The Origins of 15 Delightful Carnival Rides

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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. 

15 Forgotten Summertime Activities We Need To Bring Back

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iStock/wundervisuals

Summer is here and it’s time to enjoy the sunshine. It’s also the perfect time to take a break from technology. Ditch your TV, shut down social media, and go outside. To do what, you might ask? Here are 15 summer activities from yesteryear that we should totally revive in popular culture.

1. Skipping rocks

Here’s a recipe for a classic summer: put down the video game, go outside, and throw rocks at water. Once you’ve mastered the flick of the wrist required to get the right amount of spin on your stone, it’s hard to stop counting how many skips you get on each throw.

2. Playing loggits

This game played in Tudor England was sort of like a cheap version of horseshoes. Players stuck a stick in the ground and took turns throwing other sticks at it. Whoever got their stick closest to the target won the game. Consider this activity more proof that all you need to have fun is some yard debris and a sunny day. 

3. Rolling a hoop

Two young girls rolling hoops in a London park in the 1930s
Fox Photos/Getty Images

You’ve probably seen this one in old-timey paintings, but chances are you’ve never rolled a hoop. The activity, also known as trundling a hoop, requires nothing more than a wooden hoop and a small wooden rod like a dowel. For centuries, kids amused themselves by running along and tapping the hoop with the rod to keep it rolling on a straight course. Easy to learn but tough to master, this one kept generations of kids out of mischief. 

4. Having an outdoor dance

“Schottische” is a traditional folk dance, much like a slower polka. It has long been a popular dance at Swedish midsummer festivals, which celebrate the season’s warmth and long daylight hours.

5. Growing giant vegetables

Giant pumpkins in a field in China
China Photos/Getty Images

Giant crop competitions appear in several state fairs. The tradition is particularly notable in Alaska, where longer sunlight hours during the summer make growing enormous produce easier. One Alaskan has grown seven world-record-sized vegetables, including a 76-pound cabbage! Most people no longer grow their own food, but taking pride in creating something uniquely huge is a vital American tradition.

6. Using bathing machines

Before string bikinis were considered appropriate beach attire, Victorian ladies frolicked in the surf within the confines of a bathing machine. These private carts gave women a sheltered space to change their clothes right on the water. Sure, most women are no longer afraid of being seen in a bathing suit, but wouldn’t it be nice to have your own private hut in the surf?

7. Heading to the summer farm

In agrarian Scandinavia, farmers traditionally lived on one farm during the winter and on another in the summer. When the weather warmed, farmers would take their livestock up into the mountains to feed in the meadows while they made repairs and grew hay on their home farm. Milkmaids would stay in the mountains for the summer months with the goats, sheep, and cows, milking them to make butter and cheese. A scenic rural getaway surrounded by dairy products? Yes, please. 

8. Sculpting things out of butter

Carving sculptures out of chilled butter is an American art that dates back to the 1870s, when a woman from Arkansas sculpted the main character of a 19th century Danish play in bas relief using brooms and sticks for Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition. The activity later became a staple of state fairs, and while it still goes on today, the practice could really use a revival in general culture. The best art is edible.

9. Playing a sidewalk game

Young girls play hopscotch on a sidewalk in the 1970s
Ian Tyas/Getty Images

In early 20th century New York City, kids played a popular street game called Skully. They would draw a large square on the asphalt or cement with several numbered boxes drawn inside the board, then flick bottle caps onto those targets in numerical order.

10. Having a garden party

Victorian England was known for its garden parties, when fancy socialites would gather on carefully manicured lawns to enjoy the nice weather. Guests enjoyed lawn tennis, live music, dancing, and races. While country estates are harder to come by these days, a little backyard lawn tennis followed by tea sandwiches is the perfect way to spend a summer’s day.

11. Taking a road trip

As America’s interstate highway system connected more places and more people bought cars, road trips became a popular vacation after World War II. However, higher gas prices and fewer vacation days eventually made the quintessential family getaway a little less popular. The freedom of the open road may be back within reach—at least for this summer.

12. Legally opening up a fire hydrant

Red fire hydrant gushing water
iStock/tfoxfoto

Flooding the street completely on a hot summer day is a no-no, but city slickers trapped in the heat can still create an urban oasis on a hot day. New York City, for one, offers fitted caps that funnel a gentle spray of water out of an opened hydrant—legally. Your block could be home to the tiniest of water parks.

13. Celebrating the summer solstice

Since ancient times, people have celebrated the longest day of the year with dancing, food, bonfires, and more. Try celebrating it the way they do in Sweden: Traditionally, Scandinavians clean out their houses and decorate them with flowers before the holiday.

14. Tuning into the radio

Vintage radio sitting on a mid-century dresser
iStock/Spiderstock

An integral part of the warm weather season is the so-called “song of summer,” that one tune that seemingly plays in the background wherever you go. Online radio isn’t the only way to find your summer jam. Listening to a favorite rock DJ is no longer how most people get their music, but there’s a bonus that comes with hauling out your old portable radio: You can take it to the beach.

15. Spreading a hoax about a sea monster

During the summer of 1937, newspapers in Nantucket began publishing accounts of a mysterious sea serpent that had come ashore, based on photographs of giant footprints on the beach. As it turned out, the New England seaside’s huge monster was an inflatable balloon, staged by a local puppeteer to draw attention to his shop.

Hotels.com Wants to Pay You $10,000 to Test Out Some of America’s Fanciest Hotel Pools

iStock/FTiare
iStock/FTiare

Getting paid to hang out by the pool all summer may sound like a job that's too good to be true. But popular hotel booking site Hotels.com is looking to hire one lucky "Poolhop" to do just that—and pay them $10,000 for their efforts.

According to the official job application, "The Poolhop’s responsibilities are simple; travel to some of the most incredible hotel pools across the country, sip on fruity drinks, snap some photos, sport a hotel robe, and report back to reward-loving Hotels.com fans."

Along with the $10,000 stipend, the Poolhop's perks will include paid airfare and accommodations at six hotels across the country, one year of Hotels.com Gold Rewards member status, and “eternal bragging rights.” The only serious requirements are that applicants be at least 21 years of age and a U.S. resident. They must also, of course, know how to swim.

Thrillist reports that the chosen hotels aren’t your average accommodations, either. The Poolhop will get to dive into luxury at Hawaii's Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, the Mondrian Los Angeles, the SLS Las Vegas, Colorado's Garden of the Gods Club and Resort, The William Vale Hotel in New York City, and Miami Beach's National Hotel.

“No one wants to be sitting at a desk all summer,” Katie Junod, general manager of the Hotels.com brand in North America, said. "There are so many incredible hotel pools to explore across the country, and we want to give travelers a first-hand look at the crème de la crème. And who better to live the hotel life than our very own Hotels.com Poolhop?”

The trip will take place during two weeks in August. All applications must be filled out and submitted by Tuesday, June 25th. And don't forget your sunscreen!

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