May 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Luna Park: Coney Island’s Timeless Theme Park

Zack at the front of the park.

Nestled along the vibrant shores of New York, Coney Island, boasting the iconic Luna Park as its centerpiece, has captivated visitors since the mid-1900s. This alluring locale enchants with its seaside resorts, pristine beaches, captivating aquarium and extraordinary theme parks. Luna Park graces the boardwalk, exuberantly welcoming thousands of eager guests each day.

While Luna Park opened in May 2010, it was named after the original Luna Park in Coney Island, which opened in 1903, featuring “A Trip to the Moon,” the first electrically powered mechanical dark ride and one of the first-ever space-themed rides. Throughout the early 1900s, the park attracted roughly 5 million people annually due to its unusual layout, many attractions and shows, and beautiful electrically illuminated towers (Thomas Edison had invented the lightbulb roughly only 20 years earlier.) In 1927, the famous Cyclone roller coaster was added to the park, which further cemented its status as one of the most popular amusement parks in the world. (See The Jewish Link issue #447, September 1, 2022, for a review of the Mets minor league team named after the esteemed coaster, https://bit.ly/3PAJp4y). Unfortunately, a fire destroyed much of the original park in February 1944.

Nearly 70 years after its closing, the Luna Park name was restored at a new theme park that is now home to over 35 attractions and six thrilling roller coasters. Riders at Luna Park have two options for passes: a four-hour “Extraordinary Wristband” available for purchase online, which includes unlimited rides and one-time use of the Sling Shot; or in-person tickets, with each ride requiring a certain number of tickets. This trip marks my third visit to Luna Park. The first two times (around seven and eight years ago), I opted to purchase tickets to ride only the Cyclone and Thunderbolt coasters. Both options are good choices, depending on how much time and money you want to spend at the park. This time, however, my wife Ahuva and I got Extraordinary Wristbands to try to conquer as many rides as possible in our allotted time.

Getting Ready for the Slingshot.

We knew we had reached Luna Park when we spotted its distinctive and whimsical entrance gate. This gate was adorned with multiple red and blue wheels, all connected by golden arches, and the word “Luna” disguised inside. It looked like the entrance to a circus, and fittingly, many of the attractions’ names were circus- or carnival-related. The park itself was bustling with people going from ride to ride, and all around us we heard the screams of riders and the sounds of machinery churning the attractions. Ahuva and I first went to the ticket booth by the front gate to pick up our wristbands, grabbed a park map, and then went to the nearby attraction called The Tickler. Interestingly, The Tickler has the face of a creepy, grinning boy, bearing the exact same logo as Coney Waffles, which I’ll go into later.

At first glance, The Tickler looked like an average mouse trap, which we had experienced many times before. It started out simply enough, with a chain lift taking us to the top. Once at the summit, we were offered great views of the whole park, but I began to worry as the drops on either side of us suddenly looked more ominous than I had anticipated. After a sharp turn that flung us to the side of the seat, the cart suddenly turned around completely backward! The rest of the ride was a dizzying experience of violent twists, fast drops and shaking, all while facing backward, and by the time it was finished, we were both a lot greener. To be honest, most rides fail to make me squeamish at all, so I was very impressed by how intense it was.

Taking it a lot cooler, we next did a swings ride called Lynn’s Trapeze, where we spun around gently in a chair while elevated. It’s possible that in comparison to the unruly Tickler ride, this was one of the most relaxing swings rides I have ever been on, and it offered us pleasant views of both the park and the ocean, (After the swings, Ahuva wanted to take it easy and decided to just wait in line with me without going on the rides. So I did all of the rides solo while Ahuva enjoyed being outside and walking around.)

Steeplechase.

Next, I rode on the neighboring ride Atlantic Aviator, where I got to experience what it was like to be a pilot. That is if the only thing pilots do is just flip the plane upside down over and over again. Atlantic Aviator looked like the swing ride with a spinning central hub spinning riders, except that each cart looked like an airplane that flipped upside down while being spun around. I was a little nervous that this ride would be as intense, if not more nauseating than The Tickler, but it was actually a lot more tame and a pretty smooth ride.

It wouldn’t be a proper summer day without ice cream and luckily, Coney Island is home to one of Ahuva and my favorite parlors—Coney Waffles. (See Jewish Link issue #494, August 10, 2023, for our review of Coney Waffles’ sister location in Long Branch, https://bit.ly/3tgGqXt). I ordered a large cotton candy, banana, and rum raisin milkshake, while Ahuva ordered a cookie dough, chocolate peanut butter, and pirates’ treasure milkshake. After enjoying the delicious shakes, we walked to the other side of Luna Park into a section dubbed The Scream Zone, where even crazier rides await. Interestingly, there is a miniature amusement park called Deno’s Wonder Wheel, which has its own rides and carnival games right in the middle of Luna Park, but is not part of Luna Park and requires separate admission. Its rides and games looked pretty entertaining, especially the giant Ferris Wheel overlooking the beach. Also along the way, we passed by a mini golf course called Brooklyn Miniature Golf with its own go-karting track. None of these attractions are included with the Luna Park pass.

Upon entering The Scream Zone, I came across a type of ride I have always wanted to do: The Slingshot. The first time I saw such a ride was on the boardwalk in Eilat during the summer of 2014 when I went on the defunct summer Israel program Na’aleh. The Slingshot is basically a round ball in which two riders sit inside and are launched 150 feet in the air at speeds up to 90 mph. This ride had, by far, the longest line and cost the most tickets (but was included in the Extraordinary Wristband package). After a few minutes of waiting, luckily another visitor was riding solo, so since I was the closest single rider, I got to skip some of the lines to join him.

Zack and Ahuva with their milkshakes.

As I sat down in The Slingshot’s chair, I immediately was taken aback by how comfortable the seat was. It felt like sitting on a sofa. Once I was harnessed in, the ball tilted back, leaving me to just stare upwards at the sky for a few moments. Suddenly, the ball launched and it felt like I was
being shot out of a cannon! At the top, I got breathtaking beach and boardwalk views. The ball didn’t just come down, it then continuously flipped upside down as it bounced around up and down. My view of the world was completely topsy-turvy as the blue sky and blue ocean seemed intertwined, and it became difficult to know which way was up and which way was down. Soon, the ride came to a finish and the ball was lowered back into place at the start. This was by far my favorite ride of the day, and I highly recommend that if you’re a thrill seeker, give it a try. A camera inside the ball recording the riders’ reactions is available for purchase afterward.

We then walked across the boardwalk to the nearby famous coaster, The Thunderbolt, named after the famed wooden coaster that operated on Coney Island between 1925 until 1982. Nowadays, it is a 115-foot steel coaster that begins with a 90-degree chain lift followed by an insanely steep first drop, four inversions, and over 2,200 feet of track. The ride takes around a minute, reaching top speeds of 56 mph. I sat in the front row, which I do not recommend, since every time the coaster went up a hill, I would fly out of my seat a little causing my thighs to press hard against the safety bar, causing a sharp pain. This was by far the most intense and fastest ride, making it the most awesome ride of the day for me (excluding my seat placement).

After The Thunderbolt, we headed over to the indoor carousel along the boardwalk. There were some comfortable benches to sit on, and it was a great way to get a break from the sun’s heat. Also nearby was the ropes course, Sky Chaser. This attraction is not included with the Extraordinary Wristband and costs an extra $22. It looked like a really cool attraction, offering zip lines, swings and crawling opportunities, all while being 50 feet above the ground (completely harnessed) and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Zack and friends on the cyclone.

In another attempt to stay cool from the heat, I then took a dive on Leti’s Treasure, a boat ride with two huge drops, including a 40-foot drop at 30 mph. Next, I rode Soarin’ Eagle, a unique coaster that offers the sensation of flying, similar to Superman at Six Flags. First, I stepped up onto a few stairs and grabbed the handles in front of me. Suddenly, a cage clasped onto my back and the cart tilted completely back, putting me in a lying-flat position. The ride then began with a twisty spiral upwards until it reached the summit. From there, the coaster dipped, flipped and rolled around, and while at times I felt like I was going to fly out, the cage harness kept me in place. This ride was one of the most intense coasters I’ve been on, and it reminded me of Super Flight at Rye Playland, which I had ridden years ago.

Right next to Soarin’ Eagle, I rode the equestrian coaster Steeplechase. This ride is most similar to the coaster Tron that recently opened in the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. Each of the carts looks like horses and the seats lean forward, so it feels like you’re actually leaning forward on a racehorse. To begin the ride, a traffic light went from red to green, and then a horn blared, signaling the race to begin. The coaster was very smooth and had some great drops and sideways parts, and the unique seating arrangement tremendously enhanced the ride. I sat in the very last row, but next time I want to sit up front since that is by far the best row, as it closely simulates the sensation of flying. Leaning forward, you feel the exhilarating rush of wind against your face.

For my final ride of the day, I rode the world-famous Cyclone coaster (which remained unscathed from the 1944 fire). This very old wooden coaster opened nearly 100 years ago in 1927 and has over 800 meters of track, reaching speeds of 60 mph. After a long day of walking around, I felt a moment of ecstasy when I sat down in the Cyclone’s seats, which are by far the comfiest ride seats I’ve ever sat in. They felt like sitting on a comfy couch. The first drop was an 85-foot speedy descent of madness, followed by a series of more drops and turns. The ride was also smooth, and despite its age, it’s held up really well until today. The ride’s finale was traveling through a tunnel, a unique experience!

Zack by Thunderbolt.

When visiting Luna Park, don’t expect to do everything your first time—there are just too many rides! While I covered in detail all of the rides and coasters on which I traveled, there were still more than 25 rides that I did not get to try but hope to in the future.

Luna Park is open every day of Chol Hamoed and will be located near both the “Eitan Katz Live in New York With Our Hearts in Jerusalem” concert taking place Monday night, October 2, at 8 p.m. and “The Chol Hamoed Spectacular: The Yeshiva Boys Choir” going on from 2-9 p.m., also on Monday. Additionally, the New York Aquarium, open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., is also right near the park. With so much to do in one small area, Coney Island really is the place to be this chag!

Admission: Wristbands are $62 for people 48 inches and above and $38 for people 48 inches and below. Four-hour family fun wristbands (providing access to Zone A only) are $40 for people 48 inches and above and $35 for people 48 inches and below. Also can pay by the ride.

Hours: Weekdays from noon-8 p.m. Sunday opens early at 10 a.m. and closes at midnight.

Address: 1000 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224

Website: https://lunaparknyc.com

Unique Feature: Impressive theme park along the Coney Island shore.

Zachary Greenberg is a consultant at Semler Brossy and the TABC track coach. If you have any recommendations of fun places for him to cover, email [email protected].

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