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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
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.

Carnival games near Deno’s famous wonder wheel © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
The facade of the notorious Coney Island freak show and Museum. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
The Texas Talker works at the sideshow and the museum. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Two young patrons enjoying the bumper cars. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of the swings amusement park ride from Luna Park. © 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. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A mustachioed patron out side Ruby’s Bar and Grill on the Boardwalk © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
The view of the iconic Cyclone rollercoaster and the Wild River log ride from the Wonder Wheel © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of the Nathan’s Hot Dog’s location on Surf Avenue © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A portrait of John Rodriguez with his 5 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 view of the Iconic parachute jump, the Thunderbolt rollercoaster, Ruby’s Bar and Grill and the Nathan’s looking west from the Riegelmann boardwalk and West 12th street. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
VJ on the boardwalk. VJ spent the day on the beach working on his screenplay. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of the Wonder Wheel and Luna park from West 10th street © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
The two friends were hanging out on the boardwalk following their gymnastics practice. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Coney Island beach goers cooling off under the palm tree sprinkler on the beach. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Patrons of the Cyclone rollercoaster headed down the first drop on the ride. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
A view of the Coney Island beach from atop the Wonder Wheel © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
William and Precious right after Precious won a water gun carnival game. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
Sweet Treats on the Coney Island Boardwalk. © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip
The cool Coney Island water is refreshing on a hot day! © Jena Cumbo / Culture Trip