Hot Dog! Your Guide to Visiting Coney Island with Kids

People on ride at Luna Park Coney Island Luna Park
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Even if you missed the Mermaid Parade on June 18, there are still plenty of reasons to head to the seaside fun spot Coney Island. In addition to the Cyclone celebrating a landmark birthday (95!), you’ll also find new rides, new eats, new art — and all the old sun and sand favorites, too. Here’s what’s happening on, and along, the boardwalk. For more things to do with the kids, check out our Summer 2022 Bucket List, our favorite playgrounds with sprinklers and where to enjoy a meal outside with the kids.

Mimi O’Connor

Hit the Beach

Two centuries of beachgoers can’t be wrong: the surf and sand are the real reason to head out here. If you’re heading here on a weekend, it pays to know that the area in front of Luna Park and the spot around the Brighton Beach train station tend to be the most crowded. If you want a little wiggle room, aim for the stretch of sand between the two.

Food: There are no concessions in the immediate area so pack a picnic or be prepared to flag down the vendors who will come by selling cotton candy, ice cream, cocktails, and more. (Also: if you’ve got a beach umbrella, bring it.) Beaches are open with lifeguards on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Bathrooms: If you forgot the sunscreen, look for free sunscreen stations scattered around the boardwalk before you head out onto the sand. There are plenty of accessible bathrooms available but plan ahead: They’re all located by the boardwalk, which means you’ll likely be trekking back across the sand to get to them. You’ll also be able to wash off the sand at one of the outdoor sprinkler/shower stations — these tend to have a line but it goes quickly and people are  generally courteous of each others’ time.

Coney Island: Take the D, Q, N or F train to Stillwell Avenue

Brighton Beach: Take the B or Q to Brighton Beach

Bike the Boardwalk

If you and the kids are early risers, then gear up and bring your bikes to the beach. Riding bicycles on the boardwalk is permitted from 6 to 10 a.m. daily. The boardwalk is a wide, flat, and mostly even surface (with some renovated areas that make for a super smooth ride) that’s a good option for little bikers. Keep in mind that it doesn’t loop, so you’ll either ride to a certain point and back or exit at any of the ramps at intervals and catch the train from there. I don’t recommend going further than Luna Park, as that marks the last train station, making getting back more difficult if your budding bikers get tired feet.

Monkey Around in the Playgrounds

You might be going to the beach for the sun and surf, but what child can resist a good playground? The sprawling Brighton Playground on Brighton 2nd is a popular option with kids of all ages for its large variety of playground equipment. The playground’s been there since the 1950s but renovations in the late 1990s added handicap-accessible areas and structures so kids of all abilities can enjoy the playground, as well. For something fun to do, send your kids on a scavenger hunt of all the marine life and Coney Island motifs that adorn the playground structures, fences and even ground.

Besides this large playground, there are also two little playgrounds right on the sand, one near Luna Park and one near the Brighton Beach train station. These don’t have much shade so be careful of little feet getting too hot on steamy summer days.

For a more active playtime, there are several volleyball nets strung up every few blocks right in the sand, as well as handball courts on West 5th Street (by the bandshell) but these tend to be taken over by older people playing. Don’t miss the tiny marine rock “playground” on the boardwalk right where the Aquarium wall begins, where kids can climb around on the rocks, complete a challenge to find all the marine life on the rocks, and have a chance to look through binoculars (with steps for shorter visitors).

Brighton Playground: Brighton 2nd St. & Brightwater Ct. (just off the boardwalk)

Get Your Thrills on New Rides at Deno’s Wonder Wheel and  Luna Park

Luna Park is open for the summer and ready to thrill and excite visitors of all ages. The more daring of your group can tackle the legendary Cyclone roller coaster (for a preview, listen out to the period screams of delight that can be heard all the way from the boardwalk) and the newer gravity-defying Thunderbolt. There are plenty of choices for smaller and less thrill-seeking family members, too, like the classic teapot ride, some high-flying options, and even a firefighting ride.

The Luna Park website has all its rides categorized by thrill level, so you can plan ahead.

This year, look out for two brand new additions to the Luna Park ride family: Tony’s Express and Leti’s Treasure. Named after the grandparents of Luna Park’s CEO, Alessandra Zamperla, these two rides will pay homage to the Switchback Railway (the first-ever rollercoaster on Coney Island from 1884) and Shoot the Chutes (a semi-aquatic ride from the early 1900s), respectively. Tony’s Express will be a family-friendly rollercoaster with over 1,200 feet of track and Leti’s Treasure will have 12 6-seater boats that will rise over 40 feet high the drop into water with a splash. Both are planned to open this summer so keep your eyes open for them.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel (The park home to the eponymous ride in between the two sections of Luna Park) also recently debuted a new ride. The Phoenix Rollercoaster (shown above), a family thrill roller coaster that join’s Deno’s healthy collection of tamer kiddie rides.)

Hours vary by day (see schedule here)
1000 Surf Ave.
Online: lunaparknyc.com

Travel Back to the Past with the Coney Island History Project

The Coney Island History Project isn’t a very big place — it’s just two rooms — but it’s filled wall to wall with the history of the boardwalk and its many attractions. Plus: it’s free!The History Project is full of pieces from the area’s past, like Coney Island’s oldest relic (a toll house sign from 1823), and reminders of the darker rides that used to greet visitors at the amusement park (including a skull that looks stripped of its skin. Yikes).

This year’s special exhibit focuses on Barbara Rosenberg’s street photography. Taken over the course of 50 years, these photographs cover Steeplechase Park, the Polar Bear Club, Boardwalk attractions from the 1970s, and more glimpses into the history of Coney Island.

You can also check out the History Project’s podcast, Coney Island Stories, which aims to record an oral history of the area. The newest episode, “Growing Up in the 1940s,” interviews residents of the neighborhood about the hardships and delights of living in Coney Island in the 1940s.

Free
Sat., Sun., and holidays 1-7 p.m.
3059 West 12th St. (under Deno’s Wonder Wheel)
Online: Coney Island History Project:

Revisit the Nabe’s Golden Age at the Coney Island Museum

The Coney Island Museum is a tribute to the history of the neighborhood, full of vintage, authentic funhouse mirrors, rare postcards, shooting gallery targets, and more. The museum also highlights all the innovations that the neighborhood’s brought to the world: Sure you might know of Nathan’s hot dog, but did you know that Coney Island introduced the first baby incubators, originally as a sideshow? Discover more interesting and historic facts, trinkets, photos, and more in the historic building.

This summer, the museum is hosting a new exhibit in collaboration with New York Transit Museum: Five Cents to Dreamland. This special exhibit brings together artifacts from both museums to paint a picture of the way transportation to the beach contributed to making Coney Island and its attractions such a great success.

$5/adult, $3/seniors, kids under 12 and residents of zipcode 11224
Sat. and Sun., 12-5 p.m.
1208 Surf Ave.
Online: Coney Island Museum

Get Your Fill of American, Ukrainian, and Russian Food

Hungry? Head to the Luna Park side of the boardwalk for your pick of beachside classics like funnel cakes and cheese fries, or more traditional sit-down restaurants. There are some excellent family-friendly options by the Stillwell train station, like the classic Nathan’s, iHop, and Applebees. Head to It’s Sugar for a treat after the meal, or check out the newly opened Coney Waffle, across from the Cyclone.

But the Luna Park fare isn’t the only place to get something to earth. On the Brighton Beach train side of the boardwalk, Tatiana Restaurant and adjoining grill is a solid pick for an evening meal, and it’s especially nice if you can get an outdoor seat. Steps off the boardwalk on Brighton Beach proper (under the train), in what’s commonly known as Little Odessa, there are many ethnic Eastern European and Russian food options, whether you want to sit down and enjoy your meal or grab a treat for the road — I highly recommend potato or chicken piroshkis, which are fried bread with delicious hand-made fillings.

It’s important to note, considering current events, that although the neighborhood houses a mix of residets from Russia, Ukraine and adjoining countries, there’s been a outpouring of support and solidarity for Ukraine in the neighborhood. If you want to support Ukrainian-owned businesses, or Russian businesses that stand with Ukraine, look for Ukrainian flags hanging in storefonts. To name just two, the aforementioned Tatiana is a Ukraine supporter, as is Taste of Russia at 219 Brighton Beach Ave, which has recently rebranded as “International Food” to be more inclusive.

family visiting New York Aquarium in Coney Island
Julie Larsen Maher

Meet the Fishies at the New York Aquarium

Now’s a great time to see the aquatic residents of the New York Aquarium: For the first time in about 10 years, the aquarium will be completely, fully open! All the repairs from Hurricane Sandy are complete and the areas closed due to covid are reopened, so visitors can finally see the aquarium in all its glory.

To celebrate, the aquarium has opened a number of new interactive exhibits, from PlayQuarium’s touch pool to a new space that lets you watch sea lions, harbor seals, penguins, and otters frolic underwater. Learn about the impact of climate change, enjoy crafts, music, and trivia, or watch some performances at the Wildlife Theater. Don’t miss the giant octopus mural and tentacles photo-op!

NY Aquarium
Prices differ off- and on-peak, check them out and buy tickets here
 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
602 Surf Ave.
Online: nyaquarium.com

https://www.instagram.com/p/CfEux8nrVPP/?hidecaption=true

Keep an Eye Out for New Murals

The Coney Island art walls might be gone, but the artistic spirit of the community lives on. Keep an eye out for newly completed murals around the neighborhood and boardwalk.

Here are two to get you started: Danielle Mastrion’s tribute to Coney Island on Gargiulos Restaurant’s back wall (on Stillwell Ave.), and Ledania’s gorgeous and colorful artwork on Tom’s Coney Island (by Luna Park). Catch more here or keep an eye on the Coney Island Facebook for more unveilings.

See the Brooklyn Cyclones in Action

Catching a baseball game at the stadium on Coney is a timeless treat, so don’t miss out! Catch the legendary Brooklyn Cyclones in action at the diamond. Tuesdays have special family deals: For just $20, you get a ticket, a cyclones hat, hot dog or chicken tenders, fries, and drinks. Events typically include fun extras like giveaways, fireworks, and shows.

Maimonedes Park Baseball Field: 1904 Surf Ave.

Watch Movies on the Beach

Coney Flicks is back this year, so you can once again enjoy a movie under the stars on the beach. Catch three free screenings every Monday in the summer, starting with “Encanto” on June 27. Other movies include “Spiderman No Way Home,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and more.

The movies will be shown on a giant inflated screen, with the colorful nighttime Luna Park acting as ambient light. Screenings will begin at sundown, so times vary. Bring a towel and snacks for an evening picnic.

Free
Monday nights
West 12th St. on the beach (near Luna Park)
Online: Coney Island Flicks on the Beach

Catch Weekly Free Fireworks

If the Fourth of July celebrations left you wanting more fireworks, you can get your fix every Friday night.

Friday Night Fireworks: Fridays starting June 24, 9:45 p.m. By Deno’s Wonder Wheel

Annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest

Check out the annual sand-sculpting contest, to be held sometime in August (exact date to be announced). After being postponed in 2021 due to rising coronavirus cases in the area, the 30th contest is set to happen this year. Every year, the event brings in expert sand sculptors for some incredible sand works of art. Check out the winners of the 2019 contest for a taste of what to expect

Appreciate the Beauty of Classic Cars

Come explore some classic old cars lined up along West 12th Street. Vote for your favorite, watch performances from the Coney Island sideshow and more.

Free
July 9, 1-5 p.m.
West 12th St.
Online: Classic Car Show

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