The Coney Island Mermaid Parade is one of NYC’s freakiest, most iconic events. Each year, thousands of spectators flock to Surf Avenue, Coney Island’s main drag, to watch King Neptune and Queen Mermaid lead a procession of beglittered semi-nude marchers in costumes through the neighborhood. Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun began holding the parades in 1983, and it’s been a neighborhood mainstay ever since.
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When is the Mermaid Parade?
The 2015 Coney Island Mermaid Parade happens Saturday, June 20 at 1pm
Where is the Mermaid Parade?
The Mermaid Parade begins at Surf Ave and W 21st St, traveling along Surf Ave and the Boardwalk before ending at Steeplechase Plaza. For the best chance of getting a good spot, show up by 11am—or, if you’re willing to shell out $150, you can become a Coney Island USA member and snag a spot in the covered Judge’s Stands (on Surf Ave between W 19th and 20th Sts).
Want to participate? You’ve still got time: There are various registration levels—for families, “artsy marchers,” antique cars and more—and different fees apply for each one. All the details are available at Coney Island USA’s website—and be sure to stop by one of our favorite costume stores beforehand to get all the supplies you’ll need for a glitzy, glittery outfit.
Where to eat and drink near the Mermaid Parade
As much a Coney Island institution as the Cyclone, Nathan’s has been serving sizzling, juicy hot dogs with all the fixins since 1916. You can get a burger, chow mein sandwich, or the fastest-shucked littleneck and cherrystone clams this side of Astroland. But don’t miss the snappy dog, best enjoyed with a pile of fries and a big, sugary lemonade procured at one of the sidewalk-counter windows—just do it after you ride the coaster.
Cyclone thrill-seekers can now choose between two iconic Brooklyn pizzerias after a ride on the landmark roller coaster. Joining Coney Island's legendary Totonno's a few blocks away, Grimaldi's fires up the coal-fueled brick ovens at its third location, near the beachside boardwalk. The bare-bones digs (raw brick walls, cold concrete floors) are unlikely to impress, but classic thin-crust pies and Brooklyn's first amusement park are sure to charm.
Ruby’s Old Tyme Bar
Sitting squarely on the boardwalk, Ruby’s has been weathered to a pleasing decrepitude. There has always been room for everybody in the hangarlike relic: Leather-skinned local old-timers, Hispanic families and black-clad, goateed hipsters with their tattooed girlfriends all sit together, enjoying the sea breezes that mingle summers present with those long past. Over a plastic cup of Bud draft at the gray formica bar or at a table laden with knishes or clams, they muse over Coney Island’s past glories or nothing at all.
A fire felled Totonno’s last year, but the famous, ancient Coney Island pizzeria is finally back on its feet. The space has been renewed, but the menu remains the same: large or small pies (no slices) with very few toppings. The signature white pizza—fresh mozzarella, pecorino romano, garlic and olive oil—is still the way to go.
Things to do near the Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Beach
Coney Island is one Brooklyn standby that perfectly juxtaposes old and new. While some might say its peak has come and gone, others would disagree, particularly Dick Zigun, the founder of Coney Island USA, the nonprofit responsible for organizing Coney Island's famed events, including the Mermaid Parade. "The beach is still the main attraction," says Zigun of the shore's three miles of southern exposure. "Some people might prefer the Riviera or Montauk, and maybe our sand isn't as pristine, but we've got half-naked New Yorkers here!"
New York Aquarium
See a living re-creation of the Pacific coastline, and catch sight of various East River Species, plus some truly awesome sharks and sea jellies. Visit the newest addition making a splash in the Sea Cliffs exhibit; a California sea lion pup was born over the summer to mom Clarice. Fantasize about extending your summer as you visit Glover's Reef, a 150,000-gallon tank stocked with 35 species—give or take—of marine life from the coast of Belize, including jawfish and moray eels. At the "Explore the Shore" exhibit, kids can learn facts about the ocean and the animals that live in and on it; the salt-marsh area mirrors the Jamaica Bay wetlands, allowing an underwater view of sheepshead minnows and hermit crabs.
In a sure sign that summer's on the way, the rides at Coney Island open for another season of rollicking good times. In addition to the dozens of rides and games at Luna, the spot features a separate section called the Scream Zone, which houses four new rides for brave (and big enough!) kids: two coasters, a spinning disc called the Zenobio, and the Human Sling Shot. Plus, a full service restaurant, the Cyclone Café offers sushi rolls as an alternative to the usual hot dog/candy apple/ice cream.
Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park
Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park is a Coney Island attraction. The eponymous wheel was built in 1920.
Formerly KeySpan Park, this ball field is home to the Brooklyn Cyclones. It also hosts a variety of sporting events and summer concerts.
Sideshows by the Seashore
In addition to acting as the home of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, this space hosts off-kilter events and variety shows, as well as the Coney Island Museum.