Besides belatedly celebrating my birthday with my best friend, the main point of my trip to New York was to visit Coney Island. If you aren’t familiar with Coney Island, it’s a boardwalk-style neighborhood featuring a handful of amusement parks, food stands and a beach waaaaay out in the Brooklyn borough of New York. It was where New Yorkers would go to escape the heat before central air conditioning, and as you can imagine there is a lot of history associated with it. Before that, it was a barrier island, but was connected to the boroughs through landfill.
Like many seaside parts of New York and New Jersey, Coney Island was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. While businesses reopened in time for the 2013 season, it wasn’t without significant costs to rebuild.
Now that Coney Island was officially open again, I wanted to go. In fact, I wondered to my friend why I had never been. The Yooner’s answer was, “in our 20s, we were too focused on our careers.” It’s probably true (even though I am loath to acknowledge it). I think another reason I never went to Coney Island is that amusement parks and rides were something for kids and families.
So, why go to Coney Island now? In a word: FUN. Sharknado2 aside, I cannot remember the last time I laughed this hard. Riding bumper cars with the token obnoxious kid who rams into you, but is SHOCKED when you ram back? Awesome. Riding bumper cars with the 50-something man who brought his 70-something mom, Awesome! Getting soaked on Luna Park‘s Wild River? Hilarious. Listening to the Yooner yell at me to pass more drivers on the Coney Island Raceway, the best yet!
And of course, there is the Cyclone. For those not familiar, it’s one of the ten oldest roller coasters in America. And, to my knowledge, it’s the fastest of the old ones—clocking in at 60 mph. This old fashioned, wooden roller coaster ride was made a national landmark in the early 90s. There’s a follow-up blog coming just on the Cyclone, because it was second time in my life I’ve had a full blown panic attack. (Yep, it’s on camera so I may as well just own it.)
In addition to the rides, let’s not forget what most people know—the Original Nathan’s is on Coney Island. That’s right, you to can stare in awe at the Independence Day Hot Dog eating contest record holders. I mean, 63 hot dogs? That’s nuts. Or, if you want something a little more relaxed, check out Ruby’s Diner. Featuring beers, retro bar stools and counter tops, this place is great for a break from your fun.
As adults, we get really focused on being busy with our careers and managing our lives. While these things are important, it’s equally important to have fun. And that’s what Coney Island is all about. It harkens back to a time when fun wasn’t confused with lazy. Coney Island makes you laugh, it reinvigorates your spirit; it makes you feel like human not an angry hornet. While most 20- and 30-something’s who hit Coney Island will pursue the beach and bars, if you go, plan to visit for the entire afternoon. It’s easily accessible on the subway*. While the rides are not exactly cheap, most people will blow through more cash at Happy Hour, and have nothing to show for it but a headache and empty calories.
Not that you won’t get a headache at Coney Island. But it feels good to have a headache because of bumper cars, not booze. And even after weathering my first panic attack, it felt great to have my sides hurt, and my stomach sore the next day because of laughter. That’s a pain worth enduring.
*If you don’t have the HopStop app, I highly recommend it. Otherwise what subway you take depends on where you are. This USA Today piece is a great resource. New York City transit charges per ride, roundtrip you’ll pay about $5.00.