Parent Q&A

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  • Tilden Park Carousel Party

    May 22, 2022

    I am planning to host my son's second birthday party at Tilden Park Carousel this summer and would like to ask if anyone has held a party there and can share their experience? If anyone has recommendations for catering for toddlers and their parents that would be appreciated as well.  Also rentals if anyone has experience/suggestions for a soft play rental and outdoor add-ons (i.e. Connect Four, Corn Hole, outdoor games) that would be very helpful! Thanks in advance.

    My experience is that when we tried a party there there were actually so many yellow jackets that we had to abandon the location completely. Please test it out with a picnic or something in advance. I don’t know about catering or rentals or regulations in that regard because we just brought our own food and games. Check the East Bay Regional Parks website to see if there are any restrictions on rentals.

    Good afternoon.  I hope my experience can help, although it was pre-pandemic. My husband and I rented the picnic area closest to the Carousel through East Bay Regional Parks. It was a joint birthday party for our two oldest who were turning 4 and 1 at the time. We didn't rent any party services. We had a potato sack race using inexpensive pillowcases we bought from Target. We also had a 3 legged race, and brought sports equipment. We also had a table for an easy art project. As far as food, we grilled hotdogs (regular and vegan), burgers, chips, fruit salad, some other side dish and a cake. We bought everything from Costco. We purchased a bunch of carousel tickets and the kids could ride as much as they wanted. Best wishes with your party!

    We held our daughter's six-year birthday party at the Tilden Carousel this January, and had a really good experience! We didn't go with any of the catering or food options that the carousel offers, and instead brought a bunch of snacks, treats, and sandwiches that we ordered from a favorite restaurant (not close to Tilden). We reserved the big space that has several picnic tables arranged around a tree, and there was a lot of room for kids to run around there. The picnic tables offer a lot of shaded seating. We brought our own corn hole, parachute, and bubbles (we brought a kiddie pool and a hula hoop so kids could have a bubble made around them), and also set up some craft activities on the picnic tables. I think they discourage any kind of bouncy house because there are pine needles on the ground that might puncture an inflatable. The party package comes with either cotton candy or popcorn, but we didn't want either and they let us get extra carousel tickets instead. My only negative was that communication was lacking up to our party date, but when we got there everything was good to go.

  • I have a toddler very keen on going on a carousel or kids train. Of course, with COVID-19, all the ones that I know about are closed. I wonder if there are any parks or businesses that have social distancing  measures in place and are open? We live in Oakland but are happy to make a special trip far afield if it involves a carousel.

    The one at Pier 39.  We went early one day to watch the sea lions and got suckered in.  It's $5 a person and everyone has to wear gloves.  It was super short so we had a very pissed off 3 year old when it was over because he was just getting into it.

    Also by the time we had waited in line and ridden, Pier 39 was full of people, many of whom were not masking.  

     Fairyland is now open - you have to reserve slots in advance.

    Tilden park has one, but it appears it's closed for covid.
    Pier 39 has one.  Can't tell if it's open.  And Santa Cruz has probably the best one there is. 

    Check out Nut Tree plaza in Vacaville! They have a cute carousel and a kids train in the same area! Not sure if it's open during Covid, but worth a drive! 

    While Fairyland has reopened, all the rides are closed. Not sure I understand the logic behind that, but there you go. We went to Classic Pumpkin Patch in Castro Valley that had some small carnival rides, but no carousel. Everyone was masked and there was good sanitation.

    Train Town in downtown Sonoma is a tiny small kid-friendly amusement park with a real steam engine that goes around the park, a Carousel, small roller coaster, small up and down plane ride and animals to feed (llamas, goats) with the majority of the rides geared to smaller kids.  The train ride is super fun and the park has picnic tables if you want to bring lunch.  Not sure they are open now but when they are it's worth a trip.

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Questions Related Pages

Where to take carousel-obsessed toddler?

Nov 2011

I have a carousel- (and train-)obsessed toddler. So I'm looking for places to take her on carousel rides, that preferably won't break the bank. Currently not a zoo member, so that's not such a good option. But most other places seem to charge $2 a pop, and to charge for the adult who accompanies the child on the carousel -- that adds up quickly! Anyone know of good, less-expensive carousels? What about Fairyland? I read something online about there being long lines for rides there, and also that adults are not allowed at all on the rides. If one or both of these apply to the carousel(s) at Fairyland, then it wouldn't be a good option for us. But otherwise, I thought it might be worth a shot, perhaps on a weekday? Any other thoughts on carousel options also welcome, including ideas for where there are playgrounds with playground-type carousels/merrygorounds. Any of those in the East Bay? -round and round and broke!

Fairyland is currently $8 per person, and well worth it. Great for kids up to about age 7. Annual passes available. They have an itty-bitty carousel and a quite small train ride as well as a bigger carousel (but still much smaller than the one at the Oakland Zoo, for example). Rides are free. So if you plan a full or half day of fun, it is a good deal. anon

Fairyland has two carousels, one for toddlers and one for slightly bigger kids. The big kid one does not allow adults, but the one for tiny kids allows (requires?) parents to stand alongside their kids. It is very small - maybe 6 seats, but you get as many rides as you want w/ the price of admission. We always go on weekday mornings and lines are negligible or nonexistent. On overcast days, my 2 year-old just rides over and over again.

Fairyland also has a little train - sometimes a longer line to get on, and the views from the train are pretty unspectacular, but my kid loves it anyway. Good luck! Mom of a toddler

Consider the cost of getting around the bay area and go for the closest carousel possible. Locations:

East Bay: Tilden Park (my favorite! I face paint up there sometimes too); Oakland Zoo ; Kennedy Park in Hayward; Pixieland in Concord.

San Francisco: Zeum; Golden Gate Park /Sharon Meadows; SF Zoo; Also ask about buying multiple tix in advance; some carousels may offer a little discount that way.

Note: I've never worked for the Oakland zoo, but membership is fab for young families! If you can't afford one, ask family to pool their resources and get you a year's membership as a holiday present. It includes several ride tix, guest passes, and FREE PARKING. The love of carousels may wax and wane, but there's so much to learn and do up at the zoo - visit animals, ride the little train, Zoo Lights, bring a friend along with your membership pass - plus that nice walk up and down hills that makes for a long, peaceful night of sleep

Another important aspect is that Oakland Zoo has a reciprocal membership program with many other institutions and activities. Alana Dill, Face Painter

Kennedy Park in Hayward Surprisingly quick drive - takes me approx. 25 min from Rockridge (esp. considering it takes 30 min to get to Little Farm/Tilden). And they have a train too.

And of course the carousel in Tilden

where to find small coin-op car or carousel ride?

Feb 2007

My 2 year old is a merry-go-round nut. Going to tilden or the zoo isn't always doable and after seeing a video of a friend she's longing for a spin on one of those tiny coin-op merry-go- round or car rides that seemed ubiquitous in my youth- you know outside supermarkets and the like. Anyone have one they frequent? dp

''Big Longs'' in the shopping center at 51st and Broadway in Oakland has a coin- operated pony. If you have been parenting/living without the wonder that is Big Longs you will enjoy discovering that too. Big Longs fan

Try Emery Bay Public Market. There's a merry-go-around plus two other little rides next to the ball pit. Mother of a carousel nut too

Hi - my toddler and I recently rode on coin operated rides at two malls - Newpark Mall in Newark (off 880) and the Great Mall in Milpitas. Good Luck!

Our kids love going to the EmeryBay Marketplace. It's kind of divey but when you don't care, it works. It's one place we can keep them busy with quarter rides (always three to choose from, mostly of the car and horse variety), a ball pit, quarter toy dispensers and food for everyone. The kids can eat quesadillas and we can have Korean BBQ. Otherwise we'd never eat out. oh and Rockridge Shopping Center has a horse ride in front of Long's. me