Coney Island—a peninsula in southern Brooklyn, New York—is full of nostalgia for me. I grew up only a 10-minute drive from Coney Island, and I fondly remember spending afternoons at the beach there as a child.
Coney Island became a bustling resort town after the Civil War. It exploded in popularity in the early 1900s as people flocked there to enjoy the beach and the amusement parks. But after World War II and years of neglect, Coney Island’s popularity declined. Many locals still went there for the beach, but the area was very run-down.
In 2001, however, a baseball stadium was built and a minor-league baseball team moved to Coney Island. The area underwent major renovations, and new amusement parks opened in the past few years. Coney Island has once again become a popular summertime destination full of history.
There are no hotels yet in Coney Island, but it’s a short subway ride from New York City and other parts of Brooklyn. So if you’re planning a trip to New York this summer, make sure to spend at least a day there! Here are five fun, family-friendly things to do in Coney Island:
1. Root for the Home Team: The Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor-league affiliate of the New York Mets, play at Coney Island’s MCU Park. The ballpark, located just steps from the Boardwalk near the famous Parachute Jump, is the perfect place to take in a baseball game on a warm summer afternoon or evening. The games are great for kids, with lots of theme nights and giveaways. Children will love meeting the team mascots, Sandy the Seagull and Pee Wee, who make their rounds throughout the games. On Friday and Saturday evenings you can stick around after the game for great fireworks shows, and on Sundays, kids can run the bases after the game. The Cyclones’ 2013 season runs June 14 to September 4. Tickets start at $9, and kids 3 and under get in free. To learn more and to buy tickets, visit brooklyncyclones.com.
2. Visit Marine Life: The New York Aquarium partially reopened on May 25 after being badly damaged during Superstorm Sandy. More than 80 percent of the exhibits are now open, including those that display the walruses, sea otters, harbor seals, penguins, and angelfish. There’s also a fully remodeled Aquatheater with a new sea lion demonstration. The aquarium is open year-round. Summer hours (May 25 to September 2) are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Tickets are $9.95, and kids ages 2 and under get in free. (Active-duty military members get in free, with 50% off for up to three family members.) Parking is $13 per car. Plan your visit at nyaquarium.com.
3. Eat Some Famously Good Food: Grab a hot dog at the Original Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters, which started as a hot dog stand in 1914. Nathan’s is also the site of the famous July 4 International Hot Dog-Eating Contest, held every year since 1916.
For some extremely delicious coal-oven pizza, head to the legendary Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana, open since 1924. You can order small or large pies with a variety of toppings. Be sure to try the white pizza!
4. Play in the Sand: The nearly three miles of sandy beach at Coney Island are perfect for sunbathing, building sand castles, or splashing in the surf. Need to stretch your legs? Take a stroll along the Boardwalk, where you can pick up some yummy treats and souvenirs and enjoy various street performances. There are also beach volleyball, handball, and basketball courts, as well as playgrounds for the kids. Lifeguards at the beach are on duty until Labor Day.
5. Catch Some Thrills: Coney Island is home to various amusement parks with rides and games for people of all ages.There’s Luna Park, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, Polar Express/12th Street Amusements, and the Eldorado Bumper Cars & Arcade. If you’re feeling brave, be sure to ride the Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster that’s been operating for over 80 years. (The Cyclone became an official New York City Landmark in 1988.) You can also ride the world-famous Wonder Wheel (also a New York City Landmark), built in 1920. Check the parks’ websites for hours, information, and money-saving coupons!