Beyonce Knowles on the Coney Island Cyclone in 2013. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
In the spring (and summer), a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of funnel cakes and roller coasters…
For New Yorkers, the long-awaited arrival of warmer weather means it’s about time for a journey to the nether regions of the subway map — and Coney Island’s premier amusement park, Luna Park.
For coaster connoisseurs especially, Luna Park is heaven, from the unpredictable pinball-machine movements of the Tickler to the face-melting 90° drop of the Thunderbolt. And, of course, the nostalgic clackety-clack of the Cyclone, still crazy after all these years (96 of them!).
Alessandro Zamperla, President/CEO of Central Amusement International Inc, the group behind Luna Park, spoke to Forbes about why Coney Island is a must-visit in 2023.
Alessandro, what does Coney Island mean to you personally?
Coney Island has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I have fond memories of visiting as a child and learning from my family, who have five generations rooted in the amusement industry. Now, as an adult, I have the honor and privilege of playing a part in the revitalization of Coney Island and revival of the historic Luna Park for locals and visitors from all over the world. Luna Park in Coney Island’s iconography is embedded in the history of America’s pop culture and New York City, and I am proud to be a part of its legacy and preservation.
What Luna Park attraction would you say that every Coney Island visitor needs to experience?
There are so many incredible attractions at Luna Park, but the most iconic of them all is the Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster, which has been a staple in Brooklyn for 96 years this year. We’re so proud that the City of New York gave us the honor of restoring this legendary attraction to the excellent condition it is in today. The Cyclone roller coaster is a rite of passage for New Yorkers and a must ride for coaster aficionados worldwide.
Tony’s Express and Leti’s Treasure, while admittedly very new, are also must rides that pay homage to two popular historic attractions: the Switchback Railway, the very first rollercoaster built in Coney Island, and Shoot the Chutes, an incredibly popular flume ride that once operated at Coney Island.
Favorite piece of Coney Island trivia?
It was the birthplace of the amusement park and the most famous location in America at one point. Luna Park opened in 1903 and was so innovative and astounding that it inspired the opening of amusement parks all over the world. In fact, the words “luna park” have become synonym of amusement park in many countries. This year we are proud to celebrate 120 years since the opening of the revolutionary Luna Park. Another fun fact is that Coney Island was a location owned and operated by mainly ride manufacturing families, and the historic Amusement District was once much more vast than it is today. We’re proud to continue the Amusement legacy and to have completed the largest Coney Island Amusement District project since the 1900s.
Top food and drinks recommendation for Coney Island visitors?
Luna Park in Coney Island has a variety of delicious and nostalgic food options to choose from. If you’re looking for something sweet, I would recommend trying Coney’s Cones handmade gelato – an authentic Italian treat right here in the heart of Coney Island. At Luna Park, we also offer fan-favorite and classic carnival and amusement-themed treats including popcorn, cotton candy and funnel cakes at our Half Moon food court. For those looking for nostalgic boardwalk flavors and classic meals, Salt & Sizzle is the perfect spot, along with our newly conceptualized Flywheel Bar & Grill, to grab a bite that will satisfy all your Coney Island cravings.