Coney Island – Brooklyn, NY

Coney Island had its 15 minutes of fame many years ago, but current residents will assure you that the neighborhood hasn't lost its shine. Just 22 miles south of Manhattan and less than 10 miles south of the center of Brooklyn, Coney Island remains a warm and friendly neighborhood that fills with visitors when the weather turns warm. Those looking to spend a day in the sun or stay and raise a family will find that Coney Island has a little bit of something for everyone.

Schools in Coney Island

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Restaurants & Nightlife

Coney Island is home to a diverse food lover's paradise that ranges from the street foods found all around the neighborhood’s boardwalk to intimate restaurants that serve a range of ethnic cuisine. History comes alive at the original Nathan’s Famous location on Surf Avenue and Boardwalk; it's been serving tasty hot dogs to loyal patrons since 1916. Get there early, as the lines to get a simple hot dog for less than $5 can be discouraging, and don’t miss the annual international hot dog eating contest held there every Fourth of July. New Yorkers love their pizza pie, and Coney Island residents are no exceptions. Located right on Surf Avenue, Grimaldi’s Pizza has been cooking authentic pizzas in a traditional coal-fired brick oven for more than 100 years. This pizza parlor knows how to do it right with fresh mozzerella and thin, crispy crusts, but keep in mind that it doesn’t sell beer and it’s a cash-only establishment. Ruby’s Bar & Grill at Riegelmann’s Boardwalk has served Coney Island residents since 1934. It doubles as a popular place to stop and nosh on some good pub grub or to sip a brew in the evening while listening to the jukebox or live music. It features all of the popular Coney Island foods, including funnel cakes and fried clams, and it’s also the sponsor of the annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Club’s plunge into the water. Evenings can be dicey near the boardwalk area when the sun goes down, as an eclectic assortment of characters tends to show up to have some fun at the Freak Bar’s sideshow and hang out with the locals. Police presence is always visible, particularly during the summer months, so it’s a relatively safe place to be at night. Stop by the beach on Friday evenings during the summer before you start your pub crawl to enjoy town-sponsored fireworks displays.

History & Culture

The Coney Island area was little more than farmland until the construction of a causeway in the 1820s, followed by an inn and daily ferry service and eventually the country’s first roller coaster in 1884. Sporting everything from beaches to eateries, circuses, sideshows, amusement park rides and dance pavilions, the area became known as a top tourist destination, especially after the launch of Sea Lion Park in 1895, Luna Park in 1903 and Dreamland in 1904. At its peak, it routinely hosted crowds of 100,000 or more each day, which continued through the 1950s. Though its crowds have lessened, Coney Island continues to be a popular tourist draw. Today’s Coney Island boasts an impressive array of historical venues -- including the Coney Island Museum and the New York Aquarium -- and hosts many annual events, including the Coney Island Film Festival, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow and the Mermaid Parade.

Transportation

When getting around the neighborhood, savvy locals walk. Driving is an option, but the streets become fairly crowded during the summer. Street parking is the cheapest way to stash your car, as many of the area’s parking lots charge hefty fees. You’ll find Stillwell Avenue and much of Surf Avenue to be bike-friendly, although not many other streets have dedicated bike lanes, which can make things a bit tricky when the tourist numbers swell in the summer. When it’s too far to walk, many locals simply hail a cab, although Uber is also an option for shared rides around town or into the city. Plenty of options exist for getting to and from the city. Hop the D, F, N or Q train at the Stillwell Avenue station to get to Manhattan in an hour or less, or take the X28 and X38 express buses. Several public buses provide transportation to local points, including Sheepshead Bay, Bay Ridge and Spring Creek. For subway transportation, hop on at nearby Brighton Beach for the 51-minute ride into downtown Manhattan.

Cost

As in most Manhattan suburbs, living in Coney Island comes at a price. The cost of living is roughly 30 percent higher than the New York average and 120 percent higher than the national average. This is mostly driven by the cost of housing, however, as food, health care, transportation and utilities closely mirror the New York average. The cost of public transportation into and out of Manhattan can run anywhere from $2.50 to $170, depending on whether you choose to take the subway, a cab or a private car. Should you choose to drive to your destination, expect to pay 11.5 percent more for gas than the rest of the country. In Coney Island, you’ll even wind up paying roughly 31 percent more for a cup of coffee, but you can get a draft beer at some places for an affordable $8. If you’re looking to become a local and rent a one-bedroom apartment, expect to pay $1,100 per month and up, depending on how close to the water you prefer to be situated.

Shopping

You'll find all of the souvenir shops you could ever want along the boardwalk, but the area is much more than a tourist trap. Coney Island serves as a home to everything from large retail chains to small boutique shops, with most of them centered around the boardwalk area or up and down Neptune Avenue, Mermaid Avenue and Surf Avenue. For unique items you won't find in the typical grocery store, visit Brighton Bazaar. To mingle with the locals, head to the Ocean Parkway Farmers Market in front of Coney Island Hospital, which opens every Wednesday and Friday from June to November. Check out Mermaid Prime Meat for a carnivore's paradise. Williams Candy on Surf Avenue next to Nathan's serves as a popular stop for both locals and tourists. Though this shop makes a variety of sweets, it's especially known for its amusement park staple – candied apples. Brighton Bazaar, just off the beach and east of Coney Island proper, features specialty foods that cater to Russian tastes for fish, cheeses, and breads.

Parks

Though Hurricane Sandy devastated many of Coney Island’s outdoor venues in 2012, residents continue to rebuild. The recently reopened Steeplechase Pier gives locals and visitors a place to fish, take a walk or simply see the sights. Three miles of sandy beaches frame the neighborhood on the south, with a variety of activities and sponsored events going on throughout the season. Here you'll find picnic areas, sand volleyball courts and playgrounds for the little ones, as well as basketball and handball courts. Parking is free for residents; visitors can expect to spend $15 or more to park near the beach and boardwalk. Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, both located near the aquarium, are the undisputed hub of outdoor activity in the area, offering a carnival atmosphere with plenty of thrilling rides. Sports enthusiasts can head over to MCU Park to catch a game from the area’s minor league team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. If you're comfortable on skates, Abe Stark Ice Skating Rink is a great place to work off some steam during the winter months.
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