Our Excursion to Coney Island, U.S.A.

Saturday May 30, 2015 shone down on us with weather in the 80s, so my husband and I decided to take a trip to Coney Island. Even though I had grown up in New York near the five boroughs, I was never taken there. And if the drive there was anything in the 70s and 80s like it was when we went, I would not have blamed anyone.

If I am going to drive one hour to get somewhere fun, then I plan to make as much of a day of it as I can stand. I am deeply thankful for the ubiquity of GPS in our smart phones that can send us the faster route and save us some traffic pain. Around 11am, we got our mandatory Starbucks coffees (venti iced decaf Americano for me; double short Americano for him).

We paid $16.50 with tax to park in the nearest parking lot next to MCU Park, the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team and began our walk through the seaside park. We debated what this was, mounted with speakers that blasted music. (We later learned from a board that there used to be a ride called a parachute drop. We assumed that this was the monument to it, for it no longer had parachutes and, set amongst steps and street lamps, was clearly not in working order any more).

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I took some pictures of some of the more interesting rides and scenes as we walked along the boardwalk. The first ride we saw after the ball park was the Thunderbolt, part of Luna Park that is part of the larger Coney Island landscape. I was surprised to see that Coney Island seemed to be a series of parks.

I don’t really think this picture does justice to the sheer size of the Thunderbolt roller coaster. The coaster extends from the boardwalk all the way to Neptune Avenue. (According to Wikipedia, the all-steel Thunderbolt is 2,000 feet long).

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And, no, we did not go on any of these rides. We’re not crazy, and we think life on the ground is scary enough without having to ride a beast that takes us upside down. I’m more of a sun and foodie type of beach girl. But to get there, finally, and to see what it is that brings people here was an experience that I could not pass up.

Then, of course, we had to partake in some of the gloriously terrible for you eats. First stop: Nathan’s hot dogs.

Nathan's

They were surprisingly ordinary. Nathan’s hot dogs are simple beef hotdogs. We got our standard dogs and crinkle cut fries that we shared. Fries were perfect – crispy on the outside and firm on the inside (although we both prefer the standard cut – better fried-in-oil:potato ratio).

Off in the distance after Nathan’s was the Wonder Wheel, the ferris wheel, in Deno’s Park. The photo on the right was taken from in front of the Aquarium that I talk about later.

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Of course, no seaside park trip is complete without ice cream, which we got at Coney’s Cones. I got a chocolate hazelnut cone and hubby got a cappuccino cup. They were both delicious!

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The ride complex is huge. The Thunderbolt was not the only ride area to extend back to Neptune Ave. Most of the parks filled the immediate landscape.

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Coney Island had bathrooms elevated with a view! I took this while waiting to use the ladies room. You can see how far we’d walked because you can see the parachute drop monument in the far right corner.

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We stopped off at the New York Aquarium (my fingers so wanted to type “New England Aquarium), the smallest aquarium I have ever visited. Billboards inside indicated that the aquarium had been hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, but it seemed a bit out of date even taking that into account. Since it was only $10.50 for tickets, I wanted to explore inside. We got there just in time to see the walruses being fed, who performed for huge buckets of food. Here is one of two female walruses, giving the spectators a salute to earn the handfuls of fish that the employee held out to her.

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Nothing is cuter than watching California sea otters swimming around in circles for the show.

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Half of the Aquarium is under construction as they build a huge shark complex. The one they have now is cloudy and very small compared to the tanks I have seen elsewhere. I guess I have been spoiled by the size and scope of the Aquarium in Boston. The sharks seem kind of lonely as they swam around in a circle.

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One ride still left in tact from the old days and made of wood, unlike the Thunderbolt, was the Cyclone Roller Coaster. I got this best shot of it from in front of the steps of the Aquarium.

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After leaving the Aquarium, we turned left and continued to walk past Asser Levy Park, I think making it as far as Brighton Beach. After a break, there were a series of restaurants, most named or related to Tatiana. We heard many Russian speakers all along the boardwalk.

While we did not go down to the shore, a lot of people didn’t either. Many families and groups camped out right on the benches against the railing right next to the beach. As the day went on, Coney Island got increasingly congested.

Around 3pm, the wind picked up so much that huge sheets of sand could be seen blowing across the boardwalk and clouding the air. I stopped to get a funnel cake with confectioner’s sugar on top, but I had to sandwich it between two paper plates and had to sneak my hand in between to pinch out pieces so that I wouldn’t get covered in dust. It didn’t quite work, but I did lessen the damage.

We had passed the pier near the Thunderbolt, thinking that we’d get out to the pier before we headed home. But the winds were strong, and we knew that we wouldn’t really enjoy it very much. So we put that on our list of things to do the next time we came to the park.

On our way out, we drove down Neptune Avenue. Some of the places on the Boardwalk, like Nathan’s, also extended from Neptune to the boardwalk. Local shops lined the streets. We definitely want to come back and explore, and, when we do, we better be bringing our appetites because there are an amazing number of places to eat.

We traveled the way we had come, along the Belt Parkway. As we were leaving Brooklyn, I excitedly told hubby to get his camera and take a picture, because, out of everything I’d seen, this one really made my day. He didn’t make it in time, but I figured that I could find it online.

And I did.

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