America’s First Amusement Park: Coney Island

Welcome to Coney Island

When I told my thirteen-year-old son this summer that we were headed to Brooklyn to take in some history, I received his expected moan as he said “Mom, enough with the history trips already.”    I just laughed and told him to call a friend to join him because this history lesson revolved around roller coasters and thrilling rides.

Coney Island is just a stone throw from Manhattan.   Okay, not really, it is the last stop on both the D and F subway lines, but well worth the trip.  If you haven’t been there in the last two years, you might have a different opinion, but since the renovations in 2010, it is a fun place to spend the day.  The best thing about Coney Island is the atmosphere, and places like Disney World, Six Flags, and Busch Gardens just can’t replicate it.  Coney Island has many attractions like the New York Aquarium, the Brooklyn Cyclones (Met’s Farm team), the Coney Island Circus Side Show, and the Coney Island Museum.  Our mission, however, was to spend the day at Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and then end the day chowing down at Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs.

Luna Park

The original Luna Park was open from 1903 to 1944.  It recently reopened in 2010, and many of the rides pay homage to the original parks, Steeplechase Park and the first Luna Park.  As soon as we arrived, we loaded up our Luna Cards with  Luna Credits (40 credits- $35, 60 credits – $60 & 125 credits – $100).  The Luna Credits were valid at Luna Park, Scream Zone, and the Cyclone Roller Coaster.  We were able to use the cards for rides, games, and food.  The boys loved the Scream Zone and did a lot of screaming themselves on the Soaring Eagle and the Steeplechase. Based upon the original mechanical horse ride over a hundred years ago, the Steeplechase was ridiculously fast.  The only thing that was missing was jockey uniforms like years past for the attendants.

Soarin Eagle


The Coney Island Raceway which is also at the Scream Park just opened this year.   It was a great track, and my son gave it a ten when comparing it to the many other go-kart tracks that he has dragged me to over the years.

Coney Island Raceway

The Luna Park Rides ranged from high, moderate and mild thrill rides.  We focused on the top thrill rides, and the Brooklyn Flyer (swings), The Tickler and Wild River were our favorites.

Electro Spin

Of course, the granddaddy of the rides was the historic Cyclone Roller Coaster which was declared an NYC landmark in 1988.  2012 marked the 85th Anniversary of the cyclone, so, of course, we had to celebrate by riding the landmark.  All I have to say is that I thought The El Torro was scary at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, but the first drop on the Cyclone brought back the same scary feeling 10-fold. In addition to the rides, there were plenty of games in Luna Park, and both boys came home with many angry bird prizes.

The Grandfather of the American Roller Coaster

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

This amusement park is sandwiched in between the Scream Zone and Luna Park. The Luna Card is not accepted here since it is under different ownership and you can buy tickets at one of the booths in the park.  Deno’s has a great kiddie park with 17 rides and four adult rides including the famous Wonder Wheel.  The Wonder Wheel was built in 1920 and is 150 feet high.  No matter if we were looking at the Atlantic Ocean or the skyline of Manhattan, the views were fantastic.  The boys also had a superb time on the bumper cars, and I loved the Thunderbolt mainly because it brought me back in time to the days I visited Pontchartrain Beach in New Orleans when I was young.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel

Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs

You can’t go to Coney Island without eating a hot dog from Nathan’s Famous. Charles Feltman invented the hot dog in Coney Island in 1867, but it was a Polish immigrant named Nathan Handwerker that opened up a small hot dog to stand in 1916 that now is the home of the “World’s Best Hotdog.”  Ninety-five years later my son, his friend and I ended our exciting day of thrill rides and games with an original dog and a cheese dog just like the many generations before us that flocked to Coney Island for some family fun.

It’s time for the original

The original and a cheese dog

Have you been to Coney Island?  What was your favorite thrill?

Both amusement parks are open on the weekends through the end of October.

If you want to get the full educational lesson, click on this PBS website before visiting America’s First Amusement Park.

The fun never stops at Coney Island!


  1. I am asking permission to use the first picture on your page in a Quizlet file at to use with my reading group while reading the book Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson… being able to link to your website will help my students better understand the reference to Coney Island one of the characters makes in the story.

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