Fantastic Vintage French Carnival Rides On Governors Island

Image of New Yorkers riding on a French, vintage carousel, named the Velocipedes, that is run by the people bicycling the pedals located at each seat

If you have yet to make it over to Governors Island this summer, or are looking for an excuse to get on the ferry and bring your crew back to that most excellent NYC public space, the fabulous new Fete Paradiso offers all the incentive you need.

Just launched last weekend in Nolan Park–the pretty, shaded lawn flanked by all those yellow houses–Fete Paradiso features about a dozen insanely charming (and, also, sometimes just plain bizarre) vintage carousels and carnival rides, all of which first thrilled the folks in France back in the late 19th, early 20th centuries. 

Two women, dressed in French attire, sit at the ticket booth collecting money for tickets to ride the vintage carnival rides on Governor's Island

Image of a vintage carnival game, named the Music Hall Ball Guzzler, that is themed Charlie Chaplin and features carved caricatures of Chaplin and other celebrities from the late 1800's

Fete Paradiso Is An Instant Crowd Pleaser

The Fete Paradiso festival will be up and running every weekend from now through the end of September, and it is a crowd-pleaser in the best sense of the word. For kids, there are the rides themselves, most of which are in working order and range in thrill-level from sedate (the car carousel) to surprising zippy (the yellow dragon thing). All rides are a reasonable $3 each. There are also some antique, fully playable games on hand, like the Music-Hall Ball Guzzler, which features carved caricatures of period celebs like Charlie Chaplin and Josephine Baker. And everyone can appreciate Le Gamin's food stand, with its menu of sweet and savory crepes, croque monsieurs and the like, as well as the full bar, and a lovely, large pavilion (formerly a bumper car ride from 1900), upon which to drink and dine.

Image of 4 little girls riding a vintage seat flying carnival ride, where the momentum of the circling machine lifts the girls in their chairs up into the air

Vintage, French carnival themed statue of a centaur, a camel, and a horse on wooden platform for kids to sit on.

A Fascinating Scene in Nolan Park

But as flat-out fun as Fete Paradiso is–and judging by the shrieks and giggles I heard all afternoon, it is most definitely that–the whole set up is also just fascinating to wander through and look at, both from an aesthetic and a historical perspective. There's the bent-over, almost grotesque Mickey Mouse, for example, and the strange Inspector Centaur, and a giant cat with an apple in its mouth. I also like knowing that the bicycle carousel, from the late 1800s and one of only two such rides left in the world (you may have seen the other one in Woody Allen's After Midnight), was actually built not for casual thrill-seekers, but rather as a way to introduce wary Parisians to the pleasure of cycling, a then quite newfangled pastime. 

Vintage car carnival ride where small children can sit inside the vehicle and ride around within the carousel

French dragon themed carnival ride where people sit within the openings of the dragon back and ride round and round.

More Information: Fete Paradiso at Governor's Island

Fete Paradiso is open every Saturday and Sunday (and Labor Day) through September 29, and basically follow the hours of Governors Island itself, which are 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Visit Governor's Island's Calendar of Events online for lots more information and  free ferry schedule.

Within the Fete Paradiso carnival themed location on Governor's Island there is a pavilion where people can sit at the picnic table located underneath and have lunch

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