Best Oddball Carousel - 2012
Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel at L.A. Zoo
If you grew up in SoCal and remember the era of urban kiddie lands and miniature amusement parks, you may sometimes get the feeling that there just aren't enough rides in L.A. anymore. You can trek hither and yon to ride vintage carousels and tiny trains, but there's something a little more unusual to enjoy now, right here at our zoo. The Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel is a California-themed curiosity featuring 66 endangered and otherwise intriguing animals — among them a tapir, an armadillo, a gorilla, a skunk, a caterpillar, three racehorses and a unicorn. (That mythical creature, while not precisely endangered, "never made it onto the Ark," according to zoo officials and thereby deserved its spot.) California music adds another layer of difference; instead of tinkly organ music, you'll hear Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, the Carpenters, Cat Stevens, etc. (Major donors to the carousel include Ann and Jerry Moss, the M in A&M Records, who arranged for the A&M music to be used.) You haven't lived until you've taken a spin on the carousel's "dung chariot" feature, an ornate bench inside a 100-times-life-size ball of manure being pushed by a gigantic dung beetle. 5333 Zoo Drive, Atwater Village. (323) 644-4200, lazoo.org.