Coney Island, Brooklyn, is as synonymous with summer as popsicles and fireworks.
In southern Brooklyn along the waterfront, this seaside community has always been known as a place for New York City’s freaks and weirdos to feel welcome. It plays host to the annual Mermaid Parade as well as the hot-dog eating contest every Fourth of July.
Best of all, Coney is still within New York City’s borders, meaning it’s accessible by several subway lines and makes the perfect day trip for locals and visitors alike. Here’s what to do when you get there:
Go for a whirl
Your first stop in Coney should be Luna Park, the amusement park, where you can pick up an all-day pass. Among the iconic rides are the wooden Cyclone roller coaster (which dates to 1927), and the gilded vintage B&B carousell — no, the two Ls are not a typo.
If these rides look familiar, they should. Luna Park has been a backdrop for everything from “Law & Order” to “Mr. Robot.”
Nearby, don’t miss a ride on Deno’s Wonder Wheel (heads up: the white cars are stationary, while the red and blue ones move from side-to-side).
To recuperate, take a stroll along the Coney Island Boardwalk, where you’re as likely to see Russian grandparents walking their dog as hipsters whizzing past on their retro ten-speeds.
Also stop in at the Coney Art Walls, a place for aerosol and street artists to show off their work.
Pieces on display are often bright and colorful in the spirit of Coney amusement park signs and freak show handbills, and they make the perfect Instagram photo background.
The taste of summer
No trip to Coney is complete without a visit to Nathan’s Famous, the iconic hot dog joint on the corner of Stillwell and Surf Avenues.
Though Nathan’s is now a chain, this was the original location and has been in business since 1916.
Besides the famous hot dogs, you can pick up a corn dog on a stick (perfect for eating while walking the boardwalk), cheese fries and ice-cold lemonade..
If you’d prefer a sit-down meal, head over to Totonno’s, a family-owned, cash-only joint on Neptune Avenue (the same street that folk legend Woody Guthrie lived on) close to the Coney Island subway station. Their legendary pies can’t be ordered by the slice, so stake out a table or take yours to eat on the beach.
You can wash it all down with beer from Coney Island Brewing, a relative newcomer to the beach that manages to look and feel like it’s been there forever. The brewery’s beers are inspired by classic fair foods and soda pop, from the Cotton Candy Kolsch to Hard Root Beer, and their membership program is called–what else?–the Freak Club.
If the weather’s bad, wait out the rain with the kids at the New York Aquarium.
Though the aquarium was flooded and damaged during Superstorm Sandy, it has since been fixed up and returned to glory. All the original residents — otters, sharks, turtles, fish and more — are back at home, including arguably the most famous member, Mitlik the walrus.
And don’t think that the beach is just a daytime activity.
Minor league baseball team the Brooklyn Cyclones play here at Coney’s MCU Park, and during the off season the stadium hosts rock concerts and other large events. Best of all, it’s adjacent to Coney Island Brewing, so you can have a kettle-corn inspired beer while you root for the home team.
MCU Park also hosts a newcomer to the New York City sports scene, the New York Cosmos soccer team.
In the city that never sleeps, Coney Island is definitely a 24/7 destination. Good news: the subway runs all night.