Family

The World's Wackiest Theme Parks

by Colleen Clark

Coney Island
Brooklyn, New York

Take all the kitschy oddity of roadside America and mix it with the whacked-out subcultures of New York City and you've got Coney Island, an urban amusement park with freak shows both on and off the boardwalk. Once the largest amusement park in the country, Coney Island has lost some of its rides to the siren call of condo construction—two amusement areas were recently dismantled and reassembled at a park in Honduras—and there are plans afoot for even more development. But there's still a gritty charm to this rough-and-tumble theme park in Brooklyn. You can get toasty at makeshift boardwalk bars shilling fruity drinks in neon souvenir cups. Take in a sideshow at the Freak Bar, where tattooed hipster types eat fire, swallow swords, and strip down in raunchy burlesque routines. Souvenirs from your visit might include a Nathan's Famous hot dog, a set of glow-in-the-dark grills—or maybe just a bad case of hepatitis. But no experience encapsulates Coney Island like a spin on the Cyclone. The toothless ticket vendors are pickled specimens from the park's past that don't appear to have left their booth since the coaster was built in 1927. The rowdy operators have been known to send the coaster off before you've clicked your seat belt. And the rickety ride seems about one coast away from shaking itself into the sea. It's loud, it's in your face, it's so New York.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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