Coney Island: A Visitor’s Guide

Coney Island, NYC

Coney Island beach & amusements Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Coney Island is New York’s famed pleasure ground – synonymous with sea and sand, amusement rides, and raucous entertainment. Known as “the People’s Playground,” Coney Island pioneered sea bathing and thrill rides (introducing the first roller coaster and that American staple – the hot dog). For over a century it was the nation’s top summer retreat, often drawing over a million revelers a day. Now, after decades of decline, Coney Island is having resurgence, making it once again a great destination for sun, surf, and old-fashioned fun.

Visit

Coney Island is a peninsula in southwest Brooklyn, just east of New York Harbor. The “island’s” south coast faces Lower Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Subway: D, F, N or Q trains to Stillwell Ave./Coney Island Station. The journey from midtown Manhattan takes just under an hour.

Bus: take Brooklyn bus lines B36 (Coney Island / Avenue U), B68 (Brighton Beach / Windsor Terrace), B74 (Sea Gate / Coney Island), and B82 (Gravesend / Starrett City)

Check the MTA’s website for details or possible service interruptions.

Coney Island Beach, NYC

Coney Island Beach Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Beach & Boardwalk

Coney Island’s nearly 3 miles of soft sand beach is open 10am – 6pm, Memorial Day to Labor Day. Swimming is prohibited when lifeguards are not on duty and in closed sections. For a list of rules at NYC beaches, see NYC’s Best Beaches.

Several well-maintained restrooms line the beach/boardwalk with space for changing into swimwear.

The beach is wheelchair accessible, and Beach mats are available at West 33 Street, Stillwell Avenue, West 5th Street, Brighton 2nd Street, and Brighton 6th Street.

Besides sunbathing and taking a dip in the ocean, the beach offers courts for volleyball, handball and basketball as well as fishing from Steeplechase Pier.

Coney Island’s famed wooden boardwalk runs along the Atlantic Ocean, from West 37th Street to Ocean Parkway, separating the amusement areas from the beach. The boardwalk features several eateries serving summertime treats like hot dogs, burgers, fried clams, ice cream, beer, and cold drinks. There is also a shop with beach supplies on the boardwalk.

Deno's Wonder Wheel, Coney Island, NYC

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Amusements

Luna Park – Covering most of the amusement area, Luna Park offers 28 rides that range from extreme thrills to kid-friendly fun. Some highlights include the Wild River water luge, the Sling Shot (flinging guests 150 ft. into the air via bungees), the 107-year-old B&B Carousell, and the terrifying new Thunderbolt roller coaster. The star attraction is the famed Cyclone roller coaster, a Coney Island institution since 1927. Ride admissions are via Luna Card Credits or Unlimited Ride Wristbands, which are purchased on site. See the park’s website for pricing and details. Luna Park also features traditional carnival games and snacks.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement – This park features 4 adult rides, including the landmark Wonder Wheel (with stationary and swinging cars) and the Spook-a-Rama. Deno’s Kiddie Park offers 17 rides. Tickets for Adult rides are $7 or a 4-pack for $25. Kiddie rides are $3 with ticket packs available. Deno’s also includes two arcades, a pizzeria, an old-fashioned Sweet Shoppe, and hosts events throughout the season including free karaoke shows. The park is open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day, noon to closing (which is determined by staff). Park admission is free.

New York Aquarium – NYC’s only aquarium, the complex features more than 300 marine species, including mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles. Highlights include Conservation Hall, which simulates three aquatic habitats, the outdoor Sea Cliffs, home to penguins, seals, otters and walruses, and a sea lion demonstration in the Aquatheater. Tickets: $11.95 for ages 3 and up, which includes admission to their 4-D theater. Open year-round, Daily 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM (last entry at 3:30 PM)

The El Dorado Bumper Cars and Arcade is a fixture on Surf Avenue, featuring old-school bumper cars, a thumping sound system, and a large arcade of new and traditional games.

Coney Island Cyclone

The world-famous Coney Island Cyclone Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Entertainment

The Coney Island Museum – run by Coney Island USA, an organization dedicated to preserving the area’s distinctive culture, the small museum displays historic memorabilia and special exhibits. 1208 Surf Avenue (across from the subway station), open 1pm – 6pm Wednesdays – Sundays mid-June to August, and weekends in May & September. Admission: $5 for Adults, $3 for Seniors and Kids (under 12).

Coney Island USA also presents…

Sideshows by the Seashore – a variety show with bizarre acts like a contortionist, a sword swallower, a fire-eater, etc. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under five.  Check their website for performance schedule.

Coney Island USA

Coney Island USA, headquarters and entertainment center Photo: Coney Island USA

Burlesque on the Beach – a revival of Coney Island’s notorious “girlie revues,” it is a blend of old style burlesque, sideshow freaks, new vaudeville and music. Every Thursday & Friday during the spring and summer season. Check their website for schedule, details, and tickets.

The Coney Island Film Society screens Coney Island themed films and shorts every Saturday night at 8:30pm, May – September. Free popcorn included with ticket.

The Coney Island History Project has an exhibition center with historic artifacts, photographs, special exhibits and films of Coney Island’s colorful past. Located in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, it is open weekends and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Admission is free.

Fireworks on the Beach – Fireworks shoot off at 9:30pm every Friday night during the season. Fireworks generally start the last weekend in June and conclude the Friday before Labor Day.

MCU Park Baseball Stadium is home to the minor-league Brooklyn Cyclones. Check their website for schedule of games and tickets.

Nathan's Original, Coney Island

A Coney Island institution – Nathan’s Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Food

No trip to Coney Island is complete without indulging in its classic food treats like seafood, pizza, cold beer, ice cream, candy confections and, of course, the hot dog. See our post on Best Coney Island Food.

Events

The Mermaid Parade – Coney Island’s parade of quirky mermaids and sea creatures, floats and performers. Pageant participants display their colorful costumes (usually outrageous, often quite scant) of mythic maritime creatures along with music and over-the-top fun. The annual summer celebration takes place on a Saturday every June. For more information about the parade (including how to participate), see Coney Island USA’s website.

Mermaid Parade, Coney Island

Meet Ms. Coral Reef, one of the colorful characters in the Mermaid Parade. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest – every July 4th Nathan’s hosts this well-known contest in which participants compete to consume the most hot dogs within 10 minutes. Not for the faint of heart (or weak of stomach).

Coney Island Flicks on the Beach – On Mondays in July and August, a giant 40-foot inflatable screen turns the beach at West 10th Street into an outdoor movie theater. The roster of films is a mix of modern, classic, and indie movies.

Every September, the Coney Island Film Festival screens eclectic films from the U.S. and all over the world, including a number of films “made in Coney Island.” All screenings are held inside Coney Island USA.

Halloween is big at Coney Island! The month-long celebration includes Nights of Horror at Luna Park and Scream Zone, a haunted maze.  There’s a special side show – Creepshow at the Freakshow, the New York Aquarium hosts Halloween at the A-scarium, and there’s the Annual Children’s Halloween Parade. Check Coney Island Fun’s Calendar for up-to-date details.

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, the nation’s oldest winter bathing club, meet every Sunday November through April for a dip in the icy Atlantic. Guests can join them or just watch safely bundled up on the beach.

For more information and a complete events calendar, see Coney Island Fun Guide. Download their helpful Fun Map with discount coupons.

Coney Island Boardwalk

Coney Island’s famous Boardwalk Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Have you been to Coney Island?  What your favorite attraction or treat?

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