Everyone loves amusement parks. They’re full of candy, foods you only consume at amusement parks, games and rides to thrill, scare, and make you smile. But for me, no trip to an amusement park is complete unless I’ve ridden the Ferris wheel. Even as a child, the Ferris wheel was my first stop upon arriving at a park. I found it relieved the stresses of the long car ride, and allowed me to strategically plot out the day’s adventure in the park from hundreds of feet above it. I still love them and lucky for me there are some amazing ones scattered about the country – all unique in their own way. Here’s a short list of some of the best.
Six Flags of St. Louis
The Colossus will always hold a dear place in my heart, as it was the first Ferris wheel I ever road and where my love affair with them began. In spite of the upgrades it’s received since its debut in 1984, it still takes me back to my youth, with its open-air gondolas that gently rock back and forth.
It’s aptly named as it has 32 gondolas that hold up to 10 passengers each, so it may take a while to load. But trust me, it’s worth the wait. Total ride time is a whopping 15 minutes and at 180 feet tall, it gives incredible views that reach far beyond the park itself.
The Linq Hotel
Las Vegas, NV
In order to stand out amongst the massive casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation set out to construct the world’s tallest Ferris wheel at its Linq Hotel. They achieved just that when the High Roller Observation Wheel debuted in 2014 at an amazing 550 feet tall. But not content to allow the size to draw in riders, they took it many steps further with gondolas large enough to host yoga classes, corporate events and of course since it is located in Las Vegas, there is a “bar car” that features a happy hour with an open bar.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA
Pacific Wheel is undoubtedly my favorite Wheel on the list. Situated right on the Santa Monica Pier, on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, it offers a unique experience from the moment you load into one of its gondolas. Rising 130 feet above the Pier, its beautiful view of Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean mixes with the crisp ocean air, as the sound of laughter from kids playing games at the Park below creates an intoxicating mix for your senses.
Arguably the best part is that Pacific Wheel holds the unique distinction of being the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. Considering how hard it is nowadays to find things to enjoy that aren’t destructive to the environment, it feels good to take a ride in the sky with a clear conscience.
Chicago has the most underrated skyline in the country and there’s no better way to appreciate it than aboard the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. Named in honor of the Pier’s 100th Anniversary in 2016, it is definitely the new kid on the block.
The cabins are small, fitting just eight people, allowing for a more intimate experience with other riders. They are also two-sided which is extremely rare, but make for quick loading and unloading of passengers. Most importantly the designers took into account Chicago’s well-earned nickname of “The Windy City” so the Wheel was built to withstand winds of 115 miles per hour, and equipped with safety glass capable of weathering intense storms. Those features also allow it to stay open year round, making its riders feel safe and sound.
A little tip – they offer a VIP experience. It sounds very adult but it’s the type of thing I dreamed of as a kid. It costs a bit more, but you get to skip to the front of the line and be seated in one of the cabins with a glass bottom creating a truly unique visual experience.
Coney Island is a place every tourist seems to have heard of, but too few venture out to visit. If there were ever an excuse to make the hour-long trek by subway to this New York City treasure it’s the Wonder Wheel.
Built in 1920, it is far and away the oldest on this list, but don’t let its old age fool you. Any Ferris wheel built by a company called The Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company is going to be eccentric, and Wonder Wheel does not disappoint. Standing 150 feet tall it has 24 gondolas, of which 16 are “swinging”, while the remaining 8 are stationary. As the wheel turns, the “swinging” gondolas slide on a track toward the center of the wheel, before eventually gliding back toward the circumference as the wheel continues its rotation. It’s like a ride within a ride, and it is awesome.