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The best Coney Island activities for kids

Discover family-friendly entertainment in Coney Island, including aquarium visits, Luna Park rides and fireworks

Photograph: Marielle Solan
Opening weekend at Coney Island 2013

Coney Island is most well-known for being home to some top-notch amusement parks, but there's plenty more family-friendly entertainment to be found near the expansive boardwalk. In addition to squeal-inducing carnival rides, kids can also enjoy a day sprawled on one of our favorite NYC beaches, chow down on Nathan's Famous hotdogs and even catch a baseball game. With so much to do, we think Coney Island deserves a few summer day trips with the whole gang in tow.

Coney Island activities for kids

Coney Island Beach

The kids will love posting up under an umbrella on this iconic stretch of sand for prime people-watching between dips in the ocean. Expect the three-mile beach and the boardwalk running its length to be packed on a regular basis, but with enough adult chaperones, the memories are worth battling the hordes. If you'd rather have more space to yourself, make your way toward the eastern end of the peninsula to find a spot in the sand on Brighton or Manhattan Beach—both of which are on the calmer side. During summer months, stop by on Monday nights to watch family flicks like The Goonies and Mrs. Doubtfire playing on a 40-foot, inflatable screen at West 10th St. Don't miss out on great photo ops like the annual Mermaid Parade and Sand Sculpting Contest.

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Luna Park

Coney Island’s Luna Park offers nothing but good times during the summer season. There’s plenty to do for all ages—ranked from “Extreme Thrill” to “Mild Thrill,” there are screamless rides for littler ones (like the Seaside Swing and spinning cups at Tea Party), exciting but not terrifying rides like Lynn’s Trapeze and Coney Island Hang Glider and totally thrilling (definitely scream-worthy) rides like the Thunderbolt, Sling Shot and classic Coney Island Cyclone. There are also a ton of classic games on offer, ranging from Whac A Mole to Water Racer. As an added bonus, during certain parts of summer, Luna Park also gives out free ride credits for good grades. Open March 29 through Nov 1; hours vary. $35 wristbands, kiddie wristband $20.

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Nathan's Famous

There’s nothing like a loaded dog and a cold soda at Nathan’s after a day of fun in the sun. Scarf a chili cheese dog, a pile of crinkle-cut, cheese-engulfed fries or a double-beef cheeseburger or bacon cheeseburger to fill adult bellies. Kids might prefer the crispy chicken tenders, boneless wings or regular super cheeseburger. Don’t miss the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, which happens at Coney Island’s Nathan’s Famous every Fourth of July.

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New York Aquarium

Get an up-close look at the creatures swimming offshore at NYC’s own aquarium. Curious kids get to see a living re-creation of the Pacific coastline and catch sight of various East River species. Each day, there’s a lively sea lion show at the Aquatheater (11am, 1pm and 3:30pm), plus feedings for the sea lions, sea otters, penguins, seals and walruses for families to watch. Visit Glover's Reef, a 150,000-gallon tank stocked with about 35 species of marine life from the coast of Belize, including jawfish and moray eels. Pop into the 4-D Theater to watch “The Great Jelly Rescue,” starring Spongebob SquarePants (open daily, shows run approximately every 15 minutes), and get excited for “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” which will open in 2017. $11.95, children ages 2 and under free.

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MCU Park

You've made the schlep to Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, but have you enjoyed a ballgame at this scenic stadium, just a stone's throw from the Coney Island beach and boardwalk? Bring young sluggers to watch the Brooklyn Cyclones play other minor-league teams through early September. Check ahead of time for promotions and fun themes like "90's Nickelodeon Night." Make sure to stick around afterward on select days to let the tykes run bases like the pros and to take in a post-game fireworks show from their seats. Tickets $10–$19.

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Deno's Wonder Wheel Amuseument Park

Luna Park isn't the only place to get your thrills in Coney Island! Adjacent to its twisting coasters, this classic amusement park boasts adorable kiddie rides like the spinning Dizzy Dragons and the Tilt-a-Whirl for parents and tots tot enjoy together. Older kids can duke it out in their own individual bumper cars or brave the scary sights at Spook-A-Rama. Before you leave, make sure to take a spin on the 1920s ferris wheel, lifting kids 150 feet in the air for stunning views of the waterfront. Tickets $3.50 each, 10 for $30.

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Coney Island Museum

This brightly-colored neon beacon captures all the kitsch Coney Island is famous for. Take a break from the sun’s relentless rays and take in exhibits like a 3D-printed scale model of the original Luna Park in all last century’s majesty by Fred Kahl, or a thought-provoking glimpse into the surrounding area via an installation of paintings, sculpture and photography by the artist Africasso. Peek into funhouse mirrors whilst perusing a collection of coolers and thermoses from the 50s and 60s. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Wed–Sat, 12–7pm, Sunday, 2–7pm.

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Coney Island Circus Sideshow

While you’re at the museum, you can also bewitch and bewilder your kids with feats performed at “the last traditional 10-in-1 continuous sideshow.” A cast of live, professional performers set about the business of swallowing swords, eating fire, and other acts that seem to defy human capability. Plus, every Sunday at noon, illusionists, escape artists, mentalists and close-up magicians from around the world take the floor at a kid-friendly show called “Magic At Coney.” $10, children under 12 $5. Shows run daily June 12 through Sept 7, 1–8pm (last ticket sold at 7pm).

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Steeplechase Pier

Steeplechase Pier

Refurbished a few years back after damage sustained by Hurricane Sandy, the pier is back and better than ever. Ogle the awesome ocean views and fishermen looking to score the day’s catch. A wooden, wavy seating area mimics the rhythm and flow of the sea, inviting you to recline in its swell while remaining all nice and dry.

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Coney Island Fireworks

Get ready to tilt your head back! The famed Cyclone roller coaster and Deno's Wonder Wheel sponsor a stunning fireworks display every Friday night, and the Brooklyn Cyclones shoot off their own after select Saturday games. Plus, expect an Independence Day fireworks display to rival that of Macy's at MCU Park's FourthFest. See the website for an updated schedule. 

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