Gorky Park is Moscow's most famous funfair, and attracts big crowds in the summer months. For toddlers, there's the well-equipped lunapark, with a number of simple but safe rides. For older children, there are rollercoasters, a house of horrors, the gravity-defying 'Fly Machine', and the Buran, a genuine space shuttle, shelved in the eighties, that now contains a flight simulator. In winter, the huge outdoor skating rink is extremely popular, but not recommended for younger children, whereas the pedal boats that come out on the ponds in summer are a staid but safe way to kill a half-hour in the sun.
The Central Park of Rest and Culture Named After M. Gorky, to give it its full name, is one of the most famous places in Moscow (thanks presumably to Martin Cruz Smith's grizzly tale of a psychopathic professor, and the Hollywood film it inspired - shot mostly in Stockholm). Laid out in 1928, this was the first park of its kind, and the prototype for hundreds of others across the Soviet Union.
The park stretches along the banks of the Moscow River, and is divided into two parts. The first is primarily of interest to children or those trying to entertain them, as it contains a range of funfair rides and rollercoasters - some safer looking than others, although they are being upgraded all the time. You can also hire boats or horses, go bungee jumping, and there's a sports club with tennis courts. In winter the whole area becomes a vast skating rink with skate hire, disco lights and music to match. In summer the "beach" area is hugely popular with sun-worshippers, and becomes an open air club in the evenings.
The other, older, half of the park is considerably more restrained, consisting of formal gardens and woodland that combine the former Golitsynskiy and Neskuchniy Gardens, names that crop up regularly in Russian literary classics. There are a number of fine old buildings dating from the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, including two summerhouses by the great Moscow architect Mikhail Kazakov (who designed the Senate Building in the Kremlin), and the first City Hospital. Nearby is the enormous Green Theater, an outdoor amphitheater that hosts various gigs and concerts in the summer months.
Gorky Park's attractions are generally more appealing for locals than for tourists but it's the place to come if you want to find out how the majority of Muscovites spend their free time. Across the road from the main entrance, in front of the House of Artists, is the Graveyard of Fallen Monuments, a ramshackle but intriguing collection of old Soviet official statues and other homeless sculpture that's well worth a brief inspection.