Nothing says summer in New York like a trip to Coney Island, since even before Ella Fitzgerald sang about going to Coney and eating bologna on a roll. Despite the looming threat of homogenization from encroaching developers, the South Brooklyn neighborhood remains as audaciously weird and colorful as ever—and no event exemplifies that more than the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, happening this weekend. Here’s how to make the most of Coney Island this season, from the boardwalk to the midway.
Part of what’s cemented Coney Island’s reputation as a populist summer wonderland is its accessibility from anywhere in the city. The F, D, N and Q trains all have their southern terminus at the Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue MTA stop, which lets you off a mere two blocks from the beach. Just look for Deno’s Wonder Wheel towering on the horizon and head south.
What to do
When in Coney Island, opt for the classics. Visit Luna Park, where you can get your screams out on the classic Cyclone (which turns 89 this year), or newer rides like the Thunderbolt, which features a loop and a 90-degree drop, and the Steeplechase.
For a taste of the historic midway, pay a visit to the Coney Island Museum, which exhibits relics and ephemera including vintage sideshow posters, fun house mirrors and bumper cars. Afterwards, grab a cold one at the delightfully kitschy onsite Freak Bar.
Sports fans can nab tickets for a Brooklyn Cyclones game, the farm team for the Mets. Even if baseball isn’t your thing, MCU Park affords lovely views of the beach and shoots off postgame fireworks multiple nights throughout the season.
And the Coney Island Art Walls have returned, bringing an outdoor street-art museum with pieces by Lady Pink, Daze, Steve Powers, and more to the beach. Located on Stillwell Avenue just down the block from Nathan’s, the exhibition is accompanied by food vendors like Table 87 and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.
Coney Island lets its freak flag fly at the annual Mermaid Parade, a local tradition since 1983 that sees nautical-costumed revelers taking over the streets in celebration of the summer solstice. This year’s parade takes place on Saturday, June 18, between 1pm and 4pm, starting at the corner of Surf Avenue and West 21st Street and finishing on the boardwalk near Steeplechase Pier. Each year a King Neptune and a Mermaid Queen are crowned; 2016’s royal family are Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carlo A. Scissura and model Hailey Clauson, who posed on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
And should you have the desire to watch grown adults consume dozens and dozens of hot dogs in a very short period of time, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest happens on July 4. Joey Chestnut will attempt to unseat last year’s winner, Matt Stonie, who chowed down on 62 dogs last year.
Eating + drinking
If you don’t make a stop at Nathan’s Famous on your way to the beach, you might be doing Coney Island wrong. This place has been slinging hot dogs here since 1916, and they’re still pretty great at it 100 years down the line. If you’re in the area on the 4th of July, you can watch competitors stuff their faces at the annual Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Beer lovers should pay a visit to the Coney Island Brewing Company, which holds gratis tours daily at 2pm, 4pm and 6pm. You can grab a pint or a growler of the brewery’s latest suds at the bar, including exclusive selections like the Irish Goodbye porter and the Double Header IPA.