The world’s most iconic roller coaster turns 90 this summer and it happens to be within the MTA’s reach. At the end of the D, F, N, and Q lines, The Cyclone is the pride of Coney Island’s Luna Park, and after a $5-million renovation that included relaying the entire track, it’s no longer the rickety headache-inducer it used to be. Take a daytrip to celebrate this official New York City landmark (and member of the National Register of Historic Places) before the summer ends—it’s not the only legend in Coney Island.
Just outside the subway station, Coney Island USA houses the last remaining resident sideshow (yes, that’s a freak show) in the US. Any number of the show’s ten acts rotate on a given day and a $10 ticket gets you access to the spectacle for as long as you can stand to stare. If you find yourself at home here, sign up for sideshow skills classes (fire eating, snake charming, sword swallowing!), or take the banner painting workshop with the show’s artist, who still hand-paints the iconic posters that draw gawkers in. Don’t miss the Coney Island Museum upstairs for an intimate look at the history of amusements in this storied playground. More here.
Grab a hot dog nearby at the original Nathan’s Famous, still in operation since 1916, and host of the hot-dog-eating contest held annually on the Fourth of July. Whether hot dogs in buns were really invented in 19th-century Coney Island is up for debate, but there’s no denying that Nathan’s is the destination for the perfect dog (or “coney,” as they’re sometimes called).
Just two blocks down Surf Avenue is the Coney Island Brewery. Take a free tour before tasting one (or several) of the current brews. Eight rotating beers ranging from Kettle Corn Cream Ale to their signature Mermaid Pilsner (voted best pilsner in New York state) are available on tap daily, and the current lineup can always be found on their website. Consider signing up for the brewery’s unique “Mindful Pints” class of yoga on the beach followed by, well, a pint, all for five bucks. Other quirky events this month include Puppies n’ Pints, Potluck & Pints, and the brewery’s weekly film series, Movies n’ Malt. There’s also nothing wrong with just planting yourself on a stool and sampling a flight of beers, capping it off with a hard soda. More here.
Walk off your buzz along the boardwalk, where you’ll find typical seaside fare from souvenir stands to ice cream shops. Chill on the beach for awhile or check out a few more of Luna Park’s rides, like the famed Wonder Wheel or the newest thrill coaster, the Thunderbolt, featuring a 90-degree vertical drop and a 100-foot vertical loop. You may want to consider how many beers you’ve had before this one.
After a day in the sun, indulge in a seriously filling dinner at Gargiulo’s, the only fine dining experience in Coney Island, where locals have been celebrating special occasions for more than a century. The white-linen restaurant serves classic Neapolitan fare with an extensive menu featuring more than fifty dishes; if you’ve heard of it, they have it. The elegant setting of marble and chandeliers still inspires a sense of dignity at Gargiulo’s, but there’s some good news for casual beachgoers: The dress code is no longer strictly enforced, so you can pop in without having to pack a proper outfit your beach bag.
If it’s Friday, head back to the beach for Coney Island’s weekly fireworks over the ocean. Not Friday? Head straight to the recently remodeled Place to Beach to grab a drink from the updated menu. If you’re just after a nightcap, there’s a full bar directly on the boardwalk, but if you’re looking for a party, the private back patio turns into an outdoor nightclub after dark.
From day drinks and sunbathing to coasters and ragers, Coney Island suits any beach agenda and, let’s face it, Brooklyn isn’t that far away. At under an hour from midtown, there’s no excuse not to take a daytrip down to the home of The Cyclone for the most youthful 90th birthday party you’re likely to experience this summer.