There's no denying that Coney Island bears little resemblance to its high-flying heyday in the early 20th century. The magnificent spires of the original Luna Park are long gone, and most of the rides are off-the-shelf numbers that can be found at traveling carnivals. However, along the boardwalk there is an elegant patina of decay and a palpable sense of Americana. The neon signs at Nathan's and the Cyclone fairly ooze nostalgia. And echoes of the past remain with the Wonder Wheel, the Spook-A-Rama, and the shell of the Parachute Jump tower.
There is a renewed, if cautious, sense of hope, however, with the opening of Luna Park and Scream Zone. They are part of the first phase of Coney Island's much-heralded rebirth and represent a private-public partnership to help restore The People's Playground to its former glory. Coney Island fans welcome the new parks and their new coasters and rides, but some question whether the relatively small size and scope of the amusement areas can provide the spark that the area needs to truly recapture its prominence.
With its redevelopment now underway, the architects of change need to find a delicate balance between bringing Coney Island into the 21st century and irrevocably severing its ties to the past. Between creating a gentrified, movie-set facsimile of the cherished landmark and preserving an authentic sense of the place. Between developing attractions that will bring in well-heeled guests to generate big profits and shutting out the egalitarian masses that have always been its audience.
For now, Coney Island is still doing what it has been doing for decades, albeit on a considerably smaller scale: bringing people from all walks of life together for thrills, laughter, great food, fun, and relief from the city's heat.
Special NoteSince its inception, a single operator has never owned nor managed the landmark Coney Island amusement area (unlike most modern-day theme parks). Rather, it has been, and continues to be, a collection of independent owners and vendors. Therefore, there is no central office or phone number. Starting in 2010, however, one operator has taken control of Luna Park, Scream Zone, and the Cyclone coaster.
Coney Island is in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, along the ocean.
Nearby HotelsCompare rates for hotels near Coney Island at TripAdvisor.
Tickets and Admission PolicyThere are no gates, and admission to the amusement areas is free. Guests purchase tickets and pay a la carte for rides and attractions. Wristbands for unlimited rides are available.
Subway: D, F, N, or Q train to Stilwell Ave., the end of the line.
Driving: Belt Parkway to Exit 6. South on Cropsey Ave. toward Coney Island. Cropsey becomes W 17th St. Left onto Surf Ave. to Coney Island's amusement area.
Parking: There are meters on the streets and parking lots in the area. On busy weekends, if everything appears to be full, you could drive about a mile away to Brighton Beach, which has a large parking lot, and walk the boardwalk back to Coney Island.
Rides and Highlights:
- Cyclone roller coaster
- Nathan's Famous- The chain's original hot dog joint has an evocative vibe and great food--especially the fries.
- The New York Aquarium
- The Coney Island Circus Sideshow- Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, to one of Americana's last genuine freak shows.
- Cyclones minor league baseball
- The boardwalk and Coney Island beach
The historical importance of Coney Island can't be overstated. From the 1880s through the 1940s, it was the world's archetypal amusement area and featured three major parks: Steeplechase Park (1897-1964), Luna Park (1903-1946) (not to be confused with the modern-day Luna Park), and Dreamland (1904-1911).
In 1884, the Switchback Railway, a precursor to the modern roller coaster, opened. Through the years, Coney Island hosted more than 50(!) coasters, including the circa-1927 (and still operating) Cyclone and the circa-1925 Thunderbolt (removed in 2000 to make way for the baseball stadium).
Coney Island also had as many as 30 dark rides, including the circa-1955-and-still-scarin' Spook-A-Rama. At one time, riders could choose from about 15 carousels; the B&B, which opened in 1932, is the only classic one remaining, although it is currently not operating. The Wonder Wheel debuted in 1920, and the Parachute Jump moved from the 1939 New York World's Fair to Coney Island in 1941. Its tower remains, but the ride is not operational. The hot dog made its debut in 1867 at Coney Island. In 1916, Nathan's Famous opened.
See the Amusement Area:
More Coney Island Info
- Luna Park
- Scream Zone
- Coney Island Cyclone Roller Coaster Ride Review
- Wonder Wheel at Coney Island Ride Review
- Spook-A-Rama at Coney Island Ride Review
Official Web Sites and Other Coney Island Links
- Deno's Wonder Wheel Park at Coney Island Official Site
- Luna Park and Scream Zone Official Site
- The Coney Island Fun Guide
- The Coney Island Circus Sideshow Official Site
- The New York Aquarium Official Site
- Coney Island History Site
- Another Coney Island History Site
In 2014, a new coaster with an old name, Thunderbolt, will make its debut.
In 2013, the area under the famed Parachute Jump structure will be transformed into Steeplechase Plaza and will be the new home for the classic B&B Carousell [sic]. Sadly, the Parachute Jump itself is not being restored.
New for 2011
After years of haggling and false starts, the redevelopment of Coney Island took a major step in 2010 with the opening of Luna Park on the shuttered Astroland site. In 2011, the same operator that runs Luna Park will open Scream Zone. It will feature two major roller coasters: Soaring Eagle, a flying coaster on which riders navigate the track in a nearly prone "superhero" flying position, and Steeplechase Coaster, on which riders sit on racehorse seats rather than traditional coaster cars (like Coney Island's classic Steeplechase ride).