Visiting Brighton Beach, New York, in the Off-Season (+ Coney Island)

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If you’re looking for a great day trip from the hustle and bustle of New York City, why not head to one of its most famous beach areas? On the coast in Brooklyn are two areas worth seeing, particularly in the off-season: Coney Island and Brighton Beach, New York.

They are both popular summertime destinations for NYC locals to get some beach time and amusement out of the big city. But in the off-season, you can get a very different view here.

Why are Coney Island and Brighton Beach, New York, worth visiting? Continue reading to find out!

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Coney Island & Brighton Beach, New York

During the summer, this area in Brooklyn is quite crowded. It’s a hotspot, especially for Manhattan locals.

If you want to get a strip of beach, you need to to stake a spot early. The beach is littered with beach towels, thick-striped beach chairs, and umbrellas.

Go in the off-season, and you have the beach almost to yourself. You can walk down the boardwalk easily, passing only a handful of people. Walk to the water and take in the views.

It’s a soothing respite from the city to check out this area and see another side of the city while enjoying the beaches. And it’s far enough away to give the air of a vacation without having to travel far.

And the food! Check out this Coney Island and Brighton Beach food tour. Yum! Learn the area’s history from a local while checking out the amazing cuisine.

Coney Island

Coney Island is a top day trip destination from New York City. It’s around an hour by train away, and you can enjoy the vibrant amusement park with beach views.

During the summertime, when the amusement park is open, from May to September, thousands visit daily. Eat your way through the area with its infamous fair food and enjoy the rides. If you decide to go during peak season, check out this great deal on unlimited rides!

In the fall, after the park closes, you can still grab a bite to eat at some of the small restaurants on the outskirts of the park. The original Nathan’s Hot Dogs is open all year round. Though it’s now a global franchise, you can get a feel for its roots in Coney Island.

Check out a Coney Island Cyclone game, or visit the only aquarium in the New York City area. Or just walk the beach and enjoy the largely uncrowded boardwalk.

If you’d like to take a tour of Coney Island, check this out!

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Coney Island History

In the mid-19th century, Coney Island became a seaside resort popular with New Yorkers seeking escape from the city’s heat in the summertime.

Then, in the late 19th century, amusement parks were built in the area. However, the area peaked in the first half of the 20th century and then declined after World War II.

Decades of neglect left the area in shambles, and many structures were torn down. Redevelopment efforts began in the late 20th century. However, they didn’t take hold until MCU Park opened in 2001. Amusement rides followed.

It’s now an ethnically diverse, revitalized area, drawing people to take in the history of this once-thriving spot. It’s still a fun place to visit while imagining what it once was, and you can see glimpses everywhere.

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Coney Island Rides

You’ll find a lot of popular rides at Coney Island, and three have historic landmark status. Two are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and two are also NYC-designated landmarks.

  • The Coney Island Cyclone is one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the US that is still operating. It was opened in 1927! It features an 85-foot, 58-degree drop. It’s currently the only wooden roller coaster in New York City.
  • The Wonder Wheel is a steel Ferris wheel with stationary and rocking cars that slide along a track. It was opened in 1920, and it holds 144 riders. The Ferris wheel is 150 feet tall.
  • The B&B Carousel is the last traditional carousel in Coney Island. It was built between 1906 and 1909.

How would you feel about riding on these truly historic rides? Just consider—you can’t do it anywhere else in the world!

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Coney Island Boardwalk

It’s a lovely walk from Coney Island to Brighton Beach on the boardwalk. It runs 2.7 miles from 15th Street in Brighton Beach to West 37th Street in Coney Island.

The boardwalk was designed by an engineer named Philip P. Farley. He also planned the public beach in the area. The boardwalk was built from 1922 to 1941 in three different phases.

It’s probably around a mile or a little more between Brighton Beach and Coney Island. Of course, it’s hard to tell when you’re walking it as you’ll stop to check out the views along the way.

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Brighton Beach, New York

Brighton Beach isn’t just a beach spot close to the Coney Island amusement park—it’s worth checking out. It’s a one-of-a-kind neighborhood with a charming stretch of boardwalk.

This neighborhood has maintained its unique culture and charm. In the 1970s, the area became known as “Little Odesa” when thousands of Russian-speaking Soviet Jews emigrated to the area. Many were from Ukraine, where Odesa is located.

This summer destination for New York City residents has maintained this historic feel. There are many restaurants from the former Soviet Bloc, like Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, and more.

Brighton Beach is an ethnic working-class neighborhood. Don’t expect to be warmly greeted. The locals will look at you in typical New York style. Coming here is like stepping back into another time, and it’s really interesting.

There are some fun markets and shops, ranging from small neighborhood places to large, block-long establishments.

You get a feeling that life here hasn’t changed much in fifty years. As you walk from the soothing boardwalk to the main street in the area, you’ll see life largely unchanged.

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Brighton Beach Restaurants

There are lots of great ethnic Brighton Beach restaurants to choose from. The most popular places are right on Brighton Beach Ave., the main road through this area.

  • Varenichnaya—Known for its Russian dumplings, called vareniki. These are typically small potato dumplings, like a smaller pierogi, with fried onion bits on top. Or, try pelmeni, Siberian meat-filled dumplings.
  • Kashkar Cafe—Uyghur food, and said to be one of the best in this area. They have different fried meat-filled pastries, pickled vegetables, noodle dishes, and more.
  • Skovorodka—Incredible Ukrainian fare and the place we tried. We got sour cherry vareniki and a melted cheese appetizer that makes my mouth water thinking about it.
  • Little Georgia or Georgia House—Little Georgia was the restaurant that got away. I hoped to save room to try something here, but we were too full! I wanted to try the khinkali here, Georgian soup dumplings. And the khachapuri, bread with egg. We got some khinkali from one of the markets, and it would be well worth going back!

Don’t skip the markets here! We stopped in two on Brighton Beach Ave. and brought home lots of goodies to try. I, of course, had to get some of my half-sour pickles, as I can’t seem to find them in Arizona!

We also got the khinkali Georgian soup dumplings (yum!) and some sour cherry vareniki (dumplings). There are incredible things in these markets, and they are a true treasure trove to be explored!

I forgot to note their names, but one may have been the Brighton Express Food Market. It was the smaller of the two but packed with incredible stuff.

Then we stopped at a really large one that was packed! It may have been the Tashkent Supermarket Halal Foods. I saw in reviews it commented how packed it was, but the lines moved fast, and that was our experience as well. They have a ton of freshly baked bread, baked goods, and a massive salad cart.

How to Get to Coney Island & Brighton Beach, New York

The easiest way to get to Coney Island and Brighton Beach from Manhattan is to take the subway. Take the Q train from central New York City which stops at both Coney Island and Brighton Beach, New York.

During the week, the B express train also stops in both of these areas.

You can drive, but parking can be challenging. It’s easier in the off-season, but can be costly. There are buses as well, but they typically take longer.

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Elevated Train to Brighton Beach

When to Visit Coney Island & Brighton Beach, New York

If you want to visit when Coney Island’s amusement park is open, you’ll need to visit from May to September. It can get very crowded, so consider going during the week if possible.

The off-season starts in September and was well underway when I visited in late September. The weather is still nice then and perfect for walking around.

Wintertime can get quite cold in this area, so if you want to aim for the off-season with good walking weather, try April and early May or late September and October.

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Visit Coney Island and Brighton Beach, New York, in the Off-Season for the Best Time!

Sometimes, it’s more fun to visit places in the off-season, and I think this area is one of those places. You can really see the local charm when they aren’t packed with tourists and locals trying to escape the summer heat in the city.

Just a block or two from the ocean is another world of sorts, untouched by time. You can almost see what life was like decades ago. It’s charming, and it’s quite tasty!

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