South Coast Plaza’s Carousels Through the Years
Carousels have been part of South Coast Plaza’s history since the center’s inception. Today, children of all ages will find not one but two carousels at the center – one located in Carousel Court, the other in the Crate and Barrel/Macy’s Home Store wing. Carousel horses continue to welcome visitors at the street entrances to South Coast Plaza. Here’s a look back at these family favorites.
Long before South Coast Plaza officially opened, newspaper advertisements featured what was to be a recognizable symbol associated with the shopping center for many years – a girl on a carousel horse.
The first of South Coast Plaza’s two carousels debuted on March 15, 1967 as part of the shopping center’s opening.
Victor Gruen Associates, the Los Angeles firm behind the architecture of South Coast Plaza, designed the carousel.
Located between Sears and The May Co. at the time, the carousel became a favorite attraction for families who visited South Coast Plaza. Its location was named Carousel Court.
The girl on a carousel horse illustration was a key element in South Coast Plaza’s advertisements from the late 1960s through the 1970s.
In September 1990, the second carousel opened as part of the Festival of Britain in what was called Crystal Court – now known as the Crate and Barrel/Macy’s Home Store wing. Commissioned by South Coast Plaza, the carousel was designed and built by the English company Chestnuts Carousel Co., Ltd. in Westgate-on-the-Sea, Kent. The carousel’s theme was based on the legend of King Arthur and the 12 Knights of the Round Table, so the artists at Chestnuts named their creation Excalibur and painted each horse after a character in the famous story. The carousel today (shown above) looks as it did nearly 31 years ago.
Over the years, South Coast Plaza introduced other whimsical animals in Carousel Court to reflect the seasons. To date, this carousel is the only one of its kind in California that changes its sets of animals several times a year. For example, bunnies dressed in bright jackets arrive in time for spring.
Next to the bunny carousel is a splendid and beautiful garden that sets the stage for visits with the Easter Bunny and is always a crowd favorite for photos.
Every November, Santa’s reindeer take their positions on the carousel, adding to the magic of the holiday season at South Coast Plaza.
The reindeer’s presence heralds the arrival of Mr. Claus in Santa’s Village, which is decorated as a winter wonderland. For many generations of visitors, getting all dressed up in holiday style, riding on the reindeer carousel and visiting Santa Claus are cherished family rituals every year.
Decked with horses, bunnies or reindeer, the carousels at South Coast Plaza are iconic in Southern California. After a 15-month hiatus that began in March 2020, the carousels reopened on June 25, 2021, ready to welcome back families and be part of new memories.