Despite the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, Luna Park at Coney Island has opened. With more than three miles of beach, this place is more than just the amusement rides it is most known for. The boardwalk, which links the beach with the excitement and recreation on land, is home to everything from people-watching to carnival games, rides and food. It’s all practically in Manhattan’s backyard, so hop in the car and head down on just a tank of gas.

Getting There

The hour-long drive to Coney Island is simple as the island is only about 20 miles outside of Manhattan. Take the Midtown Tunnel and drive east on Interstate 495 to get to interstate 278 heading west. Or, take the FDR downtown to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, and then merge onto 278 heading west. Either route will intersect with Shore Parkway, which will take you to Coney Island, with views of the bay. Off-street parking is available at MCU Park for a fee. On-street parking is also available.

Where To Play

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Luna Park
1000 Surf Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 373-LUNA (5862)

Price: free/rides vary

Luna Park boasts 19 rides for thrill seekers of all levels, including the new Scream Zone and the world-famous Cyclone, which is celebrating its 85th birthday this year. The park’s name and theming pays tribute to the original Luna Park, which operated from 1907 through 1944. If you’re adventurous, try the Brooklyn Flyer, which towers 100 feet over Coney Island and will send you spinning, or the Sling Shot that will launch you 150 feet into the air at more than 90 miles per hour. For coaster lovers, in addition to the Cyclone, try the Steeplechase, which accelerates to 40 miles per hour in just two seconds.

Related: Best Roller Coasters Across the USA

Photo Credit: Tara Lipinsky

New York Aquarium
Surf Avenue and West 8th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 265-3474

Price: $14.95 for adults/$11.95 for seniors/$10.95 for children ages 3 to 12

The only major aquarium in the New York City is located on Coney Island. Open 365 days a year, the 14-acre world of water houses more than 300 species of marine life including walruses, sea otters, California sea lions, black-footed penguins, sand tiger sharks and loggerhead sea turtles. In addition to visiting the animals, explore the aquarium’s outdoor touch pool where you can get up close and personal with all sorts of sea creatures, or visit the aquatheater and be awed by the acrobatics of the sea lions.

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Coney Island Circus Sideshow
1208 Surf Ave. at 12th South
Brooklyn, New York 11224
(718) 372-5159

Price: $10 for adults/$5 for children younger than 12

Once known as a freak show, this circus sideshow by the shore offers astonishing and wild attractions for people of all ages. The 10 awe-inspiring sideshow acts include snake charming, fire-eating, belly-dancing and sword-swallowing, which combine to make an exciting and wistful show for the family. No reservations are accepted. Tickets may be purchased at the door on the day of the show.

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Lola Star Souvenir Boutique
Boardwalk, between Stillwell and West 12th
New York, NY 11224
(718) 975-0583

Opened since 1991, designer and owner Lola Staar has gained millions of fans with her beachy-chic, sassy T-shirt line. The hot pink walls combined with the glittery pop-art décor make the shop feel like a punk-rocker meets girly girl dreamland. In addition to the T-shirts, pick up Coney Island souvenirs, memorabilia and collectables, beach gear and kitschy gifts.

Where to Eat

Photo Credit: Rubys Bar and Grill/Facebook

Ruby’s Bar and Grill
1213 Riegelmanns Boardwalk
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 372-9079

Open since 1934, Ruby’s is the oldest bar and grill on the boardwalk. Family owned and operated, this dive joint serves beer in plastic cups, has the best jukebox on the boardwalk and offers a food stand with munchies including burgers and corn dogs. It’s also an excellent location for people watching.

Related: Best East Village Dive Bars

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Nathan’s Famous
1310 Surf Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11224
(718) 946-2705

Open for nearly 100 years, Nathan’s is a must-see local legend. For a true Coney Island experience, try the Coney Island hot dog, topped with chili, with a side of Nathan’s crinkle-cut fries. If a chili dog isn’t your thing, you can also get cheese, sauerkraut, onions or salsa. The menu doesn’t stop at hot dogs. Order burgers, Philly cheesesteaks, chicken tenders, chicken wings and chargrilled chicken. The restaurant is also home to the world-famous Hot Dog Eating Contest held on the 4th of July.

Coney Island’s Best Bars

Freak Bar


1208 Surf Ave.
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 372-5159

Named for the Coney Island Circus Sideshow next door, this bar serves a variety of beer and you can often catch a glimpse of some of the freaky performers while they’re on break. Feel like a local and order a Coney Island Lager from New York’s own Shmaltz Brewing Co. and strike up a chat with a sword swallower or a bearded lady.

Credit: Ruby’s Bar and Grill

Ruby’s Bar and Grill

1213 Riegelmanns Boardwalk
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 372-9079

Ruby’s has been endangered for the past few years, and this summer is expected to be its last on the boardwalk. The remaining family-owned bar at Coney Island, complete with surly bartenders, Ruby’s is the quintessential beachside dive. Come for a $5 beer and fried seafood, stay for the people-watching.

Credit: Beer Island

Beer Island

3070 Stillwell Ave.
Brooklyn, NY

Directly on the beach and offering a variety of beer as well as wine, Beer Island is something of an adult oasis at Coney Island. Find shelter under a beach umbrella and imagine you are on an island much further south. Rumor has it that Beer Island may also be on the chopping block after this season due to the continued redevelopment of the amusement park, so enjoy its charms while you can.

Traci Tournoux is a freelance writer living in New York. She is covering Travel & Outdoors. Her work can be found at Selena Ricks-Good contributed to this guide.