The LeRoy King Carousel is open on Saturday and Sunday.
Please read our updated hours and pricing for more details.
The historic Looff carousel at the Children’s Creativity Museum – renamed in 2014 in honor of San Francisco Redevelopment Commissioner and civil rights advocate LeRoy King - is the crown jewel of Yerba Buena Gardens. It transports children (and children-at-heart!) to a bygone era characterized by the rush of organ music and a thrilling, imaginative ride.
Hours and Pricing:
- Open Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 am - 4:30 pm
- $5.00 per person (good for one ride)
- $3.00 for members (or with paid museum admission)
- Free for Museums for All families
1906 Looff Carousel History
Charles I.D. Looff was one of the premier carousel builders in the late nineteenth - early twentieth centuries. He is widely known for perfecting the Coney Island Style of carousel carving, which was originally pioneered by Carmel and Illions. Animals carved in this style usually featured vibrant and animated expressions along with jewels and elaborate paint work. Looff was born on May 24, 1852 in Bad Bramstedt, Duchy of Holstein, German Confederation. He later moved to New York City in 1870. In 1876, Looff built Coney Island’s first carousel. Charles Looff and his son, Arthur Looff, went on to build carousels, ferris wheels, and roller-coasters at his factory in Rhode Island. In 1909, Charles Looff built a 57-figure menagerie carousel for his daughter that was recently restored and still operates today at Riverfront Park in Spokane, WA.
A few years earlier (1906), Looff had just completed a project that was part of a greater endeavor to install carousels at West Coast amusement parks. The carousel, commissioned in 1904 for a small amusement park on Van Ness and Market Street in San Francisco, CA, was a fine example of the Coney-Island carousel style. Unfortunately, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire disrupted the planned installation and instead, the carousel was rerouted to Luna Park in Seattle, WA. Soon after installation, Luna Park suffered a devastating fire that destroyed all of the attractions except the carousel. Not deterred, Arthur Looff leased land at San Francisco’s burgeoning Playland at the Beach seaside amusement park for a carousel hippodrome. In 1913, the Luna Park carousel was dismantled and arrived at Playland. A year later, a magnificent Wurlitzer Style 165 Duplex Orchestral Band Organ arrived ready to accompany the carousel. The Playland Looff Carousel was a major attraction on The California coast, operating there for almost six decades.
By the summer of 1972, Playland had been sold for development and most of the rides had already been auctioned off in pieces. The Looff Merry-Go-Round however, was saved from destruction when renowned carousel collector Marriane Stevens purchased it for $67,000. The carousel’s Wurlitzer Style 165 Band Organ was also saved and currently accompanies another Looff carousel at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The Playland carousel was temporarily kept at a storage facility in New Mexico and in 1982, Stevens leased the carousel to Shoreline Village in Long Beach, CA. The carousel enjoyed immense popularity at the waterfront site for over ten years until the City and County of San Francisco purchased the carousel for $1 million in 1994.
In the summer of 1998, the carousel was dismantled and installed in its present location at Yerba Buena Gardens. On October 17th of that year, the City and County of San Francisco celebrated the grand opening of the restored Looff carousel. It was recognized as an irreplaceable piece of San Francisco history that had come full circle, not far from its original intended destination on Van Ness Street and Market.
In December of 2013, the carousel closed for renovations. The vertical shaft was replaced along with the crankshaft, connecting rods, and pinion gear. On Saturday, May 17, 2014, the carousel reopened to the public and was renamed in honor of San Francisco Redevelopment commissioner LeRoy King. King played a leading role in bringing the historic carousel back to San Francisco.