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.

There are four subway lines ending their journey at Coney Island’s Stilwell Avenue Station. The trains begin their journey from stations in Queens and The Bronx and all pass through Manhattan.

Beach at Coney Island

The Atlantic beach at Coney Island is wide and sandy stretching continuously for nearly three miles (five kilometers). The beach is generally clean, well-maintained, and watched by lifeguards. Being a popular destination with New Yorkers, the beach tends to get very crowded in summer, especially during the weekends. In spring and autumn, the beach is less crowded and a pleasant place for a breezy stroll. A boardwalk stretches along the beachfront, which extends into the nearby neighborhood of Brighton Beach.

Along the Boardwalk

Many of the activities in Coney Island are concentrated along the boardwalk. Major attractions here are amusement rides, game arcades, and sideshows. The amusement rides in Coney Island include the Ferris wheels, roller coaster, carousels, water slides, and bumper cars. A major landmark and the popular ride is the Wonder Wheel, a 150-feet (46 meters) Ferris wheel that opened in 1920. Another major amusement ride is the Cyclone, a roller coaster built in 1927 with a 60-degree drop.

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.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

Deno’s is a smaller amusement park that offers a more kid-friendly array of activities. Still, the most popular attraction on the whole boardwalk is located at Deno’s: The Wonder Wheel. This Ferris wheel was built in 1920 and spans 150 feet into the air, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The Wonder Wheel has been named a New York City landmark.

Those not interested in riding amusement park rides can instead enjoy a number of different activities. Coney Island is host to a variety of tourist and family-friendly businesses including the Amphitheater where shows are put on display in a 5,000-seat auditorium. Fans of sea creatures will want to block out a whole afternoon to see the New York Aquarium which is located on-site and offers the only real aquarium in all of New York City. There are 14 acres of exhibits and 300 different species of marine animals on display, including the exciting Shamu water show.

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.

Other Attractions

Coney Island is the home of the New York Aquarium, one of the oldest aquariums in the United States dating back to 1896. Initially located in Battery Park in Downtown Manhattan, the aquarium was later relocated to Coney Island in 1957. The resort is also home of MCU Park (baseball stadium) and the Brooklyn Cyclone baseball team. Every June, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place along Surf Avenue and the boardwalk, featuring floats and fancy dresses. Every October, the Coney Island Film Festival screens independent films from the United States and around the world.

Nathan’s Hotdogs

Many of the eateries in Coney Island are concentrated along Surf Avenue. Almost every institution is Nathan’s, located at the corner of Surf and Stilwell Avenues. Nathan’s is well-known for its hot dogs, started by two Polish immigrants in 1916. Hot dogs served at Nathan’s remained popular since its beginnings but today also serves burgers, fried chicken, and fish & chips. Each year on the 4th of July there is the much-publicized Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest with contestants trying to eat as many hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.

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

Dining on Coney Island is as diverse as any tourist could want. Locals love to eat at Nathan’s Famous, where freshly grilled hot dogs are served up with delicious french fries. People more in the mood for a serious sit-down meal will want to consider going to Gargiulo’s, which has been in business since 1907 and is a local favorite. Grabbing a meal at Coney Island can be as diverse or as simple as a visitor could want, so go wild.

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 the 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 on 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

Luna Park was opened in 2010 and currently offers 19 total attractions which range from thrill rides to child-friendly amusements. The most popular attraction is probably the Cyclone Roller Coaster which was built in 1927 and is considered one of the oldest wooden coasters still running.

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 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 on 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.

Eating at Coney Island

Dining on Coney Island is as diverse as any tourist could want. Locals love to eat at Nathan’s Famous, where freshly grilled hot dogs are served up with delicious french fries. People more in the mood for a serious sit-down meal will want to consider going to Gargiulo’s, which has been in business since 1907 and is a local favorite. Grabbing a meal at Coney Island can be as diverse or as simple as a visitor could want, so go wild.

Annual Events

Visitors to Coney Island will have something to do no matter when they roll down to the boardwalk, but there are special events that could make the trip more magical. Every Friday night starting in June and ending the week before Labor Day visitors can catch Friday Night Fireworks. Throughout Summer tourists or locals can also take a trip down to the boardwalk for a beachside movie every Monday night for the “Flicks on the Beach” event. There’s almost always something going on at Coney Island.

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.

Location: 1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 11224-2816

Click here to visit Coney Island official website.

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