Rollercoasters in New York City? Yep, they’re a thing!
I feel like there are only two kinds of people in this world – those who love roller coasters, and those who hate them. I’m firmly in the second category. So naturally, I decided to torture myself by riding the Coney Island Cyclone.
A quick backstory on me! When I was about 6 or 7, my mom brought my brother and me to Nunley’s, a tiny amusement park on Sunrise Highway on Long Island that has since closed and been turned into a PepBoys. We got on the roller coaster, which probably went 10 feet in the air at its max. I screamed and cried so badly that they literally had to stop the ride so I could get off. Since then, whenever we went to a carnival or amusement park, I wasn’t allowed to go on the coasters. Years later on my first trip to Six Flags, I went on Nitro and screamed bloody murder the entire ride. All this is to say, roller coasters and rides scare me. A lot.
“But Jenn!” you may wonder. “If the thought of plunging to your death on a roller coaster scares you so much, why did you put a roller coaster on your list of things to do? What’s wrong with you?” Here’s the thing about this list and why I’m trying to do so much: it’s all about getting out of my comfort zone. Is it scary to ride on a coaster alone? For me, of course. Is it scary to go to a parade alone? For others, maybe it is. But you never know what you’ll have fun doing until you take the chance and just do it.
Motivational speech over. The Coney Island Cyclone is one of the standout attractions in New York, and it is widely considered to be the most important ride in Coney Island. The baseball team there is named after it. It’s appeared in TV shows, movies, music videos, and was even in a painting done by Bob Dylan!
The Cyclone first opened on June 26, 1927, meaning it shares a birthday (uh, 61 years earlier) with yours truly. Back then, the ride cost just 25 cents! The wooden coaster was extremely popular with riders, and it became a hallmark part of the amusement park. During the 1960s, with attendance at Coney Island shrinking and the crowds becoming “rowdy,” New York City decided to add an extension to the New York Aquarium (located right next door) to enhance the family atmosphere they wanted for Coney Island. In 1971, the City bought the Cyclone. In 1972, a “Save the Cyclone” campaign was held, and the ride was taken off the chopping block. Astroland amusement park later won a bid to lease the ride and, after a season of refurbishing, the Cyclone reopened in 1975.
Today, the Coney Island Cyclone is a defining part of Coney Island. Its popularity, classic wooden structure, and scary layout have inspired replica coasters around the world, including rides at Six Flags, Movie Park Germany, and Nara Dreamland in Japan. You can see the coaster in shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, movies like The Wiz, and even music videos like Beyonce’s XO. Souvenirs from Coney Island often include the coaster, and it’s actually the very first thing I added to my list when I was coming up with things to do.
The Cyclone includes 6 fan turns and 12 drops, with the first drop from 85 feet up, at a 58.1 degree angle. Riders (up to 8 per train) reach top speeds of 60 miles per hour during the one minute and 50 second ride. The drops are scary, and I knew it. My mom used to ride the coaster a lot when she was little, and she told me a few times on the phone that it was scary. I psyched myself up for most of the train ride there, and fortunately there was no one in line when I got there. I had no chance to come up with an excuse to not ride the coaster, and once I bought my ticket, I had no choice but to go on. I was gripping on for dear life, because I was convinced that I was going to fly out of the car. Everyone around me got a kick out of my screaming.
You know what? I had a lot of fun riding the Cyclone! Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely terrifying, and I’m not exactly running back in line (Luna Park is still open on weekends till the end of October) to ride it again, but I’m super glad that I went on. I was excited from the adrenaline for the rest of the day, and while it sounds stupid, I was proud of myself for not making excuses and just taking the (literal) plunge.