Fete Paradiso on Governors Island

When I saw a tweet last Saturday about Fête Paradiso, I knew right away I had to experience it. Billed as the world’s first festival of vintage French carnival rides and carousels, it debuted on New York’s Governors Island in July and is coming to an end on September 29th. But I had plans though I had some flexibility on Sunday.

I was pretty excited as I left the house early Sunday morning. Riding the subway to the ferry that would take me to Governors Island, I tried to guess which of the other passengers – especially those with kids in tow – was on their way to the festival.

It was a beautiful morning with blue skies and brilliant sunshine, perfect for a day outdoors. The ferry ride from the westside of Manhattan to Governors Island lasted about 5 minutes, just long enough to ratchet up the excitement of the kids, young and young at heart, on board.

I didn’t know where on the island Fete Paradiso would be located – I doubt most people knew – but we fell into groups and followed the sound of the carnival music. Looking down, I noticed that horses had been drawn in different colors on the road. Like breadcrumbs, they pointed out the way and confirmed we were going in the right direction.

It was fun to see the different rides and the detailed work on these rare 19th and early 20th century museum-quality pieces. It was even more fun to hear the kids scream with the delight as they whizzed around on the rides, and watch the parents watch and photograph them.

I put down my camera long enough to take a ride on the bicycle carousel, the velocipede. One of the few carousels for adults and children, I had watched for a moment before deciding to take a ride. I felt like I was flying through the air as we pumped our legs furiously to keep up with the mechanical pedals. After a few minutes, though, my ankle couldn’t handle it so I propped up my foot and kept going until the ride was over. In all, it took about 3 delightful minutes.

Fete Paradiso's velocipede
On the velocipede

As I was leaving the velocipede, the attendant told me that it was created in the late 19th century to encourage Parisians to try out the bicycle, which was then the new transportation kid on the block. Considering how popular bicycles are now, it’s hard to imagine people had to be encouraged to ride but I can understand. Change is sometimes difficult to embrace. This velocipede is just one of two in the world; the other was featured in the film, Midnight in Paris. (I don’t remember seeing it so I’ve got to keep my eyes peeled next time. And now I can say I’ve been on one!)

The line for food, which was prepared specially for Fete Paradiso by the French bistro, Le Gamin, was several rows long but I wasn’t hungry so after my ride on the velocipede, I decided to leave.

Fete Paradiso enjoys its final run this weekend. It closes on Sunday, September 29th, so if you like carousels and rides and you’re in the New York City area, you should definitely not miss this.

Tickets to Fete Paradiso cost $3 per ride, $25 for 10. The ferry is free and leaves every 30 minutes from Manhattan’s Battery Marine Building on South and Whitehall Street. Ferry service is also available from Brooklyn. You can read more about Fete Paradiso here.


Linking up with Travel Photo Thursday, that Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

12 comments on “Fete Paradiso on Governors Island

  1. Wow how cool are these, its such a treat to see something nostalgic and still operating..so much care and effort to make this a living museum…I love it – thanks for sharing Marcia

  2. I love rides like this – as opposed to a rollercoaster. I think I’d go for the whole 10 pack! Great set of photos on this one Marcia.

  3. This looks fabulous! These old rides are just so beautiful. Too bad about the line ups for the food. I’m not big on waiting, unless I know its something not to be missed 🙂

  4. Oh what fun, and I love Vintage! I\’ve never really thought about vintage carnival rides, but I\’d love to go to a fair like this one day. I\’m sure there would be a few that I might remember from my youth – it was all so much more innocent then wasn\’t it!

  5. That looks like so much fun. What beautiful old rides. It’s hard to imagine a time when bicycles weren’t a common part of childhood and a common form of transport. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go back in time and watch the first few groups of people trying out that ride. I’ve seen modern versions of that in playgrounds in Australia and having a ride always results in giggles … I can just picture the hilarity when this ride first appeared and cycling wasn’t a ‘common’ activity that everyone knew.

  6. I’ve never heard of this and it looks so fun. I’m glad you were able to enjoy one of the rides. I love carousels especially the classic looking ones. What a great way to spend the day with the kids.

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