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Posts Tagged ‘Wonder Wheel’

Coney Island’s Opening Day ceremonies have been rescheduled for Saturday, March 26th, due to snow forecast for Palm Sunday. The parks will also be open March 25th, Good Friday, and March 27th, Easter Sunday.

In prep for Coney Island’s opening day on March 20th, the Wonder Wheel’s 24 cars were put back on the landmark ride on Friday. As we’ve noted in past years, the annual ritual is regarded as the first sign of spring in Coney Island. Being there to see the cars go up, the swinging blue and red ones first and then the stationary white, is like seeing crocuses bloom before your eyes.

This year, videographer Jim McDonnell recorded a wonderful up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the Vourderis family and their longtime crew returning the freshly painted and refurbished cars to the Wheel after the ride’s winter rest. At the 46 second mark, look for Wonder dog Ringo, park co-owner Steve Vourderis’s pet, cutely supervising. Ringo enjoys riding the Wheel and is no doubt anticipating his first ride of the season. So are we!

Deno’s Wonder Wheel and the rest of Coney Island’s rides will go for their first spin of the 2016 season on Palm Sunday, which also happens to be the first day of spring this year, and is just eight days away. The 31st annual Blessing of the Rides at Wonder Wheel Park starts at 11:00am. After the ceremony, there will be free rides for 300 children from the local Salt and Sea Mission, and free rides on Deno’s Wonder Wheel for the first 96 people on line in celebration of the 1920 Wheel’s 96th year.

Deno's Wonder Wheel

Wonder Wheel dog Ringo supervising the return of the cars to the Wheel. March 11, 2016. Photo © Jim McDonnell

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Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

The Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge drew 3,000 swimmers and 10,000 spectators, and raised nearly $90K for Camp Sunshine. January 1, 2016. Photo © Norman Blake

Coney Island drew an astounding total of more than 28,000 visitors to its new New Year’s Eve Celebration and long-established New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. The district’s City Councilman Mark Treyger tweeted the official tally that “Over 15,000 people turned out to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Coney Island!” Temps in the 40s and the promise of free rides, sideshow performances and fireworks helped triple attendance for the New Year’s Eve Party at the Parachute Jump, which was started by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and is in its second year. The free, family friendly celebration was sponsored by the Borough President along with Councilman Treyger and the Alliance for Coney Island.

On New Year’s Day, the Parks Department estimated there were 10,000 spectators at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. “We had almost 3,000 swimmers participate in the plunge this year,” Polar Bear Club president Dennis Thomas tells ATZ. “I am sure it is a record. The past few years we have been averaging a little over 2,000 swimmers.” What’s more, the funds raised by the Polar Bears for Camp Sunshine have far exceeded their goal of last year’s total of $70K. Nearly $90K has been received so far, with donations still being accepted here. If the trend continues, next year the Bears could break $100K for the camp, which hosts children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

The novelty of major rides –the Wonder Wheel, B&B Carousell and Thunderbolt roller coaster– being open on New Year’s Eve and offering a free spin was a big draw. When we got here around 8:30pm, the atmosphere was festive but the crowd was still sparse, evoking memories of the first years of the Mermaid Parade, before it grew into the world’s largest art parade. Around 11:15, the vast majority of revelers began to arrive and gather around the dazzlingly lit Parachute Jump, Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, for Coney’s countdown to 2016.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel’s white cars rode approximately 2,000 people for free on New Year’s Eve, with the line snaking towards the boardwalk. On New Year’s Day, just over 500 tickets at $5 per ride were sold, with 50% of the proceeds — $1262.50 — donated to the Polar Bears’ charity Camp Sunshine. Over 400 cups of hot chocolate were handed out to guests. Will winter rides become an annual tradition? That depends: Coney’s outdoor rides operate “weather permitting,” and luckily this year’s weather permitted the first-ever New Year’s spin.

As for the Polar Bear Plunge, Thomas says the event has been growing every year. “Part of the increase in funds may be due to increasing number of plungers, but, again, all donations are voluntary and no one has to pay to participate, and some don’t,” he notes. “Participation by teams from Coney Island Brewery, Peggy O’Neill’s and Reyka Vodka helped with the fundraising. Generally, Coney Island is back on the map as a NYC destination like it hasn’t been in decades. People are not fearful about coming anymore, and the summers have been so popular, maybe some of that is rubbing off on the winter plunge there as well.”

Happy New Year to and from Coney Island! Stay tuned for a photo album of some of the best pix of this year’s plunge.

Thunderbolt Luna Park NYC

Crowds line up to ride Luna Park’s Thunderbolt for free on New Year’s Eve. December 31, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

December 29, 2015: Coney Island to Ring in 2016 with Parties, Free Rides, Light Shows, Fireworks, Polar Bear Plunge

December 11, 2015: Dance with Miss Coney Island on New Year’s Day

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

January 2, 2010: Photo Album: Coney Island Boardwalk, New Year’s Day 2010

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Coney Islan New Year's Eve

Ringing in the New Year in Coney Island with the Parachute Jump’s dazzling display of 8000 LEDs and fireworks shot off from the beach. January 1, 2015. Photo © Jim McDonnell via Coney Island Fun

For the first time in decades, Coney Island will offer a glittering array of parties on New Year’s Eve and for the first time in the winter, weather permitting, a trio of major rides –The Wonder Wheel, B&B Carousell and Thunderbolt roller coaster–will be awhirl. These additions to Coney’s entertainment calendar coincide with the trailblazing New Year’s Eve celebration started last year by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and now in its second year.

On New Year’s Day, the annual Polar Bear Plunge into the not quite as icy as usual Atlantic-the water temp was only 51 on Christmas Day- is likely to draw more participants than ever, and will be accompanied by the traditional parties at Ruby’s Bar and Peggy O’Neill’s and the first spin of 2016 on Deno’s Wonder Wheel and the Eldorado Bumper Cars.

Deno's Wonder Wheel

Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be open on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for the first time in the ride’s 95 year history. Photo © Jim McDonnell

The fun begins this New Year’s Eve at 9:00pm with music and giveaways at Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, the Parachute Jump, located on the boardwalk just west of 16th Street. After performances by Coney Island USA’s Circus Sideshow, you can ring in the New Year watching the Parachute Jump’s dazzling display of 8000 LEDs featuring a digital “ball drop” at midnight and fireworks shot off from the beach. The free, family friendly celebration is sponsored by the Borough President along with Coney Island’s City Councilman Mark Treyger and the Alliance for Coney Island.

Kicking off the countdown to its 100th anniversary in 2020, Deno’s Wonder Wheel will spin for the first-time in its 95-year history on New Year’s, including free rides on New Year’s Eve from 9:00-11:00pm. The antique B&B Carousell, which until about 15 years ago was open year round, and the new Thunderbolt roller coaster will spin on New Year’s Eve for free from 8:00-11:00pm. Abe Stark, an indoor skating rink on the Boardwalk, will offer free ice skating from 7:00-11:00pm. There will be free parking at MCU parking lot.

Thunderbolt Luna Park NYC

Luna Park’s Thunderbolt roller coaster and B&B Carousell will be open on New Year’s eve for free rides from 8-11pm. Photo via Luna Park NYC

Among the Coney Island venues holding ticketed events on New Year’s Eve are Eldorado Auto Skooters, Coney Island USA, Coney Island Brewery and Gargiulo’s.

Eldorado Auto Skooters (1216 Surf Avenue) will host Studio 54 DJ Nicky Siano’s Last New Year’s Eve Disco Extravaganza with singers Rochelle Fleming, Melba Moore and D.C. LaRue performing their hits from the disco era of the ’70s. “We will be dancing on the floor, not riding,” says the invite. The Eldorado is home to a one-of-a-kind sound system built by Paradise Garage and Studio 54’s Richard Long. “Our sound is extremely powerful yet very easy to listen to, it doesn’t hurt the ear,” as Eldorado’s Scott Fitlin told ATZ in an interview before he died in 2010. “Our bass is tremendous, and I play dance music, the sound that has energy and life, and POSITIVITY!” (10:00pm – 6:00am; $75 in advance, $150 at the door, includes drinks and food. The arcade’s Skeeballs, Basketballs, and a couple of video games and cranes will be available to play.)

Nicky Siano

Banner for DJ Nicky Siano’s Last New Year’s Eve Disco Extravaganza at Eldorado. Photo via Nicky Siano

Popular arts organization and Mermaid Parade producer Coney Island USA (1208 Surf Avenue) is having its first-ever “How Cool Is This New Year’s Party.” Entertainment includes “New Year’s Eve in Heaven,” a performance art collaboration featuring Dick Zigun as Father Time vs Eckszooberante as Baby New Year; a rock and roll themed laser show; a hike to the Parachute Jump to see the ball drop; and the first performance of 2016 by the Coney Island Circus Sideshow at 1:00am (Doors open at 8:00 with half-price beer and wine till midnight for all ticket holders, at the Freak Bar. $40 in advance, $50 at the door)

The Coney Island Brewery (1904 Surf Avenue) is throwing a Coney Brew Year’s Party at their new brewery, with unlimited craft beer from eight taps and food catered by Gargiulo’s. The outdoor beer garden will be heated so guests can step outside to see the Parachute Jump’s light show and the fireworks. (9:00pm – 12:00am, brewery open till 2:00am. Tickets are $77.87 via eventbrite.)

Coney Island USA Ray Valenz

Coney Island USA Fire Breather Ray Valenz performing at last year’s New Year’s Eve Celebration in Coney Island. Photo © Norman Blake

Having served classic Neapolitan cuisine since 1907, Gargiulo’s Restaurant (2911 West 15th Street) is a veteran when it comes to New Year’s Eve parties that are elegant and old school. “Champagne all Night” is at the top of the menu, followed by Cocktail Extravaganza, dining and dancing to live music, party hats and noisemakers, and “Gargiulo’s Special Venetian Hour.” (7:30pm – 2:00am, $200 per person, tax, gratuity and valet parking included.)

A number of local bars and eateries will be open for New Year’s Eve with their regular menus and offering extended hours. Tom’s Coney Island, the Boardwalk outpost of the Prospect Park eatery, which has a full bar, will be serving till at least 12:30am. The original Nathan’s Famous on Surf Avenue will be open till 1:00am, as will Wahlburger’s, the celebrity eatery across the street. Surf Avenue restaurants with bars keeping later hours–till at least 1:00am include Peggy O’Neill’s (1904 Surf Avenue), Footprints (1521 Surf Avenue) and Applebee’s (1217 Surf Avenue), which is offering a free champagne toast at midnight. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria (1215 Surf Avenue) is open for a prix fixe dinner of pizza, appetizer, drinks and a glass of champagne for $30 per person. All will be open again for New Year’s Day.

Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge

Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge, January 1, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

if you plan to join the annual January 1st Polar Bear Plunge, it is at 1:00pm sharp, with on-site registration from 10:00am, the same hour when Ruby’s Bar opens for libations on New Year’s Day. Did you know the Bears’ hugely popular swim is also a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families can enjoy a summer vacation? You can save time with online registration and make a suggested $20 pledge for this year’s Plunge or help teams like The Ice Warriors, Never Too Cold for the Bold, and the Empire Strikes Coney meet their fundraising goals. Last year, the club raised over $70,000 for the camp and hopes to exceed that amount this year.

On January 1st, the New York Aquarium is offering free admission to all registered Polar Bear Plungers with a wristband (10:00am-4:30pm). It will cost $5 to ride the Wonder Wheel, which will be open from 11am to 2pm, and is donating 50% of the proceeds to the Polar Bear Club’s fundraiser for Camp Sunshine. The Coney Island History Project will have interviewers at the Wheel recording New Year’s messages for their Oral History Project.

On West 12th Street, “Miss Coney Island,” the legendary dancing doll whose twin mottoes are “25¢ to Fall in Love” and “Don’t Postpone Joy,” will be open on New Year’s Day, along with the animated amusement park “Coney Island Always” (25 cents). Also on New Year’s Day, the Eldorado Auto Skooter will be open for the first ride of 2016 ($7.00 per ride) and the Coney Island Circus Sideshow will be performing from 2:00pm-6:00pm ($10 for adults, $5 for kids).

A look at last year’s Parachute Jump light show and fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Coney Island via a video by dutchmazz…

Related posts on ATZ…

January 5, 2016: Coney Island New Year’s by the Numbers: 28K Visitors, Nearly $90K Raised for Charity

December 25, 2015: Holiday Videos of Parks & Attractions Around the World

December 11, 2015: Dance with Miss Coney Island on New Year’s Day

November 2, 2015: Coney Island Polar Bears Get Shout-Out from Mayor in Winter Tourism Campaign

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Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton

Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Spook-A-Rama Skeleton. September 7, 2015.

Happy Halloween! Thanks to the extended season and the spooky holiday falling on a Saturday, which hasn’t happened in several years, Spook-A-Rama is open on Halloween Weekend for the first time ever. Coney Island’s legendary 60-year-old dark ride adjacent to Deno’s Wonder Wheel opens at 12 noon.

November 1st is the last day of the season for Coney Island’s two amusement parks – Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park – which are scheduled to reopen on Coney’s traditional opening day, Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016. This weekend is your last chance to go for a first date or get engaged on the Wonder Wheel and brave the Cyclone roller coaster in 2015.

Related posts on ATZ…

December 23, 2013: Coney’s Parachute Jump & Wonder Wheel Lit for Christmas

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

March 29, 2013: Spook-A-Rama Revival: Vintage Cyclops Meets New Dragon

March 13, 2013: Coney Island 2013: New Ghouls Mingle with Old in Rebuilt Spook-A-Rama

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Soapy the Pointer Rides the Wonder Wheel

Soapy the Pointer Rides the Wonder Wheel. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Dogs, parrots, parakeets, snakes, lizards and other pets regularly visit the Coney Island boardwalk with their humans, but this Saturday, May 30, is their special day. On Pet Day at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, your pet is invited to ride the Wonder Wheel’s stationary cars for free (only people require tickets). Dogs especially enjoy the ocean breezes and the passing scenery — it’s similar to riding in a car, except the Wheel moves slowly.

The 5th Annual Pet Costume Contest emceed by the World Famous *BOB* begins at 1pm and is a chance to win prizes as well as a fun photo op. Registration is online at wonderwheel.com or from 11:30-12:30 on the boardwalk across from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, next to the stage. The registration fee is two cans of cat or dog food, which is donated to Sean Casey Animal Rescue. You may also adopt a pet in Coney Island on Pet Day. Sean Casey’s adoption vehicle will be on West 12th Street for the day.

Paquito the Chihuahua and Fluffy the Guinea Pig were among the winners of the Pet Costume Contest in 2012. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Paquito the Chihuahua and Fluffy the Guinea Pig were among the winners of the Pet Costume Contest in 2012. Photo via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

Related Posts on ATZ…

May 22, 2014: Video of the Day: Parrots Visit Coney Island

September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk

June 17, 2013: Photo of the Day: Paquito the Chihuahua in Coney Island

May 8, 2013: Traveler: The Cats of Rimini’s Italia in Miniatura Park

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Miss Colombia

Miss Colombia and Friends in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island’s amusement parks kicked off the Memorial Day Weekend on Friday and starting now through Labor Day are open daily. Beach season begins on Saturday when the lifeguards return to their chairs for the summer. ATZ’s personal must-see-and-do list this weekend includes taking photos, having the first lobster roll of the year and a cold beer at Paul’s Daughter on the Boardwalk, peering through an antique stereoviewer at the Coney Island History Project’s exhibit of stereoview photography, checking out the street art-in-progress at Coney Art Walls, taking more photos, and singing Happy 95th Birthday to the Wonder Wheel, which opened on Memorial Day in 1920. One thing we’ve yet to experience in Coney Island is boredom, but tonight at Coney Island USA, we look forward to seeing Dick Zigun’s play “Boredom,” adapted from Maxim Gorky’s essay about his trip to the Electric Eden in 1904. As the original intro to the essay wisely noted: “What is seen depends upon the eye that sees it.” Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Related posts on ATZ…

May 18, 2015: Zamperla’s Power Surge Set to Make A Coney Island Comeback

May 11, 2015: Coney Island Fireworks 2015: Every Friday Plus 8 Saturdays

April 21, 2015: Coney Island 2015: New York Air Show Set For August 29-30

March 3, 2015: Coney Island 2015: The Whip Returns with a NASCAR Twist

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Deno's Wonder Wheel

Go up it’s Great. Easter Sunday at the Wonder Wheel. April 5, 2015. Photo © Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park

“Go up, it’s Great!” is the joyful slogan of the Wonder Wheel painted on its vintage ticket booths. On the evening of May 8th, you could say “Go up, it’s Poetry!” Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be open special hours – 7pm-10pm – for Poem-a-Rama, a special event featuring an array of poets reciting poetry to guests as they go up in the cars, plus readings on the ground and book-inspired music by Soozie Hwang & the Relastics.

The first-ever literary soiree in the landmark ride’s 95-year history is a benefit for Parachute Literary Arts’ poetry workshops and community poetry libraries in Coney Island. Advance tickets are $20 and include general admission to the event and a ride with a poet on the Wonder Wheel.

“Coney Island has been a source of inspiration for centuries for artists and poets including Whitman and E.E. Cummings and now contemporary poets,” says Parachute’s founder and artistic director Amanda Deutch. “At the same time I am interested in site specific work.” Past events produced by Parachute have featured poets reading in front of the New York Aquarium’s jellyfish tanks and over the mic at the Eldorado Bumper car ticketbooth on Surf Avenue.

Poets reading on the ground at Poem-a-Rama include Patricia Spears Jones, Lynn Melnick and teen poets from Parachute Literary Arts’ writing workshops. Poets with whom you can ride the Wheel are Parachute Festival alum Matthea Harvey and Edwin Torres, as well as Penny Arcade, Amber Atiya, Paul Blackburn, Kurt Boone, Michael Broder, Brenda Coultas, Ian Dreiblatt, Jen Fitzgerald, Tyehimba Jess, Brenda Iijima, Lucy Ives, Amy King, Wanda Phipps and “a wandering Walt Whitman.”

Deutch’s hope for Poem-a-Rama is for poets and passengers to enjoy a truly unique experience “because of all of it–the ride, the ocean breeze, the intimate nature of such a small reading– the poetry will sink in and reverberate for days to come.”

Advance tickets for Poem-a-Rama are available online for $20 via Parachute Literary Arts. Tickets will be $25 online on May 8th, the day of the event, and at the door. Entrance to the event will be at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park‘s West 12th Street gate at 3059 West 12th between Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk.

Related posts on ATZ…

October 13, 2013: Photo of the Day: Swinging on the Wonder Wheel

September 29, 2011: Coney Island Poem from the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

September 7, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

September 27, 2009: Coney Island 1969 by Edwin Torres: Fave Poem from Parachute Festival

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