Located at the southern tip of Brooklyn, Coney Island is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike hoping to ride the carnival rides or relax on one of New York City's best beaches each summer. If you're visiting during the Fourth of July holiday, you'll find a full day of fun, adventures, celebrations, and fireworks to commemorate the birth of America. From the traditional Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest to a baseball game featuring the local Brooklyn Cyclones, there's something for everyone to do at Coney Island this July 4.
As many as 120,000 people flock to the Coney Island beach hot days in the summer, and July 4th is usually quite warm in New York City. Beat the crowds and start your Independence Day holiday early by arriving before 9:30 a.m. (but don't swim until the lifeguards start their shifts at 10). Grab a great spot to sunbathe and enjoy people watching as more visitors arrive for the day's festivities. When you get hungry, head to the boardwalk for ample food options.
Take a break from the beach at 10:30 a.m. and head over to Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, where you can wave at the TV cameras while you watch some of the top competitive eaters in the world take part in this time-honored tradition. The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN, so you could also head to a nearby bar and grab a beverage instead of fighting the crowd. After watching the contest, if you haven't lost your appetite forever, grab a hot dog for yourself at Nathan's famous flagship location.
For a break from the midday sun and throngs of people, head over to the New York Aquarium at the eastern end of the boardwalk to watch the fun world of fishes, penguins, sharks, and other sea life. The NY Aquarium often offers discounts on holidays, but be prepared to face long lines and bigger crowds due to the popularity of Coney Island on Independence Day. Visit the roof on top of the shark exhibit where you get stunning views of the ocean.
Walk down the boardwalk to Coney Island USA for a hilarious, only-in-Brooklyn sideshow. This 45-minute production includes outrageous spectacles, circus performers, and even the world-famous bearded lady (if you're lucky—she also has tenure as a professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn).
The Coney Island Circus Sideshow runs continuously from open to close on the Fourth of July; all tickets cost $15 and must be purchased at the door. It takes around 45 minutes from when you enter to see a complete performance, but you're also welcome to linger on the boardwalk outside to meet some of the entertainers.
There's plenty of stuff to see and delectable treats to enjoy all along the boardwalk—especially during the summer and on holidays like Independence Day. Once you've enjoyed the freak show, stroll on the boardwalk and grab some treats at the historic Williams Candy Shop on Surf Avenue. For a sobering moment, visit the moving Wall of Remembrance, dedicated to first responders who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. It is free and open to the public.
MCU Park, located just off the boardwalk in Coney Island, is the home field of the Brooklyn Cyclones, but it also hosts a number of special events on the Fourth of July this year. Immediately following Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, head over to the field for the American Cornhole League's Pro Invitational match, which will also be broadcast on ESPN 2.
Afterward, stick around for the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game against the Aberdeen IronBirds starting at 6 p.m. While there, enjoy a kosher hot dog, giant pretzel, or a chicken wrap from the kiosks at the far edge of the stadium.
Although the Coney Island Amusement Park and the Boardwalk have suffered fire damage multiple times throughout their history, this historic site has mostly been in operation for the last 100 years. If you don't have tickets for the events at the ballpark, spend a few hours at Coney Island's amusement park instead. Ride the Cyclone, take the kiddies to Luna Park, or scream your heart out on thrill rides in the "Scream Zone."
For dinner, you can buy some more fast food, take the 30-minute boardwalk walk over to Brighton Beach for some borscht, or sit in a sidewalk cafe and sip a vodka in this festive seaside neighborhood. However, make sure you're on the boardwalk for the 9 p.m. fireworks display, which might not be as long or big as the Macy's Independence Day Fireworks over Manhattan, but it's still worth viewing.