Old-fashioned carnival Fête Paradiso features vintage French carousels and amusements just a ferry ride from Manhattan.

With a century’s worth of vintage French carnival rides dating back to the mid- 1800s, New York City’s Fête Paradiso is a Parisian-style celebration of a bygone era.

Among the attractions at the weekend Governors Island festival are flying chair rides, boat-shaped swings and carousels with hand-carved wooden animals for seats. There’s also an impressively dizzying dragon carousel and an 1892 Velocipedes – a bicycle carousel that’s powered in part by pedalling riders.

Other carnival structures dot the lawn, including a 1910 bumper car pavilion-turned-beer garden, where festival-goers can recharge with French-inspired fare or one of several “Paradiso” cocktails from the wine bar. Sounds of jaunty pipe organ tunes and striped shirt-clad “carnies” hawking games add to the flair.

Everything on display belongs to two collectors, Francis Staub and Regis Masclet, who, rather than showcasing their antiques in a museum, opted to create a living, breathing carnival.

Fête Paradiso is open from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm on weekends through 29 September. Admission is free, but all rides and games require tickets which can be purchased at the on-site box office for $3 each or 10 for $25.

Governors Island is accessible by free weekend ferries from the Battery Maritime Terminal in Manhattan and from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6.

Amy Brader is the New York City Localite for BBC Travel.