What to do at Coney Island this Summer

By Ben Fractenberg on July 9, 2013 8:56am 

Slideshow
 New Yorkers and tourists flock to Coney Island as the summer 2013 begins.
Summer in the City: Coney Island
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CONEY ISLAND — Coney Island has come a long way since Hurricane Sandy. The boardwalk is bustling, Nathan's Famous flagship location is dishing out dogs and children are screaming with joy at Luna Park.

DNAinfo New York checked out the boardwalk to see what was open and what to do during a visit this summer.

Luna Park: The rides were in full gear before the start of the summer. Though it should be expected to be packed with kids, it's not to be skipped during a visit to Coney Island.

Newer features include a go-kart track and bungee ride that catapults people over the boardwalk at more than 60 mph. Other rides include the "Electro Spin," which twirls along a 120-foot half-pipe, and more child-friendly rides like the "Mermaid Parade," which is a kid-sized water flume.

"This is one of the best places in Brooklyn," said teacher Miss Luthan, who was helping to chaperone students from P.S. 289. "You don’t have to be all over [the students]. The kids love it."

The most famous ride at Luna Park is the Cyclone, one of the oldest wooden rollercoasters in the country. Part of the thrill is the unavoidable fear that the whole thing might fall apart at any moment. It is popular with the tourists, so grab a cold drink while you wait on the line.

New York Aquarium: The aquarium suffered extensive flooding during Sandy, but was able to partially reopen on May 25. Though it feels a bit more sparse than usual, the space still features popular animals like sea lions, penguins and sea otters.

The space's conservation hall lacks a grand Aquarium, but makes up for it with a number of smaller exhibits featuring a wide array of brightly colored fish from Africa to the Amazon.

The sea lions are also once-again putting on daily shows at the Aquatheater. Sharks are slated to return in 2014 when a new exhibit is built for them.

Though not at full-force, the Aquarium is still a great place to take the kids if you want a break from the Luna Park crowds.

Beach: The Coney Island sands were packed just before the start of summer, with some beachgoers even saying it seemed cleaner than before Sandy. While the Steeplechase Pier remains closed and beach space directly beside it is roped off, there is still plenty of space for swimming and sun bathing.

Children were also busy hanging out at the playground near the boardwalk at Nathan's and cooling off at the palm tree-shaped sprinkler.

The beach was much less crowded to the west of the pier. If you're willing to trade some additional space for the noise of construction it might be worth the extra walk.

Boardwalk: While both Nathan's Famous boardwalk and Stillwell Avenue locations have reopened you might want to try some other spots to avoid long waits for grub. Paul's Daughter has a nice selection of beer, with Blue Moon, Brooklyn Lager and Stella all on tap for $6. Paul's, which has the feel of a classic American diner, also has soft-serve ice cream and fries.

The people watching at Coney Island is unparalleled, with just about every type of person strolling the boardwalk, some of whom are bound to have some wild hair colors and piercings. So you may be just as happy bringing your own grub to save a little money and finding a bench to watch the human parade go by.

If you're looking to show off your moves, the Coney Island Dancers host DJ parties specializing in house, funk, disco and soul every Thursday through Sunday during the summer.

The boardwalk also has modular comfort stations in front of the aquarium, which look like something out of the Jetsons. The structures house extra lifeguard stations and washrooms — the older bathrooms at Coney Island can be a little funky.

Grimaldi's: One of the city's most legendary pizzerias moved into the area last year. Like all other businesses they sustained damage from Sandy, but reopened in April. The inside of the restaurant has a warm feeling, with exposed brick walls and large photos of old Coney Island.

"It's brick oven [pizza]. That's why we came," said Tony Jose, 42, who was eating at the restaurant with a friend. The Brooklyn natives added that they like that you can only order a pie since it keeps the eatery from becoming frantic with a line of beachgoers just looking for a slice.

Williams Candy: Candy chain It'Sugar opened a sleek looking store on Stillwell Avenue. But if you want a more authentic sugar experience, check out the more than 75-year-old mom-and-pop Williams Candy, one block west. Williams specializes in candy apples covered in sprinkles or chopped nuts and marshmallow treats.

How to get there: Coney Island is very accessible by subway with the D, F, N and Q all ending at Stillwell Avenue. Take the F or the Q if you want to get off a stop before near the Aquarium and Cyclone. You can also jump on the X28 express bus from Midtown, Manhattan.

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