A Ferris wheel (or big wheel in the United Kingdom, also called a giant wheel or observation wheel) is an amusement ride consisting of a rotating upright wheel with multiple passenger-carrying components (commonly referred to as passenger cars, cabins, tubs, gondolas, capsules, or pods) attached to the rim in such a way that as the wheel turns, they are kept upright, usually by gravity. Some of the largest modern Ferris wheels have cars mounted on the outside of the rim, with electric motors to independently rotate each car to keep it upright. These cars are often referred to as capsules or pods.
The original Ferris Wheel was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. as a landmark for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. However, wheels of this form predate Ferris' wheel by centuries. The generic term Ferris wheel, now used in American English for all such structures, has become the most common type of amusement ride at state fairs in the United States.
The current tallest Ferris wheel, the 250-metre (820 ft) Ain Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, opened in October 2021. The previous record holder since 2014 had been the 167.6-metre (550 ft) High Roller in Las Vegas, Nevada, which opened to the public in March 2014.
The term Ferris wheel comes from the maker of one of the first examples constructed for Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr in 1893.
Modern versions have been called Observation wheels. In 1892, when the incorporation papers for the Ferris Wheel Company (constructors of the original 1893 Chicago Ferris Wheel) were filed, the purpose of the company was stated as: [construction and operation of] "...wheels of the Ferris or other types for the purpose of observation or amusement".
Design variation includes single (cantilevered) or twin sided support for the wheel and whether the cars or capsules are oriented upright by gravity or by electric motors. The most prevalent design is the use of twin sided support and gravity-oriented capsules.
|Early pleasure wheels depicted in 17th-century engravings, to the left by Adam Olearius, to the right a Turkish design, apparently for adults|
"Pleasure wheels", whose passengers rode in chairs suspended from large wooden rings turned by strong men, may have originated in 17th-century Bulgaria.
The travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia, 1608–1667 describes and illustrates "severall Sorts of Swinginge used in their Publique rejoyceings att their Feast of Biram" on 17 May 1620 at Philippopolis in the Ottoman Balkans. Among means "lesse dangerous and troublesome" was one:
...like a Craine wheele att Customhowse Key and turned in that Manner, whereon Children sitt on little seats hunge round about in severall parts thereof, And though it turne right upp and downe, and that the Children are sometymes on the upper part of the wheele, and sometymes on the lower, yett they alwaies sitt upright.
Five years earlier, in 1615, Pietro Della Valle, a Roman traveller who sent letters from Constantinople, Persia, and India, attended a Ramadan festival in Constantinople. He describes the fireworks, floats, and great swings, then comments on riding the Great Wheel:
I was delighted to find myself swept upwards and downwards at such speed. But the wheel turned round so rapidly that a Greek who was sitting near me couldn't bear it any longer, and shouted out "soni! soni!" (enough! enough!)
Similar wheels also appeared in England in the 17th century, and subsequently elsewhere around the world, including India, Romania, and Siberia.
A Frenchman, Antonio Manguino, introduced the idea to America in 1848, when he constructed a wooden pleasure wheel to attract visitors to his start-up fair in Walton Spring, Georgia.
In 1892, William Somers installed three fifty-foot wooden wheels at Asbury Park, New Jersey; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Coney Island, New York. The following year he was granted the first U.S. patent for a "Roundabout". George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. rode on Somers' wheel in Atlantic City prior to designing his wheel for the World's Columbian Exposition. In 1893 Somers filed a lawsuit against Ferris for patent infringement; however, Ferris and his lawyers successfully argued that the Ferris Wheel and its technology differed greatly from Somers' wheel, and the case was dismissed.
Main article: Ferris Wheel (1893)
The original Ferris wheel, sometimes referred to as the Chicago Wheel opened in 1893 and was designed and constructed by Ferris Jr. However, an earlier wheel was created for the New York State fair in 1854, created by two Erie Canal workers. 
With a height of 80.4 metres (264 ft) it was the tallest attraction at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, where it opened to the public on June 21, 1893. It was intended to rival the 324-metre (1,063 ft) Eiffel Tower, the centerpiece of the 1889 Paris Exposition.
Ferris was a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, bridge-builder. He began his career in the railroad industry and then pursued an interest in bridge building. Ferris understood the growing need for structural steel and founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, a firm that tested and inspected metals for railroads and bridge builders.
The wheel rotated on a 71-ton, 45.5-foot axle comprising what was at that time the world's largest hollow forging, manufactured in Pittsburgh by the Bethlehem Iron Company and weighing 89,320 pounds, together with two 16-foot-diameter (4.9 m) cast-iron spiders weighing 53,031 pounds.
There were 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people, giving a total capacity of 2,160. The wheel carried some 38,000 passengers daily and took 20 minutes to complete two revolutions, the first involving six stops to allow passengers to exit and enter and the second a nine-minute non-stop rotation, for which the ticket holder paid 50 cents.
The Exposition ended in October 1893, and the wheel closed in April 1894 and was dismantled and stored until the following year. It was then rebuilt on Chicago's North Side, near Lincoln Park, next to an exclusive neighborhood. This prompted William D. Boyce, then a local resident, to file a Circuit Court action against the owners of the wheel to have it removed, but without success. It operated there from October 1895 until 1903, when it was again dismantled, then transported by rail to St. Louis for the 1904 World's Fair and finally destroyed by controlled demolition using dynamite on May 11, 1906.
The Wiener Riesenrad (German for "Viennese Giant Wheel") is a surviving example of nineteenth-century Ferris wheels. Erected in 1897 in the Wurstelprater section of Prater public park in the Leopoldstadt district of Vienna, Austria, to celebrate Emperor Franz Josef I's Golden Jubilee, it has a height of 64.75 metres (212 ft) and originally had 30 passenger cars. A demolition permit for the Riesenrad was issued in 1916, but due to a lack of funds with which to carry out the destruction, it survived.
Following the demolition of the 96-metre (315 ft) Grande Roue de Paris in 1920, the Riesenrad became the world's tallest extant Ferris wheel. In 1944 it burnt down, but was rebuilt the following year with 15 passenger cars, and remained the world's tallest extant wheel until its 97th year, when the 85-metre (279 ft) Technocosmos was constructed for Expo '85, at Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.
Still in operation today, it is one of Vienna's most popular tourist attractions, and over the years has featured in numerous films (including Madame Solange d`Atalide (1914), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), The Third Man (1949), The Living Daylights (1987), Before Sunrise (1995)) and novels.
See also: List of Ferris wheels
Chronology of world's tallest wheels
|Ain Dubai||250 (820)||2021||UAE||Bluewater Island Dubai||World's tallest since 2021|
|High Roller||167.6 (550)||2014||United States||Las Vegas, Nevada||World's tallest 2014-2021|
|Singapore Flyer||165 (541)||2008||Singapore||Marina Centre, Downtown Core||World's tallest 2008–2014|
|Star of Nanchang||160 (525)||2006||China||Nanchang, Jiangxi||World's tallest 2006–2008|
|London Eye||135 (443)||2000||United Kingdom||South Bank, Lambeth, London||World's tallest 2000–2006|
|Bay Glory||128 (420)||China||Qianhai Bay, Shenzhen|
|Sky Dream||126 (413)||2017||Taiwan||Lihpao Land, Taichung|
|Redhorse Osaka Wheel||123 (404)||2016||Japan||Expocity, Suita, Osaka|
|The Wheel at ICON Park Orlando||122 (400)||2015||United States||Orlando, Florida|
|Suzhou Ferris Wheel||120 (394)||2009||China||Suzhou, Jiangsu|
|Melbourne Star||120 (394)||2008||Australia||Docklands, Melbourne||Closed September 2021|
|Tianjin Eye||120 (394)||2008||China||Yongle Bridge, Hongqiao, Tianjin|
|Changsha Ferris Wheel||120 (394)||2004||China||Changsha, Hunan|
|Zhengzhou Ferris Wheel||120 (394)||2003||China||Century Amusement Park, Henan|
|Sky Dream Fukuoka||120 (394)||2002||Japan||Evergreen Marinoa, Fukuoka, Kyūshū||Closed September 2009|
|Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel||117 (384)||2001||Japan||Kasai Rinkai Park, Tokyo, Honshū|
|Sun Wheel||115 (377)||2014||Vietnam||Da Nang||"Igosu 108" wheel in a new location|
|Star of Lake Tai ||115 (377)||2008||China||Lake Tai, Wuxi, Jiangsu||Picture|
|Daikanransha||115 (377)||1999||Japan||Palette Town, Odaiba, Honshū||World's tallest 1999–2000|
|Cosmo Clock 21 (2nd installation)||112.5 (369)||1999||Japan||Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama, Honshū|
|Tempozan Ferris Wheel||112.5 (369)||1997||Japan||Osaka, Honshū||World's tallest 1997–1999|
|Harbin Ferris Wheel||110 (361)||2003||China||Harbin, Heilongjiang|
|Shanghai Ferris Wheel||108 (354)||2002||China||Jinjiang Action Park, Shanghai|
|Igosu 108||108 (354)||1992||Japan||Biwako Tower, Ōtsu, Shiga, Honshū||World's tallest 1992–1997; moved to Vietnam|
|Cosmo Clock 21 (1st installation)||107.5 (353)||1989||Japan||Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama, Honshū||Unknown||World's tallest 1989–1992|
|Space Eye||100 (328)||Unknown||Japan||Space World, Kitakyūshū, Kyūshū||Picture|
|Grande Roue de Paris||96 (315)||1900||France||Avenue de Suffren, Paris||World's tallest 1900–1920|
|Great Wheel||94 (308)||1895||United Kingdom||Earls Court, London||World's tallest 1895–1900|
|Aurora Wheel||90 (295)||Unknown||Japan||Nagashima Spa Land, Mie, Honshū||Picture|
|Eurowheel||90 (295)||1999||Italy||Mirabilandia, Ravenna|
|Roda Gigante Rio Star||90 (295)||2019||Brazil||Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro|
|Sky Wheel||88 (289)||Unknown||Taiwan||Janfusun Fancyworld, Gukeng|
|85 (279)||1985||Japan||Expoland, Osaka, Honshū (?-2009)
Expo '85, Tsukuba, Honshū (1985–?)
World's tallest extant 1985–1989
|The original Ferris Wheel||80.4 (264)||1893||United States||Chicago (1893–1903); St. Louis (1904–06)||Ferris Wheel coordinates||World's tallest 1893–1894|
|Wiener Riesenrad||64.8 (212)||1897||Austria||Wurstelprater, Vienna||World's tallest extant 1920–1985|
Following the huge success of the 135-metre (443 ft) London Eye since it opened in 2000, giant Ferris wheels have been proposed for many other cities. However, a large number of these projects have stalled or failed.
Incomplete, delayed, stalled, cancelled, failed, or abandoned proposals:
Nippon Moon, described as a "giant observation wheel" by its designers, was reported in September 2013 to be "currently in development". At that time, its height was "currently undisclosed", but "almost twice the scale of the wheel in London." Its location, an unspecified Japanese city, was "currently under wraps", and its funding had "yet to be entirely secured." Commissioned by Ferris Wheel Investment Co., Ltd., and designed by UNStudio in collaboration with Arup, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Experientia, it was expected to have 32 individually themed capsules and take 40 minutes to rotate once.
The Shanghai Star, initially planned as a 200-metre (656 ft) tall wheel to be built by 2005, was revised to 170 metres (558 ft), with a completion date set in 2007, but then cancelled in 2006 due to "political incorrectness". An earlier proposal for a 250-metre (820 ft) structure, the Shanghai Kiss, with capsules ascending and descending a pair of towers which met at their peaks instead of a wheel, was deemed too expensive at £100m.
Rus-3000, a 170-metre (558 ft) wheel planned to open in 2004 in Moscow, has since been reported cancelled. Subsequently, an approximately 180-metre (591 ft) wheel was considered for Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure, and a 150-metre (492 ft) wheel proposed for location near Sparrow Hills. Another giant wheel planned for Prospekt Vernadskogo for 2002 was also never built.
In 2012 or 2015, there was a proposal for a 900 ft Ferris wheel for the east side of Las Vegas. (This wheel would have been built next to Boulder Station Casino.) However, it was never built. In June 2017, many of the people, including the casino's manager, said that "there was NO such ever thing as an east side Vegas Ferris wheel. I have never heard anything like that." It was revealed much later to be a fan fiction idea. The site of what was supposed to be the "east side Vegas wheel" sits and remains abandoned.
Wheels with passenger cars mounted external to the rim and independently rotated by electric motors, as opposed to wheels with cars suspended from the rim and kept upright by gravity, are uncommon. Typically they are called 'Observation wheels' but there is no standardised terminology.
Only four Ferris wheels with motorised capsules have been built.
Official conceptual renderings of the proposed 190.5 m (625 ft) New York Wheel also show a wheel equipped with externally mounted motorised capsules.
In the centreless (sometimes called hubless or spokeless) wheel design, there is no central hub and the rim of the wheel stays fixed in place. Instead, each car travels around the circumference of the rim. The first centreless wheel built was the Big O at Tokyo Dome City in Japan. Its 60-metre (197 ft) height has since been surpassed by the 145-metre (475.7 ft) high Bailang River Bridge Ferris Wheel on the upper deck of the Bailang River Bridge in Shandong Province, China, which opened in 2017.
The first centreless wheel in North America opened in January 2019 at the indoor Méga Parc in Quebec City, Canada. The 23.5 m (77 ft) wheel at Méga Parc was designed and manufactured by Larson International.
Transportable Ferris wheels are designed to be operated at multiple locations, as opposed to fixed wheels which are usually intended for permanent installation. Small transportable designs may be permanently mounted on trailers, and can be moved intact. Larger transportable wheels are designed to be repeatedly dismantled and rebuilt, some using water ballast instead of the permanent foundations of their fixed counterparts.
Fixed wheels are also sometimes dismantled and relocated. Larger examples include the original Ferris Wheel, which operated at two sites in Chicago, Illinois, and a third in St. Louis, Missouri; Technocosmos/Technostar, which moved to Expoland, Osaka, after Expo '85, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, for which it was built, ended; and Cosmo Clock 21, which added 5 metres (16 ft) onto its original 107.5-metre (353 ft) height when erected for the second time at Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama, in 1999.
The world's tallest transportable wheel today[update] is the 78-metre (256 ft) Bussink Design R80XL.
One of the most famous transportable wheels is the 60-metre (197 ft) Roue de Paris, originally installed on the Place de la Concorde in Paris for the 2000 millennium celebrations. Roue de Paris left France in 2002 and in 2003–04 operated in Birmingham and Manchester, England. In 2005 it visited first Geleen then Amsterdam, Netherlands, before returning to England to operate at Gateshead. In 2006 it was erected at the Suan Lum Night Bazaar in Bangkok, Thailand, and by 2008 had made its way to Antwerp, Belgium.
Roue de Paris is a Ronald Bussink series R60 design using 40,000 litres (8,800 imperial gallons; 11,000 US gallons) of water ballast to provide a stable base. The R60 weighs 365 tonnes (402 short tons), and can be erected in 72 hours and dismantled in 60 hours by a specialist team. Transport requires seven 20-foot container lorries, ten open trailer lorries, and one closed trailer lorry. Its 42-passenger cars can be loaded either 3 or 6 at a time, and each car can carry 8 people. Bussink R60 wheels have operated in Australia (Brisbane), Canada (Niagara Falls), France (Paris), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur & Malacca), UK (Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield), US (Atlanta, Myrtle Beach), and elsewhere.
Other notable transportable wheels include the 60-metre (197 ft) Steiger Ferris Wheel, which was the world's tallest transportable wheel when it began operating in 1980. It has 42 passenger cars, and weighs 450 tons. On October 11, 2010, it collapsed at the Kramermarkt in Oldenburg, Germany, during deconstruction.
|Delhi Eye||see article||India||Delhi|
|Eye on Malaysia||2007–2008
|Royal Windsor Wheel||various||UK||Windsor, Berkshire|
|Wheel of Birmingham||various||UK||Centenary Square, Birmingham|
|Wheel of Brisbane||2008–||Australia||South Bank Parklands, Brisbane|
|Wheel of Dublin||2010–2011||Ireland||North Wall, Dublin|
|Wheel of Liverpool||2010–||UK||Liverpool|
|Wheel of Manchester||various||UK||Manchester||multiple locations – see article|
|Wheel of Sheffield||2009–2010||UK||Fargate, Sheffield|
|Yorkshire Wheel||various||UK||York||multiple locations – see article|
A double Ferris wheel designed to include a horizontal turntable was patented in 1939 by John F. Courtney, working for Velare & Courtney. In Courtney's design, there were two independent Ferris wheels, each rotating at either end of a cantilever arm. The cantilever arm was supported in the middle by a tall vertical support, and the cantilever arm itself rotated around its middle pivot point. The design was similar to the earlier Aeriocycle, but the double wheel patented by Courtney allowed the cantilever arm to make a complete rotation, while the Aeriocycle was limited to a seesaw motion. Courtney continued to file additional patents on improved designs through the 1950s to make them more portable, and at about the same time, the Velare brothers patented the "Space Wheel", a side-by-side double with four total Ferris wheels.
The design was later sold to the Allan Herschell Company in 1959 and marketed as the "Sky Wheel"; the first sale as the Sky Wheel was to 20th Century Rides in October 1960. The Sky Wheel seated up to 32 riders in 16 two-person cars, with 8 cars per wheel, and riders reached a peak of approximately 80 feet (24 m). The height and popularity of the Sky Wheel was eclipsed by larger single wheels in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it has since largely disappeared from common use. As of 2018[update], there are four known Sky Wheels that remain in operation.
In March 1966, Thomas Glen Robinson and Ralph G. Robinson received a patent for a Planetary Amusement Ride, which was a distinct double wheel design. In the Robinsons' patent, the cantilever arm was bent at a slightly obtuse angle, and the cars were carried on a spoked "spider" rotating structure at each end of the cantilever. With the obtuse-angle cantilever, one spider could be lowered to the ground in a horizontal plane so that all the cars on that spider could be unloaded and loaded simultaneously, while the spider on the other end of the cantilever would continue to rotate in a near-vertical plane.
Robinson sold two of these rides – Astrowheel, which operated at the former Six Flags Astroworld in Houston, Texas, and Galaxy, which operated at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. Both were manufactured by Astron International Corporation. Astrowheel was part of the original lineup of rides when Astroworld opened in 1968; it was removed in 1981 to make way for the Warp 10 ride. Astrowheel had an eight-spoked spider at the end of each arm, and each tip had a separate car for eight cars in total on each end. In contrast, Galaxy had double the capacity with a four-spoked spider at the end of each arm; each tip bore an independent four-spoked sub-spider for sixteen cars in total on each end. Like Astrowheel, Galaxy was part of the lineup at Magic Mountain when the park opened in 1971, and was removed in 1980 when Six Flags took over ownership of both parks.
Swiss broker Intamin marketed a similar series of double wheels manufactured by Waagner-Biro, comprising a vertical column supporting a straight cantilever arm, with each end of the cantilever arm ending in a spoked Ferris wheel. The first Intamin produced was Giant Wheel at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which operated from 1973 to 2004. Other double wheels made by Waagner-Biro/Intamin include Zodiac (Kings Island, Mason, Ohio; 1975–86; moved to Wonderland Sydney and operated 1989–2004), Scorpion (Parque de la Ciudad, Buenos Aires, Argentina; 1982–2003), and Double Wheel (Kuwait Entertainment City, Kuwait City, Kuwait; 1984–91).
A triple variant was custom designed for the Marriott Corporation and debuted at both Marriott's Great America parks (now Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois, and California's Great America, Santa Clara) in 1976 as Sky Whirl. Each ride had three main components: the three spiders/wheels with their passenger cars; the triple-spoked supporting arm; and the single central supporting column. Each wheel rotated about one of the three ends of the supporting arm. The supporting arm would in turn rotate around its central hub as a single unit about the top of the supporting column. The axis about which the supporting arm turned was offset from vertical (i.e., the plane of rotation was not horizontal), so that as the supporting arm rotated, each wheel was raised and lowered. When lowered, one wheel was horizontal at ground level. At the same time, the other wheels remained raised and continued to rotate in a near-vertical plane at considerable height. The lowered horizontal wheel was brought to a standstill for simultaneous loading and unloading of all its passenger cars.
The Sky Whirl was also known as a triple Ferris wheel, Triple Giant Wheel, or Triple Tree Wheel; it was 33 metres (108 ft) in height. The Sky Whirl in Santa Clara was filmed for a memorable rescue scene in Beverly Hills Cop III (renamed to "The Spider" for the film). The Santa Clara ride, renamed Triple Wheel in post-Marriott years, closed on 1 September 1997. The Gurnee ride closed in 2000. Two triple wheels were built for Asian clients: Tree Triple Wheel at Seibu-en (Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan; 1985–2004) and Hydra at Lotte World (Seoul, South Korea; 1989–97).
An eccentric wheel (sometimes called a sliding wheel or coaster wheel) differs from a conventional Ferris wheel in that some or all of its passenger cars are not fixed directly to the rim of the wheel, but instead slide on rails between the rim and the hub as the wheel rotates.
The two most famous eccentric wheels are Wonder Wheel, at Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, Coney Island, US, and Pixar Pal-A-Round (previously Sun Wheel and Mickey's Fun Wheel), at Disney California Adventure, US. The latter is a replica of the former. There is a second replica in Yokohama Dreamland, Japan.
Pixar Pal-A-Round is 48.8 metres (160 ft) tall and has 24 fully enclosed passenger cars, each able to carry six passengers. Each passenger car is decorated with the face of a Pixar character. Sixteen slide inward and outward as the wheel rotates, the remainder are fixed to the rim. There are separate boarding queues for sliding and fixed cars, so that passengers may choose between the two. Inspired by Coney Island's 1920 Wonder Wheel, it was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering and Waagner Biro, completed in 2001 as the Sun Wheel, later refurbished and reopened in 2009 as Mickey's Fun Wheel, and again rethemed as Pixar Pal-A-Round in 2018.
Wonder Wheel was built in 1920, is 45.7 metres (150 ft) tall, and can carry 144 people.
Allan Herschell Company (merged with Chance Rides in 1970)
Chance Morgan / Chance Rides / Chance Wheels / Chance American Wheels
Great Wheel Corporation (merged with World Tourist Attractions in 2009 to form Great City Attractions)
Intamin / Waagner-Biro (Rides brokered by Intamin — manufactured by Waagner-Biro)
Mir / Pax
Ronald Bussink (formerly Nauta Bussink; then Ronald Bussink Professional Rides; then Bussink Landmarks since 2008)
Sanoyas Rides Corporation (has built more than 80 Ferris wheels)
The Astrowheel resembles a ferris wheel. It has two arms at right angles which support the cabins for the passengers. When one is at a verticle [sic] position, the other is horizontal, loading passengers.