When I heard there was a Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio, I added it to my itinerary right away. I mean, who doesn’t love riding a merry-go-round? And having the opportunity to learn the history behind this iconic ride couldn’t be passed up. So, on our last morning in Sandusky, my friend Stephanie and her two kids along with my kids and I all set out to visit this museum, which is located in the city’s former post office building – an interesting twist to the museum’s history.
You see, the idea for the Merry-Go-Round Museum started in 1988 after the U.S. Postal Service introduced a set of four stamps featuring carousel animals. One of the animals, the King Armored horse by Daniel Muller (ca. 1925), is from neighboring Cedar Point’s Kiddieland carousel. To celebrate this honor, several local citizens organized a carousel display at the former post office building, which was now vacant. More than 2,000 people came from around the country to see the display and indulge their love of all things carousels.
The local citizens realized they were on to a great idea, and, two years later, on July 14, 1990, the Merry-Go-Round Museum opened to the public. Today, visitors can see a selection of animals designed and carved by some of the most famous carousel artists in the world, as well as tools of the trade, a working woodcarving shop and even ride on a fully restored Allan Herschell carousel (circa 1939) that holds court in the center of the museum.
With more than 200 carousel pieces in the museum’s collection, the exhibits are rotated periodically to showcase them all. At any one time, there are approximately 35 to 40 interesting artifacts in the museum – too many to name them all – but some of my favorites included the Charles Looff elephant (circa 1890) that was modeled after Indian elephants, a Mexican bucking bronco and the outside row stander by Charles Carmel (circa 1905). (FYI, I learned that the stationary animals on a carousel – usually on the outside row – are called standers, while those that move are called jumpers.) I also loved the collection of carousel Christmas ornaments, which were issued in 1988 by the Smithsonian Institute.
While the kids liked seeing the animals, they were not quite as interested as Stephanie and I in learning the history of how the animals came to be. Instead, they got caught up in the different tracing stations scattered throughout the museum. At each station, visitors will find paper and pencils. They can then place the paper over an image, bringing it to life by tracing it with the pencil. There are six stations in total.
The kids also loved speaking with Jay, one of the museum’s carvers, and listening to him explain how a carousel animal starts as a basic wood block and is transformed by the carver into an animal. I was fascinated to see how many individual pieces it took to create just one animal.
Finally, our visit culminated with a ride on the Allan Herschell carousel. We all scrambled aboard, looking for just the right animal for the journey. Would it be the sea monster? The ostrich? Or a traditional horse? My son actually took a ride on Wilbur, the pig from “Charlotte’s Web.” Looking closely, we even found Charlotte!
What animal would you choose to ride? Head to the Merry-Go-Round Museum and find out on your next visit to Sandusky. This family- and budget-friendly museum is not to be missed!
Disclosure: Karon and her family visited the Merry-Go-Round Museum as guests of the museum. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.