Rides! Sideshows! Hotdogs!! What to do?
July 31, 2010 3:47 PM   Subscribe

We're going to Coney Island next weekend for the first time. Help us have the best time ever.

What are the "must-see" and "must-do" things at Coney Island? Do you have any tips for Coney Island newbies? Best way to get there? Best sideshow to see? Best food to eat?
posted by SheIsMighty to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
dumb question, but New York or Cincinnati? In Cincinnati, Old Coney amusement park is locally and even officially referred to as Coney Island.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:08 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oops! Didn't realize there were two! We're going to New York.
posted by SheIsMighty at 4:17 PM on July 31, 2010

Best answer: If you have a bicycle and are leaving from somewhere in Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan, it's a lovely bike ride (10-15 miles each way, depending on departure point). The best way is to cut through Prospect Park and then take the Ocean Parkway greenway all the way to the end. You can see the entrance to the boardwalk from there.

If you are public transit oriented, you can take the Q or F all the way to the end of the line. I forget the name of the stop, but it's the last one, you can't miss it. You cannot fail. On the other hand, if you get off a couple stops early at Brighton Beach, you can walk through a fairly interesting Russian neighborhood, pick up a couple of Baltika beers in a bodega (in a paper bag, of course), and walk over to the boardwalk before it becomes full blown Coney Island.

The freak show is fun.

Nathan's hotdogs are, well, hotdogs, but it's always enjoyable for what it is.

There are fireworks on Friday nights, if you'll be there on a Friday.

I haven't actually been on the rides, but the new Luna Park looks really fun.

You must ride either the Wonder Wheel or the Cyclone. The Cyclone is scary, and I mean, like, "you will fear for your life" scary, but it's cathartic in a good way and you probably won't actually die. The Wonder Wheel is beautiful - ride on one of the outside rocking/sliding cars for the best view of South Brooklyn and the Verazanno Narrows Bridge to Staten Island.

Checking out a Cyclones game might be really fun. There are also some free concerts going on at Asser Levy park, which is nearby - worth Googling at least.

There are some interesting Russian restaurants back up the boardwalk towards Brighton Beach. There's also an aquarium, which I have never been to, but if ocean life is your thing it might be worth a visit.

The beach itself is relatively grody.
posted by Sara C. at 4:36 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can get there by taking the Q,F,D or N trains to the last stop - Stillwell Avenue and walk outside. The ride from the Ocean Parkway Q stop to Stillwell is one of my favorites.

Exit out the front or on the side - it doesn't matter, since it's really obvious where to go. Nathan's will be across the street. Be aware that when it's really busy in there, they have two lines - one for hot dogs and one for stuff off the seafood menu, and with few exceptions, they won't let you mix your order. During the off season, you can order everything on the same line. So pick accordingly. There is a Nathan's outpost up on the boardwalk itself, and sometimes that line may be shorter.

The aquarium is small and a little depressing nowadays. It's scheduled to be renovated, but for now, unless you're dead set on it or bringing a young child - skip it.

If you're looking for a really good meal, my family loves Gargiulo's. It's an Italian place that has been there for decades, and is right up the street from the boardwalk and about a block from Nathan's.

As for the park there, ride the obvious biggies - Cyclone and Wonder Wheel, which are must-dos. Don't buy a day pass to the rides unless you know you'll take full advantage.

There are some nice little gazebos and other areas on th boardwalk that are cute for couple time and photos.

If you have any interest in actually going to the beach, I'd suggest taking the B or Q train down to the Brighton Beach stop and going to that side of the beach. It's nicer and apt to be somewhat less crowded (depending on the time of day, of course).

FYI, the Asser Levy park concerts are on Thursday nights.

There's a Coney Island museum that's not bad. Sometimes there are events or films screenings.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:48 PM on July 31, 2010

Oh and the aforementioned Nathan's seafood menu includes clams in several styles and a platter of frog's legs, so maybe that's a story you'd like to tell your friends back home.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:50 PM on July 31, 2010

For me it's all about Nathan's. I've made trips there just for lunch. The dogs served there have a natural skin on them, so there's a great snap when you bite into them. Be sure to get the fries too.
posted by kdern at 6:19 PM on July 31, 2010

Ride the Cyclone!

The Coney Island Circus Sideshow is lots of fun too.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:27 PM on July 31, 2010

Drink at Ruby's on the boardwalk, and then Shoot the Freak right next to the bar!
posted by AJaffe at 7:40 PM on July 31, 2010

I like to stop at beer island for a bit to sit down and relax.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:17 PM on July 31, 2010

I think Coney Island is really one of those self-explanatory experiences. The new rides are great, the old rides are great, the food is ubiquitous, the ocean is impossible to miss, and just about when you need to use a restroom, you happen upon one (the most reliable one is on the side of the main "Nathan's", next to the picnic tables. On the other side of the tables you'll find the most amazing candy and ice cream stall).

When you ride the Cyclone, don't pay $5 at the end for a second ride. Once is bone-rattling enough, after two rides you'll be missing neckbones and tooth enamel.

Also, when they advertise "free refills" on some of the giant cocktails, think of what you're actually drinking in those quantities and just say no thanks.
posted by hermitosis at 9:52 PM on July 31, 2010

I love the cheese fries at Nathan's, and if you order at the outside counter there usually isn't a line. The Wonder Wheel is amazing, and I also enjoy the photobooth and one-of-a-kind "foot relaxer" at its base. My sister suggests checking if there's a film at the Coney Island Museum because she's seen some great stuff there. Also, FIREWORKS (9:30pm on Friday nights til Labor Day)!!!

On the other hand, don't waste your money on the "daiquiris" in the souvenir mermaid cups unless you're bringing a flask for *ahem* assistance, and the public restroom at the Coney Island D,F,N,Q stop is one of the most pungent that I have ever encountered. Instead, I suggest paying 50 cents to pee in the toilet trailer thing once you're there. It's also entirely possible that sitting in the last car of the Cyclone will give you whiplash. Have fun!
posted by unknowncommand at 10:18 PM on July 31, 2010

When you ride the Cyclone, don't pay $5 at the end for a second ride. Once is bone-rattling enough, after two rides you'll be missing neckbones and tooth enamel.

Crazy talk! Absolutely pay the $5 re-ride. The Cyclone is the most fun. There should be one stationed in every neighborhood. It should replace mass transit. (I wouldn't be able to do the crosswords anymore, but hey, ROLLERCOASTER COMMUTE!)

Also they've finally put in cushions in the seats so you don't break your ribs.

The Wonder Wheel is, perhaps, the only fun ferris wheel in existence. Get in line for one of the moving cars, not the stationary. (Although the stationarys go higher.)

The aquarium is a little sad, but it's also cheap. Get the general admission, as the "full experience" is only the general with a movie added in. Don't eat at their cafe.

Bring water bottles and sunscreen. There is little to no shade.
posted by greenland at 10:40 PM on July 31, 2010

Coney Island Nathan's has the best clams anywhere -- on the half shell and icy cold.
posted by wryly at 12:59 AM on August 1, 2010

clams. clams . clams.
posted by alkupe at 7:58 AM on August 1, 2010

Shoot the Freak, The CI Circus Sideshow, and the Wonder Wheel are all great. Walk out the pier and watch kids with crab traps. The Peruvian chicken restaurant on the boardwalk is a really delicious alternative to mediocre fried food.
posted by chr1sb0y at 11:15 AM on August 1, 2010

I can't believe someone warned against riding the Cyclone again for cheaper. It's more than worth it, and once is never enough. The only tip I would give is to ride alone. If you sit with someone, you'll be colliding pretty violently. Well it could be fun, but it's better to have your own seat and just keep your hands up the whole time. This way, no accidental head buts.
posted by ReeMonster at 3:49 PM on August 1, 2010

Go for the Fireworks on Friday nights. I've always been impressed by them. You might expect them to be nothing much since they happen every Friday, but they're pretty good.

After that, walk to Cha Cha's on the boardwalk. It's a bar. There is a $5 cover. There is a band called All Mobbed Up. If drinks were cheaper there, I might spend all my Fridays there.
posted by oreofuchi at 7:56 PM on August 1, 2010

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