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Looking for a treat in the lead-up to Christmas? Free rides on the Civic merry-go-round are here!

Looking for a treat in the lead-up to Christmas? Free rides on the Civic merry-go-round are here!

If you’re looking for a magical activity for the kids in the lead-up to Christmas, is there anything more special than a free ride on the Civic merry-go-round?

As part of Christmas in the City celebrations in Canberra, the City Renewal Authority is offering free rides on the carousel from 1-24 December 2022 for the young and young at heart.

The carousel lit up by Christmas lights. Photo: Daryl Kolsky

The historic merry-go-round, with its own inbuilt organ, has been a Canberra icon since 1974 — but it’s actually been delighting kids for more than a century: through two major wars, and the reign of four kings and one queen.


Designer and builder Herbert Thomson of Armadale, Victoria, created the carousel for German showman Anton Weniger in 1913. The massive organ, 52 hand-carved wooden horses and two hand-carved elephants were imported from Germany, while the twisted brass upright poles were made in Scotland.

It was a much-loved ride on the St. Kilda esplanade for 60 years before being sold at auction to the residents of Canberra for $40,000.

The merry-go-round decorated as part of the city’s bicentenary celebrations in 1988. Photo: Archives ACT

Getting the merry-go-round to Canberra from Melbourne was a mammoth task, and it was proposed that the ride be located at the intersection of Petrie and Alinga Streets. The logistics involved no horsing around and the city shut down major arterial roads for the carousel’s arrival. Some fancy landscaping was also created to highlight the capital’s newest feature. 

Over the years, the structure has undergone numerous restorations to keep its original features intact. Some of our favourite details are the names of the horses painted on their bridles. They’re named after famous race horses of the early 1900s, including Gallant Rob, King Carnival, Aristocat, Pharlap, Comic Court and Bold John. 

Pharlap the carousel horse named after the champion racehorse.

One of the seated elephants (which we love for its inclusivity) was named Queenie, after the much-loved Indian elephant at the Melbourne Zoo, who provided 500 rides daily to visitors of the zoo for over four decades. 

While kids and parents ride free 1-24 December, there are even more offers every day of December for parents via the City Renewal Authority’s online Advent calendar.


A new discount or deal launches every day across retail, hospitality, entertainment, arts, relaxation and more. We’ve seen a sneak preview of the calendar which includes Endota Spa, Kingpin, Pop Canberra and Craft ACT. So good!

To grab your offer every day of December, head to the Christmas in the City website.

Free rides on the merry-go-round, Monday to Wednesday 11.30am–2.30pm, Thursday 10am–4pm or Saturday and Sunday 11am–3pm.

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A Q! News x City Renewal Authority article

About the Author: Holly Winchester

Part Jennifer Coolidge, part Jennifer Garner (gaudy and geeky), Holly idolises Dolly Parton and Princess Di and loves NRL. When she's not creating killer content, you’ll find Holly at the Maccas drive thru getting her chai latte fix or buying 1990s memorabilia for the walls of her Googong home. Specialist subject: the Woolies carpark.