Things to Do in the Carousel District: Mansfield, Ohio
May 29, 2019
by Laure Justice
The North Central Ohio area in the United States may not be one of the first places that come to mind when you’re planning a trip, but the Carousel District in Mansfield, Ohio delivers a fun and memorable experience. A stunning, hand-carved carousel is at the heart of this charming district, plus there’s a lot more to see and do in the area. The Carousel Park in the Carousel District is named for the Ohio county where Mansfield is located, Richland, and it offers guests classic charm, things to do, and some unique places to grab a bite to eat.
Richland Carousel Park in Mansfield, Ohio
Richland Carousel Park revolves around the hand-carved carousel. The carousel features vibrant colors, whimsical hand-carved horses, zoo animals and a fantasy creature that’s known as the mythical hippocampus. There are also bench-style seats for anyone who wants to ride the carousel without getting on one of the animals. Take a seat on one of the outer-row animals for a racing effect where you can feel the surge of the carousel animal as it moves on a revolving mechanism. Or, slide to one of the inner rows for a more sedate ride on the stationary animals. A total of 52 animals run the race around the carousel each day, surrounded by twinkling lights and the sound of classic calliope music drifting through the air.
This style of hand-carved carousel went out of vogue in the United States in the 1930s, and this was the first of its kind when it opened in 1991, reviving the popular carousel experience. Tickets to ride the carousel are picked up in the gift shop that’s beside the carousel, and visitors who don’t want to ride at all can relax in the old-style rocking chairs that surround the carousel. Everything about a visit to the carousel evokes a feeling of whimsy, childhood magic, and old-time charm.
Little Buckeye Children’s Museum
From the Richland Carousel Park, the Little Buckeye Children’s Museum is just a short walk, and it’s a good spot to visit if you want to add some more kid-friendly adventure to your outing. It welcomes children from the age of two through ten, but adults get to join the fun and play, too. This kids’ museum has about 40 exhibits and they’re set up to encourage interactive learning. The exhibits are designed to mimic everyday experiences so young children feel at ease and familiar when exploring at the museum.
Want to plan a child’s birthday party while you’re in the area? You can reserve the second floor of the Little Buckeye Children’s museum and the children attending can pretend to work at McDonald’s, a car repair shop, or in a dentist’s office. When there’s no party going on, however, the second floor is open to the public. Youngsters can pretend to be mail carriers, eye doctors, or go flying in a colorful airplane. This is a destination that encourages children to use their imaginations while burning off some energy at the same time.
The Shawshank Trail
Fans of The Shawshank Redemption are sure to love this adventure. Several key parts of the movie were filmed in Mansfield near the Carousel Park as well as in the surrounding rural areas, and Destination Mansfield has developed a self-guided tour for fans to enjoy. A total of sixteen stops in Ohio are included in this tour, with a couple of the stops in the downtown Mansfield area. You’ll need a vehicle to enjoy this experience if you want to visit every stop, or there are occasionally bus tours you can book rather than driving it on your own.
The Shawshank oak tree which is located near Malabar Farm (where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall once stayed) is one of the stops, but the area looks different today than it did in the film. The tree was damaged in a lightning storm, then hit with a major wind storm, and it was eventually cut down because the damage was too severe and it couldn’t be saved.
Shopping in the Carousel District
In addition to the Carousel gift shop, there are several spots worth visiting to get your retail therapy in the Carousel District. Visit Carousel Antiques to browse through the selection of vintage items, or the carousel-themed What Goes ‘Round Thrift Store for some edgy vintage treasures. The area also has a book store, a record shop and an upscale shoe store where you can get your feet properly fitted and try on some stylish footwear.
This area is a great destination for gift shopping, with a variety of Amish-made items, hand-crafted gifts, artwork, and clothing. Artisan and health food alternatives are also available in the shops found in the carousel district.
Places to Eat in the Carousel District
There are several places to eat within walking distance of the carousel. Enjoy an old-style ice cream parlor experience in a trendy coffee house setting at The Chill. Diagonally across the street to the north-east, you can visit the Coney Island Diner for some of the restaurant’s legendary coneys and an ice-cold soda. Head to Athens Greek Restaurant for a Gyro and some truly excellent baklava. Or, sit and enjoy a steaming cup of java at Relax, It’s Just Coffee.
A visit to the Carousel District lets you explore the old-style charm of the downtown Mansfield, Ohio area. A day-trip to this part of Mansfield is a fun family outing or it can be a sweet romantic destination for couples. If you’re driving from Cleveland, the trip takes about 82 minutes in normal traffic. From Columbus, you can make the journey in just over an hour. With Mansfield’s easy access to I-71 and the old Lincoln Highway, you can travel to or from almost anywhere in the state of Ohio with relative ease.