With its sandy beaches, gently rolling waves and breezy boardwalk, Coney Island feels a world away from frenzied Manhattan, but there’s still action aplenty on this peninsula thanks to its exciting amusement park.
A beachfront area in southern Brooklyn, Coney Island was home to several competing amusement parks during its pre-war heyday. It was popular with hard-working New Yorkers who relished the opportunity to escape the stifling Manhattan heat on weekends.
After World War II, the parks fell out of favor with visitors, who occupied themselves with films and Broadway shows in Manhattan, and the island suffered from neglect. Today, as the area continues to be redeveloped, visitors and thrill-seekers come in droves to try the modern theme park rides at the iconic Luna Park, which was reopened after extensive renovations in 2010, and soak up the island’s grand history.
A 45- to 60-minute subway ride from Manhattan, Coney Island is at its most lively during the sticky summer months, and many attractions only operate from April to October, including special events like outdoor concerts, film screenings and Friday night fireworks on the beach. The island is still worth a visit in winter, though, if only to see the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, a group of brave men and women who take to the icy January waters bare-chested or in only a swimsuit, invoking wild cheers from onlookers. Coney Island’s food vendors are on hand year-round to serve up nostalgia — think classic cotton candy, old-fashioned hot dogs and traditional New York-style pizza.
While the infamous Thunderbolt rollercoaster — immortalized in countless postcard pictures and the Woody Allen classic movie “Annie Hall” — has been laid to rest. Today’s Luna Park is amusement park heaven, with 19 fabulous rides. Among them is the Cyclone, originally built in 1927 and one of the world’s oldest wooden rollercoasters still in use. Try your luck on the bumper cars, take a spin on a pretty carousel or scoop a prize or two in the lively game arcade.
Coney Island’s re-emergence as a modern amusement destination makes it an entertaining day trip for tourists. The best way to get here is by subway from any part of Manhattan.