You probably won’t find any fish in the Coney Island water, but a colorful array of aquatic animals and sea life is just a step off the boardwalk. Like most of the community, the aquarium was seriously affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 but has been slowly rebuilding and reopening exhibits. I’ll bet you probably can’t find a walrus anywhere else in the city. I vaguely remember seeing a killer whale show here as a child, but no, they weren’t killer whales. They were in fact sea otters, and while Shamu could put them to shame, the tricks they flaunt at hourly performances are still pretty cool.
The story of Coney Island is not a simple one. In this one neighborhood, there are the traces of early Italian and Polish immigrants, of classic Americana, and of turn-of-the-century New York. The result of this mix is an area nothing short of quirky. With the Coney Island Cyclone, Astroland, Steeplechase Park, and Deno’s Wonder Wheel, the neighborhood has a long-standing legacy of being a playground for the young and old. Right off the ocean, there’s probably no better place to enjoy the warm weather—life’s a beach, so this weekend, play in the sand.
I don’t even think people debate that the best pizza in New York is in Brooklyn. I think the more controversial question is which part. Totonno’s is one of those family-owned restaurants that’s used the same techniques and ingredients from the beginning. Recently, the pizzeria has been recovering from a shaky few years in the aftermath of a fire and Hurricane Sandy, but good pizza never dies. The pizza’s a little expensive and a trip to Neptune Avenue may be a bit of a trek, but one of their mozzarella-laden, thin crust pies will surely be worth your while.
Brooklyn runs on tradition, and to me, nothing screams tradition louder than a wooden roller coaster. Now operated by Luna Park, Coney Island’s quaint amusement park, the Cyclone has been operating since 1927, outlasting many of the neighborhood’s great attractions. After taking a ride on a piece of Brooklyn history, walk across the street to enjoy other rides and games at Luna Park, a newly opened theme park that pays homage to the Luna Park of 1940s Coney Island.
A trip to Coney Island wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Nathan’s Famous for one of its famed hot dogs. Today, you can find a Nathan’s at your local mall, but it all started as a stand in Coney Island in 1916. The menu has expanded to cheesesteaks and chicken since then, but nothing can beat a hot dog recipe that’s been in the neighborhood for almost 100 years. Be careful not to get sand in your buns.