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How to Get to Coney Island | A Self Guided Tour

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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. 


HOW TO GET TO CONEY ISLAND

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.

How to get to Coney Island

Use this link for directions to Coney Island from Manhattan or anywhere in the NYC area.

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Subway

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.


Ferry to Coney Island

Beginning in 2022, the East River Ferry will be transporting passengers to Coney Island.

It runs from Pier 11 at Wall Street and takes approximately 37 minutes to get to Coney Island.

It is the same fare as the subway ($2.75) and is a much more pleasant ride! Get your tan started before arriving at Coney Island.

The ferry has several routes that take you to many of the best parts of New York City. Find out more here.


THINGS TO DO ON CONEY ISLAND

Check Out the Beach!

First and foremost, there is the beach! In the summer, you can lay out and swim in the ocean.

It's clean, family-friendly, and amazing for people-watching! 

Coney Island Boardwalk

By the way, visiting this iconic New York location is one of the best free things to do in NYC in the summer.

Even in the cooler months, you can still visit Coney Island and stroll its famous boardwalk. 

The Boardwalk at Coney Island is the longest and widest boardwalk in the world! 

It runs 2.7 miles (4.5 km) from West 37th Street at the border of Coney Island and Sea Gate to Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. 

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Self-Guided Tour of Coney Island

Here is a map of things to see in Coney Island. Descriptions and addresses are below the map.

The map is interactive. Scroll around or click on the icon in the upper right-hand corner to make the map bigger.

New York Walking Tours

(1) 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.


(2)  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.


(3) Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park at 3059 Denos D. Vourderis Pl. has five adult rides and 16 kiddie rides, including a dozen family-friendly rides that kids and adults can enjoy together.


(4) 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.


(5) Coney Island Museum at 1208 Surf Avenue.This small but fascinating museum showcases relics from Coney Island's past including photographs, amusement-related objects, vintage signs and other ephemera. It also has special exhibits.

Open from April until June every Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors 65+ and kids (under 12).


(6) Coney Island Circus Sideshow at 1208 Surf Avenue is the last permanently housed venue in the US where you can experience the thrill of a traditional ten-in-one circus sideshow, featuring freaks, wonders, and human curiosities.


(7) The New York Aquarium at 602 Surf Avenue and West 8th Street

The aquarium has been at the Coney Island Boardwalk since 1957.  Don't be fooled by its age - it is quite modern. It occupies 14 acres and has 266 species of water wildlife. It also has a fantastic exhibit hall dedicated to sharks.

See our post about the Aquarium for all the details on visiting. The Aquarium does charge an admission fee, but it is free on Wednesdays from 3 pm to last entry

TIP: Find out about other museums with free days/hours from our post on Free Museums in NYC.


(8) MCU Park at 1904 Surf Avenue is home to a minor league baseball stadium of the Brooklyn Cyclones that is affiliated with the New York Mets baseball team. You can buy tickets here.


(9) Coney Island Amphitheater at 3052 West 21st St. is a music venue that has great affordable concerts in the warmer months. Find out who is playing here. Also, several free concerts as part of NYC's SummerStage series are held here.


EVENTS

To see the full Coney Island calendar of events, click here. Some standout things to do at Coney Island are:

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Annual Mermaid Parade 

The video below says it all. One of the most popular summer events in NYC. It takes place every year in June. In 2022, it is on June 18 at 1 pm.

This is one of the very best free things to do in NYC!

See our post about things to do in June in NYC to find out more about it.


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.

The 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 ten minutes.

See our post on things to do in July in NYC for other summer fun that month.


WHERE TO EAT IN CONEY ISLAND

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.

Nathans Famous at Coney Island

Totonno’s Pizza at 1524 Neptune Avenue between West 15th and West 16th Street. 

The Totonno family has been making some of the best pizzas 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 as the Hebrew National Deli and Bar. 

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HISTORY

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 - Coney Island

Coney island Steeplechase Park

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.


Luna Park - Coney Island

Coney island Luna Park

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.


Dreamland - Coney Island

Coney Island Dreamland tower s

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.


Modern Era

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. 


Related Posts:

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: August 18th, 2022
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