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13 high and mighty Ferris wheels

By: Matt Hickman on May 8, 2015, 2:58 p.m.
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The observation wheel – perhaps better known as the Ferris wheel – isn't evocative of cities. Instead, many of us think of these towering structures as the rickety and slightly nausea-inducing centerpiece of state fairs and seaside resort towns. Beloved by tots and necking teenagers, Ferris wheels are largely ephemeral. That is, they see the most action June through September, but then they're shuttered or dismantled only to start spinning again the following summer.

But with the age of the giant observation wheel, the humble Ferris wheel is no longer seasonal or relegated to the amusement park. Since 2000, when the London Eye debuted on the South Bank of the Thames, super-sized observation wheels, each more soaring than its predecessor, have emerged as the newest status symbol for cities. Acting as both tourist magnet and razzle-dazzle skyline addition, next-gen Ferris wheels aren't simply rides – they're experiences, a kind of contemporary take on the space age observation towers that sprang up in cities during the 1950s and '60s.

With a brand-spanking new observation wheel now rotating in Orlando and a mega-tall wheel in the works for Dubai, there's never been a better time to recognize 13 of the most spectacular, soaring and historically significant Ferris wheels in the world.

Let's take an armchair ride in the sky, shall we? (Text: Matt Hickman)