Coney Island

Coney Island

Probably one of the most popular tourist areas in the entire city of New York is Coney Island. It is a beloved location and every much part of the city’s psyche as other famous symbols, such as the Statue of Liberty.

Coney Island is a peninsula in the southernmost part of Brooklyn, New York. It comprises a neighborhood with approximately 60,000 inhabitants and is well-known for its long stretch of sandy beaches on the Atlantic coastline, as well as its cultural events and amusement parks. The charm and history of this area makes it that no visit to New York would be complete without a stopover at Coney Island.


Coney Island was known as Narrioch (“Land without Shadows”) by the Native Americans because the area is flooded by sunlight all day long. When the island – which is now a peninsula – was settled by the Dutch, they called it Konijn Eiland (meaning ‘Rabbit Island’). The name was eventually anglicized to Coney Island.

After the American Civil War, Coney Island became a resort and was accessible by new streetcars and railroads. The area grew rapidly into a popular destination for people seeking pleasure in hotels, beaches, amusement parks and horseracing. It also developed a reputation for itself in some of the shadier areas, such as prostitution and gambling. As transportation methods improved, Coney Island became more popular for New Yorkers seeking a day excursion.

The heydays of Coney Island reached their peak in the early 1900s and then slowly started to decline after the Second World War. New Yorkers started seeking out other, cleaner areas, with a better reputation. Years of neglect followed in this once grand area, however local inhabitants still have a soft spot for Coney Island and its splendid past.

In recent years, Coney Island has enjoyed a revival, especially with the opening of the KeySpan baseball park, which is home to the wildly successful and popular Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team.

In addition, organizations such as Coney Island USA, a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1983, have taken it upon themselves to revitalize the area and attract the tourists and visitors back. Coney Island USA develops a number of different programs such as the much-loved Mermaid Parade and the Circus Side Show. It also runs the Coney Island Museum.

Things to Do and See in Coney Island

The Coney Island Museum
For less than a dollar, visitors can get to see artifacts that bring back the nostalgia of yesteryear Coney Island in this quaint museum. Located on the second floor of an historic building on Surf Avenue with a delightful view of classic amusement park rides, the Coney Island museum interprets and preserves the history of the area through a small but fascinating collection of items. Visitors get to see quirky pieces of the collection, such as a hand-carved figure of the Steeplechase Man and Boardwalk rolling chair.

The museum is open every Saturday and Sunday between 12 and 5 pm, right through the year, with opening hours sometimes extended during the summer months. The museum also serves as a tourist information center where visitors can use the bathrooms and receive knowledgeable answers to the questions about the area.

The Coney Island Circus Sideshow
At its peak, Coney Island offered amazing forms of entertainments, including the classic sideshows. Here visitors could see freaks and human curiosities and be mesmerized by these wonders. The Coney Island Circus Sideshow – operated by the non-profit Coney Island USA organization – is the last place in the United States where visitors can view a traditional ten-in-one sideshow.

The sideshow is located in the very heart of the amusement park in the building that was originally the popular Child’s Restaurant. Tickets are purchased at the door and no reservations are taken ahead of time. The sideshow can seat up to 100 people.

The Mermaid Parade
Every summer, hundreds of people take to the streets of Coney Island for the traditional Mermaid Parade. This is the event that marks the beginning of the swimming season and is held in honor of the wonderful Mardi Gras that took place in the area between 1903 and 1954. Participants in the parade dress up as images that represent the sea, the sand and other summer elements. The parade is led by King Neptune and Queen Mermaid who ceremoniously make their way down to the sea, cut through ribbons and throw fruit into the sea to appease the gods. The Mermaid Parade – which celebrates its silver anniversary in 2007 – is a popular event in Coney Island’s events calendar.

Sunlite Pool
One of the most popular attractions for families to Coney Island is the Sunlite Pool. Built in 1921, Sunlite Pool is the largest re-circulating swimming pool in the world and is 200 feet wide and 400 feet long. The area includes an acre long stretch of shallow water, making it an ideal place for small children to play safely in the pool. Diving boards, lane swimming and 3 million gallons of circulating water are only some of the drawcards to the pool.

Visitors to Sunlite Pool will delight in four amazing waterslides – the Zoom Flume, the Pipeline Plunge, the Cyclone and the in-pool speed slide. Visitors can hire Sunlite Cabanas that come equipped with chairs, cocktail tables, towels and other creature comforts. Showers, locker rooms, picnic areas, food and beverage stands and other great features ensure that Sunlite Pool continues to draw the crowds nearly a century later.

Traditional Rides
Coney Island is synonymous with fun, classic amusement park rides. This was the most popular form of entertainment in the early twentieth century and today visitors can still enjoy some of that fun in over 20 classic rides. Families can purchase season tickets to enjoy Coney Island Classic Rides for the entire summer, or they can purchase day tickets for hours of fun family time. Two of Coney Island’s most popular amusement parks are Astroland and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.

Some of the rides available:

  • The Python Family Roller Coaster – with its 40 foot drop and over 1000 feet of track!
  • The Scream Machine – that lifts visitors 50 feet into the air before dropping them down at terrifying speed.
  • The Grand Carousel – a firm favorite for children of all ages who love to ride this classic 36 foot diameter antique.
  • Dodgems – Another favorite attraction that provides squeals of delight as visitors try to dodge and hit in their vehicles.
  • El Dorado Disco Bumper Cars – Blaring and deafening disco music urges visitors to bump their fellow bumper car drivers as hard as they can. This is serious fun for those who want to vent their frustrations out on someone!
  • Bumper and Pedal Boats – the perfect way to enjoy the stretch of water known as Lake Como.
  • The Wonder Wheel – Built in 1920, this classic Ferris wheel allows visitors to enjoy the wonderful Coney Island views, including the Atlantic Ocean and the Jersey Shore from a 120 foot height. The wheel has 16 swinging and 8 stationary cars and was declared an official New York City landmark.
  • The Tempest – that whirls visitors around in a hair-raising spin.
  • Kiddie Rides – where even the littlest people can enjoy classic rides such as Mini Boats, Helicopters, Airplanes and Frog Hoppers.

Live Shows
Wherever you go in Coney Island, you will hear music and laughter in the air. The distant sound of people having fun in the amusement parks mingle with the live shows that dot the area and draw hundreds of visitors almost every day. Some of the more popular shows to be found at Coney Island include:

  • “Made in America” – a classic ‘red-white-and-blue’ show that brings out the patriotism in all of us! All genres of classic American music – including country, jazz and rock n’ roll - are featured in this show as a huge celebration of the great U S of A.
  • “Far Out Fairytales” – Classic fairytales are given a new breath of life through song and dance. Viewers of all ages can sing along with their favorite characters in this much-loved show.
  • “Radio Time Warp” – All the yesteryear musical favorites are presented in this show, starting with classics from the 1920s, through the different eras and ending with popular contemporary hits.
  • “The Madcap Puppet Theater” – Throughout the summer, visitors can enjoy this spectacular story-telling show that has the audience participating with giant puppets and guarantees to be loads of fun.

Miniature Golf Course
Modeled around some of the most famous golf courses in the country, this 18-hole miniature golf course provides hours of fun for families who spend the day at Coney Island. The course is the only one of its kind in the United States and is wheelchair accessible.

The Boardwalk
Considered by many to be the ultimate symbol of Coney Island, the 3-mile Boardwalk attracts hundreds of joggers, bikers and others who want to enjoy this stretch of land along the seashore. The Boardwalk ultimately leads to “Little Odessa” – another name for Brighton Beach due to the huge number of Russian immigrants that were attracted to the area in the late 1990s. Visitors can enjoy a number of excellent eateries along the way, including traditional Russian cuisine such as the Tatiana Café.

The Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation
For those who want to enjoy one of the best aquariums in the country, a visit to the Coney Island Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation is an absolute must. Unlike other aquariums that are usually located far from the seashore, this one is naturally placed against the backdrop of the Atlantic Sea and thus provides a charming, authentic experience for visitors. 10,000 living sea creatures call this aquarium home – ranging from tiny seahorses to huge beluga whales, sharks, dolphins and seals.

The Coney Island Aquarium is rated one of the top marine facilities in the country and conducts regular research through its educational programs. Visitors will be thrilled to see the sharks being fed or enchanted with the numerous dolphin or seal shows that are put on each day. Kids will love the hands-on learning experience in the “Explore the Shore” displays that allow them to try the wave machine or examine how a tidal pool is formed.

Eating Out
Coney Island is home to one of the most diverse stretches of restaurants and cafes in the city. There is something to suit every palette, with cuisines from many different countries represented here, thanks to the large number of immigrants who live or visit regularly in the area. There were many classic eateries in Coney Island whose name and reputation still linger on, years after the establishments closed down. Today only a handful of the truly traditional Coney Island dining icons remains.

One of these is Nathan’s Famous – a classic diner that makes the best hotdogs and chips in the world, according to reputation. This eatery was established in 1916, during the peak years of Coney Island’s glory, and is still frequented by die-hard regulars and visitors alike who don’t consider a trip to Coney Island complete without a bite to eat at Nathan’s. This establishment contributes to the cultural scene of the area with its annual 4th of July hotdog eating competition – an event not to be missed if you’re in the area!

Visiting Coney Island NYC

Coney Island has often been referred to as the Poor Man’s Paradise because of the number of immigrants and tenement dwellers that it has attracted over the years. However, many New Yorkers will let you know that Coney Island’s slightly run down look and kitschy amusement rides are part of its charm. In recent years, the place has even acquired a type of grassroots chicness that is portrayed in popular culture and advertisements. Its very presence in the midst of the hustle, bustle and fast-paced life of Manhattan reminds us of a more tranquil and genteel past, when New Yorkers took the railroad down to the shores of Coney Island and enjoyed what this wonderful area had to offer in all its glory.

Location: at 1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn New York
Phone: 718-372-5159

Click here to visit Coney Island official website