Plan Your Perfect Outing with the Help of Our Sample Coney Island Itineraries
We not only want you to have an awesome time at our family amusement park in NYC, but we also invite guests of Luna Park to discover a resurgent Coney Island rich in history, over-flowing with irresistible food and built especially for fun! Whether you are coming in from out of town for a tour of New York City’s most famous beach town or are a local looking for something fun to do in Brooklyn with friends, check out the sample itineraries we’ve prepared loaded with ideas for foodies, history buffs and nightlife aficionados. You can print them to follow the plan we’ve loosely laid out or pick and choose from the tips we’ve presented to build your own perfect experience in Coney Island.
Coney Island Itinerary for Food Lovers
Coney Island hot dogs are famous around the globe, but there’s more to this neighborhood than franks on a bun. If you have a taste for fine food, scrumptious snacks and sweet treats, get your fill on an unforgettable foodie tour in Brooklyn.
Breakfast: Power up for an action-packed day around Luna Park with a hardy morning meal at Toms Coney Island. This local institution situated right on the boardwalk features all the breakfast standby’s that always hit the spot, as well as a few gourmet surprises such as fish cakes or crab cakes with eggs and a delicious take on a Mexican breakfast of huevos rancheros.
For something slightly different, plan an impromptu picnic on the beach with offerings from Brooklyn’s Russian community of fresh baked breads and smoked fish from New York Bread Inc. on Neptune Ave. Georgian Bread (also on Neptune) is another option delivering hand-made artesian breads, stuffed pastries and fresh salads you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
Time For a Treat: There’s no better way to get in the mood for some fun at Luna Park than with a quick stop at Williams Candy on Surf Ave, where they’ve been delighting crowds of amusement park lovers with enchanting confections for over 75 years. This famous candy shop in Coney Island features a colorful selection of delightful caramel apples, caramel marshmallow sticks and marshmallow balls, in addition to a host of other sticky, salty and sweet treats synonymous with boardwalk culture.
Speaking of legendary indulgences, Coney Island is the place were frozen custard was invented in 1919, when Archie and Elton Kohr added egg yolks to ice cream and created a smooth and satisfying recipe that has stood the test of time. You can sample some of the real thing at Rita’s on Surf Ave, where Classic Old-Fashion Custard is served all season long.
Lunch: When in Rome (or Coney Island) do as the Roman’s do, and that means eat pizza! There are many solid places in Brooklyn to grab a slice, but for a mouth-watering tomato pie that’s classic yet unique, you have to visit Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano on Neptune Ave. Connoisseurs call the experience “a tour of New York pizza history” at this homey mom-and-pop serving thin-crust coal-oven pies that have kept the crowds coming back since 1924. We recommend getting there early to ensure you are served, because Tontonno’s closes when they run out of cheese!
While Totonno’s is a mandatory pilgrimage for foodies eager to experience the best pizza in NYC, those in the mood for some seafood by the seashore can head over to Pete’s Clam Stop on Surf Ave for an inexpensive plate of fresh clams and oysters.
Afternoon Indulgence: You really can’t complete a Coney Island food tour without a detour to the original Nathan’s Famous location on the corners of Surf and Stillwell Aves. Something about munching a few of their world-renowned hot dogs and crinkle cut fries in the salty air at the spot where they’ve been serving them for nearly 100 years makes the experience somehow even more satisfying.
Have a group hungry for a diverse selection of snack-bar style favorites done with local flair? Take a stroll along the boardwalk just outside Luna Park’s east gates and have yourself a smorgasbord. From clams on the half shell and fresh cut fries at Paul’s Daughter to some satisfying fried seafood at Ruby’s Bar & Grill, you are sure to find something to tempt every palate. And don’t forget to drop by Place to Beach to enjoy the best margaritas and creative Mexican food in Coney Island in a lively tiki bar setting where there’s typically a fiesta brewing day and night.
Dinner: When it comes to choosing a place for a family meal in Coney Island, the first location that comes to mind is the legendary Gargiulo’s Restaurant on West 15th Street. Established way back in 1907, this Brooklyn staple for generations sets the tone for everything you would expect from a classic Italian-American dining experience in an up-scale and happily old-fashioned family restaurant. Gargiulo’s isn’t only known for its impeccable Neapolitan style menu and service (complete with tuxedo-clad waiters), but an atmosphere and attitude that transport patrons back to the Coney Island of old. Beachgoers be warned, proper attire is always required, which means no shorts.
For something a lot more casual yet still apropos for a family dinner or mixing it up with fun-loving friends, Footprints Café on Surf Ave is a unique Brooklyn eatery that leaves a lasting impression. Powerful rum punch, flavorful jerk chicken and a house specialty dish known as the Rasta Pasta stamp this lively Caribbean restaurant’s place on the Coney Island food scene. A relaxed atmosphere featuring live music, karaoke and some imaginative mixed cocktails make Footprints as great place to drop in for dinner and stick around for drinks.
Dessert: We hope you saved room for something sweet, because if there’s one thing that makes every trip to the beach complete, it’s a cool and refreshing scoop of ice cream. Like slices of pizza and hot dogs, Coney Island has no shortage of ice cream parlors, but one of our favorites is right on the boardwalk at Coney’s Cones. Here you’ll find
artisan quality, hand-made Italian ice cream.
For a true local experience, check out Lunatic Ice Cream, a new establishment on Surf Ave that’s paying homage to an old classic. With the help of the original owner of Denny’s Ice Cream, which operated in the area from 1968 until it closed in 2012, they’ve recreated Coney Island’s exclusive vanilla, chocolate and banana
pistachio soft serve, in addition to dishing out a delectable assortment of goodies.
Coney Island Itinerary for History Buffs
Luna Park is part of an established community passionate about restoring Coney Island to the height of its past glory’s as the epicenter of amusement park, holiday resort and seaside beach culture. And with every effort we collectively make toward polishing this diamond in the rough, a new layer of its amazing history surfaces to be celebrated and preserved. Whether you are a student of history or simply looking for ways to inject a bit more culture to your trip to Luna Park, be sure to take some time (or devote an entire day) to discovering more about Coney Island’s vital place in American history.
Gain Some Local Perspective: Coney Island is a neighborhood in southwestern Brooklyn that’s so rich in history one can easily get lost in it. Just about everywhere you look you might catch a glimpse, although so much has changed over the years a few of the finer points could easily be missed.In order to gain some added perspective, begin with a visit to the Coney Island History Project on West 12th Street (right next to the sign for the Wonder Wheel) where you’ll find an Exhibition Center full of artifacts, photos and films, revolving feature exhibits and a Hall of Fame. In addition to some amazing artistic and historic collections, it is also home to the inspiring Oral History Archive, operated and maintained with the purpose of preserving the stories and remembrances of locals and visitors to the region spanning generations. While there, don’t forget to grab a free photo-op with an original wooden hand-carved carousel horse from Steeplechase Park, hop on a unique 1-1/2 hour walking tour of Coney Island lead by local experts or download a free audio tour from their website.
Walk the Beach and Boardwalk: Just being on the Coney Island beach and boardwalk is like taking a stroll back in time, where you can snap photos of legendary attractions such as the Parachute Jump, or head out on the recently restored Steeplechase Pier for a wonderful panoramic view of the amusement area. Close your eyes and imagine how it must have been back in its hey day, when families from across New York City and holidaymakers from around the globe first flocked
to the beach in Brooklyn in droves for an experience they couldn’t
find anywhere else.
Ride History: Now that you’ve pictured Coney Island how it used to be, soak it in for yourself by visiting the local amusements, where the world-famous Coney Island Cyclone is still going strong 87 years after its debut. Owned by the City of New York and operated by Luna Park, the Cyclone is a New York City landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The oldest operational ride in the area is the enchanting Wonder Wheel, built in 1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company and granted official New York City Landmark status in 1989. Today, the iconic attraction is the centerpiece of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and a fixture of the Coney Island skyline. At 150 feet tall featuring 24 enclosed cars, 16 of which are not fixed and slide in and out on the rails as the wheel rotates, the Wonder Wheel retains all of the unique charm that first made it famous.
While in the area, cruise over to the B&B Carousell, Coney Island’s lone historic carousel dating back over 100 years, which has been expertly restored to its original glory. This timeless amusement is a reminder of the area’s legacy as a thriving center for carousel builders, while its 50 hand-carved wooden horses, with their aggressive, strained poses, bright colors and flaring nostrils, provide a beautiful example of the distinct artistic style carousels in Coney Island are known for.
Refuel With a Historic Bite to Eat: Coney Island history buffs understand the prominent place many of America’s favorite foods hold in local lure. Take a bite out of history with a snack at the original Nathan’s Famous location on the corners of Surf and Stillwell Aves, where delicious all-beef hotdogs have been feeding hungry hoards of beachgoers since 1916.
Still hungry? Get in line for a seat at Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano on Neptune Ave, a neighborhood staple since 1924 that has been hailed among the best pizza parlors in New York City.
Walk It Off on a Historical Architectural Tour: Save Coney Island, an organization dedicated to “fighting to restore Coney Island as the Playground of the World”, provides an insightful free download of a Historic Walking Tour brochure. Print it out and take it with you on a stroll around the neighborhood where you can view many of the most historically significant places in Coney Island, and compare the visuals to the way things looked in yesteryear. The original sites of the Shore Theater, Henderson’s Music Hall, Child’s Restaurant and many others from Coney Island’s most significant architectural period between the 1880s and 1920s can be taken in within a few blocks distance of Luna Park.
Check In With the Coney Island Experts: A “multi-arts center in a landmark building,” Coney Island USA is at the center of a movement dedicated to celebrating and preserving the areas valuable contributions to popular culture. Home to three distinct venues, the Coney Island Museum, Sideshows by the Seashore and the Shooting Gallery/Arts annex, this vital institution is a place where history buffs can get a genuine feel for the many faces and attributes of the past, present and future of Coney Island. If you love strange and wonderful touristy artifacts or wish to be mesmerized by authentic magic, burlesque and freak show acts, there’s no shortage of the bizarre and curious forms of art Coney Island is famous for.
Catch an Event: Part of what makes Coney Island a special place for history lovers is the way it relives its past in vibrant, meaningful ways. If possible, plan your outing in conjunction with one of the many free events in Coney Island that are steeped in tradition, such as the annual Mermaid Parade (now in its 32nd year), Nathan’s Famous July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Championship (which according to legend was started in 1916 and has been a holiday tradition ever since) or on a day when the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to winter bathing, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club (founded in 1903), charge out into the icy-cold Atlantic for an invigorating swim.
Coney Island Itinerary for Nightlife Aficionados
When it comes to happening places to go out in NYC, few neighborhoods have the energy, character or charisma of Coney Island. Each year, increasing numbers of Luna Park guests choose to wrap the excitement of a visit to our boardwalk amusement park around an electrifying night on the town. Whether you are looking for a spot to party with friends, a setting for a romantic encounter or perhaps a blend of both, take some inspiration from our sample itinerary full of tips on the best nightlife in Brooklyn.
Get the Party Started: New York is known as “The City That Never Sleeps”, but that doesn’t mean its frowned upon to get the good times rolling before the sun goes down. Just beyond Luna Park’s boardwalk gate sits the lively Mexican-style cantina, Place to Beach, where there’s a special event just about every day and night, such as the Sunrise Special (11 a.m. weekdays), I Love Day Drinking and Time for Lunch parties (noon Saturdays and Sundays respectfully) and one of the hottest happy hours on the boardwalk (weekdays at 7 p.m.) No matter what time of the day you are heading to Coney Island, PTB is a central meeting place where the margaritas go down smooth and the effervescent ambience is always inviting.
Grab a Cold One: Whether you are coming off the beach on a sizzling summer day or looking for a place to grab a refreshing draft beer and settle in for some prime people watching, Ruby’s Bar & Grill on the boardwalk in Coney Island is something of a local treasure. Asauthentic a dive bar in Brooklyn you can find, this neighborhood standby offers the opportunity to belly up to a 45-foot long bar made from reclaimed boardwalk wood from the 1920s and trade stories with real Coney Island locals at ease in their natural habitat.
When you are ready to start turning up the intensity, head over to Peggy O’Neill’s on Surf Ave at the base of MCU Park, where you’ll find a bar with a beachy interior and bustling outdoor space that’s always rocking on weekends, holidays and game days. Peggy O’Neill’s offer a nice selection of draft and bottle beer, enough space for all your friends (in an atmosphere where you are bound to make a few new ones), a diverse selection of live music and some of the best burgers in Brooklyn.
Get Your Freak On: Located adjacent to the Coney Island Circus Sideshow on Surf Ave sits the Freak Bar, one of the edgiest spots to grab a beer in New York City. Order a 22-ounce Coney Island Lager, immerse yourself in a vivid setting that pays homage to sideshow culture and groove to one of the offbeat live acts that typically grace the performance space. It’s a great precursor to the amazing Sideshow by the Seashore show next door, and you might even get to rub elbows with a sword-swallower or contortionist who regular the bar between performances.
Fun, Food & Drinks: There’s something about the Coney Island Bar & Grill on Surf Ave that beckons to party people with an appetite for excitement. One glance at the colorful local patrons, ample outside seating and edgy rock n’ roll decor and before you realize it you’re heading for the bar. Whether you want to catch the game or check out some live local music, sit down for dinner or throw back a few beers with some classic bar food, this so-called Sports Bar Café is a great place to either chill-out with friends or kick the evening into overdrive.
The Best Karaoke in NYC: If your idea of a swinging time is lounging over drinks with a few friends and putting your performance skills on display in front of an enthusiastic and playful crowd, Club Shalyapin on Surf Ave is just the ticket. This place takes the Japanese art of interactive amateur entertainment to new heights with an amazing, multi-lingual song list, outrageous sound system and VIP karaoke room where up to 16 guests can make it funky in a more intimate setting.
Mix in Some Boardwalk Amusements: Shortly after the turn of the century the original Luna Park was dubbed an “Electric Eden” for the way it lit up the night with more than 250,000 lights, and once again the amusement area in Coney Island glows in electrifying neon after the sun goes down. The new Luna Park’s open gated, no admission pay-per-ride option make it ever-so-inviting to inject some fun into your evening with a spin on a whimsical boardwalk ride or exhilarating roller coaster. Its just another reason why Coney Island is New York City’s favorite playground for entertaining friends and making memories that last a lifetime.