Merry-Go-Round vs. Carousel: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between a carousel and merry-go-round is not dissimilar to the difference between a car and an automobile. Both are vehicles that move in some way, but they are used differently in their context.

A merry-go-round and carousel are among the most popular amusement park rides. They are both circular and have horses or other animals that go up and down as the ride spins around. While they may appear the same, there are some critical differences between them.

So, what are the differences between a merry-go-round and a carousel? Merry-go-rounds typically have a platform in the center for riders to stand on, while carousels have seats for riders to sit in. Merry-go-rounds also typically have only one row of animals, while carousels have multiple rows of animals. Finally, merry-go-rounds spin around clockwise, while carousels spin around counterclockwise.

This blog post discusses everything you need to know about a merry-go-round and carousel, including the key differences between the two.

What Is a Merry-Go-Round?

A merry-go-round is basically a circular platform with animals, or other figures that go up and down as the platform spins around. Merry-go-rounds are also sometimes called carousels, but there are some critical differences between the two which we will discuss later.

Merry-go-rounds have been around for centuries and were originally powered by people or animals walking or running in a circle to turn the platform. Nowadays, they are powered by electricity.

A merry go round.
A merry-go-round is basically a circular platform with animals, or other figures that go up and down as the platform spins around.

Merry-go-rounds typically have a platform in the center for riders to stand on, and only one row of animals or figures. The animals or figures go up and down as the platform spins around.

Understanding the History of the Merry-Go-Round

The first merry-go-round was invented in the early 17th century by a French gentleman named Samuel Bleriot. It was a wooden platform with horses attached to posts by leather straps.

This early version of the merry-go-round was powered by people or animals walking or running in a circle to turn the platform.

The first merry-go-round powered by electricity was invented in 1876 by William Foster and Thomas Earl. It was called the “Earl’s Court Merry-Go-Round” and was displayed at the Earl’s Court Exhibition in London.

A merry go round by the sea.
The early version of the merry-go-round was powered by people or animals walking or running in a circle to turn the platform.

This early version of the merry-go-round had gas lamps to light up the platform at night. It was a popular attraction and led to the invention of more powered merry-go-rounds.

The first Merry-Go-Round in an American amusement park was built in Coney Island, New York, in 1884. It was called the “Ocean Wave” and featured wooden horses that went up and down on a circular platform.

Merry-go-rounds became increasingly popular in America in the early 20th century. By the mid-1900s, over 25,000 merry-go-rounds were operating in amusement parks across the country.

What Is a Carousel?

Carousels closely resemble merry-go-rounds, but the two have some critical differences. Carousels typically have multiple rows of animals or figures, and riders sit in seats instead of standing on a platform.

Carousels also spin around counterclockwise, while merry-go-rounds spin around clockwise.

A happy girl on a carousel
Carousels typically have multiple rows of animals or figures, and riders sit in seats instead of standing on a platform.

The first carousel was invented in the early 18th century, around the same time as the merry-go-round. It was created by an American engineer named Thomas Bradshaw.

This early version of the carousel had only two rows of animals, and it was powered by people or animals walking or running in a circle to turn the platform.

The first carousel powered by electricity was invented in 1892 by Charles Sumner Greene. It was called the “Coon-Go-Round and featured carved wooden animals that went up and down on a circular platform.

This early version of the carousel was also powered by people or animals walking or running in a circle to turn the platform.

The first carousel in an American amusement park was built in Coney Island, New York, in 1906. It was called the “Dippy Dipper” and featured 24 wooden horses that went up and down on a circular platform.

Carousels became increasingly popular in America in the early 20th century. By the mid-1900s, over 5,000 carousels were operating in amusement parks across the country.

Critical Differences Between Merry-Go-Rounds and Carousels

Merry-go-rounds and carousels are similar in many ways, but there are some critical differences between the two.

1. Platform

Merry-go-rounds typically have a platform in the center for riders to stand on, while carousels have seats for riders to sit in. Merry-go-rounds also typically have only one row of animals or figures, while carousels have multiple rows.

The animals or figures on a merry-go-round go up and down as the platform spins around, while the animals or figures on a carousel go up and down as the seats spin around.

2. Direction of Rotation

Merry-go-rounds typically rotate clockwise, while carousels rotate counterclockwise. Rarely will you find a carousel or merry-go-round that rotates in the opposite direction of its traditional counterpart.

However, the direction of movement doesn’t seem to matter because it doesn’t affect the joy of the ride.

3. Power Source

Most early versions of merry-go-rounds and carousels were powered by people or animals walking or running in a circle to turn the platform. The first electric merry-go-round was invented in 1876, and the first electric carousel was invented in 1892.

4. Number of Rows

Merry-go-rounds typically have only one row of animals or figures, while carousels have multiple rows. The first carousel is thought to have had two rows, but most carousels today have three or more rows.

5. Popularity

Merry-go-rounds were more popular than carousels in the early 20th century, but carousels eventually overtook merry-go-rounds in popularity. By the mid-1900s, over 25,000 merry-go-rounds and over 5,000 carousels were operating in amusement parks across the United States.

Kids on a merry go round.
Merry-go-rounds were more popular than carousels in the early 20th century, but carousels eventually overtook merry-go-rounds in popularity

How Are Merry-Go-Rounds and Carousels Similar?

While these two rides differ in several ways, they are also similar in many ways. In fact, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term carousel is actually a synonym for the word merry-go-round.

Merry-go-rounds and carousels are both rides that feature animals or figures that go up and down on a rotating platform. They are also both powered by electricity, and they are both popular amusement park rides.

So, while there are some key differences between merry-go-rounds and carousels, they are still very similar rides. If you’re looking for a fun, spinning ride at the amusement park, you really can’t go wrong with either one!

How Do the Horses on the Carousel Go Up and Down?

The carousel revolves around a stationary center made of wood or metal. The horses or other figures are attached to the outer edge of the rotating platform and arranged in rows. As the carousel rotates, the horses go up and down on a circular track.

The rising and falling motion is caused by a combination of centrifugal force and gravity. As the carousel spins faster, the horses are pushed outward by centrifugal force.

At the same time, gravity is pulling the horses downward. The result is an up-and-down motion that simulates the experience of galloping on a horse.

Do Carousels Go Faster Than Merry-Go-Rounds?

Merry-go-rounds and carousels both rotate at a relatively slow speed, usually around 4-6 revolutions per minute. This slow speed is necessary to prevent the riders from feeling dizzy or nauseous.

However, carousels typically rotate slightly faster than merry-go-rounds. This is because carousels have more rows of horses or figures, so each horse or figure has a shorter distance to travel as the carousel rotates.

Merry-go-rounds typically have only one row of animals or figures, so each animal or figure has a longer distance to travel.

Does a Merry-Go-Round Accelerate?

Yes, a typical merry-go-round accelerates as it rotates. The rotation speed is usually slow at first, but it gradually increases as the ride continues.

This acceleration is caused by centrifugal force. As the platform of the merry-go-round rotates, the riders are pushed outward by centrifugal force. This force increases as the speed of the rotation increases.

The acceleration of the merry-go-round is usually gradual, so riders don’t feel dizzy or nauseous. However, some thrill seekers may enjoy the feeling of being quickly spun around.

For these riders, there are now merry-go-rounds that can rotate at high speeds of up to 24 revolutions per minute!

Are Merry-Go-Rounds Safe?

Yes, merry-go-rounds are safe rides for people of all ages. They are powered by electricity, so there is no risk of a fire or explosion. The slow speed of the rotation also prevents riders from feeling dizzy or nauseous.

A horse carousel.
Riders should also use caution when getting on and off the ride, as there is a risk of falling.

However, there is always a risk of injury when riding any amusement park ride. Riders must follow all posted safety rules and guidelines to reduce the risk of injury. Riders should also use caution when getting on and off the ride, as there is a risk of falling.

Which Horse on a Carousel Moves the Fastest?

The horses on the outside of the carousel cover more distance than the horses on the inside, so they appear to be moving faster. However, all horses on a carousel travel at the same speed.

This is because carousels are designed to move the horses up and down on a circular track as the platform rotates.

The radius of the track determines the distance that each horse travels. The horses on the outside of the track have a longer radius, so they travel a greater distance.

Summary

Merry-go-rounds and carousels are both types of amusement park rides that rotate around a central point. They each have their own unique features, but they are also similar in many ways.

Both merry-go-rounds and carousels can provide fun for people of all ages. If you’re looking for a fun family activity, consider visiting an amusement park with one of these rides.

Last update on 2023-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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