SUMMARY: Cleaner, newer, nicer, and more thrilling than the Astroland Park it replaced, Luna Park is part of Coney Island’s transformation into a more family friendly environment. However, the pay-per-ride policy can get very expensive very fast unless (like we did) you can find a promotional deal or are willing to visit Monday to Thursdays.
FULL REVIEW: Although it’s taken quite a bit longer, Coney Island is undergoing the same transformation that happened to Times Square in the 90’s and early part of this century, going from seedy hangout for cheap thrills to a clean, family friendly destination. With new rides and good management Luna Park is on the forefront of this change. We visited over the weekend and our family really had a great time. However, this was in large part thanks to a Groupon offer; without it our visit would have been a lot more expensive and not nearly as enjoyable.
Coney Island is a place with a lot of history. The original Luna Park takes back to 1903, and was destroyed by fire in 1944. The new Luna Park, opened in 2010, sits largely on the site of the old Astroland amusement park, which opened in the 1960’s. As other areas of the city improved in the 90’s and 2000’s, Coney Island remained dirty, seedy, and even a bit dangerous. Even now, much of this old Coney Island still exists; you can still find the freak shows, the Three Card Monte games, and run-down privately run amusement attractions. Many of the buildings on Surf Ave still have “For Rent” signs in the front.
That old Coney Island wasn’t a great place to take a family, but it had a definite appeal. My personal favorite was an old, independent carousel (it’s now a furniture shop). Unlike the clean, safe, modern carousels of today this was a real thrill ride. It was ridiculously fast, and still had “brass rings” which required hanging well off the side of the horses to grab. It was probably terribly unsafe, but was ten times more fun than any carousel I’ve been on since. Nostalgia aside, however, the new Coney Island is definitely an improvement.
Luna Park is part of this new Coney Island (which also includes the modern new stadium for the Brooklyn Cyclone’s baseball team). It’s clean, well run, safe, and much more “family friendly”. There are still thrills to be had, but they now involve seat belts and safety harnesses. The only old remnant in Luna Park is the rundown 360 view tower from Astroland, which sits in the middle of the park and is probably too big to tear down and too expensive to repair.
The layout of Luna Park is still somewhat unique. It’s basically four separate lots, all connected to the boardwalk but separated by city streets. There’s also an entirely separate park (Deno’s Wonder Wheel) in between two sections of Luna Park; it’s also surrounded by smaller, privately operated shows, rides, and food stands. As such, you’ll still see a good deal of the “old” Coney Island. In addition, Luna Park is an “open” park – you only pay to go on the rides. A can, and does, walk in (we got a few offer for bootleg DVDs and the like). Still, it’s cleaner (and feels safer) than the Astroland park that used to be on the site.
The park is owned by Zamperla, who makes top quality rides that you’ll often find at street carnivals. Many of the rides at Luna Park looked like they could still be packed back up on flatbed trucks, but the electrical connections have been buried in the pavement and the park is definitely here to stay. All of the rides are new, clean, and (I assume) very well maintained.
There are really four separate areas to the park. The newest (opened in 2012) is a Go-Kart track, which we didn’t visit. Next is the Scream Zone, which houses the park’s larger, more thrilling rides. On the old Astroland site is the core Luna Park section, which contains the kiddie rides as well as some mid-sized attractions. Finally, there’s the classic Cyclone roller coaster, which sites by itself.
For the most part, all of the attractions are priced separately. To get started, you’ll need to buy a Luna Card, which contains a number of credits. Credits cost $1 each, but are discounted slightly if you buy a larger value card (with the best deal being 120 credits for $100).
This park is not cheap. The kiddie rides cost 3-4 credits, the Cyclone is 8 credits, and rides in the Scream Zone start at 7 credits and go up from there. In the four hours or so that our family stayed in the park, three of us (my wife doesn’t like the rides) went on rides that total over 360 credits. Even with discounted cards that would have cost over $300.
We’re not crazy, however, and could only afford all this fun because of a deal from Groupon. The Groupon deal included an unlimited ride wristband, which included all the rides in the core “Luna Park” section for 4 hours, as well as one ride each on Soarin’ Eagle and Steeplechase in the Scream Zone. (These were a bit too scary for my kids, so we actually gave away two sets of ride passes worth about $28). The best part of the Groupon deal was that it could be used on a Saturday. Normally, wristbands cost a bit more, are sold only Monday to Thursday, and don’t come with the Scream Zone ride passes.
If we came back without a promotional deal, it’s hard to imagine we’d have nearly as much fun. We’d either have to pay 3-4 times as much (not an option), go on a lot less rides, or find a way to go on a weekday (and still pay somewhat more). As such, I’m not sure we’ll be in a rush to go back unless we find another similar promotion.
That said, the rides we did go on were all top notch. A few highlights:
Soarin’ Eagle is probably the most impressive ride in the park. It’s part of the Scream Zone, and is probably competitive to some of the smaller coasters at a park like Six Flags. Both the ride position (you ride on your stomach) and the launch ramp (which goes up in a spiral) are unique. Unfortunately, it loads very slowly (it only handles 4 riders every minute or so) means lines build up fast. Not including a mechanical issues (which added another 10 minutes to the wait) I was in line about 15 minutes; this was early in the evening and the line was getting longer we left the park.
The Steeplechase, also in the Scream Zone, is good for nostalgia. The ridding position is unique as well (you sit on a horse, and a securing harness comes up from behind to hold your back in place). There’s an accelerated launch (cable pulled), but it’s not all that fast or long a ride. Fortunately, the line was short – about a 5 minute wait.
There are over a dozen rides in the core “Luna Park” section that were included with the wristband; some were simple kid’s rides but some were fun for older people as well. The Brooklyn Flyer was great. It’s similar to the spinning basket swings found at many parks, but, at over 100ft, it’s a lot taller. The view from the top was great. The tickler is a mouse coaster; it’s not real big but it’s fun. The Wild River was a pretty basic log flume ride; with a 40ft drop it’s OK but not amazing.
My kids (4 and 8) were particularly into the “Moderate Thrill” rides, which they rode repeatedly. Highlights included the smaller Circus Coaster (36” and above can ride with an adult), Surf’s Up (which you ride standing up), and the Coney Tower.
The “Mild Thrill” section includes smaller rides for younger kids (no more than 8 I’d say), similar to what was at the old Astroland Park (but newer and cleaner). Highlights were the Happy Swing and the Mermaid Parade boat ride.
The Cyclone roller coaster is a classic that dates back to 1927. I didn’t ride it on this visit (like most of the larger rides it’s priced separately - $8) but have been on it in the past many times. It’s a NYC landmark and an impressive coaster, especially given its age. The ride is fast and a bit rough. If you enjoy roller coasters this is definitely a must visit.
Overall Luna Park is definitely an improvement and a good sign for the future of Coney Island. The pay-per-ride policy is probably part of the reasons that the lines, in general, stayed short. However, it’s also the park’s biggest downside. Unless you’ve got some way to get a wristband, it’s quickly going to get more expensive than a trip to Six Flags (which is much larger and has a good number of much more intense coasters) – even factoring in gas and tolls to get to NJ.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.