A Coney Island and Brooklyn landmark, although now defunct, the old Parachute Jump still looks pretty spectacular.
You could easily fill your days up with things to do in Manhattan - and for lots of visitors to the city, Manhattan is New York. The furthest most people will go is a ferry ride to Staten Island but they don't generally stick around. Of course, lots of tourists will go to Brooklyn but really just crossing over the bridge before going back again. If you're looking for something a little bit different and willing to go that little bit further, you can get a real taste of Americana on the south shore of Brooklyn at Coney Island.
Once you get to Coney Island, it'll feel like you've crossed into another world - far, far away from Manhattan's skyscrapers. I felt like I'd gone back in time to the 40s or 50s and really wished I had a pair of bright red heart shaped sunglasses. I reckon I could have totally worked it there… Here's a quick look at how you could spend your day.
Take a walk along the beach and go for a dip
Art on walls
The beach at Coney Island stretches for nearly 5 kms, there's a lot of beach to wander. And with a boardwalk all along it, you can avoid getting too sandy if you like. As well as enjoying the sea views, I loved checking out the painted walls of shacks and buildings alongside the boardwalk. It's a great way to spend a summer's day - it'll be cooler and a whole lot more pleasant than a hot day in the city. The beach here also hosts a Polar Bear swim on New Years day… so you could wrap up warm as you watch a bunch of people jump into ridiculously cold water, or if you think you're hard enough, strip off to your swimmers and join them!
Margaritas from mermaids
They rather like mermaids at Coney Island...
Fun fair thrills
Amusements to amuse
Cheaper than Disney, Luna Park (so fabulously named!) brings back the old school charm of a traditional fun fair - and has as its centrepiece the granddaddy of roller coasters - the Cyclone. Debuting in 1927, the Cyclone has also been credited (on the Luna Park website at least) as being responsible for Emilio Franco, who had been mute since birth, finding his voice again after going on the ride and saying "I feel sick!". I don't even care if it turns out not to be true - it's such a great story!
Grandaddy of roller coasters
You can purchase a wristband for $26 which will let you have unlimited rides at the park for 4 hours, Monday - Friday. Or you could buy credits from $1 a credit. A ride on the Cyclone is $8… which isn't too bad!
Deno's Wonder Wheel
Coney Island's amusements don't stop there either as you can also visit Deno's Wonder Wheel and amusement park right by Luna Park.
Luna Park 1000 Surf Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11224 Tel: +1-718-373-LUNA (5862) www.lunaparknyc.com
Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park On the Boardwalk at Denos D Vourderis Place (West 12th St) Brooklyn, New York www.wonderwheel.com
Clams and hot dogs
Clams with muscle
Fill up on all your fun fair favourites like candy floss and ice cream. But for something more substantial, the things to eat at Coney Island are clams hot dogs (probably not together!). The photo above is of the Gyro Corner Clam bar on the boardwalk and there are plenty of places you can get your clams. If you are going to have a hot dog, you've got to head to Nathan's - home to the annual hot dog eating contest held on the 4th of July. And whilst you chow down, think about how current world champions, Joey Chestnut and Sonya Thomas, managed to wolf down 62 and 40 of them respectively… or maybe not!
How many could you eat?
Nathan's 1310 Surf Avenue Brooklyn, New York www.nathansfamous.com
Go to the Circus and get your freak on!
Sideshows by the Seashore
It ain't no Cirque du Soleil but it doesn't try to be and at $10 a pop for adults ($5 for kids), it's a pretty sweet deal. Billed as a 10-in-1 show, Sideshows by the Seashore feature 10 acts. They're called sideshows as these are the acts you may have traditionally seen coming on between main acts so each show is short, sweet and fantastically weird! Performers include snake handlers, sword swallowers, fire breathers and contortionists. Watch them nail hammers into their heads, climb a ladder of swords and titilate with a spot of burlesque dancing. These performers know how to show you a good time! Also great is that the show basically just goes on repeat from 1pm to 8pm and with the purchase of a ticket, you can go in and out as you please. The full show lasts around 45 minutes. And if you're planning a longer stint in New York and always had dreams of running away with the circus, you can also check out their Sideshow School where you can learn how to eat fire, escape a strait jacket and a few magic tricks as well as a host of sideshow wonders. Sideshows by the Seashore runs from April to September. Check their website for more information.
At the Freak Bar
Don't forget a stop off at the Freak Bar for a Coney Island beer, cocktail or soda - you might find yourself sitting beside a sword swallower! They have beers named after specific performers so you might find yourself sitting by one drinking a beer with their face on... freaky!
Sideshows by the Seashore and Freak Bar 1208 Surf Ave Brooklyn, NY 11224 www.coneyisland.com/sideshow
Mermaids taking a walk
Also run by the folk who run the Sideshow circus is the annual Mermaid Parade held in June. Rather like Coney Island in general - it's all pretty kitsch, thoroughly retro and a whole heap of fun.
A disappearing act
To get to Coney Island, you can enjoy views of the Hudson River driving down the coast of Brooklyn along the Shore Parkway. It's worth a stop-off by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn to Staten Island. It's a beautiful bridge and spectacular on a foggy day as it disappears into the fog.
Bridge to nowhere?
Drive a world away from New York's skyscrapers and you'll find a New York that has lots more to heart. Looking for a great deal USA car hire? We've got cheap car hire throughout the city including New York La Guardia Airport car hire, New York JFK Airport and Newark Airport.