The Top Things to Do in Coney Island, New York City

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Photo of Casey Brand
4 May 2021

Coney Island is an essential experience for any New Yorker. The area is coated in nostalgic charm, appealing to a wide audience that includes beach-goers, thrill seekers, and locals who have witnessed the change that Coney Island has undergone over the years. Read on to discover the best food, art and things to do in Coney Island, New York.

Friday Night Fireworks

Amusement Park, Building
Map View
Coney Island Pier at Night, Brooklyn, NU, USA
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Every Friday from late June to late August, you can visit Coney Island to watch the fireworks. It hardly matters whether your toes are in the sand or you’re riding the Wonder Wheel; the displays are impressive from every angle. If you’re driving, get there early to find a parking space.

Wonder Wheel

Amusement Park
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Wonder Wheel ferris wheel at Luna Park fairground and amusement park in Coney Island, New York.
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This popular ride in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park is no ordinary ferris wheel. Of the 24 passenger cars, 16 are unfixed, allowing them to slide between the hub and the rim as the wheel turns. The experience is thrilling. The ride was built in 1920 and provides an incredible view of Coney Island and Manhattan in the distance. Climb aboard during sunset for a particularly magical experience.

Coney Island Beach and Boardwalk

Amusement Park, Natural Feature, Park, School
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NEW YORK, USA - OCTOBER 14: View of the famous seaside Boardwalk in Coney Island, a popular tourist destination on October 14, 2019 in New York
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The most obvious attraction on Coney Island is also one of the best. Coney Island beach buzzes in the summertime; waves lap as vendors weave through beach-goers on towels. Opposite the ocean, amusement park attractions loom tall. You’ll have to brave a crowded subway and a packed boardwalk for an afternoon here, especially during the height of the summer, but the unique ambiance makes the trip worthwhile.

Williams Candy

Dessert Shop, Candy Store, American
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LOOKING INTO THE WILLIAMS CANDY SHOP CONEY ISLAND WORKERS SERVING CUSTOMERS.. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.
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Williams Candy has been a Coney Island mainstay for more than 75 years. Customers can opt for ice cream, fudge, popcorn or candy- and caramel-coated apples and marshmallows. A crisp Granny Smith apple coated in caramel and toasted coconut is the ideal end to any day at the beach.

Tacos Doña Zita

Food Stand, Mexican
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A taco from a Mexican vendor at the Latin food vendors in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York
© Richard Levine / Alamy
This taco shop stands out on a street of carnival games and drink vendors. Doña Zita’s tacos are hardly a bargain, but they’re a delicious alternative to the standard Coney Island hot dogs and fries. You can add you own toppings; think radish slices, lime wedges and two kinds of salsa. Opt for the carnitas tacos and take a seat at one of the picnic tables next to the small stand. To complete your meal, order one of the house-made agua frescas (a fruit drink) to combat the summer heat.

Coney Island Circus Sideshow

Amusement Park
Map View
Portrait of Mr. Strange, the barker at Sideshow by the Sea in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York.
© Ira Berger / Alamy
This old-fashioned sideshow offers an entertaining respite from the heat of the beach. The show touts itself as “the last traditional 10-in-1 continuous sideshow.” Each show features 10 acts, including a contortionist, a man who swallows swords, a fire-eater and more. The show is an enjoyable and budget-friendly way to spend an afternoon while appreciating Coney Island’s eccentric charm and willingness to embrace all things unusual.

Coney Art Walls and Smorgasburg

Museum, Park
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kaves coney art walls coney island brooklyn
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Coney Art Walls is a collection of free-standing murals by more than a dozen graffiti and street artists. Art dealer and curator Jeffrey Deitch curated the show, in part, to draw crowds to Coney Island. Many of the murals feature the distinctive imagery of Coney Island, such as mermaids, amusement park rides and Nathan’s Famous hot dogs. Others are more serious in tone and emphasize the diverse local population. The murals are interspersed with food vendors from New York’s favorite food festival, Smorgasburg. On Sundays during the summer, head to the outdoor exhibit for live music and dancing.

The Cyclone

Amusement Park
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CYCLONE ROLLER COASTER ASTROLAND AMUSEMENT PARK CONEY ISLAND BROOKLYN NEW YORK USA
© Russell Kord / Alamy
Opened in 1927 – the same year Charles Lindbergh made the first solo, non-stop trans-Atlantic flight – The Cyclone is etched into Coney Island legend. But unlike many history-book attractions, this iconic rollercoaster in Luna Park is still very much running. If you’ve not the nerve to take the ride, you’ll hit a top speed of 60mph (97kph) and career down the second steepest wooden coaster in the world.

Nathan's Famous

Food Stand, American
Map View
NEW YORK CITY - AUGUST 20, 2017: Visitors walk the iconic wooden Coney Island boardwalk outside the famous Nathan's hot dog stand on a hot summer day.. Image shot 08/2017. Exact date unknown.
© Lazyllama / Alamy
Coney Island is home to the original location of this popular hot dog chain. When Nathan and Ida Handwerker opened a small hot dog stand on Coney Island in 1916, they charged a nickel for each juicy, all-beef hot dog. Today, there are two Nathan’s locations on Coney Island. The original, which sits at the intersection of Surf and Stillwell avenues, offers outdoor seating and a decent seafood bar. A second, even busier store on the boardwalk offers to-go items. Stick with what Nathan’s does best and order a chili cheese dog and fries.

Coney Island History Project

Museum
Map View
Brooklyn, New York, USA. 9th Aug, 2014. Organ grinder Ian Fraser, 13, of Staten Island, plays a 1881 Celestina Organette, made by the Mechanical Orguinette Company of New York, at the Fourth Annual History Day at Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and The
© ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy
This tiny two-room museum houses a rich variety of Coney Island memorabilia, from early 20th-century advertisements to original statues and figurines. The museum is free to visitors, and friendly staff members are happy to answer questions about the history of Coney Island. In addition to featuring changing exhibits, the Coney Island History Project also maintains an online oral history archive dedicated to preserving memories of important people, events and institutions in Coney Island’s history.
These recommendations were updated on May 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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