Coney Island, New York: The Complete Guide

View of the Coney Island Boardwalk

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Coney Island is just a train ride away from Manhattan, but it feels worlds apart. Busiest during the summer months, Coney Island feels equal parts beach escape and kitschy carnival. Spend a day on the sand soaking in the rays on the beach, which is free to the public, or enjoy a stroll the iconic boardwalk. Home to an aquarium, an amphitheater, a minor league baseball team, and tons of great eats, this scenic stretch of Brooklyn should be on every Brooklyn travel itinerary.

If you'd like to pair your trip to Coney Island with a visit to Brighton Beach, which is the neighboring beach town and a short walk from the heart of Coney Island. Brighton Beach, known as Little Odessa, has a main street filled with Russian and Ukrainian shops and restaurants and a gorgeous, clean and free public beach.

Don't forget to pack some sunscreen and have fun!

Season and Hours

Like most beach communities, Coney Island is in full operation from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During that time, there are lifeguards on duty at the beach, and rides and attractions are open daily starting around noon. From Easter until Memorial Day, most of Coney Island's rides and attractions are open on weekends only. The boardwalk, New York Aquarium and Nathan's Hot Dogs are open daily year-round.

Coney Island Boardwalk at sunset, Brooklyn, NYC
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

How to Get There

Located in the southernmost part of Brooklyn, you can take the D, Q, N, or F train to Stillwell Avenue (the final stop on those lines). The subway is across the street from the flagship Nathan's Hot Dog stand and just one block from the Coney Island Boardwalk.

If you are driving to Coney Island, you should use 1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, NY as the address in Google Maps or your GPS. There is street parking (much of it with meters) and parking lots are also available.

Coney Island beach

TripSavvy / Donghee Eim

The Beach

The beach is free to the public, and you can change in the many bathrooms and/or changing facilities located next to the beach. If you have kids in tow and they find themselves bored by your selection of beach toys and they've had their fill of skipping the waves, head to the playgrounds on the beach.

The beach does tend to get crowded, so get there early to get a spot by the water. Lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and swimming is prohibited outside of those hours. In addition, due to safety reasons, sometimes certain portions of the beach are closed. Closed sections are marked with signs and/or red flags.

The Cyclone Roller Coaster in Coney Island, NYC

Luna Park and Deno's Wonderwheel 

Want to ride a piece of Brooklyn history? Head to Luna Park and hop on the Cyclone. The wooden roller coaster, which made its debut in June 1927 is still a favorite among amusement park lovers. Luna Park is also home to numerous rides from extreme thrill rides like the Zenobio to moderate thrill rides like Watermania, where you can cool down on a hot summer day. 

Or take another historic trip at Deno's Wonderwheel Amusement Park, located next to Luna Park, where you can get a ticket for the Wonder Wheel. You have the option of sitting in a rocking car or a still car. Although still cars offer more chances to take photos as you make your way up the 150 feet trip on this historic 1920's Ferris wheel, the moving cars add a dash of thrill-seeking adventure. Whichever you choose, you will get stellar views of the beach and the park on the Wonder Wheel. Reno's is also home to other amusement park rides for adults and kids, as well as classic beachside arcade games and skee ball.

Coney Island Beach Fireworks
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Other Attractions & Annual Events

Although the area is at its busiest during the summer months, it's an interesting place to visit during the off-season as well. A winter highlight is spending New Year's Eve watching the fireworks at the annual celebration at Coney Island. Or start the new year taking a dip in the frigid Atlantic participating in the New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge.

In the warmer months, there are many events and attractions for visitors:

  • Mermaid Parade: Typically held the third Saturday in June
  • Friday Night Fireworks: weekly from late June until Labor Day weekend
  • Watch history take place on July 4th at the Nathan's Famous Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest
  • Runners end the famous Brooklyn Half at the Coney Island boardwalk. Just to note this half marathon fills up within a couple of hours, so keep the registration date on hand if you want to run.
  • See a concert at the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk 
  • Stroll through Coney Art Walls, an outdoor museum of street art
  • Walk the Coney Island Boardwalk: Stop in Ruby's bar and grill for a drink and some good grub. This local favorite is the "last place in Coney Island where can still walk under the boardwalk."
  • Visit the New York Aquarium, they have an interesting collection of marine animals and a fun sea lion show
  • See The Brooklyn Cyclones: The Mets minor league baseball team plays at MCU Park which is located just off the Boardwalk in Coney Island.
The Nathan's Original Location
mizoula / Getty Images

What to Eat

Of course, you should have a hot dog at Nathan's—the original Nathan's location is fun to visit and the hot dogs are delicious. However, there are plenty of other dining options. The famous Childs restaurant from the 1920's shuttered in the 1950's, but thankfully the impressive architectural gem is now home to Kitchen 21. This restaurant offers "seasonal dishes in a modern setting with live music." Sip drinks and dine on their wide array of foods on the spacious roof deck or inside the sleek food hall inspired design dining area.

Pizza lovers might want to take a short walk from the boardwalk and to Totonno's Pizzeria on Neptune Avenue for a pie at this historic pizzeria. If you're searching for dessert, stop in the Williams Candy for a caramel apple and other treats. This old-school candy shop has been in Coney Island for over seventy-five years.