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6 Fun Things You Can Do in Coney Island in the Off-Season


Welcome to Coney Island, the only U.S. attraction with a hot dog named after it (probably). 

Home to some of the most historic amusement parks in America, Coney Island is a delectable tourist destination overflowing with early twentieth century nostalgia. While it once was a true island, Coney Island is actually a peninsula pretending to be an island, located at the southern tip of one of New York’s most exciting boroughs — Brooklyn. 

The park is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and remains open on weekends until the end of October. Unfortunately, the frigid winter months prevent the amusement parks from operating year-round.

On the bright side, visiting Coney Island in the off-season won’t even remotely resemble walking around your local enclosed amusement park, looking at shuttered rides while stress-eating cotton candy. Though it may experience its most notable bustle during the summer, Coney Island has much more to offer than just its amusement parks. It’s also a beach, a neighborhood, and randomly, the home of the world’s first polar bear club.

So before you cross a Coney Island visit off of your to-do list for this winter, let’s take a look at the six things that will make your off-season trip to Coney Island worthwhile. We’ve ranked them here from best to bestest.

coney island apartments

1. Walk the Riegelmann Boardwalk

The off-season is the only time you’ll get a photo-op here without some rando with a funnel cake in the background. The Riegelmann Boardwalk is a 2.7-mile structure that’s home to many of Coney Island’s best shops. On the north side of the boardwalk, you’ll see some of the best turn-of-the-century amusement parks, and on the south side, the ocean. 

Luckily, the ocean is not one of the attractions that closes in the winter. While the polar bear club may beg to differ, we would not recommend swimming in subzero temperatures — but the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean ebb and flow throughout the year, so the beach maintains some of its most awe-inspiring qualities. It’s a particularly great feature of Coney Island if you plan on visiting with a significant other (you’re welcome in advance).

The Riegelmann Boardwalk is also home to the Steeplechase Pier; a structure that extends 1,000 feet into the Coney Island channel. With benches lining the pier, it’s an excellent place to sit and enjoy your lunch, listen to the sounds of the ocean, or even fish (if you’re into that).

coney island apartments

2. Browse the Coney Island Museum

The Coney Island Museum is home to over 5,000 momentos that coalesce to paint a vivid picture of the peninsula’s history. At only $5 a ticket for adults (I’ll do the math for you, that’s 1/10 of a penny per item), this trip would be well worth your hard-earned cash.

Since Coney Island is home to some of America’s first amusement parks, you’ll find quirky items such as funhouse mirrors, hold-to-light postcards, and a 3D model of the century-old Luna Park in its original form. Dedicated to sharing the unique arts and culture of Coney Island, the museum has partnered with the “Coney Island Film Society” to offer screenings of silent films and documentaries that shed light on the history and community of Coney Island.

For a calamitous twist on your image of Coney Island’s past, visit the “Darkside of Dreamland” exhibit, which highlights the urban culture of the old Coney Island neighborhood. Through this exhibit, you’ll learn about the island’s old ghettos and dark political dysfunction. I recommend going during the day. It’s good to see the sunshine after this exhibit…

coney island museum

3. Coney Island Brewing Company

The three words that best describe the Coney Island Brewing Company are as follows: beer, beer, and more beer. Wait, that was five words…

Founded in 2007, the brewery doesn’t have the same historic impact as many of Coney Island’s other attractions, but it does have great beer! With a spacious taproom and dining area, this is a great place to spend a winter evening. 

Located across the street from the parachute jump playfully nicknamed “The Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn,” it won’t be too hard to find yourself a nice craft brew. They’ve embraced their affiliation with this monument, even including its image in their logo! Some of their highest-rated brews are the Mermaid Pilsner and the Mermaid IPA.

As if a nice brew weren’t reason enough to visit this lovely taproom, they’ll also let you tour their facility for free. You’d be hard pressed to find another brewery in the Brooklyn area that offers this kind of opportunity, so it’s quite a rare treat. I mean, what could possibly be more entertaining than looking at giant containers full of beer?

coney island brewery

4. The New York Aquarium

If your ideal afternoon consists of smooches from a seal, the New York Aquarium is the place for you. This longest continuously running aquarium in the United States is located right off of the Riegelmann Boardwalk, making it a convenient stop for your off-season Coney Island rendezvous.

The aquarium was first opened in 1896 on the southern tip of Manhattan, but has now called Coney Island its home for over 60 years. Spanning 14 acres of land, this beautiful aquarium contains 350 different species of marine life, and 18 sharks and rays. That’s a lot of fins and gills.

While the outdoor exhibits close in response to cold weather, the aquarium itself is open every single day of the year, including holidays — because apparently, sharks don’t take days off. Just make sure you get there some time between 10:00am and 3:30pm with an Andrew Jackson in your pocket, and you’ll be ready to press your face up against some glass and immerse yourself into an aquatic adventure.

coney island aquarium

5. Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano

Made the same way in the same location since 1924, Tottono’s Pizzeria Napolitano is a legendary pizzeria located on the northern edge of Coney Island. Their handcrafted thin crust pizza earned the title of “Best Pizza in America” by Food Network, and has been dubbed “the best pizza in New York, possibly the world” by the New York Times.

Antonio “Totonno” Pero moved to the United States in 1903 and began working at another classic American pizzeria, Lombardi’s, in Manhattan’s Little Italy. Opening his own pizzeria 21 years later, Totonno became quickly acclaimed for his mouth watering New York slice. 

Nearly 100 years later, the restaurant is still owned and operated by Totonno’s family, who have kept the tradition of culinary excellence alive. Maybe that’s why even in a competitive pizza market such as Brooklyn, Tottono’s still stands well above the rest. There’s only one explanation for this: pizza sauce runs through the Peros’ veins.

coney island pizza

6. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs

Those hot dogs from your local supermarket aren’t named Nathan’s just for fun. The original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand originates right in the heart of Coney Island. While Feltman’s has existed a bit longer, the kooky history and delicious taste of Nathan’s Famous has made it the most popular hot dog in New York.

The story is strikingly similar to Totonno’s. A German immigrant by the name of Nathan Handwerker got a job working at Feltman’s, the boardwalk’s original hot dog stand. In 1916, he quit his job to open up his own stand called Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters (he was German, after all). To make sure he could compete with Feltman’s, he halved the price of their 10¢ dogs, selling his for only 5¢!

Much like the two for 99¢ Sheetz hot dogs that we know and temporarily love (until later on, if you catch my drift), people were wary of eating a hot dog that was sold for only 5¢. To combat this, Nathan hired a handful of doctors (who were extremely real and definitely not actors) to vouch for his food. 

This was the first of many bizarre marketing tactics Nathan used to get ahead in the hot dog business, and it paid off in the long run! Nathan’s is, to this day, the quintessential Coney Dog joint in the world. So, next time you order a coney dog from your local burger slinger, you’ll know you have Mr. Handwerker to thank.

Nathan’s is also famous for hosting the world’s first hot dog eating contest, the very year of its inception in 1916. A man named Jim Mullen goes down in history as the gluttonous contest’s first winner, and it has morphed into a disturbing 4th of July tradition ever since. Luckily, you won’t be there to witness this if you’re there during the off-season, but it’s still fun to know that you’re eating at the joint where it all began.

nathans famous hot dogs

You call that an “off-season”?

Sure, it might be neat to visit a few amusement parks and listen to little kids yell at their parents until they get an ice cream cone, but hopefully you’ve learned what fun Coney Island can be in the off-season, too.

If you can get past the eeriness of stationary roller coasters, a boardwalk stroll along the Atlantic can do your soul some good. And with the help of a handful of historic and eccentric sites that do remain open in the winter months, you can have a heck of a time in Coney Island no matter what the calendar says.

coney island night