Summer is here! And for millions of New York City residents, that means it’s time to get outside and enjoy the seemingly endless activities that Coney Island has to offer.
While Coney Island was once a real island, the waterway that separated it from Brooklyn proper, known as Jamaica Ditch and then Coney Island Creek, was land-filled in the 1920s to eliminate the need for a bridge. Prior to this, the island had grown into a popular resort with many large hotels and even a gated community for the wealthy.
Coney Island quickly developed into a major amusement area which included a boardwalk and extensive beach that often had as many as a million bathers on a hot, weekend summer day. And Nathan Handwerker started selling his nickel hot dogs here in 1916. Little did he know that Nathan’s Famous would be borne from his initial enterprise and become the home of the annual July 4th hot dog-eating contest which is televised live on ESPN. Joey Chestnut is the reigning champion, having devoured 73.5 hot dogs and buns in just 10 minutes!
Coney Island today has retained much of the flavor of earlier years, despite the area going into a decline through much of the 20th century. The original Cyclone roller coaster, opened in 1927, has been refurbished and still takes visitors for thrilling rides with dips and turns on its vintage wooden frame.
While Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage to Coney Island in 2012, the area has been re-built and even expanded.
So what does Coney Island have to offer today? Check out these fun things to see and do:
Now part of Luna Park, this wooden roller coaster first debuted on June 26, 1927. It features an 85-foot, 60-degree plunge reaching a speed of 60 mph. The brief view from the top is a visitor’s favorite. Hold on tight!
2. Luna Park
In addition to the Cyclone, this full-fledged amusement park offers more than 20 rides for visitors of all ages. Check out the Slingshot, Thunderbolt, Coney Island Raceway, Steeplechase, The Tickler or Wild River for big thrills. There is also a collection of ‘medium thrill’ rides for those who prefer less heart-stopping action.
3. Brooklyn Cyclones Baseball
Take me out to the ballgame. This New York–Penn League team plays at MCU Park during June, July and August. The ballpark offers not only a super-fun and affordable way to enjoy America’s pastime but is walking distance to the beach, boardwalk and Nathan’s Famous. The iconic landmarked Parachute Jump is just beyond right field, and you’ll enjoy a great view out to the ocean throughout the stadium.
4. Beach & Boardwalk
The nearly three-mile-long beach on Coney Island is extremely wide and has attracted massive crowds of over a million sunbathers on peak days in its heyday. Cool off in the Atlantic Ocean’s waves and stroll the seemingly endless shops, games and dining options along the boardwalk. Stay for the spectacular fireworks display every Friday evening during the summer.
5. B & B Carrousel
Built in 1906, this vintage ride features hand-carved and painted works of art. This is one of only a handful of carousels that are over 100 years old remaining in the United States. Its prime location in Steeplechase Park is adjacent to the boardwalk and beach.
6. Thunderbolt Roller Coaster
Named for a coaster by the same name from the 1920s, this thrilling ride opened in 2014 with all the bells and whistles expected from a modern-era experience. It reaches speeds up to 55 mph and includes a 100-foot loop that has riders screaming throughout. Check out its seriously banked corkscrew turns, zero-g drops and over 2,200 feet of track.
7. New York Aquarium
The only aquarium in New York City is right where it belongs, adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of Coney Island. This amazing facility recently opened a 57,000-square-foot addition that includes over 100 species of marine life and the highly anticipated Ocean Wonders: Sharks! exhibit.
Clearly, Coney Island is well worth a visit, or several. In addition to these popular activities, you can zip around in a go-kart, play mini-golf, view summer movies on the beach, or enjoy circus sideshows, plus there’s an amphitheater that features summer concerts. And don’t miss the wildly popular Mermaid Parade which takes place at Coney Island this year on June 22.
Getting to Coney Island is easy by car (Belt Parkway), multiple bus routes or take the D, F, N or Q subway lines to the Stillwell Avenue station. The official Coney Island parking lot is located at the west end of the amusement area at MCU Park and is within easy walking distance of all major attractions.