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How to enjoy Coney Island like a true local

Beach in Coney Island

Coney Island is one of New York City’s most iconic spots, which is why it attracts a healthy amount of visitors every year. As a result, numerous tourist traps have sprung up across the community.

Here’s how you can avoid the usual trappings and experience the real and authentic Coney Island.

  1. Hang out by the beach.

    Coney Island’s beach is free to the public, but it only receives a fraction of the attention the rides and attractions get. That said, it can still get crowded especially during the summer. To secure a nice spot near the water, head early. That way, you can also survey which parts of the beach are closed off for the day.

  2. See Coney Island’s quieter side.

    The action at Coney Island is in full swing starting from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day. That’s when all of Coney Island’s rides, attractions, and shops are open. Everything, however, quiets down after the peak season.

    If you want to see what Coney Island is like when mostly everything is shuttered and closed, head the following weeks after Labor Day. You’ll see Coney Island take on a grittier, edgier aspect reminiscent of New York City in the 1970s.

  3. Don’t miss the Coney Island Cyclone.

    Coney Island is a part of New York City’s identity, and the Cyclone is part of Coney Island’s very fabric. To miss it out would be to miss a quintessential Coney Island experience.

    The Coney Island Cyclone (also called “Big Momma”) debuted in 1927, so riding this wooden roller coaster is like experiencing a part of Coney Island’s history. It’s not for the faint of heart, however, as it has 12 drops and a total of 27 elevation changes. If you’re not brave enough, you can simply watch the adrenaline junkies from the ground.

  4. Check out Deno’s Wonder Wheel.

    Speaking of must-experience rides, there’s also Deno’s Wonder Wheel, which is located right next to Luna Park (Cyclone’s home). Deno’s Wonder Wheel also debuted in the 1920s and stands 150 feet high. There is no mistaking this historic landmark when you look at pictures of Coney Island’s skyline.

    Deno’s Wonder Wheel is a bit calmer than Cyclone. You can also enjoy beautiful views of Coney Island and the beach at the highest point. Best of all, you have the option to choose between riding a still car or a rocking car, a choice that can make being 150 feet high less scary and more comfortable.

  5. Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Coney Island.

    Forget the all-night parties and ball drops. If you are looking for a more inclusive New Year’s Eve event, head to Coney Island for their NYE celebrations. It caps off with a spectacular fireworks display once the clock strikes midnight.

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