I had finished the Manhattan Valley neighborhood earlier in the day when the Soup Kitchen was full and they did not need me. So I walked the lower part of the neighborhood to finish it off and then walked across Central Park to the beginning of the new subway stop for the Q subway train at 96th Street and Second Avenue. As I had written on Day Sixty-Six on my walk, this subway line is really nice and take time to look at the artwork at the stops at 96th, 72nd and 63rd Streets.
If you are going to take the Q to Coney Island leave yourself plenty of time because it is over an hour to get from one end of the Q to the other. It was a beautiful warm clear sunny day around 84 degrees and a perfect day to go to the shore.
I love the Q train! I love the new section of the subway with its interesting art and the fact that it is so clean. That and the fact they the E subway has the newest cars to stretch out in. It makes it a pleasure for the long trips.
You get some of the best views of the city from the subway once you cross over into Brooklyn. You get a great views of lower Manhattan when exiting from underground plus you get to see the old parts of Brooklyn with views of the ‘Brownstone’ neighborhoods. There’s another area that keeps changing with gentrification.
The subway ends at the Stillwell subway stop. This rebuilt stop was the first part in the renovation of the island to make it a more 24 hour resort. Most of the other plans have been scrapped or were never enacted. To be honest with all of you, the amusement area of Coney Island is still dumpy and has not been much since the Luna Park fire of 1946 and the Dreamland fire of 1911. They keep trying though.
Even when I went to Coney Island as a kid in the 70’s, it was rundown then. Please don’t get me wrong, Coney Island can be a lot of fun and you can have a great day out here but don’t get too lofty of expectations of what it is like (See reviews on TripAdvisor). Don’t venture too far from Nathan’s after dark and follow the crowd back to the Stillwell subway station after dark if you stay for the films on the beach or the fireworks.
I have been down for the Mermaid Parade in the Spring several years ago and will be going to the Sandcastle Building contest next week. There is a lot going on during the summer and it is good to check out these activities. The Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan’s draws thousands to the island to watch their hero’s devour hot dogs at record speed.
Still the I love to explore the changes to the island and walked around Surf and Neptune Avenues after I got there. I wanted to see if Totanno’s Pizza was open that day so I walked for two blocks Neptune Avenue and I will tell you that though the area is changing it still is not a great neighborhood.
Totanno’s is in the middle of a commercial area with a series of garages and car repairs. The worst part was that it closed for the day. The restaurant is only opened from Wednesday to Sunday so its for another time. I did get to see the back part of the island and found where the original Coney Island Creek was located. This is where the original Sea Lion Park and Luna Park were located back in the early part of the century.
I changed my plans around and walked the length of Surf Avenue and started my walk around the amusement area which runs from the Aquarium at West 8th Street to about West 16th Street. Even with the rebuilding of Luna Park on the footprint of the old Astroland, Surf Avenue needs a major makeover. The chain restaurants have added a little life to it but still some of the blocks are a series of rundown buildings and old time amusements.
I stopped by the Coney Island Museum at 1208 Surf Avenue and the museum part was closed for the day but the side show part was open but I had missed the show. I walked around some of the open exhibitions on the outside and it is interesting to see some of the artifacts from the old amusement days.
My next stop was the famous Cyclone Roller Coaster on West 10th Street (see review on TripAdvisor). This is the most amazing and exciting ride on the island and one of the things you should see while you are in New York City. It is $10.00 to ride the coaster but it is well worth it! That first hill you go down is so mind-blowing. You feel as if the cars are going to fly into the sea. It rolls up and down those hills back and forth facing the buildings across the street and the sea. Of all the amusement parks I have been to there is nothing like the Cyclone.
I walked into the Luna Park area and saw the improvements that have been added to the park. The problem with Luna Park is that its mostly kiddie rides and not much for adults with the exception of the Log Flume Ride. Luna Park was rebuilt on the old Astroland which had closed by in 2008 and is trying to capture the old magic of the island with upgrades on rides and concessions. It even recreated the original entrance of Luna Park across the street from the old park. Still it will take a lot more work on the park and more added rides in the future. I give them so much credit for revitalizing the park with a new look.
I walked after that to Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, 1025 Regielmann Boardwalk, which I had not been on for about seven years and the famous Spook-a-Rama, which I had not ridden since I was about eight. The Wonder Wheel was built back in the 20’s and with a height of 150 feet, has great views of the ocean and of the island. Both rides were $8.00 and were well worth it for the day.
When riding the Wonder Wheel, make sure to get one of the cars that slide. Not only do you get the view but you get the excitement of sliding around. When you reach the top of the Wonder Wheel, it has the most breathtaking view of the boardwalk area, the beach and ocean and a view of the whole island. The breeze is so refreshing up there and you feel like the world is your own. Talk about seeing the world go by.
After the Wonder Wheel, I walked over to Spook-a-Rama, also $8.00, which I first rode when I was eight and it has not changed that much since then. It does have a few thrills that do pop out at you that will have you jumping. There have been a few updates on it with video displays but for the most part I remember it being much scarier as a kid. I will let you know though the first couple of things popping out at you will still have you jumping out of your seat but still its not the Haunted Mansion at Disney Parks.
I had enough time to go to the New York Aquarium located at West 8th Street, just past the Cyclone. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, most of the Aquarium was seriously damaged and most of the park is still under construction. The Coral Exhibition is still interesting especially with the destruction of the wreaths around the world and the Sea Lion demonstration is a lot of fun. The Sea Lions are such hams and seem to love the crowds. What I thought was interesting is that both of them were born in New York City at the Bronx Zoo so they have only known humans. Still they look like they are having fun. They seem to love waving to the audience and the crowds love them back.
My last stop of the evening was dinner at Nathan’s at 1310 Surf Avenue. This hot dog chain was founded in 1916 and is still in their original location. They have the best hot dogs and their French fries are some of the best in the industry. When you go you have to have the original hot dog with mustard, the regular fries (which is a large order anywhere else) and their famous Orangeaid. It is the best meal.
On a hot sunny day, it is nice to sit out on the tables right next to the restaurant. There is something about the sea breezes, the salt air and hot dogs and fries that make a phenomenal combination. It is a meal that is part of the beach experience and that was worth the trip alone.
Before it got too late, I was back on the Q Train back to Manhattan. I’m sorry but sensible people still get out of Coney Island before it gets dark. Even though the subway station on Stillwell and Surf Avenues is very safe and there is a police station there, its better to leave before dusk. I don’t care how many artists have moved into the area.
The subway ride took just over an hour to get back to Manhattan but it was still light out when I left the shore area and got my last glimpse of the ocean pass by. There is nothing like watching the sun reflect on the beach. The best was that we passed lower Manhattan before we went under the tunnel and watched the skyline brightened by the lights in the office towers. If you want to see an amazing site, it is when the city lights come on and the skyline is ablaze. It is like a picture postcard and impressive. When people think of New York City, this is what they imagine.
When I finally got back to 96th Street, I had some time to look at the artwork again and stretch around the station. I still love to see museum quality art in a subway. Then it was off back on the Q back to midtown.
For the price of a roundtrip ticket on the subway, it is fantastic voyage around the city on the new Q. Artwork, amusements, skyline views and the beach. What more could you want?