Coney Island is a bucket list item whether it’s tied to your family history, curiosity for its notoriety or just a cool place to see where your favorite films/shows shot a scene or two. Our family had to visit for all of the above. Honestly, if you’re a New Yorker, you have a certain amount of pride that goes along with all of the five boroughs of New York City. No matter where you live in the state, if you haven’t experienced the five boroughs— you’re not a New Yorker (pronounced New Yawkah) yet. And Coney Island sits right at the base of Brooklyn, the city’s most populated borough.
You can’t deny the pull to want to visit such an iconic place. There is a history, excitement, and charm in this beach resort setting with a city backdrop. Whether you enjoy amusement park rides, fishing on the pier, bathing on the beach, romantic strolls on the boardwalk, or any of the wild events that take place there, you are sure to have an amazing adventure.
Top of the List
- Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest– Annual, July 4th, Located at Nathan’s on corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, MLE (Major League Eating). Nathan’s is open year round for your hotdog enjoyment.
- Cyclone*- Built in 1927, one of the US’s oldest wooden coasters still in operation!, 85 foot 60 degree drop, located in Luna Park
- Brooklyn Cyclones– minor league baseball, NY-Penn League, affiliated with NY Mets, play at MCU park on the boardwalk, located on Surf Avenue, main rival Staten Island Yankees- “Battle of the Boroughs” or “Battle for the Bridge”
- Wonder Wheel*- Opened in 1920, steel Ferris wheel with stationary cars and rocking cars, 150’ tall, illuminated at night with neon, located at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement
- NY Aquarium– oldest continually operating aquarium in the US, located in Coney Island since 1957, member Wildlife Conservation Society
- Carousel– Built early 1900’s, hand carved wooden horses, real horsehair tails, faster than usual, traditional roll-operated fairground organ, located at the old entrance of Luna Park
- Coney Island Mermaid Parade-located at Surf Avenue and the boardwalk, June, celebrates start of summer, floats and various acts, several thousand participants, “largest art parade in the US”
*Three rides at Coney Island are protected as designated New York City landmarks and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places— Wonder Wheel, Cyclone, Parachute Jump (this ride is dismantled, but still standing).
During our visit, we were able to enjoy the Cyclone, Carousel, Aquarium, Wonder Wheel, some excellent pizza, Brooklyn soda, and Nathan’s hotdogs. We visited late in the season when the crowds had died down which gave us quick access to the rides, but not too much motivation to enjoy the beach. It was a good choice for our first visit since the rides were at the top of our list.
The Cyclone is not for the faint of heart. This antique of an amusement will scare you with its creaking and clacking, jolts and turns, and 60 degree drop in a close frame. You will feel thrown back in time the minute you sit in your seat.
The Wonder Wheel is also for the more adventurous soul. We had to get a rocking car! This Ferris wheel will bring you 150 feet above Coney Island with the best views of the area. If you choose a rocking car, you can swing it at will—adding to the excitement. (Don’t worry. All cars are caged to prevent any injuries or ejections.)
The Carousel is a must if you enjoy them as much as we do. This rare antique has hand carved wooden horses with real horsehair tails. Carousel design was once popular enough in Coney Island to have coined its own style.
The New York Aquarium is part of the Bronx Zoo and WCS. They have their own parking and can be a good start for a quick look at Coney Island. This is a small aquarium with some spectacular aquatic life. They’ve recently renovated from the hurricane with a new shark exhibit!
The little boy in the featured photo is my grandfather, taken at Coney Island at its peak, about 1927. His family settled in Brooklyn when they first immigrated to the United States from Germany and Ireland. For us, it was nice to visit a place that our distant relatives had once enjoyed, especially one that was fairly intact with the same experiences. The Cyclone was built in 1927 when they were there. We quite possibly rode the same roller coaster as our great-great relatives. Not exactly a medieval history connection, but we think its cool just the same.
Here’s a short list of movies filmed at Coney Island: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Beaches, Uptown Girl, Lords of Flatbush, The Wiz, Annie Hall, Remo Williams-the Adventure Begins and more!
Family Adventure Rating ♥♥♥♥
Cost– This is not a cheap day if you want to take advantage of all of the amenities. You can expect to pay for parking, food, rides, possibly the aquarium, and any novelties or clothing you pick up in the boardwalk shops. (Hint: the Aquarium is offering 1/2 price admission for the summer and Wednesdays after 3:00pm is “pay what you wish”.) A family of five could easily spend $150 off season, enjoying only the essentials (similar to our visit).
Parking & Transportation– Parking is very difficult. Mass transit is highly recommended. You can find paid parking (there are three), but they do fill up fast. The aquarium has its own parking, but that fills up even faster, so arrive early. Parking prices vary– higher prices on weekends and special events. Mass transit is conveniently located and the MTA offers travel planning to help you reach your destination via mass transit.
Location– Coney Island owes its unique ambience and combination of activities to its location. But, it’s not an easy location to access if you’re coming from outside Brooklyn. The journey there is the price you pay for the experience.
Day Trip or Overnight– You can easily do this as a day trip, but it’s a full day. If you want to enjoy all of the amenities at your leisure there are hotels, but only one that’s close to the boardwalk. Plan ahead and book fast if you want to stay overnight.
Experience– This is a top notch adventure with varied opportunities- baseball, beach, roller coasters, food, history, etc. Our family loved our experience and can not wait to go back soon.
Combination– I would not combine this trip with anything else. There is too much to do here.