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The Game Plan
What to do
Do you need an excuse to eat a hot dog? Or try out a new cheer? Maybe you want to brush up on the wave.
On a generous number of summer nights, the Cyclones take the field in a stadium that packs the comforts of a pro venue, yet is small enough for every seat to offer a good view. And as if to remind you which team to root for, a roller coaster loops through the background, teasing Luna Park next door.
Because this is Coney Island, every game is a full-on show. A crown-wearing M.C. known as “King Henry” stages an activity break between practically every half-inning, rousing young fans with T-shirt tosses and wrangling contests, musical performances and a hot-dog race.
Even the stadium concessions exude hometown pride: Alongside the regular franks (Nathan’s, natch) and Cracker Jack, you’ll find knishes, Mister Softee and summer beer from Brooklyn Brewery.
Things are on the upswing for the Cyclones and the surrounding area. The team is coming off its first winning season since 2014, and the neighborhood is coming back to life after a long decline. The Cyclones’ arrival in 2001 kicked off a wave of restoration that spread to the boardwalk and rides you see today. Eighteen years later, the team is a treasure of Brooklyn — particularly when it beats the Staten Island Yankees.
So, when should you catch a game? On Wednesdays all seats cost $10, and at Friday games (yes, all of them), you’ll be treated to fireworks. But you’re welcome any time at the old ballgame.
Pro tip: Fans planning to buy two drinks or more at a Saturday game should take note of the all-you-can-drink ticket, which also includes a burger or hot dog and a snack.
Nathan’s is a no-brainer, but did you know the iconic hot-dog stand also serves … frogs’ legs? It’s true! The breaded and fried “drumsticks,” served with lemon wedges and tartar sauce, have been on the menu since the late 1950s, about a decade after the Coney Island stand added a clam bar, which is also worth your time. If you close your eyes and take a bite, the plump legs taste a lot like chicken wings, and there’s no quicker way to connect to the Coney Island of years past. Well, except for maybe at …
Totonno’s is one of New York’s canonical pizza joints, and we would be remiss not to include a mention of it when discussing where to eat in Coney Island. Nuff said.
Rita’s is a Pennsylvania thing, an Italian ice chain founded by a Philly firefighter in 1984, with a peculiar but delightful dessert. Its “gelati” is a cup of frozen custard with a layer of slushy Italian ice sandwiched between two swirls. It sounds like a boardwalk gimmick until you take a bite, and another, and then realize it may be the most refreshing frozen treat you’ve tried in ages. This is summer — if you don’t try it now, then when?
See the restaurants on our Google Map.
Where to drink
Kitchen 21 sits in an iconic 1920s restaurant space once occupied by the famous Childs, and it’s an architectural marvel of majestic archways and filigreed terra cotta detailing under a soaring ceiling. Pony up to the bar, which has a decent craft beer selection, and drink in a space that recalls a beachy Grand Central Oyster Bar. Ideal for large groups.
Coney Island Brewery, speaking of craft beer, is right around the corner, and while there’s a certain amount of kitsch inside, the outdoor tables and ample draft menu will do the heart good. Here at Summer we’re not too particular about beverage pairings, but the crisp Mermaid Pilsner is just the thing to wash down those frogs’ legs, and it’s a far better value than any of the drink options available inside the ballpark.
See the bars on our Google Map.
What to check out nearby
The Coney Island Museum is the appetizer to the day’s smorgasbord of amusements. Each shabby stair to the second-floor space is a step back in time, toward a collection of fun-house mirrors, painted signs and wooden midway prizes and ticket rolls in glass cases. A visit costs $5 or less and takes about half an hour — a quick spin to set the carnival mood.
The Coney Island Beach and Boardwalk make nice bookends to a baseball game. Take a dip in the ocean while the sun’s out, or at least put your feet in. And after nightfall, check out the neon-lit night scene on the boardwalk, where crowds are dancing, young couples are flirting and children are out past their bedtimes. Once you’ve become saturated with party, wind down with a stroll toward Brighton Beach; you can take the train from the next stop.
Lola Star Boardwalk Boutique, which you might notice bears a familiar name, will supply you with any last-minute beach gear you might need. Grab a cool shirt or cover-up designed by Lola herself, or pick up a hat, flip-flops or sunglasses.
See these nearby spots on our Google Map.
3 Quick Things
Something free or cheap
Visit MoMA PS1 after hours on one of its Uniqlo Free Friday Nights. Admission to the Long Island City museum is free from 4 to 8 p.m., and there’s plenty to explore, inside and out. This year’s courtyard installation, Pedro & Juana’s “Hórama Rama,” features a waterfall and working hammocks, ideal for kicking back with libations in hand. Inside, Simone Fattal’s sculptures are on view, as are Gina Beavers’s Instagram-inspired paintings in her exhibition, “The Life I Deserve.”
Something for the weeknight
Tour the world from a public park. Every Wednesday is an international party at Socrates Sculpture Park, thanks to its free Outdoor Cinema series. With help from Film Forum and Rooftop Films, the park screens a different foreign film each week, usually preceded by live music and dance, and accompanied by food from the film’s country of origin. A new reason to look forward to Hump Day!
Something from a reader
Watch a Greek tragedy outdoors. The Classical Theater of Harlem will be performing Euripides’s “The Bacchae” in Marcus Garvey Park, starting July 6 and running Tuesday through Sunday each week until July 28. “If you are looking for great theater that is free, doesn’t require camping out for tickets and reflects the community around it, this is the choice for you,” writes Sean S., a Summer reader from the East Village. To make a night of it, Sean recommends grabbing dinner at BLVD Bistro and ice cream at Sugar Hill Creamery or Harlem Shake.
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Happening This Week (and Beyond)
Wednesday: Take a tour of Seneca Village, an area of Central Park where African-American property owners resided in the 1800s.
Thursday: Watch fireworks! Here’s our viewing guide, for reference.
Saturday: Swing along to the George Gee Swing Orchestra at the Kingsborough Lighthouse Bandshell in Manhattan Beach. Right on the water!
Saturday: Morning yoga in the Rockaways? Yes, please.
Saturday: Dance the night away at Wonderville, a new bar and arcade in Brooklyn that’s having a Disco Dance Night from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.