It’s the last stop on the Q, D, N, and F lines but who really goes that far? You really should, and there are countless reasons why. However, we can’t sum up all the amazing things this Brooklyn area has to offer in just a few sentences. We’ll just let the attractions, history, food and other features of Coney Island speak for themselves.
The History of Coney Island
Coney Island was originally inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. They called the area Narrioch, which roughly translates to “land without shadows” or “only in light” – neat, right? Eventually, the island was sold for only a blanket, a kettle and a gun.
The first building development began in the 1830s, with resorts following a few decades later, making Coney Island a popular vacation spot. Between 1880 and World War II, Coney Island was considered the largest amusement area in the country!
After World War II, attendance dwindled and many attractions were sadly abandoned. After a brief lull in public traffic, the area was revitalized by the introduction of a minor league baseball team – the Brooklyn Cyclones – along with other features that accented Coney Island’s old school vibe. Today, Coney Island is once again a bustling hub for entertainment with over 60,000 residents.
Coney Island Classics
One of the best parts about Coney Island is it’s authentic, antique feel. In other words, many of the aspects that made Coney Island what it was decades – and even centuries – ago are still there for you to enjoy.
You can’t talk about Coney Island without mentioning the famous Coney Island Boardwalk, also known as the Riegelmann Boardwalk (not even the locals call it that). It opened back in 1923, making it a part of Coney Island history. Walking down the 2.5-mile long boardwalk is almost literally a trip down memory lane, with the adjacent old-school snack shops and views of classic Coney Island rides.
Speaking of those rides…
The Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone are two of America’s most infamous amusement park rides. The Wonder Wheel, a 150-foot tall Ferris Wheel, opened in 1920 and has been featured in numerous television shows and movies. There’s even a replica of it in Disneyland of all places! The Cyclone, built in 1927, is an all-wooden rollercoaster and a National Historic Landmark. Both still run today and are just as thrilling as they were the day they were built almost a hundred years ago. If neither of these rides are your style, Coney Island is home to various other rides, from Merry-go-rounds and bumper cars, to the Thunderbolt steel coaster.
If you’re visiting Coney Island at the beginning of the summer season, we recommend planning your trip around theMermaid Parade. This annual parade celebrates the start of summer and features various floats, antique cars, and folks dressed up as - you guessed it - mermaids. Those marching are judged in categories like “Best Sea Creature” and “Best Music Group,” with a King and Queen crowned at the parade’s end. The 36th Annual Mermaid Parade takes place June 16, 2018.
For more wild eccentricities, check out one of the many Coney Island sideshows. The very first “freak shows” opened in 1880 with stars such as “the Lion-faced man” and “the Four-Legged woman.” Sideshows have been a Coney Island staple ever since. Today, the sideshows are little more PC, featuring talented circus performers like fire eaters and contortionists. You can even attend sideshow school and try your hand at some of the stunts!
The true Coney Island experience absolutely requires a stop to Nathan’s Hot Dogs. The very first Nathan’s location opened in 1916, is still open on the Coney Island boardwalk. Legend has it they’re the best hot dogs in the world, but you’ll have to taste for yourself!
And duh, don’t forget the fireworks! Watching the Coney Island Friday night fireworks on the beach is a summer tradition for many. How else would you want to end your visit to Coney Island?
Today’s Coney Island
Coney Island isn’t only about the throwbacks… There are many recent additions to the area that help make Coney Island the awesome spot that it is today.
Craft beer lovers need to check out Coney Island Brewery. The brewery launched in 2007, but was brewed in Upstate New York until 2014 when it moved to its namesake. There are always eight of the brewery’s “freak show” themed beers on tap, and tours are free for customers. Coney Island Brewery also often hosts events like “Movies n’ Malt” and “Puppies and Pints” (yes, you can drink beer and play with puppies...sign us up!). You can also get many of the brewery’s most popular beers, like Mermaid Pilsner and Watermelon Wheat, at bars throughout the neighborhood.
For more deliciousness, check out the newly opened Kitchen 21. Located in the Childs Building – a New York City Landmark with gorgeous ocean-themed architecture – Kitchen 21 features five unique dining experiences, including a community clam bar and a test kitchen. For the trendy Coney Island eats paired with a cool atmosphere, check out Kitchen 21.
Right next-door is the Ford Amphitheater, a 5,000-capacity concert venue that only opened last year. No longer do you have to trek out to Jones Beach on Long Island to see your favorite artists perform against the summer night sky. This summer’s lineup includes artists like the Dropkick Murphys, Toby Keith, Bush, Lifehouse, Daddy Yankee, and many others.
Are you tired from walking up and down the boardwalk, or do you just want to get a little more taste of Brooklyn? The Circle Line Hello Brooklyn Cruise is a necessity. Not only do you get views of amazing Brooklyn landmarks, like the Brooklyn Bridge, and the city skyline, but you get a true taste of the city’s hippest borough with treats from Brooklyn Cupcake, Brooklyn Brewery, Blue Marble ice cream, and more. Find out more here!