With so many fun things to do at Coney Island, it’s worth adding to your New York itinerary. Coney Island is about an hour from Manhattan by subway, and it’s worth the journey, especially considering it’s one of the top attractions in Brooklyn.
During the summer, the Coney Island Boardwalk comes to life with its amusement piers, shops, food vendors, and other activities. Spend an afternoon strolling along the boards or bring the kids along for a day at Luna Park. You can even go for a swim in the sea and catch some rays while lounging on the sand.
There’s no doubt that the attractions in Coney Island will suit all ages, so it’s an excellent place to visit as a family or with friends. I recommend planning your trip for the summer months so you can enjoy all that this famous locale has to offer.
To help you make the most of your time here, I’m sharing the 10 best things to do in Coney Island, from thrilling activities to free events and everything in between.
1. Visit Luna Park, the most popular thing to do in Coney Island
One of the most popular attractions in Coney Island is Luna Park, and I highly recommend going here if you’re visiting NYC with kids (or you want to indulge your inner child).
The original Luna Park was built in 1903, and while the current amusement park is a replica, it has some old-school rides like the B&B Carousel and the Cyclone rollercoaster. You’ll find a variety of family and kiddie rides here, as well as more thrilling attractions, so there is something for everyone.
If rides aren’t your thing, check out the arcade or try your hand at traditional carnival games like ring toss, whack-a-mole, and water gun racer. There are also food stalls like Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, so you can grab a bite to eat after spending a few hours here.
Without a doubt, Luna Park is a must-see at the Coney Island pier, and you can get your ticket in advance here. The park is open 7 days a week from April to October.
2. Ride Deno’s Wonder Wheel, the best thing to do in Coney Island with kids
Located next to Luna Park, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park has more attractions for you to enjoy. The legendary Wonder Wheel is one of the most famous rides at Coney Island, standing 150 feet tall and featuring stationary and traveling cabins. The Ferris wheel was built in 1920 and remains one of the most popular sights in Coney Island. While admission to the amusement park is free, the rides require tickets, although the Wonder Wheel is included in the New York Pass.
In addition to the Ferris wheel, there are lots of family-friendly rides like kiddie coasters, bumper cars, and a carousel. The Phoenix rollercoaster is a huge draw for many people, but if you aren’t a thrill-seeker, you’ll still enjoy hanging out here.
The park is next to the Coney Island Boardwalk and overlooks the beach, making it one of the best amusement parks in New York. Along with various community events and festivities, it holds fireworks shows during the summer. You can also get typical boardwalk fare like pizza, hot dogs, funnel cake, and more.
Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park is open daily from April to October, although I recommend coming here in the summer.
3. Stroll the Coney Island Boardwalk, a fun thing to do on Coney Island
The Coney Island Boardwalk, also known as the Riegelmann Boardwalk, is one of the top places to see in NYC since it’s where you’ll find most of the area’s amusements, shops, and cafes. It’s over 100 years old and stretches 2.7 miles from West 37th Street to Corbin Place.
As you make your way along the boardwalk, you’ll pass by Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, Coney Island Amphitheater, and Maimonides Park. Toward the end of the boardwalk, you’ll find the New York Aquarium, which has a cool exterior sculpture wall.
The boardwalk also runs parallel to Coney Island Beach, and there are restrooms and pavilions where you can take a seat and people-watch. There are also boardwalk games and food stalls here, so it’s a great place to spend time with family or friends on a lazy summer day.
4. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, an iconic place on the Coney Island Boardwalk
A mainstay in Coney Island is Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, and grabbing a bite to eat here is basically a rite of passage for New Yorkers. The hot dog has long been one of NYC’s most famous foods, and the first Nathan’s Famous stand opened here in 1916.
Besides hot dogs, Nathan’s Famous also has burgers, fries, onion rings, milkshakes, and more. It’s also the host of the annual hot-dog eating contest every 4th of July, which you can watch right in Coney Island.
Of course, there are other foods to try during your visit to Coney Island, such as the sweet treats at Williams Candy Shop. Located at 1318 Surf Avenue, Williams has delightful fudge, candy apples, marshmallow sticks, and other treats to indulge your sweet tooth.
For something savory, check out Doña Zita for some of the best food in Coney Island. Here, you can dine on a Mexican feast of tacos, flautas, quesadillas, and more. I also recommend the aguas frescas or the melons stuffed with fresh fruit. The restaurant is at 1221 Bowery Street, by Luna Park.
5. Swim at Coney Island Beach, a nice thing to do at Coney Island as a family
With all the attractions at Coney Island, it’s easy to forget that it also has one of the best beaches in New York City. Coney Island Beach offers three miles of coastline, so you can sunbathe on the sand or go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.
During the summer season, lifeguards are on duty, and the waves are quite manageable, at just a few feet high. So, if you want to bring the kids along for some swimming or boogie boarding, you’re sure to have fun.
Another place where you can go swimming in Coney Island is Brighton Beach. This beach is right next to Coney Island Beach, so I’ll tell you about it a bit later.
6. See the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, a unique thing to do in Coney Island
If you’re looking for a unique thing to do in Coney Island, check out the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. It’s a professional non-profit theater that pays homage to circus sideshows from decades past and has the same curiosity and mystique as the old-timey shows.
In fact, this is the last remaining permanently housed circus sideshow in the country. It features a ten-in-one performance with all kinds of talented contortionists, jugglers, magicians, and more. You’ll be holding your breath and gasping in awe as you watch fire dancers, stilt walkers, and sword swallowers hone their craft onstage.
You’ll see everything from strongmen to show girls here, although the Circus Sideshow also hosts special events with guest performers. It also has an Art and Oddities Market where you can browse some interesting trinkets.
Admission to the sideshow is $12 for adults and $8 for kids, so it’s one of the best cheap things to do at Coney Island.
7. Coney Island Museum, one of the main attractions in Coney Island
The Coney Island Museum is another charming Coney Island landmark that you should visit. It’s located between Luna Park and Maimonides Park, so you can’t miss it.
The museum is a non-profit arts organization whose mission is to preserve the history and culture of Coney Island. Inside, you’ll find all kinds of unique artifacts and memorabilia documenting Coney Island’s past. You can see anything from photos and artwork to old carousel horses and funhouse mirrors.
One of the coolest things here is the old photo booth, which dates back to the mid-20th century. The vintage boardwalk signs and postcards are also interesting, and it’s fun to compare them to those from the modern-day. You should also check out the theater and watch the Sideshows by the Seashore presentation, which features acrobats and circus performers.
The Coney Island Museum is one of the top museums in Brooklyn, and admission costs just $5 for adults and $3 for kids. It’s only open in the summer, but it’s worth waiting for the summer season since it’s when the annual Mermaid Parade takes place. It starts at the museum and proceeds toward Steeplechase Park.
8. Check out the Coney Island Art Walls, a free thing to do at Coney Island
Visiting the Coney Island Art Walls is another free thing to do in Coney Island and something that all ages will enjoy. This outdoor art exhibit features 68 walls that were painted between 2015 and 2018 by local, national, and international graffiti artists.
The subject matter ranges from depictions of Brooklyn and the greater New York City area to social commentary and global landmarks. Of course, some of the walls are just pure fun and reflect old-school art styles and themes like sailors and mermaids. The entire gallery is a beautiful collection of street art, and it’s totally free for the public to appreciate.
The Art Walls are located at 3050 Stillwell Avenue, near Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. Coming here is a must-do during your visit to Coney Island, not to mention a great photo op. In the summer, food vendors set up shop here to keep the crowds satiated while they explore the different artworks.
9. See a Brooklyn Cyclones game at Maimonides Park
If you’re a sports fan, or just want to do something fun with the kids, then add a baseball game to your Coney Island trip. In addition to the beach and boardwalk, this area is home to Maimonides Park, where the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones play ball.
The park is parallel to the Coney Island Boardwalk, so while you watch the baseball game, you’ll see sights like the Cyclone rollercoaster in the distance. It’s quite a festive environment, especially if you love the great American pastime of baseball.
Even if that’s not your thing, you can watch other sports here throughout the year, including football, soccer, and rugby, as well as wrestling events. Maimonides Park also hosts concerts, so it’s worth checking the event schedule before your trip.
10. Go to Brighton Beach, something to do in Coney Island with friends
As I mentioned earlier, Brighton Beach is another beautiful place to go on Coney Island. The beach is right next to Coney Island Beach, so if you want something that’s quieter and less crowded, it’s a good alternative.
Brighton Beach is open for swimming from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Near the beach, you can find playgrounds, parks, and ball courts for basketball and handball. There are also volleyball courts on the beach.
In addition to the surf and sand, Brighton Beach is known for its ethnic neighborhood. A large number of immigrants, many of them Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe, arrived here in the 1970s, setting up shops, restaurants, and bakeries that are still here today. In fact, the neighborhood is sometimes referred to as “Little Russia” because of the wide array of foods and specialty items here.
So, for something to do in Coney Island that’s off the beaten path, check out Brighton Beach and maybe try something new!
Those are all the Coney Island attractions that I recommend, so I’ll leave you with this map that you can download.
If you have any questions about visiting Coney Island, leave me a comment below and I’ll help you out. Until then, have a wonderful trip!