Best Places to Go on Coney Island

Sightseeing in NYC: Coney Island

Coney Island is a peninsula, formerly an island, in the southernmost part of Brooklyn, New York City. It has a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. The neighborhood has a population of 60,000 people in the western part of the peninsula, with Seagate to its west; Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach to its east; and Gravesend to the north.

Coney Island is called “the playground to the world.” From Nathan’s Hot Dogs to The Cyclone Rollercoaster find out what makes Coney Island special.

Coney Island is easily accessible from the city’s other boroughs and from points within Brooklyn by car and subway. The historic amusement area spans from West 8th Street to West 24th Street and from Surf Avenue to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Best Rides in the World

The amusement area opens each spring, around Easter, and closes in the fall, around Labor Day. The largest parks on the island include Astroland, Home of the World Famous Cyclone, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, and Keyspan Park and the Brooklyn Cyclones. These parks all offer a variety of carnival-type rides for kids and adults. No one can visit Coney Island without taking a ride on Astroland’s Cyclone. Since it was unveiled in 1927, this coaster has come to be considered one of the most famous, most influential, and most copied roller-coasters in the world. Coaster enthusiasts from around the globe have traveled long distances just to be able to enjoy this famed wooden-tracked twister.

Wonder Wheel

Forget the Statue of Liberty, New York’s most exciting monument stands tall at a height of 150 feet, has a diameter of 140 feet, and can hold up to 144 passengers.

Since it was built in 1920, the Wonder Wheel has come to represent everything the Coney Island Amusement area stands for. In all its years of service, it has only been forced to stop once, and it has also managed to maintain a perfect safety record. It’s that quality of excellence that each year draws people from all over the globe to enjoy the over 35 different parks, rides, and attractions that call Coney Island home.

Activities Throughout the Year

As far as year-round enjoyment goes, the beach and the boardwalk never close! In addition to these, The New York Aquarium is also open almost every day of the year, and on the weekends you can peruse through the Coney Island Museum, taking a look at the history of the area, and enveloping yourself in the legacy that it has come to be. There are also many seasonal events and activities that come to the area throughout the year, so it is best to poke around when planning your trip; you never know what new fun and exciting thing may be going on.

Famous Food and Fun for the Whole Family

In addition to the Cyclone, Coney Island boasts one more staple that only those with iron stomachs should attempt to handle: the world-famous Coney dog! (Please note: It is recommended that you tackle the coaster before the dog, not the other way around!) One of the best places to visit for an authentic Coney dog is Nathan’s Famous. It is also home to the annual hot dog eating contest, held every July 4th at noon. Kick back, relax, and next time you’re in New York, take a trip out of the city and enjoy a little bit of good old fashioned fun on Coney Island.

History of Coney Island

Since the early 1800s, Coney Island has been the “playground to the world.” The 1890s through the early 1900s saw the heyday of three of Coney Island’s most famous amusement parks: Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park.

Coney Island’s First Amusement Park: Steeplechase Park

Steeplechase Park was the first amusement park built in Coney Island. Erected by George Tilyou in 1897, it housed some of Coney Island’s most famous attractions: a Ferris wheel built in 1894 predated the opening of the park, Ariel Slide, and The Steeplechase Horses, an 1100 foot curved metal race track with double saddled wooden horses on wheels that operated by gravity.

Perhaps Tilyou’s greatest contribution to Coney Island was Ocean View Walk. Known as “The Bowery” it was constructed out of wood planks in 1892 to provide safe passage around the Brooklyn streets that were lined with saloons, clam bars, and bathhouses. The Bowery quickly became the heart and soul of Coney Island, filled with freaks and fortune-tellers.

Coney Island’s Second Amusement Park: Luna Park

In 1902, George Tilyou invited Frederic Thompson and Skip Dundy to move their highly successful attraction, A Trip To The Moon, from the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York to Steeplechase Park. The next year, 1903, the two obtained a long term lease on the site of the old Sea Lion Park. They built a new amusement park and named it for Dundy’s sister, Luna. Luna Park became Coney Island’s second major amusement park.

Besides A Trip To The Moon, Luna Park boasted The Dragon’s Gorge. Dragon’s Gorge was an enclosed roller coaster with steep curves and grades and which passed under a waterfall at great speeds. Luna Park was also home to Topsy the Elephant. Topsy was a domesticated elephant with Forepaugh Circus. Because Topsy had killed three men in as many years, including an abusive trainer who fed her lit cigarettes, she was deemed a threat and killed by electrocution by her owners on January 4, 1903. An estimated 1500 people witnessed the event, including Thomas Edison who filmed the death and would release the film later that year under the title, Electrocuting The Elephant.

Luna Park burnt down in 1944 and was not opened for the 1945 season. After a prolonged legal battle and another fire in 1946, the land was sold and used to develop low-income housing. Some have called the fires “Topsy’s Revenge.”

Coney Island in the 1960 and 1970s: Astroland

Located at 1000 Surf Avenue, Astroland opened in 1962 as a “space-age themed” amusement park. Dewey Albert with his friends Nathan Handwerker, Herman Rapps, Sidney Robbins, and Paul Yampo formed Coney Island Enterprises in 1955. 1n 1957 Rapps announced they would build an amusement park called Wonderworld. Through a series of acquisitions, the friends finally opened Astroland. The most famous attraction in Astroland is Cyclone.

The Cyclone was originally built in 1927. It was purchased by New York City in 1971 and leased to Astroland for $57,000 per year. Astroland’s owners refurbished the coaster, which was deteriorating and closed in 1969, and re-opened it on July 3, 1975. The Cyclone was declared a New York City landmark on July 12, 1988, and added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 26, 1991. Although Astroland closed September 7, 2008, the Cyclone continues to attract many tourists to Coney Island and plays a part in Coney Island’s revitalization.

The Revitalization of Coney Island

In recent years Coney Island is starting to return to its former glory as a family-friendly place to visit. Brand new amusement parks have replaced the parks of yesteryear and bring all-new attractions to a new generation. A brand new Luna Park, named in honor of the original, opened in May 2010. It features thrill rides, sideshow performances, and a kiddie park.

MCU Park is the home of the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team. The Cyclones are the minor league affiliate of the New York Mets and have just celebrated their 10th year in Brooklyn. The ballpark features Nathan hotdogs, family entertainment, and a view of the beach as well as some of Coney Island’s famous attractions.

The New York Aquarium is located on Surf Avenue and West 8th Street. It is open 365 days a year and features an outdoor amphitheater for shows and feedings, a 3D theatre for educational films, and a conservation hall dedicated to preserving the threatened marine ecosystem. Among the exhibits, you will find sea otters, penguins, sea turtles, and sharks.

Of course, the Cyclone still runs and Nathan Hot Dogs are still sold on the same corner. If you decide to visit New York City do yourself a favor and hop a D or F Train to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue and enjoy the rebirth.

Getting there

Take the D, F, N or Q train to the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue Subway Station, the F or Q trains to the W 8th St -NY Aquarium Subway Station, or the Q train to the Ocean Parkway Subway Station.

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