It may be the allure of the colorful carved animals, the jaunty rhythms of the calliope, the hypnotic motion of the circling lights and figures, or all these things rolled together, but everyone enjoys a carousel. When the merry-go-round in question is an early 20th-century Dentzel Menagerie, the attraction is even greater. Just such a treasure is the centerpiece of the 75-acre Burlington City Park, which also features a miniature train, three other rides especially for young children, a playground and picnic facilities.
From Charlotte, Burlington is 114 miles, about a two-hour drive.
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Burlington’s merry-go-round was manufactured at the Dentzel Carousel Company in Philadelphia, circa 1906-1910 – during the “Golden Age” of merry-go-round construction. After thrilling riders at amusement parks in Ohio for roughly four decades, it was purchased by the city of Burlington in 1948 and it’s been attracting families ever since. Each year, thousands of riders go for a spin on the finely-restored carousel. The three-row merry-go-round includes 26 finely rendered horses, accented with glass eyes and real horse hair. Joining the glistening steeds are four each of ostriches, rabbits, cats, and pigs.
Rounding out the menagerie are a reindeer, giraffe, lion and tiger. Animals on the outside row are attached to stationery poles; those on the two inside rows are mounted on poles that cause them to move up and down as the carousel turns. All animals are hand carved from bass and poplar wood by Dentzel craftsmen who were especially noted for their skilled rendering of the veins and muscles of the animals. Adding to the dramatic appearance of the merry-go-round are mirrors, lights, and rounding boards featuring pastoral scenes. The carousel is sheltered under a handsome brick pavilion, and this glittering jewel of Americana is listed on the National Historic Register.
Another popular attraction at Burlington City Park is the train. A four-cylinder, three-speed, gas-powered engine pulls three passenger cars for a short trip along a tree-lined track and through the seemingly obligatory tunnel. For younger kids, the park also has plane, helicopter and boat rides. The playground also includes an assortment of slides, swings, see-saws and monkey bars.