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This post covers how to visit Coney Island, including how to get there, things to do and see, and where to eat, as well as a short history.
Coney Island is located on the southern tip of Brooklyn, approximately 1 hour by subway from Times Square.
From Times Square, it takes 1 hour to get to Coney Island by subway.
Use this link for directions to Coney Island from Manhattan or anywhere in the NYC area.
By subway, take the Q line, F line or D line to station “Coney Island- Stillwell Avenue”.
The subway station is just a 5-minute walk away from the subway to the most famous Coney Island sites.
If you are new to the NYC subway, then you may find the following guides helpful.
Beginning in 2021, the NYC Ferry will be transporting passengers to Coney Island.
(A) Luna Park at 1000 Surf Avenue.
This amusement park opened in 2010 and is the first new amusement park in Coney in over 40 years. It has dozens of rides and games and is a great destination day or night.
It’s also very family-friendly. In fact, it’s on our list of best things to do with kids in NYC.
Several of its best rides are listed below.
TIP: Luna Park is included for free in most NYC discount tourist passes.
Consider buying a tourist pass which can save you quite a lot of money in NYC if you plan to see many top NYC attractions.
(B) The Cyclone at Luna Park opened in 1927 is a New York City Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It is the Mother of American roller coaster culture and the “Big Momma” of Coney Island.
(C) The Thunderbolt at Luna Park opened in 2014 at the same location as the original Thunderbolt which was shut down in 1982 after 60 years of service and demolished in 2000.
(D) Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park at 3059 Denos D. Vourderis Pl. has five adult rides and 16 kiddie rides, including a dozen family rides that kids and adults can enjoy together.
(E) Coney Island Circus Sideshow at 1208 Surf Avenue, is the last permanently housed venue in the USA where you can experience the thrill of a traditional ten-in-one circus sideshow, featuring freaks, wonders, and human curiosities.
(F) MCU Park at 1904 Surf Avenue.
MCU Park is home to a minor league baseball stadium of the Brooklyn Cyclones who are affiliated with the New York Mets baseball team. You can buy tickets here.
It’s has a seating capacity of 7,500 with additional capacity for 2,500 people.
The ballpark is also used as a music venue with concerts every summer. Find out who’s playing here.
(G) The New York Aquarium at 602 Surf Avenue and West 8th Street.
The aquarium has been at the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1957. It occupies 14 acres and has 266 species of water wildlife.
To see the full Coney Island calendar of events, click here. Some standout things to do at Coney Island are:
See a concert at the Amphitheater at the Coney Island Boardwalk
This music venue has great affordable concerts in the warmer months. Find out who is playing here.
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest
The biggest and most famous hot dog eating contest in the world, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, takes place in Coney Island on July 4th.
See our post on things to do in July in NYC for other summer fun that month.
Annual Mermaid Parade
The video below says it all. One of the most popular summer events in NYC.
See our post about things to do in June in NYC to find out more about it.
All of these events are just a few of the free things to do in NYC.
Nathan’s Famous at 1205 Boardwalk.
In 1916, Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker started a nickel hot dog stand on Coney Island with a $300 loan from two friends and his wife’s secret spice recipe.
Today, Nathan’s is the most famous hot dog in America.
The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has been held at the original location on Coney Island since the early 1970s. Contestants try to consume as many hot dogs as possible in a ten-minute time period.
Totonno’s Pizza at 1524 Neptune Avenue between West 15th and West 16th Street.
The Totonno’s family has been making some of the best pizza in New York City for over 89 years. At Totonno’s in Coney Island, pizza has been made the same way since 1924.
Williams Candy at 1318 Surf Avenue.
It is the Coney Island place for candy apples, soft serve ice cream, chocolate covered marshmallow treats, marshmallow balls covered in peanuts, and fresh chocolate covered strawberries.
Ruby’s Bar and Grill at 1213 Riegelman Boardwalk.
The boardwalk space that Ruby’s occupies has been a Coney Island tradition since 1934 when it started out as the Hebrew National Deli and Bar.
Coney Island emerged as an amusement area at about the same time that Brooklyn was developing as a major American city with a personality distinct from that of the big city on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The area was named by the Dutch for the wild rabbits that thrived there during the 17th century.
The area began to develop as a playground after 1824 when the Coney Island House open as the area’s first hotel and after the Civil War five railroads were built connecting the area to the rest of Brooklyn.
Some of the early attractions included heavyweight championship boxing matches, gambling dens, dance-halls, and brothels. It came to be known as “Sodom by the Sea”.
By 1904 three new amusement parks opened along Surf Avenue, the avenue nearest to the ocean: Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, and Dreamland.
Steeplechase Park opened in 1897 and was known for the “The Funny Face” cartoon figure whose expression of crazed hilarity set the tone for the park’s amusements.
The park featured a race in which visitors rode mechanical horses attached to iron rails, mechanical devices, and sideshows.
There were shocking rides like the “Hoopla” which threw male and female riders together in a manner that was shocking to Victorian society but visitors loved it.
In 1903, Luna Park opened and offered an environment more fantastical than funny, evoking a fantasy realm of far-off and exotic lands.
Luna featured a circus, the popular Trip to the Moon, a bamboo slide for adults, historical extravaganzas, restaurants, gardens and more.
But the most spectacular attraction was Luna itself, a fairy-tale fantasy land lit at night by thousands of electric lights. In 1904 the average daily attendance at Luna Park was 90,000 people.
In 1904, Dreamland opened and was designed as a cosmopolitan genteel alternative to the other parks. Its grounds were decorated with replicas of international landmarks.
One could go to Coney Island and see the Swiss Alps, the Tower of Seville, Venetian villages, miniature locomotives, concert halls, a circus, a Lilliputian village inhabited by three hundred Little People and more.
At the park’s entrance stood a monumental sculpture of Eve. It was probably too cultivated for fun-seekers and was never as popular as the other parks.
In 1900, a nice Sunday in the summer might draw 100,000 to Coney’s beach, restaurants, hotels, and attractions.
In 1920, the subway arrived at Coney Island, bringing New Yorkers to its amusements with a five-cent ride. After that, Sunday attendance sometimes reached over a million people a day!
People began calling it the “Nickel Empire” as the subway fare, an amusement-park ride and a hotdog at Nathan’s cost a nickel.
Visitors were drawn to such rides as the Cyclone built in 1927 and still operating) and the 1920 Wonder Wheel. in 1923, the Boardwalk opened.
During World War II, attendance rose as visitors were attracted by new rides like the Parachute Jump originally built for the 1939 world’s fair and brought to Steeplechase Park.
But the post-war era brought trouble for Coney as many city dwellers moved to the suburbs and a rising car culture drew people away to the new beaches like Jones Beach accessible only by highways and middle-class automobiles.
The final blow came in 1965 when Steeplechase Park, the last of the great parks, closed. Around the amusement-park area, the neighborhood was changing and becoming more residential.
Fortunately for New Yorkers and visitors, America’s playground is once again back in business.