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A Nostalgic Look Into Coney Island, America’s Playground

A view of the Wonder Wheel from Luna Park.
A view of the Wonder Wheel from Luna Park. | © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Picture of Rosanna Oh
Updated: 15 October 2018
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Summertime in Coney Island is a slice of New York Americana. Over the years, it’s been dubbed America’s playground as the surrounding neighborhood morphs into a vibrant wonderland of amusement park rides and sideshow entertainment. Classic carnival fare, such as face-size funnel cakes and Nathan’s hot dogs, boardwalk games and umbrella-studded beaches make Coney Island synonymous with New York summer. The best part? This living playground is only a subway ride away from Manhattan’s concrete jungle.

Perhaps most well known for hosting the popular Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest and Mermaid Parade, the four-mile-long (6.4 kilometers) peninsula originally started as a sea resort for New York City’s elite. The introduction of amusement parks broadened Coney Island’s appeal and cemented its international reputation as a cultural hub.

This past summer, the 95-year-old Riegelmann Boardwalk that belongs to Coney Island became a designated New York landmark – an apt homage to the evolution of this long-established national treasure that was founded almost a century ago. With an ever-changing calendar of new events, it continues to attract and delight visitors year-round.

A view of the Wonder Wheel from Luna Park.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of the Wonder Wheel from Luna Park.
The facade of the notorious Coney Island freak show and museum.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
The facade of the notorious Coney Island freak show and museum.
The Texas Talker works at the sideshow and the museum.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
The Texas Talker works at the sideshow and the museum.
Two young patrons enjoying the bumper cars.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Two young patrons enjoying the bumper cars.
A view of the swings amusement park ride from Luna Park.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of the swings amusement park ride from Luna Park.
Nelly on the boardwalk. She came to Coney for the day with her boyfriend Frank; it was her first time in Coney Island.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Nelly on the boardwalk. She came to Coney for the day with her boyfriend Frank; it was her first time in Coney Island.
A mustachioed patron outside Ruby’s Bar and Grill on the Boardwalk.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A mustachioed patron outside Ruby’s Bar and Grill on the Boardwalk.
The view of the iconic Cyclone roller coaster and the Wild River log ride from the Wonder Wheel.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
The view of the iconic Cyclone roller coaster and the Wild River log ride from the Wonder Wheel.
A view of Nathan’s Hot Dog’s location on Surf Avenue.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of Nathan’s Hot Dog’s location on Surf Avenue.
A portrait of John Rodriguez with his five daughters and his niece. John and the girls were at Coney celebrating the birthday of his daughter in the striped tank top.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A portrait of John Rodriguez with his five daughters and his niece. John and the girls were at Coney celebrating the birthday of his daughter in the striped tank top.
A view of the Iconic parachute jump, the Thunderbolt roller coaster, Ruby’s Bar and Grill and the Nathan’s looking west from the Riegelmann boardwalk and West 12th Street.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of the Iconic parachute jump, the Thunderbolt roller coaster, Ruby’s Bar and Grill and the Nathan’s looking west from the Riegelmann boardwalk and West 12th Street.
VJ on the boardwalk. VJ spent the day on the beach working on his screenplay.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
VJ on the boardwalk. VJ spent the day on the beach working on his screenplay.
A view of the Wonder Wheel.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of the Wonder Wheel.
The two friends were hanging out on the boardwalk following their gymnastics practice.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
The two friends were hanging out on the boardwalk following their gymnastics practice.
Coney Island beachgoers cooling off under the palm tree sprinkler on the beach.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Coney Island beachgoers cooling off under the palm tree sprinkler on the beach.
Patrons of the Cyclone roller coaster headed down the first drop on the ride.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Patrons of the Cyclone roller coaster headed down the first drop on the ride.
A view of the Coney Island beach from atop the Wonder Wheel.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of the Coney Island beach from atop the Wonder Wheel.
William and Precious right after Precious won a water gun carnival game.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
William and Precious right after Precious won a water gun carnival game.
Sweet Treats on the Coney Island Boardwalk.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Sweet Treats on the Coney Island Boardwalk.
Coney Island beachgoers cool down after a day at the amusement park.
© Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Coney Island beachgoers cool down after a day at the amusement park.
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