locations during the holiday season. It’s open on Saturdays throughout the month of December

For keen television watchers, this merry-go-round inspired the ninth-best episode of Twilight Zone. The episode is titled “Walking Distance” and it originally aired on October 30, 1959. 

Johnson Park

Installed in 1923, the carousel in Johnson City is the largest and most detailed out of all of the merry-go-rounds in Binghamton. It has 72 figurines for little ones to choose from when going for a ride! 

Each of these figures has stunning carvings. Around the carousel are the original panels and mirrors. Something that makes this stand out is that it’s inside a two-story tall cupola!

Highland Park

Another one of the carousels donated by the shoe company is now in Highland Park. Built in the mid-1920s, it was originally in En-Joie Park. In 1967, the carousel was moved to where it is today. 

It has a variety of animals for riders to choose from, including dogs, horses, and pigs! There are 36 figures to ride on and the center of the merry-go-round has mirrors surrounded by large light bulbs. 

West Endicott Park

Next, the carousel in West Endicott Park is a favorite among locals. It was purchased all the way back in. One of our readers told A to Z Animals that he went on this ride back in his youth. Now he and his girlfriend visit for their children to enjoy the merry-go-round!

This is a one-story carousel and wood makes up the majority of the exterior structure. Like the others, it has 16 sides and is within a pavilion. There are 34 horses, one pig, and one dog for riders to choose from. In 1992, this carousel was added to the National Historic Register.

George W. Johnson Park

Lastly, there is a carousel in Endicott that locals absolutely adore. While it has been fully restored, there is still obvious charm from the 1934-built ride. The restorations took place in 1994 and the city has taken excellent care of this local piece of pride and joy ever since! 

There are 36 horses in total, with three abreast and two chariots. In the late 1990s, a glass enclosure was added to keep the piece of moving art safe from the elements. During the Halloween season, it turns into a “Scarousel,” to get everyone in the holiday spirit! 

Final Thoughts

Family on carousel in amusement park

Most of the carousels in Binghamton are open to riders of all ages.

©Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/iStock via Getty Images

As you make your way from one carousel to another, be sure to pick up a card from each. After you’ve collected all of them, you can trade the cards in for a commemorative pin! Not only are these carousels fun for the whole family, but they’re full of the rich history of a company that just wanted people to have a good time and enjoy life! 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Marine 69-71 / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License / Original


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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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