The Origins of 15 Delightful Carnival Rides

ThinkStock
ThinkStock

By Amanda Green

1. Ferris Wheel

The Ferris wheel made its debut at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. At least that’s what George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. always said. One year earlier, William Somers designed and built three wooden wheels—each measuring 50 feet in diameter—in New York and New Jersey. Both men owed a debt to the similar, yet awkwardly named, wooden “pleasure wheels” invented in 17th century Bulgaria.

2. Bumper Cars

Electric cars may seem like a modern advancement, but we’ve been driving them—and more importantly, crashing them—for a century. There's some dispute over who invented the road-raging carnival favorite, but one thing all scholars can agree on: how difficult early versions were to steer.

3. Carousel

Carousels with wooden horses were first used to give horseback riding lessons to Turkish and Arabian cavalry members. When crusaders returned to Europe, they brought the device back with them. The spinning attraction became especially popular in France, where 17th century riders tried to pierce a target while moving at high speed. The power source? Actual horses!

4. The Rollercoaster

Although the first patent went to LaMarcus Thompson in 1885, he wasn’t the first person to make a rollercoaster. Modern rollercoasters descended from “Russian Mountains,” winter sled rides that were popular in 17th century St. Petersburg. (Situated on icy hills, the sleds topped out at 200 feet!). Meanwhile, in the states, a Pennsylvanian mining company constructed a “gravity railroad” in 1827 to move coal. But on slow workdays, they charged thrill-seekers to take it for a spin.

5. Tunnel of Love

Unmarried couples of the late 19th century needed a place to canoodle in public. Love — or, at least hormones — found a way with the boom of so-called carnival "dark rides." As couples wound through the tunnel of love by water or tracks, they were treated to alternating moments of romance (to set the mood) and fright (to encourage an arm over the shoulder).

6. The Mechanical Bull

Until the 1970s, mechanical bulls were strictly used to train cowboys and rodeo competitors. Early practice bulls were basically large barrels suspended from four ropes (people could jostle the barrel by tugging on the ropes or using a pulley mechanism.) The mechanical version, however, was popularized by a Texas businessman who wanted to make his bars more popular.

7. The Whip

Patented in 1914, the first whip was made for Coney Island. The attraction—which tamely slings riders around an oval—is rare nowadays, but you can find original models scattered around some old-school parks.

8. The Wipeout

The giant, revolving ride that moves around, up, and down in a wave-like fashion was originally a German attraction known as the Trabant. American innovators brought a bigger and better version stateside, dubbed it The Wipeout, and the rest is history ... as long as you're 48" tall.

9. Tilt-a-Whirl

The ride that launched a thousand stomachaches sprang from the mind of woodworker and waterslide maker Herbert W. Sellner in 1926. It made its debut at the Minnesota State Fair one year later. The story goes that Sellner experimented with the ride’s design by placing a chair on his kitchen table, making his son sit in it, and then rocking the table. The ride is now manufactured in Texas.

10. The Scrambler

The Twist. The Gee Whizzer. The Grasscutter. That which we call a Scrambler has many names, because naming it The Ride That Looks Like It's Going To Collide Into Other Cars, AHHHHHH! is too cumbersome. This frightening/fun ride was first produced in the UK in 1959. Since then, each decade has given it a new name and pattern of motion, but the thrill's the same.

11. Log Flume

The modern log flume has been around since the early 20th century, albeit in more sedate versions. Old mill rides used tracks to guide boats through dark tunnels and over a few bunny hills. But as rollercoasters became wilder, those old mill rides had one direction to go: wetter. The splash-intensive modern versions first began surfacing in the early 1960s.

12. Wave Swinger

It’s easy to imagine someone looking at a carousel and thinking it may be tame. What if we took out the horses, replaced them with swings, and raised the whole thing a few hundred feet? Now we’re talking! Although swing rides were popularized in the 1970s, they’ve been around for decades. Postcards of California’s Idora Park show a wave swinger as early as 1908!

13. Shoot the Chute

People have been getting soaked on these flat-bottom boats since 1884. J.P. Newburg invented one that ran along a greased wooden track down the side of a hill in Rock Island, Illinois. It splash-landed in the Rock River and was tugged back to shore by an attendant. It’s been an amusement park staple—and a great way to cool off on summer days—ever since.

14. Helter Skelter

First seen at the UK's Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1906, the ride is a high tower with a curling slide nestled against it. Customers climb stairs inside the tower before riding down to the bottom.

15. Loop-O-Plane

Invented in 1933, the Loop-O-Plane ride consists of two “plane” compartments on either side of a tower that act as counterweights as they loop around one another. It was originally a flight simulator – the Cuban government even ordered some to train their pilots – but it didn’t really take off until civilians jumped in for a quick, fun ride. 

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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LEGO and IKEA Have Designed a New Line of Storage Boxes With the Help of Child Psychologists

IKEA
IKEA

Putting together IKEA furniture can remind grownups of their days playing with LEGO bricks. The two brands serve very different demographics, and now they've joined forces to create these ready-to-assemble products designed to appeal to both kids and adults.

As ThomasNet reports, BYGGLEK (Swedish for “to build and play") puts IKEA's practical, minimalist spin on the traditional LEGO toy. The key is a plastic storage bin featuring LEGO-compatible studs on its interior and exterior. Instead of using the floor as their play place and making rooms minefields for barefooted parents, kids can contain their creations within the box. When playtime is over, adults simply pick up the box holding the LEGO masterpiece and move it out of the way. The BYGGLEK boxes come in clean, neutral tones, so parents can show off their kids' handiwork on a canvas that fits the style of their home.

Opportunities for artistic expression for children often lead to headaches for the grownups who clean up after them. In order to make play a more organized experience without inhibiting creativity, LEGO and IKEA collaborated with child psychologists. The resulting product is a win for everyone: It allows parents to organize messes without deconstructing their child's work-in-progress.

IKEA and LEGO's BYGGLEK collection includes four products: A large box, a medium box, a set of three small boxes, and a basic 201-piece LEGO set for kids 5 and up. Prices range from $10 to $15; you can order yours today from IKEA.

[h/t ThomasNet]