Sometimes I wish I lived by the ocean. That way when I felt like taking a walk, my mind could wander off over the Atlantic instead of ricocheting between the city's concrete canyons. But I don't, and with a guidebook nagging me to write it this summer, I'm unlikely to spend time strolling along the seashore anyway. Yet for New Yorkers—even those who can't afford a vacation—there is one beach close enough to easily escape to: Coney Island.
An excited Bill Cunningham has already urged New York Times readers to skip the Hamptons in favor of Brooklyn's Riviera, so I thought I'd join the chorus. Here, in an unorganized list then, are my suggestions:
- Rides. Some of them, like the wooden Cyclone roller coaster, never really went away, but this summer Coney Island welcomed Luna Park back to the stretch of amusements and attractions just off the boardwalk. The new park, which can be enjoyed by purchasing a wristband or a pay-as-you-go-card, includes 19 rides for families, children, and thrill-seekers.
- Hot Dogs. You can't miss the gigantic green and yellow sign at the end of Stillwell Avenue. For nearly a century, Nathan's Famous has urged beach-goers to try one, two—or in the case of Joey Chestnut of San Jose, California—68 of its beef hot dogs. A few chances remain to qualify for this year's eating contest, but then again, it takes an iron stomach to watch, too.
- Baseball. Sure, Citifield and the new Yankee Stadium are nice ballparks, but I'm still partial to Cyclones games on Surf Avenue. The fans are great, the seats are cheap, and there's no better place to watch a footrace between Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish. Opening day is Saturday, June 19th.
- Tiny Beer. Schmaltz Brewing Company has opened "the world's smallest non-production brewery" on 12th Street next to the Freak Show. Their motto appears to be "One Gallon at a Time," but they're currently fermenting three different styles made by local homebrewers. Stop by for a taste this month.
- Tomato Pie. As in, pizza. After a devastating fire forced its closure last spring, things looked bleak for Totonno's, the legendary restaurant that many place in the highest echelon of the city's famed pizzerias. Eleven months later, owners Lawrence and Louise “Cookie” Ciminieri finally reopened their establishment on Neptune Avenue.
- Rock Bands. Ten years ago I turned up in New York with a Danelectro guitar and a belief in the power of pop. And although the Village Voice didn't chose my band as one of the regional acts to appear at their first annual summer music festival, I went anyway. On Saturday, July 17th, Siren celebrates its tenth birthday.
- Mermaids. Billed as a celebration of "the sand, the sea, the salt air, and the beginning of summer," the Mermaid Parade is also about extremely creative costume designing. And Lou Reed. Attend the nation's largest art parade and see for yourself on June 19th. Plus, you can always stick around for the Cyclones.