Must-See Coney Island
by nycgo.com staff, 05/28/2013
(From left) Coney Island Beach and Luna Park photos by Julienne Schaer
Coney Island—New York City's legendary amusement district—is not a theme park. Six Flags Great Adventure and Disneyland are nice places to spend some time, but they are gated, hermetically sealed worlds that cut visitors off from reality. This is something different: a seaside playground that's also a real-life NYC neighborhood. Its appeal comes not from a single source but from the combined force of its many individual attractions. On a bright summer day, no place feels more electric.
It starts with the awesome wooden Cyclone roller coaster (complete with what may be the most terrifying first drop in the universe), which remains the area's centerpiece after more than 85 years. In recent years, the folks behind the shiny new Luna Park have taken over management of the Cyclone and added such thrill rides as a human slingshot (we're not first in line for that one…but it's there!). The carnival atmosphere wouldn't be complete without Sideshows by the Seashore, an outrageous cavalcade of curiosities headlined by stars with colorful names like Serpentina and Insectavora. For those with simpler tastes in summer fun, a dip in the ocean might suffice; the beach is right off the boardwalk. Other essential Coney Island attractions include Cyclones baseball at MCU Park, the New York Aquarium and the original Nathan's Famous, home of the world's most renowned eating competition: the Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest (all back up and running for the new season). Russian enclave Brighton Beach is just a few wood planks away, and you can fuel your foot-powered journey there with some clams, funnel cake or other seaside specialties from vendors along the boardwalk.
It's an understatement to say that Coney Island has faced its share of challenges over the years, most recently when Hurricane Sandy struck last fall. But the longtime business owners there, many of whom have had a stake in the area for decades, plan on sticking around for a long while. "Coney Island's been around since the late 1800s," says Michael Sarrel, an owner of Ruby's Bar & Grill, "and we want to make sure it stays around until the late 2100s."
Read on for details about our favorite things to see and do in Coney Island.