Burlington's City Park Is a Special Treat
How long has it been since you've ridden an old-fashioned carousel with its colorful animals, bright lights and cheerful organ music? If it's been too long, then it's time to plan a trip to City Park in Burlington.
I visited the 76-acre park located in downtown Burlington recently with a friend and all of our kids. The park features one of the rare and beautiful hand-painted Dentzel Menagerie Carousels, I held my toddler on her horse, I could almost smell the popcorn and cotton candy from amusement parks of my own childhood.
The Amusement Park
The City Park carousel is a special one. Built between 1906 and 1910, it is one of only 13 fully operational Dentzel carousels in the world. The carousel was purchased by the city of Burlington in 1948 from Forest Park Amusement Park in Genoa, Ohio, and has since become the centerpiece of one of the nicest municipal parks I have ever visited. The carousel doesn't just carry you around on horses. Filled with a veritable zoo, you find yourself staring as the carousel makes its way around to try to capture every detail of the ostriches, giraffes and cats with freshly-caught fish in their mouths.
The amusement park was such a treat for my Caroline. In addition to the carousel, the park has boat, plane and car rides, all designed for the littlest visitors. You have to be under 54 inches to ride all of these rides. But bigger kids can enjoy the carousel and the train, which takes you on three big loops over a creek and through some nice shady woods. All rides are a bargain at only 75 cents.
If the amusement park is your main reason for traveling to City Park, be sure to check the operation times before you get there. In the heat of the summer, the rides close at 1 p.m., and once school is in session, the amusement park is open on weekends up until Halloween.
Room to Roam
There's much more to City Park than the amusement park. The park covers a vast area, which gives your kids — and pets if they like to travel with you — plenty of room to run around and release all that pent-up energy. There are walking trails and paths that take you through some beautiful natural areas, and of course just fields of open space to explore. A playground near the amusement park has some of the tallest tube slides I've seen, as well as swings, climbing equipment and tunnels for kids to enjoy.
Of course, getting out to play sports is what many people use their city parks for, and City Park boasts 12 lighted tennis courts, a year-round aquatic center and five athletic fields. Whatever your preference, there's sure to be a place to play at this big park.
The park also has covered shelters with picnic tables and grills available, so picnicking is an easy task with all of these amenities. And if you'd rather not go to the trouble of packing a lunch, there are fast-food restaurants and other dining choices all around the park.
Beyond the Park
If all you know of Burlington is what you see on the drive down I-40, I highly recommend that you stay and play. We had a great day exploring the park and the surrounding city. The historic district of Burlington is filled with beautiful old homes, and the architecture of the buildings that fill the downtown makes for a very interesting walk.
We will definitely be making more trips to this great park, not only to let the kids and our highly energetic new puppy run until they can't run anymore, but also to ride the carousel a few more times. Like many of the magical fair rides, the carousel has an intrigue that never gets old. Although I was taking the typical parent's role of riding beside my child rather than getting my own horse, I still experienced the great sensation of being transported back to my carefree childhood days.
Burlington City Park
1333 Overbrook Road
Burlington, NC 27215
Directions: From Exit 143 on I-40, turn toward downtown Burlington. Turn right on Church Street, then right on Main Street. The parking lot is a shared one with the YMCA, and it is right at the amusement park area.