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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Coney Island: Sharing a local treat



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Coney Island Boardwalk
As per Wikipedia, Coney Island is one of the oldest amusement areas in the world. Seaside resorts, traveling fairs and carnivals, world's fairs along with the Industrial Revolution (resulting in rides) and an increase of the masses having money to spend on entertainment gave rise to amusement parks. Coney Island, being near the shore, was a natural location for NYC to have its own. One could say that Coney Island was one of the original staycations, easily accessible by subway from Manhattan yet far enough to feel like you're out of town, literally at the seashore, staying at one of the fabulous resort hotels that were popular in the mid to late 1800s.
The Cyclone
The name Coney comes from the Spanish "conejo," which means rabbit. Apparently, the peninsula was full of the little bunnies until development limited their numbers. "Coney" was a nickname that stuck.

Popular before World War II, Coney Island descended into almost a delicious seediness, where only hardy NY locals would dare to go. Nathan's, the famous hot dog stand, the Cyclone, one of the grandfathers of all roller coasters, the Deno's Wonder Wheel and the inactive 1939 World's Fair souvenir, the red Parachute Jump managed to survive despite the disintegration of the 1960s and 1970s. New York State may not have the best of everything but we do have almost one of everything and city folk in particular patronize the beach and enjoy the boardwalk with the best of them.
Surf Avenue
Meanwhile, an entire community built up around the resort area, complete with houses, housing projects, schools, churches and supermarkets. Street names like Neptune, Surf and Mermaid pay tribute to the seaside theme, but make no mistake, Coney Island is a real neighborhood and a vital part of NYC.

Coney Island limped along until the 1980s revitalization started. Despite the fact that it can seem like one big business, Coney Island was always actually several independently owned parks, the most famous seemingly being Deno's, Luna Park and Steeplechase Park. You can read about the process on Wikipedia, but now, 30 years later, thanks to local politicians and developers, the area is a hot spot.
The new Thunderbolt, Coney Island (editorial usage)
Locals, however, are not giving it up to the tourists so easily, however. NYC can promote it to the out-of-towners all it wants but Coney Island belongs to us, always has and always will. When you visit, just remember you're in our house and our rules apply. But don't worry, there is plenty of NYPD to keep everyone in line. The place seems to be even more alive after dark: with everything lit up and the noise of the games spilling out onto Surf Avenue.
Nathan's Famous
You can make a day or weekend of coming to this part of Brooklyn. Get there early, and visit the NY Aquarium. Still rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy, there is enough to do and enjoy while you interact with marine life and learn about conservation. Next, stroll down the street and take in a few rides. The amusement parks still operate old school: admission is free and you buy tickets (or books of tickets) to ride the attractions. Old and new games are there, also: bring lots of cash, they are not as cheap as they used to be! You'll find Luna Park, Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, and more! Comprehensive info can be found at Coney Island Fun Guide.
Soaring Eagle
Believe it or not, the sideshow still exists. I've never been in to see if there really were freaks of nature, but take a chance if you dare and enjoy a relic of the old carnivals. You can also visit a museum dedicated to "defending the honor of American popular culture!" Coney Island USA.
Wonder Wheel (trademarked, editorial usage)
Cut through the parks and head to the famous boardwalk, immortalized in many movies, including the building in the film Two Weeks Notice at 21st Street and the Boardwalk. Warning: NYC waters never really warm up, our season is too short, but the Parks Department is making an effort to keep the beaches clean and you are guaranteed to be totally entertained by the locals. It's never boring. Official season is Memorial Day to Labor Day for the life guards and they mean it. In the winter, dare to dive in with local polar bear clubs, especially on New Year's Day.
The Boardwalk
When you get hungry and thirsty, this is the best place to fall so far off your diet that you have no choice but to walk it off on the entire boardwalk. Custard ice cream, seafood, candy, popcorn and all sorts of interesting drinks tempt you along the boardwalk and Surf Avenue. Of course, the most well-known is Nathan's Famous. Many New Yorkers will not eat Nathan's anyplace else. Somehow, it tastes better down here. However, the other spots are just as good, particularly since Nathan's can seem slow and the lines can be very long.
MCU Park (editorial usage)
In the evening, take in future sports stars at Municipal Credit Union (MCU) Park and cheer on the Brooklyn Cyclones, one of our local minor league baseball teams. Like any other sports venue, you do not have to be a sports fan to enjoy an outing at the ballpark. With the mascot running around and all the fun things in between innings, a minor league game becomes quite intimate. The park is smaller, the players are accessible and the crowd is fun. It is certainly cheaper.
Williams Candy Store, next to Nathan's, Surf Ave

Afterwards, stroll back to Williams Candy store and take home one of the famous candy apples or get some more ice cream.
Subway Station
Getting there: the old BMT lines, now known as the MTA F, Q, N, D trains will take you to the area. The main buses would be the B36 and B68. By car, it gets a little complicated and parking between June and September is ridiculous, but for a small fortune, you can park in privately owned lots without running out to the meter every 15 minutes.

So, come on down to our very own seashore resort area and take a few moments to enjoy yourself.

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