NYC: Exploring Coney Island

I’ve generally been trying to post once a week and I have been consistent for much of the year so far but ironically, as a “travel blogger”, blogging whilst I travel is something I’ve yet to master. I spent a couple of days this week in Germany and a couple of days in Belgium and whilst I could have put up a post from my phone, do you really want to be doing that when on holiday?

It’d no doubt be different if I was a full-time / professional blogger but this was a week away from work for me. Sometimes it’s just nice to have that break, blogging included.

Anyway one of the things I did experience in Germany was the Kölner Karneval (Cologne’s carnival). The city was beyond crazy so keeping on that theme, next up in the New York series is none other than NYC’s own home of crazy: Coney Island!

If you’re not already familiar with Coney Island, made a little more famous by the film The Warriors, then you should know that it’s NYC’s little beach resort. I don’t think it was something that had been on mine or Kelly’s list to see but Pran suggested we go, so on our last day in the city (June 2016) we hopped on the subway and went to the beach!

Whilst it is on the subway line, it is a bit of a journey so expect to be sat on the subway for a while. It’s a bit similar to getting yourself to Heathrow on the tube I suppose – it can take a while!

Nevertheless we’d arrived and were quickly strolling towards the beach. Before we’d got that far we stumbled upon a massive billboard which had caught my eye and perhaps indicated what kind of place Coney Island is – crazy! On this massive billboard was a countdown to July 4th (a little under a month away) and Coney Island’s annual hot-dog eating competition! “What?!”

BigApple872
The countdown is on (June 2016)

Only in America right? With that said, as we strolled along Coney Island’s promenade the eye-catching Nathan’s establishment drew us (me and Pran) in to sample their famous hotdogs! Although we did settle for just the one rather than attempt in taking on Coney Island’s champions and record-breakers of the past.
In fairness, I thought the hot-dog was amazing. If you’re going to eat them in bulk, Nathan’s hotdogs are probably as good as you’ll get.

BigApple880
No trip is complete without a hotdog from Nathan’s

Having appeased our appetite we continued to look around and personally it was really nice to be by the sea. I reckon it had been around 2 years since my last beach visit so whilst this certainly isn’t one of the world’s best beaches, it still felt pretty nice to actually enjoy a little beach time.

Coney Island’s boardwalk is full of a number of attractions to actually make it somewhere you could easily spend a day. You’ll find amusement park rides, street art, shops, restaurants, bars, an aquarium and no doubt much more. We strolled up as far as the aquarium, passing a pretty cool mural, but didn’t really intend to go in so turned back and made our way back in the other direction.

BigApple887

Eventually we arrived at one of the entrances to an amusement park area and I was a bit surprised to find it was closed for private hire! Firstly, I didn’t realise that was something you could do. However secondly, from a boring accountancy viewpoint I found it absolutely mind-boggling. Closed on a Saturday, in the summer with glorious weather? I know you can’t necessarily anticipate the weather but a Saturday in June!

Let that sink in because what incentive is there to close off an area to the public on a day you’re likely to get a lot of foot traffic. Ultimately it has to be a financial decision so then you wonder how much you’d have to charge to justify the decision, how extortionate is the fee to hire it out and who has that much money to do so just in order to have it for themselves? Madness!

Fortunately there were still some rides accessible to the public, including Coney Island’s iconic ferris wheel. I hadn’t really anticipated spending money on any rides but Pran suggested going up which didn’t actually take much persuasion, Kelly decided against it so just myself and Pran went up for a short ride.

Fascinating for me was getting to the top and being able to see the city off in the distance. On ground level you feel a million miles away, relaxed by the beach but the reality is that the fast-paced life of the city is right there! Crazy! We weren’t on the ferris wheel for too long but it was fun and I’m glad we did it.

Having seen quite a bit of Coney Island we were contemplating leaving at this point but on route back to the subway we encountered a large crowd gathering and had to see what was going on first, only to discover that today was the annual…

Dog pageant!

BigApple912

Admittedly I think the rules were pretty relaxed and open to other animals / pets but for the most part New York’s dogs had come out in full costume to win Coney Island’s annual dog pageant! Hipster skateboarding dogs, fortune tellers, lobsters and more. The creativity of the locals was quite a sight and we couldn’t take our eyes off the various contestants and their costumes.

As the judges got to work we had the luxury of getting up close to many of the stars of the show and getting a few photos in. We decided to stick around to see who the eventual winners and runners up were, I can’t quite remember now but my personal favourite was the skateboarder who happily rode along the stage (with a little help admittedly).

BigApple908
The standard of contestants were fantastic!

Coney Island had been a good little daytrip for our last day in the city, showing off a different type of crazy to New York City. It’s weird and quirky and bizarre but there’s something about the place that draws you in, I don’t think I’d hesitate in going back to Coney Island and it’s a great escape from the city for the locals (and tourists).

Again, it’s not the greatest beach in the world by any means but to be that accessible for New Yorkers is surely a plus. The city is busy and loud and can be overwhelming but there’s retreats such as Coney Island, the botanical gardens in Brooklyn or Central Park in Manhattan that show how diverse your options are when visiting NYC

Sadly it was time for us to start saying goodbye. We hopped back on the subway and made our way in to Brooklyn, leaving us just enough time to grab something to eat and watch the England game in some bar which was packed out with locals and Brits.

Following on from a typically underwhelming England performance (England 1-1 Russia) we made our way back to Pran’s, picked up our suitcases and ordered an Uber to take us to the airport. Our time in NYC was over with.

I had a brilliant time out in NYC, it really is a city that has so much to offer. Ask for a highlight and I’d struggle but the company was a factor in it being so enjoyable. However for those of you reading this series from the beginning, I suppose the real question is how did it measure up to London?  Had I finally found somewhere worthy of being called my favourite place in the world at London’s expense?

Sadly you’ll have to wait to find out! Next up on the blog: the NYC verdict!

BigApple917
I love NYC but more than London? Verdict coming soon!

Stay tuned!

Jason