Practical Guide to Visiting Coney Island in New York

Coney Island
Redactora / Travel writer
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A journey back in time, a movie from the 80s, a beach, a more than curious place in the outskirts of New York, in other words, Coney Island: the beach near New York that falls in love with anyone looking to see something different from the Big Apple. A beachfront amusement park, a boardwalk set another century, what is Coney Island? In this post we will tell you all about how to visit Coney Island, how to get there and what must-see places to visit in this vintage neighborhood near New York.

What is Coney Island

There are many assumptions (and depending on the age of the travelers, even more) that lead to think about Coney Island. The island (today the peninsula) corresponds to the Brooklyn neighborhood, on the outskirts of New York, a place highly frequented by New Yorkers during the sweltering hot days of summer, looking to rest on the beach and cool off in the Atlantic Ocean.

A boardwalk scented with popcorn and cotton candy, a kind of circus, food stalls, carnival games, a roller coaster, What is Coney Island?

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The reality is that Coney Island is all that and much more, it is one of the most extravagant, contrasting and curious cities around New York that is far removed from a paradisiacal Caribbean beach but that closely resembles one of those places that one looks for, but cannot find an explanation.

In very short words, until the beginning of the 20th century, Coney Island knew how to be the resort chosen by the highest classes of the city, surrounded by luxury hotels adding, over the years, the arrival of casinos and amusement parks. After the Second World War, Coney Island was also affected by economic crises and future debacles, losing its light, but always seeking to stay in the thoughts of travelers who visit the city and seek to know a a different place, “staying in time” and seeking to form itself as “that vintage place near New York”.

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Rumor has it that in 1917, even Al Capone himself was a part of Coney Island history.

Visiting Coney Island: an “escape” from urbanization

After its years of decline, today Coney Island is a place frequented by New Yorkers and foreigners, a place to “escape” from the suffocating heat but which, at the same time, is one of the best plans what to do in New York in summer, especially for being located in front of the fresh sea breeze, just 50 minutes away from the Big Apple.

Coney Island, the small town of the 80’s, with games and entertainment, survivor of the 20 ‘, with its world famous food stalls and its quirky attractions, it becomes a city nearby of New York that must see in a day, especially during the high season, where its amusement parks are open every day, people eating at the tables in front of the sea ​​and the atmosphere merge with the pleasant climate.

  • Travel tip : Does Coney Island close in winter? Absolutely not, Luna Park, the neighborhood amusement park, is only open on weekends in the winter season, there are fewer travelers, but Coney Island remains standing, waiting for the higher temperatures. So if you want to visit Coney Island in winter, it is also a possibility.

Why visit Coney Island?

A curious, extravagant, bizarre, different place, ideal to visit in summer, a great different plan, Coney Island brings together everything most travelers are interested in. Visiting Coney Island is traveling back in time, it is searching from vending machines for sugar balls, to graffiti and urban art, it is finding the most famous hot dogs of The United States and museums with halls of mirrors or vestiges of the innocent old circus of the 20 ‘, is to ride a roller coaster from the middle of the 20th century and visit a Russian neighborhood on the outskirts of New York. Who would miss something like that?

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Visiting Coney Island is to detach yourself a bit from the skyscrapers, the intense traffic, the magnificent shops of 5th avenue and the Broadway musicals to enter the most peculiar sector of the Big Apple.

Visiting Coney Island is also entering a completely different world, where prejudices or what “usually is seen on a beach” should be left aside, because neither palm trees, nor coconuts, Nor are you going to see resorts on its shore, but rather a curious place that knew how to be incredible, with the effort to maintain the certain charm that remains in its corners.

How to get to Coney Island

As we told you at the beginning, Coney Island is located in Brooklyn, less than 50 minutes by subway from Manhattan, so getting to this striking place is not a difficult task.

The most convenient subway is the one that goes to Coney Island – Stillwell Ave, on lines D, F, N and Q located just 5 minutes from the sea. Of course, it is also possible to arrive by taxi or bus, although we are in New York, everything that has to walk on the street is not the best recommendation.

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Photo: Blair-39

7 unmissable things to do in Coney Island

1. Luna Park

Whoever has seen a photo of Coney Island, the first thing that can be seen is its amusement park in front of the sea. This being one of the best plans what to do in New York in spring, it is not necessary that the beach It is an obligation, but remains as the background of this curious scenario.

Luna Park is, in fact, one of the many amusement parks that make up the Coney Island pier but it is definitely one of the most representative, especially due to the age of its games still in use. operation (fearful travelers, no problems, everything is checked).

Most important (and most emblematic) attractions of Luna Park:

  • Wonder Wheel : The gigantic Ferris wheel that is seen in all the photos of Coney Island was inaugurated in 1920 and to this day it is still in operation with gondolas that slide from a side to side.
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  • The Cyclone: a wooden roller coaster built in 1927, standing ever since, surviving crises and natural disasters.
  • Thunderbolt – A 90 degree drop, twists there and there, Coney Island’s third and most iconic attraction is definitely a great place to go on a stroll around this magnificent site.

2. Walk along the promenade

As this is one of the beaches near New York that are definitely worth visiting, a tour of Coney Island would not be complete without a walk along the Boardwalk or the wooden boardwalk that runs along the Atlantic Ocean.

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Photo: Bogdan Tapu

Along with Luna Park, this is the classic Coney Island postcard: where you can see the food stalls, the games and the terraces where you can sit and rest with a cold beer, but not before tasting the most traditional classic of all Coney Island: Nathan’s Hot Dogs. What is it? It deserves a separate paragraph.

  • Travel tip : a great recommendation that serves both to explore the boardwalk and all of Coney Island (and one of the best things to do in New York in spring) is rent a bike in Dumbo (or another part of Brooklyn) and pedal through the charm of the region.

3. Taste a hot dog at Nathan’s

Before we told you that Coney Island is known for a particular food: Nathan’s Hot Dog (hot dogs, hot dogs, hot dogs ), one more dish than traditional for the area and an emblem of the region.

Nathan’s has had its branch in Coney Island for more than 100 years, specifically at the corner of Surf and Stillwell and, without missing a day, offers its visitors the most famous hot dogs in all of New York < / strong> that today have been distributed throughout the country.

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  • Travel tip: it is possible to taste them with a typical Coney Island Ale beer, a classic.

Did you know that Nathan’s runs a hot dog eating contest at top speed every July 4th (United States Independence Day)? The record for men is 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes and, for women, 40 in 10 minutes. You’ve seen? It’s because they broadcast the event on ESPN!

4. Enter the Coney Island museum

A great place to truly learn about the history of this magnificent place is the Coney Island Museum, which preserves signs, objects and amusement rides from the old Brooklyn neighborhood. Inside the museum, there is even a hall of mirrors, a super special place within the entertainment of the time.

  • Travel advice : not adored by many, but a great representative of what was considered “circus” in the 1920s and promoting the concept of “time travel” from Coney Island, a few meters from the museum are the phenomena shows, not because it is something that we support, but because it is, is, and hardly goes unnoticed. In the freak show you can see a bearded woman, babies with two heads and people with more than two legs. It is only open on summer days, Easter and Halloween.

5. Photographing Coney Art Walls graffiti

Fairground games of the 20th century and graffiti… Do they combine? What is there? It’s Coney Island and everything contrasting, it’s extravagant and blends perfectly with the environment. The graffiti of Coney Island is one of the things what to do for free in New York, since it is possible to walk among the murals of urban art And why not relax with a refreshing drink at the tables arranged between them.

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Photo: Graham Triggs

6. Rest on the beach

As we told you at the beginning, one of the best things to do in New York in summer is to visit Coney Island and take a refreshing swim in the Atlantic Ocean. It may not be one of the magnificent and paradisiacal beaches of the Caribbean but it is one of the beaches near New York that, just a few minutes away, you can already feel the fresh sea breeze that is so much needed in extreme temperatures of the summer.

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Photo: jerry dohnal

Did you know that the beach is also a great plan to do in New York in January? How? Every January 1, in Coney Island, the “January 1 dip” is celebrated, a tradition where anyone who wants to can go to the Polar Beach Club to take a bath in the frozen waters of the ocean.

7. Stroll along Brigthon Beach

At the end of the boardwalk, and being the neighboring neighborhood of Coney Island, we find Brighton Beach, Little Russia, called by some, for being the largest Russian colony in the United States.

Like Coney Island, Brighton Beach (and as its name says) has a beach where you can spend hot summer days although it is added the curious idea of walking between shops that are written in Russian or Ukrainian, restaurants serving typical foods and traditions of the Soviet Union that can hardly be eradicated (nor is it wanted, of course).

  • Travel tip: few foreign tourists make it to Brighton Beach, so if you are looking for more privacy or remoteness from the tourist crowds, this is a great idea.

When to go to Coney Island?

Given all that can be done in this very curious area of Brooklyn, the desire to go is surely more than intense. The reality is that Coney Island is open to the public throughout the year, especially on weekends.

If you are going to visit Coney Island in June, it is the time where the Mermaid Parade is held, the mermaid parade, a show where everyone is invited to dress up as mythological beings and walk through the streets of the area, moment for which the arrival of summer is celebrated.

However, the best time to visit Coney Island is when the good weather, sunny days and high temperatures of the city begin, that is, between April and October. During these months, Luna Park is open almost every day and the atmosphere is combined with the joy of the weather.

  • Travel advice: it is always advisable to check the schedules on the official Luna Park website.

New York with kids: Coney Island

An out-of-the-box site is a great alternative that do with children in New York, a great opportunity to see something different from the mega city and a spectacular place to have fun from another perspective. In Coney Island there are games for boys and for adults and each of them has its own restrictions on entry, either with regard to the age or height of the little ones.

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Photo: Marie

So that the city does not lack more contrasts, Coney Island arrives, with its undisputed extravagance to be part of the best things to do in New York.

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