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Find the perfect holiday gift for the Coney aficionado on your list with ATZ’s 12 Days of Coney Island Christmas Gift Guide. Like the People’s Playground itself, some of the selections are seasonal pleasures, while others can be enjoyed year round. All can be purchased online.

Polar Bear Plunge

I Did It! New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge, Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

The 111-year-old Coney Island Polar Bear Club has hats, T-shirts, hoodies and blankets ($15-$40) sporting their bear-y adorable logo for sale online. The blanket will come in handy if you plan to join the annual January 1st Polar Bear Dip. Did you know this hugely popular event is also a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families can enjoy a summer vacation?

You and your friends can register online now and pledge a donation to this year’s plunge or help participants like “Cold Is The New Hot!!!” and Lutheran Medical Center’s “Team Spartacus” meet their fundraising goals here. Seven per cent of the $50,000 goal has been raised as of December 9th. Any plunger raising $100 or more will receive a long sleeve Freezin’ for a Reason shirt. Participants over 21 also will receive a limited edition “The Plunge” pint glass, compliments of Coney Island Brewing Company, and an invitation to an after party with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club at Peggy O’Neill’s on Surf Avenue.

Frozen custard

Frozen custard from Rita’s Italian Ice

Rita’s of Coney Island is closed till spring but sells gift cards ($5-$100) online year-round. When store owner Ezra Shalam opened the Rita’s franchise this year on Surf Avenue, he brought genuine frozen custard back home to the place of its origin. The dessert made its debut in 1919 when the Kohr brothers opened a stand on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The nickel treat was a sensation, selling 18,460 cones on the first weekend! Rita’s menu also offers Italian ice, layered gelati, sundaes with a choice of 20 toppings, sugar-free treats, and items that blend Italian ice with frozen custard.

Coney Island Snow Globe

Coney Island Snow Globe, Lola Star Boutique

Lola Star’s souvenir boutique, which started out on the Coney Island Boardwalk in 2000, has a satellite location on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg as well as an online store stocked with her unique designs. This Coney Island Snow Globe features a mermaid amid miniature versions of the amusement area’s landmark rides ($8). For the same price you can also get a Coney lovebird-themed mousepad. Other stocking stuffers include shot glasses ($6) and an array of Lola Star T-shirts for kids of all ages and adults. Disappointed the games are closed and you can’t spend money to win a plush toy? Order a Hello Kitty Coney Cupcake or Polka Dotted Octopus ($7-$10).

Brooklyn Cyclones

The Brooklyn Cyclones’ Foam Hand

Since Brooklyn Cyclones’ tickets for the 2015 season won’t go on sale till next year, you could write an I.O.U. and drop it in the Christmas stocking. Or buy the fans something they can get their hands on now: A Foam Hand in Christmas-y red or blue with a #1 emblazoned on the index finger and the Cyclones’ roller coaster logo on each side ($7.99). A plush snow bear ornament sporting a Cyclones scarf and a red hat ($11.99) and Cyclones apparel are also available at their online store along with merch for the Brooklyn Bolts, the team that brought pro football back to Brooklyn for the first time since the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.

Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride

Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride

“A small-time ride operator and his beloved carnival contraption become casualties in the battle over the future of Coney Island” is the capsule description of Amy Nicholson’s documentary Zipper, which is available on DVD for just $10 via the film’s online store.. Read ATZ’s review of the film here and see the trailer here. The Deluxe Edition DVD ($20) has Spanish subtitles plus a few extras: A 15-minute movie of the film crew’s trip to Honduras to find the Zipper, where it was sold after being evicted from Coney Island, and a short funny “adult” story by Zipper crew members Joey and Don. Through January 1st, the store is offering a free Zipper tote with a two item purchase.

Ruby's shirt

Red Ruby’s Bar & Grill Tee

In 1975, Ruby Jacobs bought the Hebrew National Deli and Bar on the boardwalk, which had opened in 1934, and turned it into Ruby’s Bar and Restaurant. This summer, his daughter and son-in-law and their kids, who run the place, marked the beloved hang-out’s 80th anniversary. These red Ruby’s T-shirts ($20) with “Celebrating 80 Years” on the back are among the Ruby’s souvenirs in the bar’s online store. “As is our tradition, we WILL be open for the Polar Bear Club’s annual plunge on New Year’s Day,” says a post on their Facebook page.”Ruby’s is looking forward to seeing you again in 2015!”

Steeplechase horse

Steeplechase horse at the Coney Island History Project

An original Steeplechase horse from one of Coney’s first thrill rides is among the rare artifacts on view at the Coney Island History Project. The history organization offers 1-1/2 hour walking tours ($20 per person) year-round that include a private visit to their exhibit center during the off-season. Advance tickets for 2015 may be purchased online. Walking tours are based on History Project director Charles Denson’s classic book Coney Island: Lost and Found ($29.95), which along with other publications is available on the History Project’s website.

Paul's Daughter

Paul’s Daughter Tee from Brooklyn Brewery

While Papa Burger, an A & W Root Beer figure from the 1960s, still anchors the Luna Park side of Paul’s Daughter’s rooftop, Mama Burger was damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The eight-foot-tall fiberglass figure got knocked over — at first she was thought to be missing– and her hamburger and Brooklyn Brewery mug blew away. The Brewery has come up with a T-shirt to pay tribute to Mama Burger ($25) and raise funds toward her restoration. “They have a real love for Mama Burger,” says Paul’s Daughter Tina Georgoulakos, who recalls how one day her father took a Brooklyn Brewery sign and stuck it on the figure’s beer mug. “I have to find people who can restore her.”

Beer Book

28 Beers at 28 Bars for $28

Brokelyn.com’s The South Brooklyn and The Rockaways Beer Book ($28) has vouchers for 28 beers at 28 bars including Coney Island’s Freak Bar, Peggy O’Neill’s and Ruby’s Bar & Grill. So that’s $1.00 a beer! The other 25 vouchers are an enticement to bar hop to Bay Ridge, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay, Sunset Park, and Rockaway.

The Tickler, A Wild Mouse style coaster, at Luna Park. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s amusement parks open for the 2015 season on Palm Sunday, March 29th. Though Luna Park is currently closed for a winter’s nap, the park is offering a December discount on pre-ordered wristbands. Customers who buy one wristband for $32 get a second one free. The deal offers unlimited access to 22 rides at Luna Park for a 4 hour period. Extreme thrill rides, such as the Cyclone and Thunderbolt, and the B&B Carousell are not included on the wristband. Check website for details.

Sea Otter NY Aquarium

Sea Otter at NY Aquarium. Photo © Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

While recovering from Sandy and building the new “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibit, scheduled to open in spring 2016, the New York Aquarium remains open 365 days a year. Gift memberships help the Wildlife Conservation Society save wildlife and wild places worldwide and start at $75. Benefits include free admission to the Aquarium as well as the Bronx Zoo and three other zoos in the City. One of the perks of premium membership ($119-$189) is free parking in the Aquarium’s lot, which is a very desirable perk for frequent visitors to Coney Island.

Mermaid Parade

The first bribe of the Mermaid Parade? The Chief Justice pouring rum. Photo © Tricia Vita

It’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, but is anyone else dreaming of summer? It’s not too early to buy a judgeship for the annual Mermaid Parade, which is Saturday, June 20, 2015. Parade organizer and arts org Coney Island USA’s $150 Big Spender membership entitles the giftee to be an official Judge of the Mermaid Parade with VIP seating on the reviewing stand and a Mermaid Parade Judge T-shirt. Oh, and partake in the bribes offered to the judges by the paraders: beer, vodka, more beer, chocolate cake, beer, lubricants, play money, glow in the dark octopus toy, more beer, more vodka, lemonade, rum balls, and finally more beer. It’s no wonder the judgeships are “sold out” well before the parade. Memberships support arts programming at CIUSA and start at $35 with benefits including free admission to the freak show.

Happy Holidays to All!

Related posts on ATZ…

December 18, 2013: Photo Album: Christmas Peddlers in Old New York

December 13, 2013: Photo Album: Gingerbread Coney Island in City Harvest Extravaganza

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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If you’re one of those skeptics who thinks a sword swallower’s sword folds up into the handle or employs some kind of special effect, February 25th’s big swallow should set you straight.

Today, in celebration of the 6th annual World Sword Swallowers Day, more than 30 performers are expected to “drop swords” at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditoriums in New York, London, San Francisco, Hollywood, and Orlando, among other places. Los Angeles sword swallower Brett Loudermilk made these videos three years ago on International Sword Swallowers Day in New York City. One of 10 featured sword swallowers at Ripley’s in Times Square in 2009, this year Loudermilk will be at Ripley’s Hollywood.

In New York, today’s free show at Ripley’s begins at 1:30 pm and ends with the big swallow at 2:25 pm. Keith Nelson of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the Lady Aye will be among the Kings and Queens of Swords.

“A lot of it is just showmanship. You really have to get the audience with you feeling that it’s real, and then kind of hold them at that edge,” Nelson tells ATZ. In an attempt to convince skeptics in the audience that, as he says, “what I’m shoving down my throat is real,” the Bindlestiff’s charmingly subversive Mr. Pennygaff has also swallowed oversize scissors, sabers, corkscrews, door springs, coat hangers and, in a tribute to good ol’ vaudeville, a rod upon which he has set a spinning plate!

The February 25th celebration was started by the Sword Swallowers Association International to promote this ancient art, honor veteran performers, and raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made in the fields of medicine and science, according to SSAI founder and multiple Guinness World Record holder Dan Meyer.

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Le Carrousel at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Horses and Menagerie Animals Grace the Carousel at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

As we left Bryant Park Cafe the other night, the lights of Le Carrousel beckoned us. By the time we arrived, Gabriel the carousel operator was getting ready to close for the night. The ride was silent and motionless, though its lights were still blazing. The horses and menagerie animals looked like part of a magical stage set. But the players had gone home. Eight o’clock is closing time in October. We hurriedly took a few photos of the hand-painted ticket booth against the backdrop of illuminated skyscrapers. We promised ourselves that we’d come back to take more photos of the carousel when the Ice Skating Pond and the Shops at Bryant Park open in November. Oh, and we want to go for a spin on the rabbit, which we like to imagine is a coney from Coney Island! There’s plenty of time because Le Carrousel has extended hours and activities through the holidays according to the Bryant Park blog:

Tricks and Treats at Le Carrousel in Bryant Park
Saturday, October 31
2:00pm – 3:00pm
Le Carrousel, 40th St. side of the park
Halloween party will be cancelled in case of rain.

Daily Hours at Le Carrousel
October, 11:00am – 8:00pm
November 1 – January 24, 2010, 11:00am – 9:00pm

Special Holiday Hours at Le Carrousel
Thanksgiving, 8:00am – 10:00pm
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, 10:00pm – 6:00pm
December 26 – December 30, 10:00am – 10:00pm
New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day, 10:00am – 6:00pm

In addition to the rabbit, the French inspired carousel has 10 horses, a frog, a cat and a deer. It was designed and built for Bryant Park by Marvin Sylvor (1937-2008) of Brooklyn’s Fabricon Carousel Company. A commemorative plaque on the ticket booth notes that Le Carrousel was Sylvor’s favorite of the more than 60 carousels he designed and constructed worldwide. As the carousel maker once told the New York Times, he loved merry-go-rounds because “they touch some spiritual part of your soul somewhere. They make you smile.”

Bryant Park Carousel Ticket Booth at Closing Time. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Bryant Park Carousel Ticket Booth at Closing Time--8 pm in October, 9 pm from Nov through January 24. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Bryant Park is behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Le Carrousel is on the 40th Street side. $2 per ride. 212-768-4212.

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