wonder wheel

Coney Island

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Hop on the N (or Q or D or F) with me and take a trip to Coney Island.

Some people don’t care for Coney Island, but I’ve always been fascinated by it. It’s no resort town, I’ll give you that—nothing like Cape May, NJ, for example. Yet, it’s got a certain charm and populist quality that makes it stand out as a winner to me. People from all walks of life (and shapes and sizes, as you’ll see on the beach) come together to celebrate the summer and sand.

I recommend going to Coney Island on a weekday, if you can, but it’s tolerable on the weekend, too. I’ve noticed that it’s mostly New Yorkers on the boards, which is a plus.

For the adventurous, Luna Park has expanded to include a bevy of new, exciting rides, including an exhilarating roller coaster, the Thunderbolt. A 90-degree vertical climb sends those who dare through a 100-foot loop, zero gravity rolls, corkscrews and dives. You likely need an ironclad stomach to withstand this two-minute ride.

Erected in 1920, the Wonder Wheel is a departure from the thrills and chills of the other options at Luna Park. A sight to see in itself, it’s got the best view of the beach and ocean in all the land.

Since I have a soft spot for animals (as you’ll learn by reading this blog), I always stop at the New York Aquarium for a quick look at the walruses, sea otters, seals, sea lions, black-foot penguins and various fish. If you’re into all things aquatic, budget about an hour for this stop. It will likely take you less time, but if you happen to arrive when feedings are happening, you’ll want to stick around.

To dine, Nathan’s Famous is the best option. Try the original, off the boardwalk, down on Surf Avenue, for the full experience. Even if you don’t like hot dogs, they’ve got you covered: lobster rolls, clams, burgers and many other items populate its menu. Onions, sauerkraut and a handful of other toppings are free on the dogs. The thick, crinkle cut fries are top notch, and they even have draft beer.

Pizza from Famiglia and fried foods at Paul’s Daughter are passable and can be consumed on the boardwalk. Coney’s Cones, an ice cream parlor, serves up homemade ice cream flavors, which are decent at best.

If you haven’t been to Coney Island, make it a priority to visit this summer. But don’t write off the place in the off-season either. It’s quiet and eerie come wintertime, but Nathan’s is open (and empty for a change).

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