Coney Island is an experience like no other in New York City. Here, you will find a beach, a lot of history, and rides that cost more than your first car. What should you know about a day at Coney Island?
What Should You Know About a Day at Coney Island?
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Plan A Day at Coney Island
1. What’s Coney Island?
Coney Island features a public beach and boardwalk with lots to see and do. Admission to the area is free, but there are plenty of ways to spend money.
2. Where’s Coney Island?
Is Coney Island in Brooklyn? Yes, it is part of New York City. You can enter on Boardwalk between Corbin and West 37th.
3. When is it Open?
When does Coney Island close for the season?
The Coney Island beach (but not the water), boardwalk, and aquarium are open year round, but the rides and a lot of the restaurants are only open in the summer and on select weekends thereafter.
Check the schedule at the time of your visit if rides are important to you.
During swim season, Coney Island hours for the beach are generally between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. when lifeguards are on duty. Outside of these hours, you can still walk the beach, but swimming is not allowed.
4. Check the Coney Island Weather
New York City weather varies wildly throughout the year. A lot of your visit will likely be outdoors. Check the weather for Coney Island at the time of your visit so you know what to expect.
5. Parking for Coney Island and Other Transportation Options
You can reach the area from the D, F, N, and Q subway lines. You exit the train at the very last subway stop, Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue, because the next one would fall into the ocean if it existed.
Pro tip: Consult Citymapper if you need to change trains and aren’t sure how to do it. It will provide you with proposed routes and costs.
Via Coney Island Ferry
NYC Ferry has a route from Manhattan to Coney Island.
If you don’t want to deal with public transportation, Uber is always an option.
Parking Your Own Vehicle
Is there free parking at Coney Island? Generally, no. There is an official parking lot by Maimonides Park. As of the time of this writing, it costs $13 on weekdays, $20 on weekends, and $27 for special events.
Bonus pro tip: Consult SpotHero for the best parking prices if you decide to drive.
6. Where Should You Stay?
New York City is an amazing place. There are so many things to see outside of this area. Hotels near Coney Island probably aren’t your best option. Stay in Manhattan and take the subway.
7. What Should You Bring?
There are no lockers. You need to hold onto everything you bring or you run the risk of it getting stolen. Don’t go overboard. With that said, don’t forget:
C. Snacks (if you want them)
F. Beach toys
I. A method of payment
8. Coney Island History
Is it worth going to Coney Island? If you like a Boardwalk Empire vibe, then it definitely is.
This area is older than your grandmother. A lot has happened here since the Luna Park section opened in 1903. It has seen several fires, scandal, and gusts of air blowing up skirts for the enjoyment of men.
Fun fact: That giant red tower by the Coney Island boardwalk used to be a parachute jump. It had to permanently close in 1964 because riders would get stuck mid-air and tangled in cables. Bit of a problem.
Pro tip: Visit the free History Project Center near the entrance to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park for a deeper dive into the history of the area.
9. What is the Best Time of Day to Go to Coney Island?
The boardwalk is at its best first thing in the morning. Late sleepers roll in in the afternoon. This means crowded public facilities and mile long lines for food and bathrooms. Arrive early and wrap up your day as the masses descend.
10. What is the Best Day to Go to Coney Island?
During the summer season when the rides are open, the area is least busy on random weekdays in the summer. If you have the luxury of choice, try to avoid the weekends.
Avoid holidays like the plague. Memorial Day and Labor Day are like Times Square on New Years Eve without Dick Clark.
11. How Long Do You Need?
Coney Island is a big place with a lot to do. The boardwalk spans over two miles. If you just want to play at the beach and walk the boardwalk, a half of a day or less will be plenty of time. If you also want to ride the rides and visit a museum, plan to be there all day.
12. There Are Free Public Bathrooms
There are free public bathrooms with toilets that flush on the boardwalk. Lines get extremely long in the afternoon.
13. Consult the Coney Island Map
The area is large and crowded. Consult the map before you go to make sure you don’t miss your priorities.
14. How Do You Spend a Day at Coney Island?
Do you need tickets for Coney Island? You don’t need tickets to enter, but you will need them for some of the activities.
Visit the Beach
Is Coney Island worth visiting? When it comes to the beach, it definitely is. It is huge and staffed with plenty of lifeguards. Even on a crowded day in Coney Island, you will be able to find a place to spread out.
Pro tip: Movies are played on select nights. Check the schedule at the time of your Coney Island visit.
Ride the Coney Island Rides
The rides in Luna Park are some of the most popular activities at Coney Island. A lot of them are just your standard carnival rides, but some are special. If you are into the history, don’t miss the Cyclone, a roller coaster built in 1927, and the Wonder Wheel, a Ferris wheel built in 1920.
The Coney Island amusement park is divided into two sections, one with family rides and the other with bigger attractions.
Pro tip: If you don’t care about the history and just want to ride rides, Six Flags Great Adventure is less than two hours from most places in New York City and will be much more cost effective when you consider the cost per ride.
Bonus pro tip: The rides aren’t cheap. You can buy Coney Island tickets for each ride, but that often won’t make sense. If you want to ride several things, do some math. You can purchase a wristband online ahead of time to save.
Extra bonus pro tip: The Wonder Wheel offers both swinging and non-swinging seats. Make sure you know what line you are in.
Visit the Coney Island Museum
This is a small museum featuring photographs and artifacts. Hours vary, so be sure to check the schedule at the time of your visit if this is important to you.
As of the time of this writing, the cost is $5 per adult and $3 per child and senior.
Attend a Baseball Game
The Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league baseball team, play in the area. Tickets will most definitely be cheaper than those at a Mets or Yankees game. Consider attending an afternoon or evening game after some time at the boardwalk and beach.
Visit the Coney Island Aquarium
The New York Aquarium features penguins, seals, sea lions, and a bunch of sharks.
Pro tip: As of the time of this writing, admission to the aquarium is free after 3:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. You must reserve a spot ahead of time.
Play at a Playground
There are free playgrounds located on the beach.
Pro tip: These areas get extremely crowded. Visit early in the morning to avoid a trampling.
Go Ice Skating
The Abe Stark ice skating rink is open seasonally during the fall and winter.
Visit a Sideshow
In keeping with the Boardwalk Empire vibe of this area, there is a Coney Island freak show. This doesn’t sound very politically correct, but the show actually just features performers that play with fire and swallow swords.
This show is available seasonally. Check the schedule at the time of your visit.
Play Miniature Golf
Brooklyn Go-Karts & Mini Golf offers miniature golf.
You can drive go-karts at Brooklyn Go-Karts & Mini Golf.
Visit the History Project Center
The History Project Center is a free area that features historical artifacts. It is located near the entrance to the Wonder Wheel Park.
Participate in a Polar Bear Plunge
What is there to do at Coney Island if you’re feeling insane? Consider jumping into the freezing water for charity during the winter.
Drive Bumper Cars
You can drive bumper cars at Eldorado Auto Skooter.
Visit an Arcade
Eldorado Auto Skooter offers a large arcade.
Watch the Coney Island Fireworks
Free fireworks are offered on select nights. Check the schedule at the time of your visit.
15. Don’t Miss the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance
If you’re wondering what to do at Coney Island that you can’t do elsewhere, don’t miss this the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance. It honors first responders lost on September 11. Assuming your kids can handle this conversation, it is worth a stop.
16. There Are Lots of Special Coney Island Events
There are lots of special events offered throughout the year, with some of the most famous being the Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest and Mermaid parade. Check the schedule at the time of your visit.
17. Coney Island Restaurants
There are a ton of dining choices, both fast food and table service. Even if you don’t eat a meal, plan on purchasing some ice cream or fudge.
If you need gluten free and cannot risk cross contamination, try one of the table service options. The quick service stands are unlikely to be safe.
Pro tip: The original Nathan’s Hot Dogs is located in this area.
Bonus pro tip: Eat at an off time. Every Coney Island food line is a mile long during peak hours.
18. There is Free Wi-Fi
Free wi-fi is available at the beach and boardwalk.
19. Dogs Are Allowed in Some Areas
As of the time of this writing, dogs are allowed on the boardwalk from October 1st through May 1st. They aren’t allowed the rest of the year, and they are never allowed on the beach. Check the policy at the time of your visit.
Final Thoughts – A Day at Coney Island
It has a lot to do, a ton of history, and masses of people. A day at Coney Island can be a lot of fun, or it can be a frustrating experience. Do what you can to improve your time there. Plan ahead, save, and enjoy your time with your family. You will not regret it.