Best Things to Do in Coney Island With Kids: Luna Park, Aquarium, Beach, Mermaids

Visit the rides along the Coney Island boardwalk. Photo by Julienne Schaer for NYCgo
Visit the rides along the Coney Island boardwalk. Photo by Julienne Schaer for NYCgo
4/6/23 - By Jody Mercier

The shores of Coney Island and Brighton Beach open for the season Memorial Day weekend, but the amusement park rides have been spinning since early spring, and the boardwalk and New York Aquarium are always action-packed, making this season the perfect time for a Brooklyn day-cation!

From enjoying the sandy beach and waves, to amusement park thrills, and delicious sweets and treats, here are the best things to do in Coney Island with kids this season.


1. Hit the Beach and the Boardwalk

Yes, we realize this sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how many folks are afraid to dip even a toe into the water—urban beaches get a bad rap. Well, we love swimming at Coney, and kids dig (no pun intended) the two-and-a-half miles of sand. If you plan on swimming, make sure to arrive wearing your bathing suit, as changing in the public bathrooms isn't allowed: If you're caught, you will be chastised.

After drying off, grab some great Coney Island memorabilia at shops on the boardwalk.

2. Peep Some Street Art

There's usually some amazing street art to see in Coney Island, including some impressive neighborhood-themed murals.

3. Enjoy the Rides

Luna Park, which opened in 2010, has a bunch of family-friendly rides, including the Seaside Swing and the Tea Party spinning teacups. The beautifully restored B&B Carousell is also a Coney Island must-see, though it's located outside of Luna Park, off the boardwalk. Looking for more of a thrill? There are several high-octane rides like the Thunderbolt and the Cyclone, which is on our list of 100 things to do in NYC with kids before they grow up.

RELATED: Best Amusement Parks near NYC via Public Transportation

Things to do in Coney Island with kids: Deno's Wonder Wheel Amuseument Park
The Phoenix Roller Coaster is Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park's newest ride. Photo courtesy of Deno's

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park has been around a while, though not as long as its namesake Ferris wheel, which began turning in 1920 and offers breathtaking views of the ocean. The park has 16 carnival rides for kids, like spinning dragons, a tame roller coaster, a carousel, plus a handful of "adult" rides, including the Spook-a-Rama and a virtual-reality experience. Since the Wonder Wheel has no height requirement, you can even take babies. If you don't want your stomach jumping into your throat, opt for a stationary car over one of the swinging cars, which aren't as high on the wheel but are positively terrifying for riders of all ages.

Things to do in Coney Island with kids: Brooklyn Cyclones Game
MCU Park is an amazing place to watch the Brooklyn Cyclones. Photo by Jen Davis for NYCgo.

4. Catch a Ballgame

At the western end of the boardwalk, find Maimonides Park, home of minor league baseball team the Brooklyn Cyclones. Games are inexpensive ($18-$22) and extremely family-friendly. The stadium is small, so every seat has a great view of the game (and of the ocean beyond), and there are lots of promotions, giveaways, and special activities, like fireworks nights or the chance to run the bases at select games.

RELATED: Sharks Take Over Coney Island in the New Exhibit

Things to do on Coney Island with kids: Fireworks illuminate the Coney Island sky
Fireworks delight beachgoers most summer Friday nights. Photo courtesy of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

5. See the Fireworks

Friday nights mean fireworks nights on the boardwalk from June through Labor Day weekend. The Cyclones also set off blazing displays after select games.

RELATED: The Best Zoos and Aquariums in NYC

Things to do in Coney Island with kids: The New York Aquarium
Visit the sharks, sea lions, penguins, jellies, and more at The New York Aquarium. Photo by Louise Trapasso

6. Visit the New York Aquarium

The New York Aquarium was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and has slowly been rebuilding ever since, but it's fully reopened and there's plenty to see and do, including its Spineless exhibit featuring a giant Pacific octopus, moon jellies, zombie jellies, Pacific sea nettles, and the world's largest living arthropods—the Japanese spider crabs. For the first time, the exhibit showcases lion's mane jellyfish, whose tentacles can grow up to 120 feet long. The magnificent Ocean Wonders: Sharks, which debuted in 2018, is also a crowd-pleaser.

Beyond that, the sea lion show is always a big draw, plus there are more aquatic friends to meet in Conservation Hall, at Glover's Reef, and at the Sea Cliffs. Reserve your tickets online in advance.

RELATED: Restaurants at Coney Island & Brighton Beach for Families

Things to do in Coney Island with kids: The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest
You’re never too young (or old) to watch Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. Photo by Julienne Schaer NYCgo

7. Attend an Iconic Annual Event

We are always thrilled to attend one of the many, only-in-New-York annual events on Coney Island, including the Mermaid Parade, Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, the Sand Sculpting Contest, and Unity Day.

RELATED: Best FREE Annual Parades in New York City for Kids

Things to do in Coney Island with Kids: Little girl with over-the-top cotton candy
Coney Island is a great place to indulge in over-the-top sweets and treats. Photo by Jody Mercier

8. Eat Unhealthy Food

Totonno’s, highly regarded in the high-stakes world of NYC pizza, started on Neptune Avenue back in 1924. The restaurant's Brooklyn-style brick-oven pies are delicious and heavy on tomato sauce. Be sure to go when you're hungry or with friends: no slices, and it's cash-only.

Nathan's Famous serves delicious hot dogs, of course, but you can also get burgers, beer, clams on the half-shell, chicken, and Nathan's famous crinkle-cut french fries. Check out other local eateries in the area like Gargiulo’s Restaurant, Pete’s Clam Stop, and Surf City.

Classic boardwalk-strolling snacks include cotton candy, popcorn, candied apples, saltwater taffy, and other treats. Local landmark Williams Candy, right next to Nathan’s on Surf Avenue, is an old-school candy store that makes its own sweets, including fudge, marshmallow sticks, and ice cream. Kids and parents alike will literally eat it up!

Find more of our favorite eats in our roundup of Family-Friendly Restaurants on Coney Island and Brighton Beach.

Originally published in May 2010.

Places featured in this article: