California's Fabulous Carousels and the Famed Looff

As you travel the length and depth of the Golden State, one of the great attractions that delights children and brings out the child in even adults is the colorful carousel. There are many recent versions of the authentically carved American originals such as the well-known Looff carousel, but aficionados seeking to see what the carousel fuss is about can visit several destinations and ride real Looff-made amusements.

Charles I.D. Looff was a German born immigrant who carved furniture in a Brooklyn factory and began shaping carousel animals from the scraps of wood he carted home with him after his shift. The assembled wooden horses and animals he artfully created onto a circular platform made up his first carousel ride in 1876. This became Coney Island's first carousel.

As the family grew, so did the empire of wooden carved carousels that the Looff family built, including the California collection. Looff established a factory in Long Beach, CA, and bought land at The Pike amusement park along the bay. He built his first California merry-go-round which was destroyed in a fire in 1943, but replaced with another Looff merry-go-round. Charles I. D. Looff died on July 1, 1918 in Long Beach but had his family to carry the legacy with a West Coast factory.

Arthur Looff, one of his sons, built Looff's Santa Monica Pier carousel in 1916. It was ornate and featured Byzantine and Moorish influences. Housed in Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome, the son and other family members also built Blue Streak Racer wooden roller coaster, The Whip and the Aeroscope rides for the Santa Monica Pier amusement park.

Other Looff carousels were built for cities Redondo Beach, Venice Beach, San Francisco, and the 100+ year old Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where a Looff Giant Dipper Roller Coaster also was designed and built.

Still available for a delightful ride are the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome and the Santa Cruz Looff Carousel and Roller Coaster listed as National Historic Landmarks in 1987.

The Looffs are some of California's classics, but not the only carousels providing joy and entertainment more than 100 years after the first were introduced.

Other carousel carvers have made their marks as well, including another German immigrant, Gustav A. Dentzel, who carved a carousel you can ride at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA. Some credit the Dentzel family of carousel builders with setting standards for which carousels are made today.

For those seeking fun carousel rides, you'll find them at many major malls in California, at most major theme parks, and even at The Pike in Long Beach. The cost of a ride is anywhere from free to around $3.

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