Swingin’ Gym

one of the most dangerous, unsuccessful rides ever produced

The Swingin’ Gym (also known as ‘The Flying Cages’) has hurt and maimed large numbers of its riders, with the original design almost uninsurable within a few years of operation. If you own one, you have a giant piece of carnival art, and a great fitness apparatus if you can master it!

The ride action is very simple and relies on the physical exertion of its passengers to keep it moving; stopping it is another matter altogether! Basically through human strength, a single rider rocks the counter-weighted cage back and fourth until it swings over the top.

Within a few years there were all too many reports of riders getting slung over to one side, battered and bruised by their very own momentum with riders sometimes ending up unconscious, with broken bones, split heads, grazes etc. Nevertheless, the ride concept was incredibly original and if not for injuries of lesser coordinated riders, would have been highly profitable and easy to maintain for its owner as the below advertisement suggests.

Grover Watkins of Watkins Rides (AKA Venture Rides & Hi Lite Rides) recalls he made his first Swingin’ Gym for his own park in 1959. “We built over 400 through 1969, selling them at $10,000 each. The idea came from an old German ride that was over 100 years old. It was a fantastic ride, but the darn thing was dangerous. It resulted in a lot of stiff elbows, broken teeth, etc. “I finally quit making them because I couldn’t design out the accidents. I learned, to my sorrow, that I had been betting on the coordination, balance, etc. of the public and you can imagine when somebody with a few drinks in them got on it.”

Due to their relatively low cost, many more were manufactured worldwide, with at least 13 units manufactured in the UK, and many more custom-built designs rolled out in a very short time across Europe.

A small number of modified units still make appearances across Europe, with enhanced safety including extra padding and supervisor-controlled disc or air brakes in the advent a rider loses their footing.

What a conversation piece of backyard play (or exercise) equipment!

188 Responses to “Swingin’ Gym”

  1. Swinging Gyms always at Flat rock Indiana VFD fish fry. Held second weekend each year this is the seventh year. 21018 will mark the eighth year.

    Grace Cantwell - August 13th, 2017 at 7:41 am

  2. Thinking of selling my set of flying cages / swingin gym. Four cages set on trailer. It will need to be restored completely but its all there and its original. email me if your interested. Thanks passnbyu@comcast.net

    Glen - November 6th, 2017 at 11:59 am

  3. I loved the cages! Was only about 7-8 yrs old and mastered it. Loved to watch big muscle men watch me and think it was easy but then not be able to do it. Was all about balance and weight distribution.

    Lana J Runion - February 18th, 2018 at 1:48 am

  4. I have one in Waterloo Iowa

    Tom - May 15th, 2018 at 1:50 am

  5. In the early 1970’s, my friend and I were addicted to this ride at the Dade County Youth Fair. We became expert at working it together and we each could swing it over alone. There were 3 different weighted cages as I remember. We were13 at the time. Awesome ride!

    Cyndi Meyer - May 25th, 2018 at 7:01 am

  6. Best. Ride. Ever. If I had access to one of these, I would throw away every other piece of workout equipment I own. I remember seeing one for sale on Ebay around 10 years ago for about $2k. There are a couple out there for sale now, going for $30k. I could kick myself for not grabbing it back then!

    Darren - June 29th, 2018 at 1:42 am

  7. Wow -what a memory! One of the best and simplest amusement park rides ever invented. If you held onto the handles (like you were SUPPOSED to), you’d have full control over the ride. I ended up swingin’ it up and over several times and had an absolute ball! Will look around to see if any are still operating in the U.S.-

    John - July 3rd, 2018 at 11:02 am

  8. We used to ride these at the Kiwanis Carnival in Livingston back in the late 70s early 80s are they available for sale privately and if so where can I find one I love this ride it was a n excellent workout

    Billy - July 15th, 2018 at 9:17 am

  9. I used to ride this at the Kiwanis Carnival in Livingston during the late 70s and the early 80s I love this great exercise ride are they available for sale now privately and if so how can I get ahold of them

    Billy - July 15th, 2018 at 9:18 am

  10. My sister & I & friend mastered the swingin’ gym @ Kiddieland on McCormick, Chicago. It took a few trys, dude let us stay on-we went over & over & over again-what a blast! Are there any near Chicago we might ‘re-visit’?

    Karen - October 23rd, 2018 at 6:31 pm

  11. I used to run one of these as a Carney in 1974, 75 and 76. I could get over in 4 pumps and used to bet large muscular boys! I would put them in push them, then jump in mine and beat them over the top. I would have their girlfriends hold our money………to embarrassed to argue, good times. Let me know if you have one for sale!!

    Amos - October 27th, 2018 at 7:59 am

  12. Was there Swinging Gyms at Kiddieland in Melrose Park,Illinois at one time or another?

    Michael J. Bonome - January 3rd, 2019 at 11:54 am

  13. Check this out!! Great times!!!! More to follow….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rChMUFmmOO0&t=16s&index=3&list=PL_qMSUFaCkU1B_RuWwuak1dpuWxJG8x_S

    Mike Hutson - January 29th, 2019 at 2:00 am

  14. I have a set of four cages on trailer, works great, just needs some minor repair. I am interested in selling. Email if interested, patmellish@windstream.net

    P)at Mellish - April 26th, 2019 at 12:11 am

  15. Anyone else remember these at Knoebels Grove in Elysburg, PA. Early 70’s, I was a high school kid at the time. I remember they had sort of a scrubber brake on the bottom that could be engaged to stop you if you didn’t listen to the operator!

    Larry Snyder - May 14th, 2019 at 8:23 am

  16. We used to ride these at Lake Arrowhead, Ca. back in the 1970’s. I was never able to get it to go all the way over. Hard to do when you’re 9 and your little brother is crying the whole time.

    L Petoski - May 25th, 2019 at 1:40 pm

  17. My sister and I used to ride the Cages whenever we could find them at a visiting carnival! One time we left all our kids with her husband, and went to a local carnival to ride the Cages. The guy running them thought we were too old to do it. Nobody else was going over. We had such fun proving him wrong! I keep looking for them whenever I see a carnival.

    Trudy Crawford - June 11th, 2019 at 1:26 am

  18. Knoebels Grove in the 70s as a kid. Awesome ride because it was so obviously dangerous!

    Kevin White - June 20th, 2019 at 5:11 am

  19. I used to ride these at the beachfront park, in Gulf Shores’, Alabama, I actually worked there when i was 16….. i’m 60 now! I loved them! Would like to buy a set now!

    Billy Lance - July 16th, 2019 at 1:23 pm

  20. I own a set in NY. Just in my back yard.

    John Welch - July 27th, 2019 at 12:54 pm

  21. My family’s carnival business in Ohio owns and operates a swinging gym! It always has a line and it’s one of the few pieces teens actually love!

    Ashley - July 28th, 2019 at 7:25 am

  22. I would ride the flying cage every time I went to Ocean City quickly getting the cage over the top and then increasing the speed so that it did not slow. By far the best ride ever because it involved my skill and strength and coordination. I would not call it dangerous. It was just fun.

    Daniel Gerstenfield - August 6th, 2019 at 8:21 pm

  23. On the contrary they are still appearing at a number of UK based fairgrounds.

    Jason Moody - February 21st, 2020 at 12:31 am

  24. I excelled at that thing! The operator let me get it going pretty fast, realizing that I wasn’t going to let go and become a casualty. lol. so much fun, so many blisters! BTW, I am in the market for one!

    dudley duel - June 14th, 2020 at 2:42 pm

  25. Is there any of these for sale?

    Bill - June 25th, 2020 at 1:04 pm

  26. Does anyone know where a swinging gym is for sale?

    Bill - June 26th, 2020 at 3:15 am

  27. I used to go on the swinging gym at a local carnival when I was younger in the 70s. It came in with Martins Shows Carnivals and it was fun and as long as you followed the safety rules and did it right was no problem and infact was fun.

    Daniel J Wilson - August 1st, 2020 at 1:09 pm


    jason james richter - September 24th, 2020 at 4:42 am

  29. tbh i was more the dive bomber – OMG my fave ride ever – loved this – one of the best rides around – actually i did hit my jaw hard once on the skid ride- , looks innocent but id say at full speed its faster than the waltzer. the car used to shake as it spun on the track

    jason james richter - September 24th, 2020 at 4:46 am

  30. Big Time memories from the early 70s in California with Butler Amusements there was a pair of them. I WAS AROUND 15 AND WEIGHED AROUND 100 LBS AND USED TO ROCK AND ROLL ON THEM.

    Foot Blakley - November 29th, 2020 at 6:49 pm

  31. Hey Tom from Foley and Burke Swinging Jim’s in California mid 70’s…remember your girlfriend with you on the Jims?…Carol

    Foot Blakley - November 29th, 2020 at 6:55 pm

  32. Used to manage one in Palisades Amusement Park back in the 60’s..they were called the Flying Cages and owned by the Park Superintendent John Rinaldi. I ran them for the entire season in 1968 without one mishap or injury even with the concept you could stay on as long as you want as long there were no lines. I used to ride myself and get the door pins to slide up and have the door fall off….made the onlookers very nervous at times…only 25¢ per ride.

    Steve - November 29th, 2020 at 8:50 pm

  33. In the early 70’s, Dandelion Park, Muskego WI. I still dream of this ride. I remember my first time over the top,,,,

    Walter Kennison - December 4th, 2020 at 11:37 am

  34. Is there a place in Florida where it is available to ride.?

    Neil - January 16th, 2021 at 11:18 pm

  35. By far my favorite amusement ride growing up. San Francisco’s Playland-by-the-beach had one. You actively powering it by coordinated weight redistribution, perfectly timed. A swing addict as a kid, I quickly mastered it and was flying like a bird. Would tell attendant not to give me a push to start action for extra challenge. My friend standing by said someone commented “He ain’t even hesitatin’!”

    Stuart Ward - January 23rd, 2021 at 5:06 am

  36. These were a blast. It was hard at first to get them to go over the top, but once you figured it out you could get them going fast enough to be able to lift your legs and float across the top. It only took one time to realize letting go as I went across the top was a big mistake. I got slammed pretty hard but fortunately didn’t get hurt.

    Bub - March 1st, 2021 at 3:40 am

  37. We had these at Knoebels Groves. Many park goers remember the days of the Flying Cages here at the park!

    Brady Petrovich - March 9th, 2021 at 7:21 am

  38. i worked on the swinging gyms in the late 70 best days of my life JB Botton and sons Funfair England

    terry Fleming - October 5th, 2021 at 5:48 pm

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