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The Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round – Walt Disney’s Spots

I’m starting series of posts talking all about a number of places in Los Angeles that, while not a part of The Walt Disney Company, were prominent places for Walt Disney.

I’m super exited to share about the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round today.  For those of you not familiar with Griffith Park, it’s a HUGE park just north of Hollywood and south of Burbank where the Disney Studio Lot is.  Within Griffith Park is the Hollywood Sign, the Los Angeles Zoo, Travel Town, and even Walt Disney’s Train Barn (which we will visit in a future post).

The Merry-Go-Round has been in Griffith Park since the 1920’s and is a truly old-fashioned experience.  After buying your ticket from the concession stand which still offers classic summer fun fare — such as popcorn, hot dogs, and even cotton candy — you get in line to ride a true living antique.

The horses on this carousel are incredible.  Each one has unique details, but shows its age.  Touching these horses is physically connecting back to the children of all ages who has enjoyed this carousel over the past 100 years.

Unlike Disneyland, I don’t believe these horses have their own names, but they are all charming none the less.  Randy and I picked out two of our favorites and went for a whirl.  Listening to the classic organ as we went round and round was awesome.  I was surprised by how fast the merry-go-round went; much faster than Disneyland’s carousel.  I guess the old carousels had different ideas about just how thrilling the ride should be.  One of the funniest moments was some kids in front of us were using the safety straps to prod the horses to go faster.  The operator creaked over the PA and said “Don’t whip the horses, it hurts their feelings.”  I spent the next minute solid laughing as hard as I ever have.  Never underestimate the ride operator!

While the Disney connection may not be overtly apparent, as a Disneyland lover, this is one of the most important places in LA to me.  Many years ago, Walt Disney sat on one of the benches surrounding the carousel and dreamed of creating a magical place where everyone could be a kid again — Disneyland!  Inside the Merry Go Round structure, an original park bench from Walt’s time is preserved with a plaque commemorating Walt’s vision.

For those of you who can’t make it Griffith Park, an identical bench lives in the Opera House at Disneyland, along with an original Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round horse and popcorn cart.  This exhibit is a wonderful tribute to the place where Walt originally dreamed the impossible dream and set forth to build the Happiest Place on Earth.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Walt’s LA, where I retrace more of Walt’s footsteps across LA.

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