Visitors from all around the United States and the world stop by every summer to soak up the sun on Coney Island’s beach. However, besides the sand and water, New York’s Island boasts old-fashioned amusement parks along with a popular boardwalk that all family members will like to explore. For those who haven’t visited yet here are our recommendations on how to have some family fun while visiting the iconic area.
Coney Island was originally slotted to become a beach resort area after the construction of the Coney Island Hotel was completed in 1829. The island likely got its name from an old Dutch word for rabbit, “conyn,” which makes sense with the many rabbits that once roamed around the island. Other possible sources of the name include the island’s Native American tribe, the Konoh, or the family surname of the first Dutch settlers in the area.
The island saw wealthy vacationers in the 1830s and 40s who used Coney Island as a way to spend a holiday without actually need to travel far. By the 1880’s the area became a local attraction with three large parks – Luna Park, Steeplechase Park, and Dreamland operating. Today, Coney Island still has the Luna Park as well as Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park- a nod to bygone glory days.
What to See
As mentioned, Coney Island’s two amusement parks Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park are still operational. The island also features several rides that aren’t a part of either park, as well as other attractions and events.
The Parachute Jump a bonified New York City Landmark. The ride, originally constructed as the Life Savers Parachute Jump during the 1939 World’s Fair, was the first of a long line of similar rides. The ride has been closed since 1968 but is still a landmark worth gawking at when visiting the Island.
Another Luna Park landmark is the Cyclone,one of the country’s oldest operating wooden roller coasters built in 1927. Wonder Wheel is the third ride that is a protected landmark, constructed in 1918. The Ferris Wheel, located in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, features stationary and rocking cars. Visitors at night can see the Wonder Wheel lit up in bright neon lights.
Furthermore, visitors can take a ride on the B&B Carousell, purposefully misspelled by its builder William F. Mangels who built the frame in 1906. This ‘carousell,’ considered the last of its kind, was auctioned off to the city of New York after the death of its operator. During its restoration, painter Theresa Rollison mixed over 80 colors to replicate the original colors of the carousel. She even used brushes made from squirrel, badger, and hog hair to imitate methods likely used during the carousel’s original construction. Today, the B&B Carousell sits at the entrance to Luna Park surrounded by furniture stores.
The central section of the park includes the usual roller coasters, tower drops, swings, and even an area with milder rides for young children. Families can enjoy three separate bumper car rides throughout Coney Island, on 12 Street, Eldorado’s Arcade, and in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. There are also two haunted houses, Spook-a-Rama at Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Ghost Hole on 12th street that families can ride through.
Other Unique Features
Families can enjoy the MCU Park, home of The Brooklyn Cyclones. Visitors can watch short, budget friendly games in the small stadium.
On some summer nights, visitors can see fireworks in some areas of Coney Island. The beach and boardwalk areas have shows from June 24th through Labor Day Weekend starting at 9:30 pm around Deno’s Wonder Wheel.
Though it was mostly devastated by Hurricane Sandy, visitors can still see parts of the New York Aquarium with reduced admission. The admissions are a great way for guests to show support and help with renovations.
Families can also enjoy the Coney Island Museum, with its many kitschy exhibits. The museum hosts a 3D-printed to scale model of the original Luna Park by Fred Kahl. Kids can enjoy the funhouse mirrors and check out the thermos collection dating back to the 50’s.
There are many options for food on the boardwalk, making it easy to find something for everyone!
Just about everyone has heard of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. This venue got famous by hosting an annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs offers plenty of topping options for all hot dog lovers.
Other food venues are Tom’s for traditional diner food, Ruby’s for State Fair cuisine and Rippers for burgers. Also, families can head over to Totonno Pizzeria Napolitano for a slice of traditional thin crusted New York pizza.
Not to be missed is Williams’ Candy conveniently located next to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. Here, travelers can finish the day off with a Coney Island ice cream.
Entrance to the beach is complimentary. The Luna Park attractions are a bit of a money pit with each ride costing a few bucks. Parents can buy a punch card with a few credits to get a discount. However, they should expect to shell more than planned by the end of the day.
Autism Travel Tips:
- There are well kept public restrooms with showers to clean off after being in the sand and water.
- There are also certain sections that have water fountains that shoot up out of the ground to cool off kids (or adults) on a hot day!
This fact could be surprising to some children. Therefore, parents to special needs kids should warn them or have them watch the other children first to know what to expect.
- At one part of the beach, there is a palm tree fountain that shoots water into the area. Many kids love it, but it makes a very wet sandy/muddy area that some kids might not like.
- The beach front itself is clean, and there is plenty of room for families to set up a picnic or umbrella.
- There are fireworks every Friday night at 9:30 pm from the last weekend in June until Labor Day. Parents of kids who are afraid of fireworks might want to avoid the area at this time.
- The boardwalk itself is broad. While it can get crowded on the summer weekends, there is lots of room for wheelchairs, strollers, etc.
- Families who want to see The Cyclones play should plan ahead and buy tickets ahead of time, as the team is popular.