Head to Coney Island for summer fun

“There’s something very special about the air at Coney Island, the ambiance as well as the spirit of this area. It’s an inclusive place,” says D.J. Vourderis, the great-grandson of Denos Vourderis, the man who started Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. “We all have these devices that are supposed to connect us to each other, but all they do is disconnect us emotionally. Coney Island is where you go to find yourself again, reconnect with humanity.”

Vourderis ought to know that he’s been coming to Coney Island since he was a young boy. He now runs the family’s amusement park, named after the famous Ferris wheel, which his grandfather purchased as a present for his grandmother. “Even if you don’t go on the rides, you can just sit on the boardwalk and people-watch and have a good time–and that’s what life’s about,” Vourderis says. Vourderis.

D.J. Vourderis (L), Adam Rinn (C), David Lawrence Byrd (R)

The last time the WeekEnder was at Coney Island was during the dead of winter. Although there is something attractive about a beach for your own in the cold of December, the summer months are when Coney Island shines. Come on the beach to visit this popular spot in southwestern Brooklyn, in which New Yorkers have flocked for sun, sand entertainment, and boardwalk food for ages.

Adam Rinn (a.k.a. Adam Realman) is a specialist in this particular history. He’s a sword-swimmer and currently the artistic director of Coney Island USA. This non-profit arts group houses the remaining sideshow in the area, a museum, a music venue, and other exciting cultural events such as a burlesque show. “I grew up in Coney Island, which is the absolute greatest backyard that a person could have,” Rinn says. Rinn explains that there’s only one place in New York City where you can enjoy so many experiences. “You’ve got miles of boardwalk, you’ve got rides, you’ve got the sideshow, you’ve got history. Fast food was created in Coney Island with the invention of the hot dog. American amusements were born here.”

This is part of The WeekEnder series: local insider tips for destinations just a short distance from New York City, delivered to your inbox twice a month. Subscribe here!

Coney Island is also visually attractive to New Yorkers, such as David Lawrence Byrd, a graphic designer, and photographer who designs poster designs for events in the area, such as The annually held Mermaid Parade. “There’s a raw grittiness to Coney Island that you don’t really see too much in New York anymore–it’s a peek into a window of the past,” Byrd says. Byrd. “I think everybody should go to Coney at least once in their life if they’ve never been. It’s a pretty magical place.”

I could not be happier. In this week’s edition of The, Weekender, we’ll show you the places with the most energy and vintage boardwalk ambiance.


Where can I stay

The Rockaway Hotel

There are few hotels on Coney Island, but you could turn it into an all-inclusive beach vacation by tying in an adjacent hotel, a trip at The Rockaways (another WeekEnder favorite), and making this a jumping-off location for the Staten Island visit.

For those who love beaches: The Rockaway Hotel in Rockaway Beach

Right across Jamaica Bay is this beachy boutique hotel that offers stunning views of the ocean and a beachy atmosphere. It has a vast art collection, a dazzling concert schedule featuring bands like G Love, and a fantastic rooftop pool.

Best Western Plus Brooklyn Bay Hotel (L), Wyndham Garden Brooklyn (R)

For families: Best Western Plus Brooklyn Bay Hotel in Sheepshead Bay

It’s in a picturesque waterfront location in Sheepshead Bay, just a 10-minute drive from Coney Island’s amusement district. This is different from your typical Western. There are spacious rooms with New York City-inspired artwork and even a complimentary breakfast.

For a low-cost stay: Wyndham Garden Brooklyn in Sunset Park

Straight from an N train will bring you to the lush Sunset Park. The green hotel has been awarded high marks – and an award–a Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice award for its sleek design as well as its cleanliness, and proximity to popular spots such as Industry City (a warehouse complex that offers excellent dining options) as well as the park for stunning perspectives at The Statue of Liberty.

Where to eat

Iconic eating both on as well off boardwalks.


Tom’s Coney Island

Tom’s Coney Island: A local gem famous for its many flavors of pancakes (sweet potato, mango walnut, lemon ricotta) served with homemade flavor butter.



Nathan’s Famous Nathan’s Famous Yes, you can locate Nathan’s in grocery stores and restaurants nationwide. Still, there’s nothing like the flavor of a traditional dog that was initially served at the establishment in 1916 at the intersection of Stillwell and Surf, and the menu has mostly stayed the same since it first opened.

Paul’s Daughter, This seafood on the boardwalk restaurant, has been serving crisp fresh fried clams and buttery lobster rolls for six years. “Everyone knows Nathan’s, but for me, Paul’s is a staple: It’s got excellent food on the boardwalk,” says Vourderis.

Global flavors


Dona Zita – Dona Zita has a primarily local following, possibly because it’s on an unassuming street alongside Luna Park. “It’s my favorite Mexican place,” Says Byrd. “I get a different thing every time I go there, but you can’t go wrong with the tacos.”

Footprints Café With an extensive menu that includes chicken jerks, fried plantains, rasta pasta, and live reggae events, Footprints is the next most ideal thing to take on a Caribbean vacation.

Snacks and snacks for casual occasions


Totonno’s one of the most storied pizzerias in New York City, Totonno has been making Neapolitan-style pies with a thin and charred crust since 1924. Be careful to go early enough because it is closed in the early part of the evening, and the wait times may be extended.

Coney Island Brewery’s local brews and upscale comfort food, including vegan meals (which are challenging to find at Coney Island). “They put a lot of thought into what they’re brewing. You’ve got to order a flight, which is a sampler of everything they make there,” Rinn says. Rinn. “The vegan lobster rolls are mad good.”

Date night


Gargiulo’s Take a step back to the past at the Coney Island institution, which has served classic Italian American dishes (veal parmigiana seafood linguine, veal parmigiana) for over a decade. “A classy old-school Italian place,” Rinn says. Rinn. “In the summer, they open up their pizza garden, and it’s got a killer brick oven for pizza.”


Freak Bar

Freak Bar – Old game arcades and local microbrews available on tap make for a lively atmosphere in this lively bar situated on the ground floor of the Coney Island USA building. “My home base here is usually the Freak Bar–which is the main thing that drew me to this area,” Byrd says. Byrd.


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