That’s why I was thrilled to learn that the New England Carousel Museum – a museum devoted to carousels and nothing else – is only a few hours from Boston, in Bristol, Connecticut. There are horses, art, history, music, and interactive experiences, all revolving around a rotating thing. Voluntary word game.
Technically at this point I have waited years to get to this place. In 2019, I told my friend – young adult author Sara Farizan, who likes nostalgic and playful things – that we should head to Bristol to see the museum. We started planning a trip in 2020, but the pandemic has started.
It wasn’t until this fall that it felt good to go, and I’m so glad we waited. After a year and a half, it was exciting – really happy – to do a carousel together in Connecticut.
But let me go back.
If you are going to be visiting the museum from the Boston area (or anywhere more than a few hours from Bristol), you may want to spend a night in a hotel. Why? Because the New England Carousel Museum is actually multiple museums in one building, and down the street there’s yet another narrowly focused museum, the American Clock & Watch Museum.
This is where we started.
I discovered the Clock & Watch Museum by searching on Google for the Carousel Museum. (They do their best to promote each other.) The museum is as described, a watch enthusiast’s paradise (watches are less important there at the moment, but museum director Patti Philippon says more watches from the collection will be on display in the future). There are 2,500 clocks in the collection, 1,500 timepieces of all kinds on display, and most clocks have roots in the Boston area. (Not just Waltham, I swear.)
Highlights included beautiful pocket watches (it was fun to watch timepieces getting smaller and smaller in parts), a small space focused on how watches were marketed, and an investigative route alphabetical for children. It contains information on the labor history of clocks – who made them, who sold them, and why the trade wasn’t always fair. This is all good for fans of the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation.
Unsurprisingly, my friend Sara, the nostalgia fan, loved the bedroom with the fancy clocks. I did it too. There was an ET alarm clock and a Porky Pig watch. It’s a big 80s vibe in there.
I realized pretty quickly that I was on borrowed time (pun intended) at the museum because the clocks ticking – oh yes, they ticking! – did not help my anxiety. If these noises, which include dings and dongs, make you feel like you’re late for something, plan to stay for an hour or less. (I liked the sounds a bit, but depending on the room and the sounds, I had my limits).
After our departure, we went to the Carousel Museum, the main attraction! We were the only ones there on a Thursday afternoon which meant we got special treatment from Cate Mahoney. She has served on the Board of Directors and has volunteered there for 30 years. I asked if she was still available for tours, and she said when asked, if she is free, she is happy to host a party in the building. She does a fun thing where she asks where you’re from, and after you tell her, she’ll tell you if there’s a working carousel where you live. She almost always knows the answer, in part because there aren’t many functioning carousels.
Even without his personal advice, we would have learned a ton about the history of rides, how they looked more like thrill rides, why some performers started dazzling their horses.
I was interested to learn that two of the carousel’s most famous businessmen were Stein & Goldstein, also known as Brooklyn-based artistic carousel makers Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein, who left Russia. for the United States and went from carving ladies’ combs to carving tall wooden horses.
No report, by the way. If there is and I haven’t been told, I would like my Goldstein Carousel inheritance, please.
Mahoney says there are probably around 200 horses and other carousel animals in the building. I asked, and she has a favorite.
âI particularly like the donkey. He’s a big donkey with big ears. It was made in France.
A very interesting part of the museum, which you can admire for a long time, was a look at the work of Jeffrey Briggs, who designed and built the carousel on Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston.
I have to admit I didn’t expect there to be a working carousel in the building, but when Mahoney took us to the back room and we saw it, I wanted to jump on it. . Honestly, after learning so much, it was special to pick a horse, listen to some really loud carousel music played by a 1920 organ machine, which is nearby, and just ride. It is best to do this at the end.
I mentioned that the Carousel Museum is a group of museums in one building. It’s 90% carousel-focused, but the structure is also home to the Fire Museum and the Greek Museum, the latter being a reproduction room established by a Greek heritage group from the region. These rooms don’t take long to visit and are particularly interesting, I imagine, if you’re a Connecticut resident.
That night we stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Bristol, where at the restaurant, surrounded by heat lamps, our masked waiter told us yes, Bristol could be known for the huge ESPN campus down the road, but the The clock and carousel museums are equally famous, at least locally. She said her father’s first job was cleaning the clocks. He was 10 years old. If you had grown up there it would have been a school trip.
We returned the next morning to our Boston area realities. No flying horses. No music. Only the regular ticking of our brain.
I had a deadline for the Globe. Sara, meanwhile, had to work on a draft of her next young adult novel, which is about a haunted pinball machine.
I didn’t tell him that I had searched on Google and that there was a new Pinball Hall of Fame museum in Las Vegas. The website says it’s “nothing but pinball for 25,000 square feet.” It sounds like a very specific plan for 2022.
New England Carousel Museum 95 Riverside Ave. Bristol, Connecticut, 860-585-5411. Hours: Wednesday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm; Admission: adults, $ 8; seniors and students with ID card, $ 7; children 2-14, $ 5; free for children under 2 years old.
American Museum of Clock and Watchmaking 100 Maple Street, Bristol, Connecticut, 860-583-6070. Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission: adults $ 8; seniors $ 7; students 6-17 or with a university ID card, $ 5; free for children 5 and under.