It's been two years since the Nunley’s Carousel on Museum Row in Garden City opened its doors due to the pandemic. Dozens of children celebrated its reopening.  Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

“When you hear two bells, the carousel will start to move,” announces Josh Engel, associate director of support services for the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City. “Are you ready?”

Twenty-eight children let out excited cheers — they’re the first to mount Nunley’s Carousel on Museum Row in Garden City since the ride closed due to the pandemic in 2020. The old silver ship’s bell hanging next to the carousel clangs twice, music begins to play, and the historic carousel is off, filled with 4- and 5-year-olds going round-and-round on stationary horses, chariots or horses that bob up and down.

The carousel will officially reopen Tuesday to Long Island Children’s Museum members who have reservations and Thursday to the general public, after which it will be open every week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, costing $4 per ride, says Maureen Mangan, museum director of communications. Birthday parties and special events will also resume.

The kids who got a sneak preview Thursday morning are part of the museum’s Together to Kindergarten school preparedness program, Mangan says.

The children took the approximately four-minute ride three times in a row. “It was awesome!” says Liam McRae, 5, of Queens Village. Asked to rate the ride between 1 and 5 stars, PrinceDev Singh, 5, of Stewart Manor, enthusiastically responds, “I would give it 10 stars.”

“Riding Nunley’s Carousel is very much a ‘you know you’re a Long Islander’ moment,” Mangan says.

The 110-year-old carousel was in Baldwin from 1940 to 1995, after which it was in storage on Long Island. A multipronged fundraising campaign restored the ride so it could reopen in its current Nunley’s Carousel glass pavilion building in 2009. Long Island musician Billy Joel’s music plays on the ride and he has his own dedicated horse, which he named Penny in honor of the Pennies for Ponies fundraising campaign, Mangan says.

When the Nassau County-owned carousel reopens Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, management of the venue officially changes from the Cradle of Aviation Museum to the Long Island Children’s Museum. “It seems like a perfect match with our mission and our audience,” says Suzanne LeBlanc, museum president, who watched the excitement of the first rides. “One of the aspects of our museum is to introduce kids to the wonder of the world around them.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman says he plans to be present at the ribbon cutting, and to take a spin on the carousel’s lone lion. “I’m very excited because I have so many childhood memories from Nunley’s, so this is something that’s very nostalgic for me. If we got good grades, if we did something good in the community, if we behaved ourselves exceptionally well, my parents would take us there.”

The museum is planning to add complementary carousel-related programming inside the nearby museum itself, Mangan says. The carousel is at 3 Davis Ave.; the museum is at 11 Davis Ave.

Some teachers, parents and an older sibling joined the children on Thursday for the inaugural rides. “I’m just going to find a pretty horse,” Marie Singh, 8, of Stewart Manor, older sister of PrinceDev, says before picking a white pony with a mane blowing along its neck and feathers painted on its saddle. “I even named her. Mane. She has a beautiful mane.”

Khadijah McRae, 43, a stay-at-home mom from Queens Village, joins Liam on a chariot during the third ride. She laughs when asked to recall the last time she rode a carousel. “Probably when I was 8,” she says. “I’m actually pregnant now, so I didn’t want to get on a horse. Or I would’ve sat on a horse.” 

Together to Kindergarten teacher Dan Patino, 26, of Oceanside, tries repeatedly to grab the gold-colored brass ring that entitles riders to a free go-around — in the carousel tradition, an added challenge for riders of the horses on the outer perimeter of the carousel was to reach for rings that were either iron or, more rarely, the coveted brass.  At first he grabs only silvers, until he finally snag the prize. “I did get the gold one,” Patino says, joking with Mangan. “You guys owe me a ride.”

“When you hear two bells, the carousel will start to move,” announces Josh Engel, associate director of support services for the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City. “Are you ready?”

Twenty-eight children let out excited cheers — they’re the first to mount Nunley’s Carousel on Museum Row in Garden City since the ride closed due to the pandemic in 2020. The old silver ship’s bell hanging next to the carousel clangs twice, music begins to play, and the historic carousel is off, filled with 4- and 5-year-olds going round-and-round on stationary horses, chariots or horses that bob up and down.

The carousel will officially reopen Tuesday to Long Island Children’s Museum members who have reservations and Thursday to the general public, after which it will be open every week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, costing $4 per ride, says Maureen Mangan, museum director of communications. Birthday parties and special events will also resume.

‘IT WAS AWESOME!’

The kids who got a sneak preview Thursday morning are part of the museum’s Together to Kindergarten school preparedness program, Mangan says.

The children took the approximately four-minute ride three times in a row. “It was awesome!” says Liam McRae, 5, of Queens Village. Asked to rate the ride between 1 and 5 stars, PrinceDev Singh, 5, of Stewart Manor, enthusiastically responds, “I would give it 10 stars.”

“Riding Nunley’s Carousel is very much a ‘you know you’re a Long Islander’ moment,” Mangan says.

The 110-year-old carousel was in Baldwin from 1940 to 1995, after which it was in storage on Long Island. A multipronged fundraising campaign restored the ride so it could reopen in its current Nunley’s Carousel glass pavilion building in 2009. Long Island musician Billy Joel’s music plays on the ride and he has his own dedicated horse, which he named Penny in honor of the Pennies for Ponies fundraising campaign, Mangan says.

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

When the Nassau County-owned carousel reopens Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, management of the venue officially changes from the Cradle of Aviation Museum to the Long Island Children’s Museum. “It seems like a perfect match with our mission and our audience,” says Suzanne LeBlanc, museum president, who watched the excitement of the first rides. “One of the aspects of our museum is to introduce kids to the wonder of the world around them.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman says he plans to be present at the ribbon cutting, and to take a spin on the carousel’s lone lion. “I’m very excited because I have so many childhood memories from Nunley’s, so this is something that’s very nostalgic for me. If we got good grades, if we did something good in the community, if we behaved ourselves exceptionally well, my parents would take us there.”

The museum is planning to add complementary carousel-related programming inside the nearby museum itself, Mangan says. The carousel is at 3 Davis Ave.; the museum is at 11 Davis Ave.

Some teachers, parents and an older sibling joined the children on Thursday for the inaugural rides. “I’m just going to find a pretty horse,” Marie Singh, 8, of Stewart Manor, older sister of PrinceDev, says before picking a white pony with a mane blowing along its neck and feathers painted on its saddle. “I even named her. Mane. She has a beautiful mane.”

Khadijah McRae, 43, a stay-at-home mom from Queens Village, joins Liam on a chariot during the third ride. She laughs when asked to recall the last time she rode a carousel. “Probably when I was 8,” she says. “I’m actually pregnant now, so I didn’t want to get on a horse. Or I would’ve sat on a horse.” 

Together to Kindergarten teacher Dan Patino, 26, of Oceanside, tries repeatedly to grab the gold-colored brass ring that entitles riders to a free go-around — in the carousel tradition, an added challenge for riders of the horses on the outer perimeter of the carousel was to reach for rings that were either iron or, more rarely, the coveted brass.  At first he grabs only silvers, until he finally snag the prize. “I did get the gold one,” Patino says, joking with Mangan. “You guys owe me a ride.”