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While Sea Lion Park was a short-lived venture, the seaside amusement park -- created by Civil War veteran and famed waterman Paul Boyton in 1895 -- paved the way for Coney Island to become “the people’s playground.”Read more about Coney Island
Nearly 120 years later, a revitalized Coney Island remains a kitschy carnival by the sea, a popular summer escape with a legacy that has been immortalized by popular culture. A peninsula on the southernmost edge of Brooklyn, Coney Island consists of several neighborhoods, including Brighton Beach, Sea Gate, Manhattan Beach and Coney Island proper. Because it’s a mere train ride away from Manhattan -- yet seemingly a world away -- it’s a popular escape from the hectic city life.
Eight tracks lead to Coney Island’s main subway station -- Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue, which is located above a bus station. Three main streets -- Neptune, Mermaid and Surf avenues -- provide vehicle access in the community, while bicycle paths offer more leisurely strolls.
Once home to a variety of rabbits -- “Coney” is a variation of the Dutch word for “rabbit” -- Coney Island first became a tourist destination in the 1830s when carriage roads and steamship travel made it easier to access. After Boyton’s Sea Lion Park, three other, more ambitious amusement parks -- Luna Park, Dreamland and Steeplechase Park -- made it the largest amusement area in the United States.
While the amusement parks declined after World War II, a new Dreamland opened in 2009, followed by a new Luna Park in 2010. In 2011, the first new roller coasters to be built on Coney Island in 80 years helped reverse the decline of the amusement era.
The amusements have long been chronicled in popular culture, thanks to songs by artists such as Lou Reed, Tom Waits and Aerosmith and movies like Annie Hall and He’s Got Game. But Coney Island is also famous for its hot dogs -- Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is a July 4th staple -- its 3-mile beach and the Coney Island Boardwalk.
Coney Island is busiest during the summer, when baseball fans can catch a glimpse of future Major Leaguers at a Brooklyn Cyclones game, then catch weekly fireworks shows at the boardwalk every Friday night. But entertainment is offered year-round at the New York Aquarium.