One of the places I was most excited to visit during my latest time in New York was the iconic Coney Island. Not only the HQ location of my current Amazon obsession, Mr Robot, but the backdrop of everything from Made In Chelsea to Hollywood blockbusters that use the colourful attractions as a way of setting the scene for colourful drama. Located in the southwestern area of Brooklyn and a 45 minute subway journey from central Manhattan, it’s the perfect place to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of the city; who wouldn’t want to swap city smog for sea air, albeit temporarily? As soon as you step out of the station you know that this is a whole new side to New York that’s incomparable to anything else you would have experienced in Manhattan: the bold shapes, bright colours, endless beach, vintage-looking rides and even the frozen margaritas have seaside charm that the UK just can’t compete with. According to the locals, this is where everything from the classic hotdog was invented to the first ever rollercoaster seeing its debut; it’s awash with history, but in a fun way rather than feeling like a museum that prevents you from touching. Coney Island is all about the touching – and the smelling, seeing and smiling.
One of the most iconic sights is the Wonder Wheel, built in 1920 and having stood on the site ever since. It’s size is incredibly impressive, towering above all the other attractions and remaining a focal point for the entire area, while the cars gently swing around providing incredible views of the beach and even as far as downtown Manhattan. (If you look closely you can spot One World Trade Centre in the distance!) At a cost of $8.00 you can jump on-board and enjoy the sights within a slightly rickety cage, but surprisingly the journey around is scare-free and actually quite smooth. What’s even better is that when you disembark you walk by Zoltar and can have your fortune read for the measley fee of $1.00 – a small price to pay to re-live your childhood fantasies. (If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, google ‘Tom Hanks Big’ and set that right.)
All of the rides are self-managed by independant hosts, while the restaurants and bars offer small scale charm that’s a world away from the slick restaurants of uptown New York. We devoured the best lobster rolls of our lives, while sipping on frozen cocktails and lusting after flower-cut Mangos; literally everything you can imagine and more can be found on Coney Island. Although we stayed clear of most of the rides (I’m not one for being flipped around, preferring to gaze at the carousel or inhale the scent of candy floss,) the incredible blue skies and sound of laughter made it the best day of our trip. Apart from the nominal subway fee to get there, it’s a completely free way to spend an afternoon – especially during the summer months when the city can become so overwhelmingly hot you don’t know what to do with yourself. Whether you love a rollercoaster, feel at home on the beach or simply want to visit one of the most instagrammable places on earth, Coney Island is well worth adding to your ‘to do’ list if you’re venturing NYC way any time soon.
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