The pods on the London Eye tourist attraction cast shadows against a thick morning fog as the spring sun shine begins to burn it off in central London, March 15, 2012.
Most people traveling to a new place will find themselves seeking out the highest point in the city at some point during their trip, whether it's the observation deck at the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) when visiting Chicago, or the top of the Empire State Building when they're in New York City. But there are other fun, family-friendly ways to get great views around town: Ferris wheels.
Climb onboard any of these 13 and you'll be treated to a different view and in some cases, a unique and memorable ride you can write home about. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy. And don't forget your camera.
(See a slideshow of the 13 Ferris wheels here.)
The London Eye
A visit to London nowadays just isn't complete without a scenic ride on The London Eye. Joining the London skyline in 2000 and originally called The Millennium Wheel, this 443-foot tall Ferris wheel is London's fourth highest structure, carrying up to 800 passengers in its 32 capsules (meant to represent London's 32 boroughs) on a 30-minute nice-and-easy ride with 360-degree views of the city — on a clear day, you can even see as far as Windsor Castle 25 miles away!
How to ride: Tickets cost about $30 for adults and $20 for children ages 4-15; children under age four ride free; save 10 percent by ordering online. Take the London Underground (aka. The Tube) to the Waterloo Station and walk five minutes in the direction of South Bank to reach the Ferris wheel.
Deno's Wonder Wheel
Located on the historic Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York, Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park is home to classic carnival rides as well as one of the most terrifying Ferris wheel experiences you'll ever encounter. While you do have the option to board stationary cars and take in views of the Atlantic, the moving cars offer a much more memorable ride. Choose one of the red or blue swinging cars and hold on tight — as the 150-foot tall wheel turns, the cars sway back and forth until the point where they slide down diagonally back to earth, making your stomach drop and leaving you wondering if you'll actually slide right off the Ferris wheel onto the Boardwalk below.
How to ride: Admission to Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park is free, however you will need to pay for each ride — expect to pay $7 per ride on the Wonder Wheel; packs of four tickets can be purchased for adult rides (including the Wonder Wheel) for $25. From Manhattan, take the N, D, F, or Q subway to Stillwell Ave. and walk towards the Beach; Deno's Wonder Wheel is on the Boardwalk at West 12th Street.
The Niagara Sky Wheel
Clifton Hill, Canada
What's the best way to catch a glimpse of majestic Niagara Falls? By Ferris wheel of course! Take a ride on the Niagara SkyWheel, located just across the Canadian border in Clifton Hill, for a rare look at the famous Falls from 175 feet above in a comfortable, climate-controlled gondola. American citizens will need a U.S. Passport or Passport Card to clear the border, but it's well worth it for an 8-12 minute ride on Canada's largest observation wheel.
How to ride: Visitors age 12 and above pay $10.99 while children ages 3-12 pay $6.99 to ride the Niagara SkyWheel.
Navy Pier Ferris Wheel
One of Budget Travel's favorite American Boardwalks is also home to the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel at Pier Park. Become one with the Chicago skyline as you climb 150-feet in one of the ride's 40 gondolas, and take in views of Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower), the John Hancock Center, and Lake Michigan — visit this attraction after dark for a chance to see the Chicago city lights really sparkle.
How to ride: Admission to Pier Park is free, however you must pay $6 per person to ride the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. Ride combo packs and family packages are also available onsite. Navy Pier is located at 600 East Grand Avenue, within walking distance of most downtown Chicago hotels.
Located at the southern end of Centennial Park, SkyView Atlanta takes guests on a 15-minute joyride, making four full revolutions and offering views of downtown Atlanta from 20 stories up. Take a spin on one of 42 fully enclosed gondolas any time of year — the Ferris wheel is only closed two days of the year on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, and in cases of inclement weather where high winds and lightning have been spotted in the area.
How to ride: Adults pay $13.50 plus tax; seniors ages 65 and up and members of the military pay $12.15 plus tax; children ages 3-12 pay $8.50 and must ride with a paying adult; children ages two and under ride free. SkyView Atlanta is easily reachable by MARTA (several bus stops are nearby) and by train via the Peachtree Center Station.
The Texas Star Ferris Wheel first came on the scene in 1985 — 28 years later, it still reigns as the tallest Ferris wheel in North America at nearly 21 stories high. Equipped with 45 gondolas, the Texas Star completes 1.5 revolutions every minute and offers amazing views of the Lone Star State — you can even spot the Dallas skyline nearly 40 miles away! You'll have to plan ahead to experience this attraction as it's only available during the State Fair of Texas, this year from Sept. 27th through Oct. 20th, and during the spring and summer months as part of Summer Adventures in Fair Park. Whenever you decide to go, know that Fair Park is easy to get to — just take the DART Rail Green Line to Fair Park Station near the entrance to the fairgrounds at Parry Avenue.
How to ride: Admission to the State Fair of Texas costs $14.95 when ordered online in advance; tickets cost $11.95 for seniors over the age of 60 and for children under 48 inches tall; children under age two get in free. A ride on the Texas Star costs an additional $7 (ride coupons can be purchased in packages of 20 at the Fair and each coupon is worth $0.50). Admission to Summer Adventures in Fair Park costs $29.95 per adult (seniors over 65 as well as children ages three and up to 48" tall pay $24.95) for a day of unlimited rides.
The Pacific Wheel
Santa Monica, Calif.
Located just 25 minutes from Downtown L.A., Pacific Park at Santa Monica Pier is home to the only solar-powered Ferris wheel in the world, the Pacific Wheel. Towering over the Santa Monica Pier at 130-feet, this powerful wheel makes a whopping 2.5 revolutions every minute and sports more than 160,000 LED lights, dazzling visitors with panoramic views of the beautiful California coast from above while, at night, providing a light show for everyone below.
How to ride: Purchase an all-day unlimited ride wristband online. You'll pay $19.50 for ages eight and up and $13.55 for children ages seven and under.
The Seattle Great Wheel
Perhaps the youngest Ferris wheel on our list, The Seattle Great Wheel opened a little over a year ago on June 29, 2012, making it the largest on the West Coast at 175 feet tall. Extending roughly 40 feet past the end of Pier 57, the wheel carries more than 300 visitors in 42 enclosed gondolas, offering dramatic city views and a bird's-eye view of Elliott Bay and Waterfront Park. The best part: each ride consists of three full revolutions, giving you plenty of time to get the perfect photo from the top.
How to ride: Tickets cost $13 for ages 12 and up; children ages 4-11 cost $8.50; seniors over age 65 pay $11; children ages three and under are free, but still require a ticket to board (visit the will call window for more information). The Seattle Great Wheel is located at 1301 Alaskan Way in Downtown Seattle, just below Waterfront Park.
The Wheel of Brisbane
Located in the Cultural Forecourt next to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in the midst of the city's entertainment district, The Wheel of Brisbane carries riders nearly 200 feet above the ground, offering beautiful 360-degree views of the Brisbane city skyline, the Parklands, and the South Bank in air-conditioned gondolas.
How to ride: Expect to pay $15 for an adult ticket, $10 for children ages 4-12, and $2 for children ages 1-3 — save 10 percent by buying tickets online now thru Oct. 31, 2013. The Wheel of Brisbane is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday thru Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.
The Brighton Wheel
Brighton, United Kingdom
The Brighton Wheel is located 90 minutes south of London along Great Britain's southern shore, and features a bird's-eye view of the Sussex coastline from the comfort of your air-conditioned, enclosed capsule nearly 165 feet above sea level. The best part: you'll get to stay onboard for as long as three full revolutions per ride, giving you ample time to absorb the beautiful sea views around you.
How to ride: Tickets cost $13 for adults, $11 for children ages 4-16, and $4 for children ages 1-3. You can also save 10 percent by booking your tickets online ahead of time. The Brighton Wheel is open Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Originally built in 1897 during the Golden Jubilee Celebration of Emperor Franz Josef I, the Wiener Riesenard that stands today is the second version, rebuilt in 1945 after the first succumbed to a fire. Nowadays, the Giant Ferris wheel stands high above Vienna at nearly 213 feet tall, offering visitors spectacular views of the city below.
How to ride: Tickets cost $12 for adults and $6 for children. Check their website for directions to the Wiener Riesenrad.
Rising high above the city at nearly 542 feet tall, the Singapore Flyer is the largest observation wheel in the world as of right now — Dubai is currently working a new design for The Dubai Eye that would top even those heights. Take in gorgeous 360-degree views of Singapore and Marina Bay on this unforgettable ride.
How to ride: The Singapore Flyer is open from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. Tickets cost $24 for adults, $15 for children, and $17 for seniors.
The Melbourne Star
Slated to re-open later this year, Australia's Melbourne Star will be one of only three giant observation wheels in the world — the other two being The London Eye and the Singapore Flyer. Guests can expect floor-to-ceiling glass-enclosed gondolas that fit up to 20 people, and gorgeous uninhibited views of one of Australia's most vibrant cities.
How to ride: Tickets are not available for purchase at this time; please check the website for more information as it becomes available.
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First published September 19 2013, 7:45 AM