Notice: Construction is ongoing in Riverfront Park and may impact some bicycle and pedestrian routes. Before you visit, please see the latest construction map for the best routes around redevelopment zones. Some attractions are currently unavailable due to redevelopment.
Opening spring 2018
One of the most visited attractions in Spokane welcomes all ages to feel like a kid again and take a ride on our famous and historic Looff Carrousel. This fun and favorite attraction creates and brings back memories.
Riverfront Park's 1909 Looff Carrousel is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of America's most beautiful and well preserved hand-carved wooden carrousels. Our Looff Carrousel proudly features 54 horses, 1 giraffe, 1 tiger, and 2 Chinese dragon chairs and a brass ring to catch. It can also accommodate wheelchairs.
Originally built as a Bavarian Beer Garden during Expo '74, the building that housed Riverfront Park's Looff Carrousel from 1975-2016 lacked the stature to properly display the Carrousel's rounding boards, and the absence of proper climate control was contributing to the degradation of the wood carvings. In 2014, Spokane citizens voted to re-house the Carrousel as part of a bond to redevelop Riverfront Park. The new, expanded Looff Carrousel building will allow for greater egress around the Carrousel itself, incorporate a larger event facility to better host everything from birthday parties to corporate events, provide expanded restrooms, concessions and a gift shop, as well as incorporate a climate controlled space to protect the longevity of the wood carvings. Learn more about the new Looff Carrousel building.
The City of Spokane's Park and Recreation Department's 1909 Looff Carrousel proudly celebrated its Centennial in 2009. This magnificent carrousel has been in the City of Spokane since it first began operation which is significant for both the city and this carrousel. The 54 horses, 1 giraffe, 1 tiger and 2 chariot benches are all original and have woven themselves into the fabric of our community. With over 300,000 riders a year, the carrousel is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in Spokane.
Charles Looff, a master craftsman, created the Carrousel as a wedding gift for his daughter Emma. On July 18, 1909, Riverfront Park's cherished Looff Carrousel began operation in Natatorium Park, an amusement park on the bank of the Spokane River on the west side of Spokane. After entertaining many generations of children and families, “The Nat” closed its doors for good in 1967 and the Carrousel was put in storage. In the early 1970s a plan was discussed to bring the Carrousel out of storage to display it during Expo 74, but, concerned that the crowds could damage the hand-carved Carrousel, it remained in storage for one more year and made its debut in Riverfront Park in 1975 in a building that had been constructed for Expo. Fortunately for the City's residents and visitors alike, the Carrousel has remained in Spokane all these years and, to date, all of the Carrousel's original figures are still making their rounds, and they look as good (or maybe even better) today as they did in 1909.
The Carrousel has a self guided walking tour available during hours of operation.
While you're watching a carousel from the sidelines, it's easy to miss the fact that all carousel horses are not created equal. In fact, not only is there a difference between horses, but also between sides of the same horse!
Our carousel rotates counter-clockwise, so all of the carousel animals are positioned with their right sides facing outward. This side (which is most visible to the public) is known as the romance side. The jewels, the most ornate carvings and the nicest artistry appear only on this side.
The left side of the horse is known as the money side. When the customers are getting on this side of the horse, they have already paid their money. Mounting a horse from the left side is standard throughout the world. Horses are trained for this, and may buck off a would-be rider attempting to mount from the other side.
The figures in the outside ring are not only the most intricate, they're also the largest. The inside ring figures are the smallest.
The difference in detail between the sides was probably done more for cost savings than for any other reason. The decreasing size of the horses in the inner rings provided a cost savings too, though it was somewhat of a necessity as the diameter of the inner rings is smaller than that of the outer ring.
No real statistics have been kept on our carrousel over the years. However, by making some assumptions based around the number of rides per hour, the number of riders per ride and the number of months per year and hours per day that the carrousel was open, the following statistics have been estimated.
How Many Riders?
It's been estimated our carrousel gave rides to about 13 million riders during its days at Nat Park. Since it opened in Riverfront Park in 1975, it has averaged about 275,000 riders per year, for an additional 10,450,000 riders, bringing the total to almost 23.5 million riders.
How Many Rides?
We estimate that an average ride on our carrousel runs for 3 1/2 minutes with about 20 riders on board. During that time, the carrousel makes 14 revolutions at a speed of 7mph at the outer row of the platform. Since it opened in 1909, our carrousel has been operated for more than 1,000,000 rides and nearly 15,000,000 revolutions.
How Many Miles?
In its 14 revolutions per ride, the outer rows of our carrousel travel more than four tenths of a mile. So during their lifetimes, our carousel figures have each travelled more than 435,000 miles, the distance to the moon and most of the way back. And if you multiply 435,000 miles times 56 (the number of figures on our carrousel), that comes to 24 1/2 million miles, or 1000 times around the equator of the earth.
How Many Lights?
There are 180 lights on our carrousel, and all of them turn with the carrousel. Each light is a 25 watt clear light bulb.
How Many Mirrors?
There are 14 mirrors on each of the carrousel's 20 rounding boards (the curved section on the overhead section of the carrousel). Another 40 mirrors turn with the center section of the carrousel and there are 11 stationary mirrors in the center section, for a total of 333 mirrors.
How Many Rings?
Our plastic rings are supposed to be returned after each ride is over. However, a few rings do leave the building. How many? According to the Dana Saad company (who provide the rings for our carousel), our carousel requires 50,000 rings each year. This means that there's about one ring taken for every 6 riders. So it's likely that about 3,500,000 rings have disappeared from our carousel since 1909! Occasionally when a concerned mother or father finds out that their children have borrowed a ring or two, they put the rings into an envelope (with no return address) and mail them back to the park.
How Many Jewels?
A total of 1056 jewels have been used to decorate our Coney Island style carrousel figures. They range in size from 1/2 inch to 2 inches. All of them are European stained glass jewels with the exception of Geri Giraffe. She is estimated to be older than the rest of the figures on our carousel, and is decorated with mirrored glass jewels.
How Many Tails?
Our carrousel has 54 horses which require real horsehair tails. These tails are estimated to require replacement every 10 years. Estimating 8 replacements plus the original tail for each figure, our carousel has required 486 tails since it was new.
How Many Pipes in the Band Organ?
Our Ruth band organ has over 300 pipes, the equivalent of a 60 piece band.
Special thanks to the Spokane Antique Carousel Society and Bette Largent, President of the National Carousel Association.