In New York City, a beach day isn’t quite as simple as baking in the sun for a few hours. In addition to a lengthy commute, strategic planning, and testy weather conditions, a New York beach day typically becomes more about the full experience than relaxing under an umbrella all day.
If your go-to New York City beach is Coney Island, your day revolves around must-haves like a Nathan’s hot dog, an arcade game or two, squeezing in a Cyclones game, and a long, cinematic train ride to the very end of the line.
Which of these essentials do you hit up before the day is over?
Similar to an airport, time doesn’t exist when you commit to the long train ride to Coney Island at the end of an MTA line. At the beginning of your journey, settle into a corner seat with appropriate tunes and remember to stare wistfully out the window once you’ve hit the overground tracks. Expect to experience some emotional catharsis about fleeting time, mortality, or what you’re having for lunch as the train fills and then empties several times before you reach the beach.
2. A moment to breathe in salty air upon your arrival
Brooklyn beach air isn’t going to be as crisp and soothing as what you’ll find in the traditional beach town. You might have traveled to what feels like the outskirts of the world, but that thick summer air with a tinge of rotting garbage is inescapable. However, emerging from the subway and finally reaching the Coney Island boardwalk still calls for a medicinal inhale of a beachy breeze.
3. Debating whether to even sit on the sand and go in the ocean
Coney Island isn’t exactly the go-to choice when you actually want to make the best of the sun and the surf on your beach day. The sand is typically overcrowded, and the waves are rarely that perfect temperature tempting you into a soak. You may lay out your towel for a good half hour before nearby kids begin shoveling sand in your direction or a group’s marijuana smoke drifts too close for your liking. Walk along the shore to disassociate and then relocate further down to Brighton Beach territory if the blend of tourists, local beachgoers, and any and all smells is a little too much.
4. A long wait for lunch at Nathan’s
Whether you line up at the Nathan’s on the boardwalk or the one out on the street, stubbornly waiting way too long for a hot dog with the works and a helpful serving of French fries is a must. The waiting process isn’t a relaxing one, so make the best of it by people-watching around you. Once you have your ideal summer comfort food and a seat with a view of the ocean, the wait will feel worth it.
5. Taking in a Brooklyn Cyclones game
Tucked behind Coney Island’s Luna Park is the minor league baseball stadium that the Brooklyn Cyclones call home. An affiliate of the New York Mets, the Cyclones provide just as much beer, balls, and high spirits as a day at Citi Field would but on a cheaper budget.
6. Daring each other to ride the questionable roller coaster
The Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster is one of the steepest wooden coasters in the world, and when you also consider it’s almost a century old, riding it may require nerves of steel. You and your friends may do a few laps around the amusement park and wonder if this is the time you finally join the Cyclone line. But if you had one hot dog too many, enjoying a tamer ride or just sticking to solid ground might be the safer route.
7. Walking to the end of the pier for sunset photos
There’s no better way to end a summer day than by watching the sunset over the ocean. With the glow of the amusement park rides behind you, walk towards the end of the pier stretching over the water as the light begins to fade. Expect several strangers to ask you to take their photo as you internally panic about missing the best of golden hour. When it’s finally your turn to step into the frame, any frizzy hair or smudged makeup that humidity has caused will look diminished thanks to the sky’s magical array of colors.
8. Having a last-minute indulgence for dessert before the train home
The sun has set, there’s a slight chill in the air, and you’re desperate to shower off the stickiness of sunscreen and sweat. But first, you need something sweet to top off the day, so traipse along the boardwalk one last time for funnel cake, ice cream, or something drenched in chocolate. After you’ve satisfied your sugar craving, it’s time for the train ride back to reality, but Coney Island will always be there for another escape from the summer heat and grime.