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I’ve been wanting to visit Coney Island for as long as I can remember. I always had this romantic notion of 1930s seaside promenading, rickety wooden roller coasters and visits to the circus sideshow… in my head it was always akin to a black & white postcard from that era. So when we visited New York, we just had to make a detour.
Lucky for me, it lived up to this notion! Ok, so I had to wilfully ignore the tourist tat shops and the fact that the main street in from the prom could do with some serious investment and clean-up… but aside from that, Coney Island was everything I could’ve wanted!
The Riegelmann Boardwalk stretches 2.5 miles from Coney Island to Brighton Beach and was built in 1923. The wooden slats must take a lot of maintenance (and I wouldn’t wear heels on them)! Along the street-side there are a myriad of seaside fast food shops, and just beyond that, the carnival rides! I quite fancied a go on the famous Cyclone roller coaster, but my husband isn’t too great with heights… not to mention it was 32 degrees celsius, and we’d just had lunch, so a rollercoaster may not have been the best idea!
We did get to see an example of the old Tornado roller coaster car, sitting in exhibit in the Coney Island Circus Sideshow gift shop. I’m glad there are more safety features on roller coasters now than in the 1930s! Harking back to the golden days of Victorian seaside holidays in the 1880s, when circus ‘freak’ shows were all the rage, the more politically correct Coney Island Circus Sideshow was part of the Coney Island renaissance in the 1980s. It now works to maintain popular culture through performance and exhibitions, and events such as the Mermaid Parade. The sideshow was everything I hoped for – illusion tricks, sword swallowing and yo-yos, plus old fashioned side show shock tactics! I had a wonderful afternoon pretending I was in an episode of Carnivale!
On the day we visited, the boardwalk was heaving with families, free spirits, and jaunty beach police in little electric cars. There were people fishing from the pier, groups dancing to cuban music, some kind of documentary was being filmed, and there was of course the screams from the punters on the fairground rides – it was frenetic and fantastic. Don’t go expecting a quiet seaside sojourn, go with a hunger for a dose of crazy and an appetite for a famous Nathan’s hotdog!
All photos © Hannah Henderson and may not be used without permission (sharing this blog post is fine, though!). Images shot with a Canon DSLR T3i Rebel + Canon EF Lens 50mm 1:1.8 STM; and an iPhone6s.