One of our family’s favorite summer outings is our annual trip to Coney Island. My husband and I started going back when we were dating and took the kids as soon as they were past the infant stage. It’s become a day trip we all look forward to. We have it down. We make sure we’re armed with plenty of snacks, water and games for the hour+ subway ride to the end of the F line.
Our first stop is always Nathan’s, a landmark at Coney Island since 1916! After our ‘wholesome’ lunch of hot dogs and fries, we head to the beach. The beach at Coney Island is not for the weak of heart. It’s crowded, it’s fascinating to see what passes for acceptable in terms of swimwear and it’s a beach where body image issues simply do not exist. The water isn’t ‘clear’ or even remotely ‘blue’ and the sand is not quite white or powdery, but none of this stops us. We go in, the kids play in the sand and jump the waves at shore and we take it all in. Last year, we saw a dozen whole peaches floating by us! It’s pretty amazing to think that New Yorkers have been coming to this particular beach since the 1830s!
We don’t stay at the beach long since the kids are excited for all the rides. We always start with the kiddie rides. This year, it became clear that our seven-year-old was officially too old for them. She was a good sport and managed a smile on the merry-go-round, but her heart was set on more thrilling rides. Like me, our five-year-old is a scaredy cat. We thought she was going to pass out on the roller coaster, but she made it (vowing NEVER to go near that thing again).
My favorite part of the day is the ride on The Wonder Wheel- the best Ferris wheel around. It’s a spectacular birds-eye view from the top. You have sweeping views of the rides, the beach, all the people and the Manhattan skyline in the distance. As you swing 150 feet high in the air, you appreciate the feeling of summer and of being a New Yorker.
This year was tough for my oldest since she just missed most of the height requirements for most of the rides she wanted to go on. It’s that moment of devastation we all vividly remember as kids, when nothing is more annoying than hearing, ‘don’t worry, you’ll be tall enough next year!”
We slowly make our way to the Cyclone- the rickety old roller coaster built in 1926, which makes it one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in America! I remember going on the Cyclone for the first time with my husband a decade ago. I’m not a fan of roller coasters and found this one especially terrifying since it’s so old and creaky. I remember how excited he was during the ride and how exhilarating he found it. While I screamed and was convinced the car was going to fall of the tracks, he laughed out loud. Since then, he goes alone, while I zoom in on him with my camera. He’s always in the front car, arms up in the air, looking as thrilled as he must have been as a young boy at an amusement park. It’s a sweet moment for me, and always an awesome one for him.
This year, we took the girls to the Circus Side Show (formerly called “The Freak Show”). The girls watched wide-eyed as women covered in tattoos and piercings swallowed swords, ate fire and contorted themselves into a box full of blades. They didn’t blink once, and I have to admit, I don’t think we did either.
We make our way to the subway with stuffed animals we’ve won (but don’t need) and inevitable ice cream stains. A short subway ride takes us to L&B Spumoni Gardens for multiple slices of the most delicious Sicilian pizza, eating al fresco, while taking in the Italian-American scene in Brooklyn.
We always get home past bedtime- exhausted, sandy, sun burnt and full. It’s amazing to think that our grandparents spent many a summer day doing the same things we did at Coney Island. It’s fascinating to see the old pictures of the crowded beach and see how it’s changed and yet stayed the same. While we all know how diverse Manhattan is, I honestly believe that there is no place in NYC as diverse as the boardwalk of Coney Island. On every visit, we have seen and heard every variation of race, ethnicity, religion and language. It’s a far cry from the Hamptons crowds, but there’s something so nostalgic and fun about a day on Coney Island.
For our family, it’s become a place where we make memories each summer and we’re already looking forward to going back next summer.
Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.
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