Coney Island is not what it once was. While the ongoing rejuvenation of the once-famed resort draws ever-increasing summer crowds, the days of hot dogs for a nickel, bone-breaking rides, questionable sideshows, and other thrills are long gone. Except at the Coney Island Museum. This tiny museum on the top floor of the oldest landmarked building in the neighborhood lovingly preserves photographs and artifacts from Coney Island's time as the top summer attraction in the city. While only open on weekends outside the summer season, it is well-worth an hour or so out of your beach trip to visit the glory days of the island.
The only thing about America that interests me is Coney Island
What You Will See
The permanent collection at the museum is as eclectic as the history of the neighborhood it preserves. The building--once a famed casino--houses a bar, gift shop, and the areas last remaining freak show. Upstairs, clever advertisements and photographs adorn the walls. Small displays tell the history of Coney Island's most popular attractions, including the infamous freakshows, Dreamland, the World in Wax Musee, Steeplechase Park, the Wonderwheel, and the Parachute Jump. Parts of dismantled rides, including roller cars and bumper cars, are scattered throughout the space. The histories of hot dogs ("Coney Island Caviar"), roller coasters, frozen custard, and other Coney Island inventions are retold in detail.
Why You Should Go
A trip to the museum is a trip back in time. And while most neighborhoods in New York have distinctly improved since the turn-of-the-century, the museum will make you long for the Coney Island of the 1920s. It is small enough that it won't take much time away from the area's many other attractions. But be warned: after being reminded of what it once was, you will carry an air of longing and nostalgia down to the beach with you.
In addition to its own unique collection, the Coney Island Museum hosts this exhibit, originally curated by the New York Transit Museum in 2017. While trimmed down from its original size, the charming exhibit focuses on the transportation challenges faced during the height of Coney Islands popularity, demonstrating that a key to the resort's success was the inexpensive transportation of millions of visitors from Manhattan and beyond.