With new storefronts, restaurants, a minor league baseball stadium, and even an amusement park opening in recent years, the once-iconic New York City seaside resort of Coney Island has seen a comeback. It's grandeur still isn't quite like other East coast beaches, but if you want to experience the most bizarre little microcosm of boardwalk-meets-urban-life, then Coney Island would be a good place to start.
Get some Eats
After the journey there, the first stop on our agenda was an obvious choice: the original Nathan’s. And what an impressive operation the original Nathan’s is; they have nearly 20 cashiers and cash registers, and lines of hungry customers at all of them. Tables are available to the side of the building, but be prepared to sit with 4 or 5 strangers. I got the ‘peppers and onions’ hot dog, and Daniel got the famous chili cheese dog, then we split their crinkle fries (cheese on the side). How delicious! If you are a tourist visiting Coney Island for the first time, we think Nathan’s is a good choice. (But it doesn’t beat Portillo’s in Chicago; that review will be coming soon.)
See the Art
Next stop? We thought it was going to be the boardwalk, but we ran into a few ‘hidden treasures’ on the way there. Today, Coney Island had a lineup of people making wood carvings with chainsaws, a smaller-scale Smorgasburg (NYC's premier weekend food market) and - our personal favorite - a maze of street art they called the ‘Coney Art Walls.’ When in New York City, even if you have a destination you know you want to get to, take time to wander through the streets. You’re guaranteed to find something unexpected.
Ride the Coasters
Luna Park has all sorts of typical amusement park options. There are rides, games and ‘the scream zone.’ Stretching high above the boardwalk, it's impossible to miss the Wonder Wheel, famous for its cabins that move on a track system inside the wheel. We opted to take flight on the Soarin’ Eagle - a roller coaster you ride on your stomach, like Superman.
Rides at Luna Park are priced by “credits” (1 credit = $1) and the Soarin’ Eagle was 6 credits per person. Though it may seem a little ridiculous to pay $6 just to ride one 45-second roller coaster, you have to remember that this is the closest amusement park to NYC. We dropped the $12 and it was worth it for the brief thrill. (If you are interested in riding more than one ride, they do have unlimited wristbands for $35 or $45 depending on the option you’re interested in; and those wristbands are often found at a discounted price on Groupon, so be sure to check there.)
Walk the Boardwalk
The boardwalk is unlike any other beach experience. The miles of coast were crowded with people gathering around their umbrellas, music, hookah, etc. The different cultural music blended in with everyone laughing and speaking excitedly in their own language. There were people walking around selling churros, cotton candy, ice cream, and water bottles for very cheap (we helped ourselves to a few of these options) and multi-colored kites flying high above the children building sand castles and the men throwing footballs.
If you are looking for a relaxing day at the beach, Coney Island may not be your destination. But if you want a little taste of ‘New York City’s melting pot goes to the beach,’ then put on your sunscreen and begin your journey to Brooklyn!