NFT New York Coney Island / Brighton Beach

Coney Island / Brighton Beach

Coney Island
For years observers have wrung their hands over the much-feared "transformation" of Coney Island. So far, however, the bold initiative to remake the area as a year-round destination has resulted in incremental development and relatively minor changes. Yes, Shoot the Freak may be gone, but Ruby's is still around and a boardwalk outpost of beloved Prospect Heights diner Tom's arrived just in time to see the Astro Tower dismantled.

Getting there:
Subway: take the D, F, N, or Q train to Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue. For the Aquarium, take the F or Q to W 8th Street/NY Aquarium.
Buses: B36, B64 and B68 all go to Coney Island.

Coney Island, USA
Address: 1208 Surf Ave (near W 12th St)
Phone: 718-372-5159
Website: or @coneyislandusaSee more.

Coney Island, USA is the not-for-profit arts organization responsible for maintaining the Coney Island Museum, producing Sideshows by the Seashore, and organizing the annual Mermaid Parade.

The Coney Island Museum is open Wed–Sun from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer and is $5 ($3 for residents of zip code 11224). Try the distortion mirrors and view other artifacts from the sideshow heyday. The gift shop has capitalized on pretty much every exploitable image available and it's a great spot to pick up some jumbo postcards.

Sideshows by the Seashore remains the only 10-in-1 circus sideshow in the USA. Sip a cold beer at the Freak Bar in the lobby and get ready to enjoy the various sword swallowers, fire eaters, contortionists and human blockheads. Performances run 45 minutes. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under.

The annual Mermaid Parade takes place on the first Saturday after the Summer Solstice. Rain or shine, more freaks than you knew existed strut their stuff down the main drag dressed as...mermaids? Seeing is believing and this is a don't-miss event.

For some of the best thin-crust pizza in Brooklyn go to Totonno Pizzeria Napolitano, 1524 Neptune Ave, 718-372-8606.

New York Aquarium
Address: Surf Ave & W 8th St
Phone: 718-265-FISH

In sobering contrast to the natural environs just footsteps away, the New York Aquarium has a colorful collection of sea life swimming happily in clean tanks. The exhibits strike a nice balance between interesting and educational. Superstorm Sandy hit the aquarium very hard, closing the facility for many months and wiping out many exhibits. The aquarium is undergoing a lengthy rebuilding process, culminating in a massive new shark exhibit set to open in 2016. While the work takes place the aquarium remains open daily year-round, for a reduced admission.

MCU Park/Brooklyn Cyclones
Location: Surf Ave b/w W 16th St & W 19th St
Phone: 718-449-8497
Website: or @BKCyclones

After a 44-year absence, professional baseball returned to Brooklyn in 2001 in the shape of the class-A minor league Brooklyn Cyclones (affiliate of the NY Mets). MCU's location couldn't be better, allowing any trip to the ballpark to double as a day at the beach or a great first date screaming your brains out and clutching hands on the Cyclones' namesake. On top of that, the team is actually pretty good. Seats start at less than a Shake Shack meal at Citi Field. You can purchase tickets either on their website or by calling 718-507-TIXX. Go 'Clones!. As a bonus, MCU also functions as a pretty decent concert venue.

Luna Park
Address: 1000 Surf Ave
Phone: 718-373-5862
Website: or @LunaParkNYC

Keep your mind off impending doom while in line for the Cyclone by contemplating the historical ride you are about to take. One of the last remaining wooden roller coasters in existence, the Cyclone is the place to be at Luna Park. There are special unlimited-ride wristbands and "Luna Cards" that offer bonus credits for the more you spend. Open every day during the summer and on weekends through the cooler months. Keep in mind, there isn't any high-tech DisneyWorld or Six Flags fare here...these are the original rides (with perhaps some of the original carnies still attached). The next day you may feel like you were in a bar fight, but the memories are worth it.

Deno's Wonder Wheel Park
Address: 3059 Denos Vourderis Pl (W 12th St)
Phone: 718-372-2592 or 718-449-8836
Website: or @WonderWheelPark

Built in 1920, the Wheel of Wonder is still a major draw to Coney Island and offers a romantic moment well worth the $7 each for the stationary cars. Those looking to have their lives flash before their eyes can wait in a separate line for the "moving cars" and believe us, those things really move. Admission to the park is free and $25 buys 10 kid rides or 4 adult rides.

Brighton Beach
Slightly less frenetic than the Coney Island beach and boardwalk (but only slightly) is nearby Brighton Beach. Named for a resort town on the English Channel, this area is now often referred to as "little Odessa." Russian food, Russian vodka, and Russian-style bathing suits are the name of the game on this sandy stretch. The restaurants on the boardwalk are a tad overpriced--pack a lunch and skip the hassle. And a word to the wise--despite shirtless vendors parading up and down the beach hocking ice cold Coronas with lime--there are also cops on ATV's ready to hand out open container violations, so drink at your own risk! Bear in mind however that this is no white-sandy national park, but still the best beach Brooklyn has to offer. Had enough sun? Nice yourself up and head to the famed restaurant and cabaret, National (273 Brighton Beach Ave, 718-646-1225) whose doors whisk you off the street and into Moscow. To access Brighton Beach by subway, take the B (weekdays only) or the Q to the Brighton Beach stop.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Five NY Franks to Relish

By Molly Fergus
When it comes to hot dogs in New York, it's easy to fall into a Gray's Papaya-dirty water dog routine. Still, that doesn't mean noshers want for frank options. For anyone who can, ahem,  mustard up the energy, Molly Fergus hunts down five hot dogs in five boroughs.
Four Zoos and an Aquarium

By Diana Pizzari
Animals! They're not just for slaughtering anymore. Diana Pizzari's got a thing or four to share about her favorite city zoos and aquarium. Open your ears and clear your minds of meat lust as she details some little-known factoids about bison, breeding and the Bronx.

Stuffed to the Gills: All-U-Can-Eat Sushi

By David Freedenberg
Eating is the one thing a man can do with a fish.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Coney Island Museum
Coney Island's Mermaid Parade (est. 1983) almost didn't happen this year due to increased costs and damage from Superstorm Sandy (the parade's home base on Surf Avenue was destroyed). However, a successful Kickstarter campaign saved the day with over $100,000 and brought us the glittered, topless sea creatures we needed! Along with an array of bearded Neptunes, crusty old pirates, flowing jellyfish, and talented marching bands. Among my favorite costumes was a duo: a father dressed as a sushi chef with his daughter as a piece of mermaid sushi. This is New York -- a regular old mermaid costume won't cut it! Let's keep this parade going, before our quirky, ever-nostalgic Coney Island gets "revitalized" into something we don't recognize.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Summer ain't over yet folks. So jump on the D/F/N/Q trains for one last journey out to Coney Island before the big chill sets in for seven long months. Some people go for The Cyclone. Others go for the beach scene or the baseball games. Those are all fine attractions, but in our book nothing beats Ruby's for the ultimate in Coney Island entertainment. This gorgeous and grimy dive opens onto the boardwalk so you can sip a cold Coney Island Lager while you stare out to the sea. Try doing that in Manhattan. With plenty of old photos, old regulars, and old tunes on the juke to keep the fun going for hours, a visit here can quickly turn into an all day adventure. And feel that cool breeze? That's your reward for surviving the hottest NYC summer ever.

Posted By:  Juan Molinari
Photo:  Juan Molinari

Luna Park
As has been highly publicized in recent weeks, a spiffifized incarnation of Coney Island's Luna Park has just opened with brand-new rides. There is a particularly scary one that I would not go on where you go around and around on airplanes that rotate completely upside down, rather quickly. I'm too acrophobic for that. The classics are still there of course: The Wonder Wheel, the Cyclone (not for the faint-hearted; this is not your Six Flags' computer-generated smooth-ride coaster but more like being inside a washing machine being thrown down a high cliff), the seediness, the squalor, the smells, the disgusting food, the human element... Coney Island will always be what it has always been, this year with a fresh coat of paint and some new toys to play with. Bring the kids during the day, and a hot date at night.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

MCU Park
Ever go to a baseball game and a jousting match breaks out? No, I’m not talking about a figurative “jousting” round of a good ‘ol baseball brawl. I mean a real live jousting match brought to you by the fine folks (and former D & D players) of Medieval Times in New Jersey (The Meadowlands no less). The whole cast including noble knights, King Alfonso (not making that up), subservient squires, and fetching wenches spent the evening entertaining the Cyclone fans. What was supposed to be some between inning entertainment turned into a full fledged spectacle thanks to a massive layer of fog that rolled in and refused to clear out. Despite drunken chants of “Play Ball,” the sword fights kept coming. Eventually the crowd just accepted the fact that there would be no baseball this night. They put on their Medieval Times paper crowns, grabbed another beer, and cheered on the blue and red knights for the jousting finale. Bizarre.

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

Coney Island Boardwalk
There's not much that surprises me enough to turn my head when I'm walking on the Coney Island Boardwalk. German guy in banana hammock taking photos of an obese woman striking a pinup pose: yawn. Child beating his own mother with a whiffle ball bat in a corn dog-related incident: old hat. Ancient Russian lady wearing underwear underneath her bathing suit: seen it all before. News crew interviewing someone while local teens flip the bird in the background: booooring. But then there's Shoot the Freak, a game only New Yorkers could love. Or terrorists, perhaps. Players gleefully fire a paintball gun at a live (padded) human being who's bobbing around a maze of obstacles only about 10 yards away while onlookers shout, "Get 'em in the eye! Come out, freak!" It's 5 shots for $3 going all the way up to 75 shots for $20. There's no prize, other than the satisfaction of inflicting minor bodily harm on a random stranger. Perverse, yes. But I bet you like to watch.

Posted By:  Emily Pecora
Photo:  Gary Thomas

MCU Park
Although I would hesitate to proclaim such a judgment in any of the city's bars, I will dare say here that the only great-American-pastime baseball in this city is being played by the Brooklyn Cyclones in KeySpan Park. Tickets are $5 for bleachers seats, and $10 if you're willing to splurge for a spot behind home plate. I was expecting, and experienced, the pleasure of eating a boardwalk Nathan's Famous on a seaside bench before the game. I was expecting, and was de-nied, the delight of seeing the Wonderwheel loom over third base, as mine was a thick and hazy game night. What I wasn't expecting, and the reason I will return, was the great enthusiasm of the fans, who chanted whatever the announcer prompted them to chant, and kept two giant beach balls spiraling far beyond the length of time it took me to search for a bathroom and buy a round of beers. At one point, If You're Happy and You Know It broke out spontane-ously among a group of teens to my left, even though our team was losing, and I was additionally pleased by the woman sitting alone behind me, holding J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories in her lap.

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