On the Boardwalk

On the Boardwalk
Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn, NY

The name Coney Island has always been synonymous with fun. The amusement parks and hotdog stands of the original American beach resort, on the southwestern coast of Brooklyn, thrived until the 1950s. Once Americans started buying cars and traveling to more exotic destinations, the area fell on hard times. Now it is starting to come back.

The once dark and creepy subway station has been replaced with a bright, skylit new one. A state of the art ballpark is home to the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones, named after the original scary roller-coaster. It features a statue of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson, and a beautiful memorial honoring 9/11 victims from local law enforcement agencies.

Some of the original rides are still here, although the parachute jump is no longer operational. The famous Wonder Wheel has white cars going around the outside wheel, while the blue and green cars also travel along tracks in the inside of the wheel.

Our guide Angela told us a great story about the origin of Nathan’s Famous hotdog stand. Nathan originally worked slicing buns for Mr. Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog. It was a perfect beach food that people could eat with one hand while they walked along the boardwalk. After saving his money and getting some financing from wealthy customers like Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor, Nathan opened his own hot dog stand, and Mr. Feltman was not happy about the competition.

Mr. Feltman spread the rumor that Nathan’s hotdogs had a secret ingredient–actual dogs! To counter this tactic, Nathan hired young people to wear white lab coats with stethoscopes around their necks to sit in the restaurant and eat his hot dogs. People figured that if doctors ate there, the food must be okay (BTW Mr. Feltman ended up in Green-Wood Cemetery)!

The beautiful weather brought lots of people out to walk the boardwalk. We stopped in to see the historic photos of the old days of Coney Island at Ruby’s Bar and Grill. Luna Park was another famous amusement park in the early 20th century that is being revived. Their iconic ride was called “A Trip to the Moon.”

Angela said people described these new restrooms as looking like space ships, though I thought they looked more like Space Winnebagos!

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the New York Aquarium. The Aquarium was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 but it is slowly coming back to life and new exhibits are being built. A huge new home for the sharks is expected to open in a year or two.

They had a very good show in the Aqua Theater where they explained the differences between different types of seals and sea lions and showed off the talents of their pinnaped friends.

For a perfect end to the afternoon, we continued down the boardwalk to Brighton Beach. This used to be mostly an older Jewish neighborhood but is now full of more recent immigrants from Russia, Poland and other parts of eastern Europe. We strolled down the main shopping street, trying to read the Russian signs, and had a fabulous Russian dinner at Tatiana’s restaurant.


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