When we think Coney Island, we generally picture it in summer. Beaches, hot dogs, roller coasters—it already seems so far off. But fall is actually a wonderful time to visit New York City's most famous beach community, while it’s still pleasant out and the crowds are thinning. The Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium gives us another great reason to go since it transforms into the Ascarium every October in honor of Halloween. This year's edition has a pirate theme, and there are cool activities and Halloween decorations at every turn. Plus plenty of kids dress up in their Halloween best, which adds to the festive atmosphere. Ascarium at the New York Aquarium is a good deal, too: For every full-price general admission adult ticket purchased, one child under age 12 in costume gets in free. But you've got to hurry: This is the very last weekend of Ascarium this season. Missing it would truly be frightening.
The Aquarium was fully decked out for Halloween when I visited with my family this past weekend. There were spooky eye stickers galore in the main entrance, a “ghost pirate” who welcomed us and a fitting number of spiderwebs and pirate regalia.
Pirate-themed activities were spread throughout the Aquarium, including a room of pirate games with a ring toss, a cannonball game (we threw balls at ships and tried to knock them over), and a table with teeth and bones from various real-life "monsters" of the deep, which was pretty cool. We braved the Haunted Seafari in the Explore The Shore exhibit, a pirate-themed haunted house that sends not-too-scary chills up your spine with ghoulish laughter, fake skeletons begging for mercy, a moving giant octopus tentacle and a sneaky (and rather spooky) guide. During our journey, we also learned about the real "horrors" of ocean pollution.
The Seaside Pavilion Tent is where we found the most pirate fun. There was a fully costumed pirate band playing nautical tunes, a group of dancing pirate gypsies and a one-man Vaudeville-type show. Between performances, kids can make their own paper pirate ships, which was a big hit, and add to their trick-or-treat loot: At two stations, they were allowed a single piece of candy each—very sensible.
When you head to the Ascarium, I recommend bringing a kite, ball or whatever outdoor toys your family enjoys to play with on the nearly empty Coney Island beach and boardwalk. October may now officially be my favorite time of year to visit the New York Aquarium. No crowds, no hot sun and tons of spooky fun make the trip that much more special.
Ascarium runs through this weekend, October 27-28, at the Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium located at Surf Avenue at West 8th Street in Coney Island, which means this is your last chance to catch all of the Halloween fun. We hear there's going to be a special treat for families on Saturday, October 27, so that's the day to go. For every full-price general admission adult ticket purchased, one child under age 12 in costume gets in free. Better yet, buy Total Experience Tickets in advance online and you'll save 10% and get access to special activities like The Curse of Skull Rock 4-D Movie.
For more seasonal fun, check out our Fall Fun Guide and our Halloween Guide.
This post is sponsored thanks to the generosity of the Wildlife Conservation Society.