Everyone knows about the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel—and the new Thunderbolt—but maybe you’re not a thrill seeker. If that’s the case, don’t worry. There are plenty of fun things to do at Coney Island that don’t require you to be at least this tall to ride, and that you can do on a full stomach without any trepidation. Interested? Check out our list.
1. See a Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game
MCU Park, 1904 Surf Ave., 718-449-8497
The Brooklyn Cyclones, the New York Mets' short-season single-A minor league club, play in picturesque MCU Park. The smell of ocean air permeates the stadium, situated right on the boardwalk and just a few blocks from local attractions like Deno's Wonder Wheel and Luna Park. In the distance beyond the left-field wall, fans can see the roller coaster that inspired the team's name slowly rise and suddenly plunge on its first terrifying drop—and during night games, neon-colored fluorescent rings circling the ballpark's stadium lights are a perfect complement to the carnivalesque setting. The on-field competition of scrappy, hardworking ballplayers harks back to the good ol' days of Brooklyn baseball—as does the intimate setting, where the players on the field can hear what fans yell out from the stands and vice versa. In the grand tradition of the minor leagues, the Cyclones are known for their outlandish promotions, like having offered free tickets for life to anyone who would agree to name their child Brooklyn or Cy. Our baseball promotions roundup offers hints of what's in store this year. If you're heading to a game, look out for the statue of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese near the main gate—it shows Reese with his arm around Robinson, a famous gesture of solidarity that was recently re-created in the film 42.
2. Go to the Mermaid Parade
The Mermaid Parade has sent nautically (and often scantily) clad ladies and gents in colorful, over-the-top floats down the boardwalk since 1983 in a joyous celebration of New York City spirit and individualism. Music, antique cars and an abundance of mermaids always make the event a memorable one. And don't forget about the celebrity king and queen—in the past, the roles have been filled by such big names as Harvey Keitel, Mayor de Blasio’s kids and, fittingly, Queen Latifah. Stay tuned for details on who’ll lead the procession on June 18, 2016.
3. Rock out at the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk
There’s a long, proud tradition of concerts at Coney Island, and in 2016 the neighborhood finally gets its own permanent major music venue. The inaugural lineup includes a parade of big names, among them Sting and Peter Gabriel on one bill, Jane’s Addiction, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Flogging Molly. Organizers also plan to schedule some free shows; stay tuned for details.
4. Visit the Coney Island Museum
1208 Surf Ave., 718-372-5159
The Coney Island Museum features a number of displays that celebrate the amusement park and surrounding neighborhood. There’s a 3-D printed scale model of the old Luna Park, work by Brooklyn artist Daniel Blake (aka Africasso) and an assortment of oddities and memorabilia. The museum is also the venue for a Saturday night film series put on by the Coney Island Film Society, featuring B-movies and assorted documentaries.
5. Delve into the past at the Coney Island History Project
3059 W. 12th St., 347-702-8553
Also helping show off the history and heritage of the neighborhood, the Coney Island History Project is a decade-old organization that has an exhibition center located practically underneath the Wonder Wheel. Its free exhibition, Coney Island Stereoviews (which features vintage 3-D images of the area), can be perused on weekend afternoons, and 90-minute neighborhood walking tours ($20), sponsored by the group, are offered on Sundays.
6. Say hello to your fishy friends at the New York Aquarium
602 Surf Ave., 718-265-3474
This aquarium—the oldest continually operating example in the US—remains a must-see destination on Coney Island's celebrated boardwalk. Visitors will be charmed by all manner of marine life, including seals, walruses, red-bellied piranhas and rays. Long-range planners can look forward to the opening of Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, which will feature blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, sand tiger sharks and wobbegongs, a carpet shark native to the western Pacific and eastern Indian Oceans. Look for it to open spring 2017 (and note that there's a current exhibition with sand tiger sharks). More immediate gratification can be had from viewing the daily penguin and otter feedings.
7. Hit the beach
That salt-air smell that permeates all of Coney Island is coming from the ocean. Indeed, there are nearly three miles of beach property in the neighborhood, and you can see clearly to the vast blue expanse of ocean from the boardwalk. Brighton Beach is nearby as well. If you've forgotten any of your beach gear—sandals, a bathing suit, a hat or sunglasses, for example—there are many Coney Island shops that have you covered.
Of course, there’s are always surprises during any Coney Island summer—so you can count on more fun popping up as the season progresses. Check coneyisland.com for the latest details on what to do by the beach.