Weekender

Food, fun and freaks: going out to play in Coney Island

As a Pennsylvania native, I enjoy the little things that the state has to offer, but one of my favorite things about living here is that I can leave whenever I want.

Last weekend, I went to Coney Island, and it did not disappoint. I am pretty sure I have been there before (or maybe I had a dream about it after I watched “The Warriors”), but going there as an adult was a crazy, cool experience. I think you should drop everything you’re doing and go right now.

The Drive

Coney Island is located in the southwest edge of Brooklyn and is about 2 and a half hours away from Wilkes-Barre.

Just a quick warning: You’ll hit traffic on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, but the views are amazing, and from the bridge you’ll be in Brooklyn/Coney Island in about 30 minutes.

Driving to a destination is one of my favorite parts about a day trip. On this trip in particular, I was meeting a friend in Brooklyn, so it was a solo drive.

Some of the best parts about taking a trip alone are playing the same song on repeat and stopping wherever and whenever I want, having the windows down and the AC on (personal preference, but not many of my passengers enjoy this).

The Food

Our first stop of the day was Nathan’s Famous for a hot dog – home of the annual July 4 hot dog eating competition.

I had a hot dog with ketchup and mustard and cheese fries and a huge cup of lemonade. It was actually perfect, and I rarely eat hot dogs because they are weird, but I made an acception because of the location and tantalizing hot dog smells.

Also, I can’t forget: Coney’s Cones Nutella gelato. I legitmately don’t know the difference between gelato and ice cream (I Googled it and I still don’t understand), but there are a bunch of gelato stands inside of Luna Park, the amusement park off the boardwalk.

The combination of late summer heat and gelato’s consistency made my life a little difficult, so I had to do some work in order to not make a mess. With that being said, I couldn’t take a photo because I had to use two hands for that sloppy and delicious disaster.

The Diversity

We walked down the boardwalk and there were people blasting music, playing instruments, dancing, singing and having fun. There were people taking photos, laying on the beach, fishing from the pier, you name it.

Coney Island is the definition of a melting pot. A beautiful and diverse mixture of people from all over the world. It’s what I love the most about going to the city.

Luna Park

Years and years ago, I remember my grandmother talking about the amusement park on Coney Island. The one she knew was Steeplechase Park, it was open until the early 60s.

Luna Park originally opened in the early 1900s, but was destroyed by a fire in the 40s, but not before the ever-famous, Coney Island staple the Cyclone was born (my grandmother and her friends could ride it for 25 cents a piece).

Luna Park re-opened in 2010 with a full makeover, new rides with new takes on some of the originals. The Cyclone is still there and open for riders. There are kiddie rides and amusement park classics, like a carousel and a haunted house.

There are go karts, too! I drove a go kart for the first time ever, and it was exhilarating. I don’t know if it was the fumes from the gasoline or the rush of driving 20 miles per hour with my hair tucked into my hat (it was tight and uncomfortable), but it was a blast. The only part I didn’t like was getting rear-ended, but I will get over it.

Coney Island Circus Sideshow

I’m saving the best for last. I am obsessed with magic, sideshows, circus performers and all of that. I love it. So obviously, when we were walking by the Coney Island Circus Sideshow building and were summoned to come in by one of the performers we had to say yes.

Coney Island USA is a nonprofit arts organization that is working toward keeping pop culture alive in Brooklyn. They have circus sideshows until the end of September, burlesque shows and a beard and mustache competition (for more information, visit their website at www.coneyisland.com).

Tickets were $10 a piece and inside there is an awesome bar with craft beer and vintage pinball machines and games. To the left of the bar is a gift shop with Coney Island t-shirts, vintage postcards, artwork and some oddities.

Inside the theater are bleachers and seats off to the side. One of the coolest parts? No phones, no recording, no photography.

I’m not going to tell you much about the show because I really want you to go see it for yourself. I will tell you that there is a snake man, an ice pick and a lot of fire.

I was inspired by the passion of the performers. It radiated off of them. It’s so obvious they love what they are doing and the entire audience was amazed and involved and it was unlike any theater experience I’ve ever had.

A lot of what I knew of Coney Island came from movies and television. I’d never had a real Coney Island experience before, but being a part of this community for a day was eye-opening for me. It’s a little rough around the edges (coming from a slightly sheltered 20 something from PA), but as one of the ‘freaks’ in the Coney Island Circus Sideshow said, “don’t judge a broken book by its’ cover.”

The Cyclone is one of the landmarks of Coney Island.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_IMG-0093-1.jpgThe Cyclone is one of the landmarks of Coney Island.
The go-karts were fun, right up until the time another rider read-ended me.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_IMG-0109-1.jpgThe go-karts were fun, right up until the time another rider read-ended me.
The exterior of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_IMG-0101-1.jpgThe exterior of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow
Nathan’s Famous hosts the annual July 4 hot dog eating contest.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_IMG-0108-1.jpgNathan’s Famous hosts the annual July 4 hot dog eating contest.
A view of Coney Island from the pier.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_IMG-0080-1.jpgA view of Coney Island from the pier.

Hartt Lang

hlang@timesleader.com