Go Here: Coney Island Museum and Circus Sideshow
In cities like New York, every time you turn your head it seems like something new has popped up. Unfortunately, a lot of times those new things replace the old, weird pieces of history that make a city special. In Coney Island, though, not a whole lot has changed.
Though the entire boardwalk area is worth a visit (uh hello, Nathans), today we’re focusing on the Coney Island Museum (CIM), and it’s circus sideshow. Most of Coney Island’s boardwalk operates seasonally, so you’re better off waiting until Spring to visit, but we can’t wait that long to tell you about it.
CIM is operated by Coney Island USA, a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1980. The corp is also responsible for several infamous New York events, including the Mermaid Parade, Burlesque at the Beach, the Coney Island Tattoo and Motorcycle Festival, Creepshow at the Freakshow, and the Coney Island Sideshow School. Basically, they’re awesome.
The museum itself, located on the second floor of a historic building on Surf Avenue, overlooks the Cyclone Rollercoaster, the Wonder Wheel, and the Parachute Jump. It is part history museum, part funhouse; every room is stuffed full of old relics from a past Coney Island. Vaudeville music is playing in your head, as you walk through rooms of old sideshow posters and pieces of retired rides.
Downstairs is our favorite part, though. On the first floor, a small theatre hosts the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, the only remaining permanently housed, traditional ten-in-one circus side show. The websites boasts, “They’re here, they’re real and they’re alive! Freaks, wonders and human curiosities!” They sure are. You’ll find no cheap hoaxes here: You will find bearded ladies, tattooed women climbing sword ladders, fire swallowers, contortionists, snake charmers, glass eaters, levitators, and beds of nails.
The $10 price of admission is worth every penny, and you can feel good knowing that you’re giving your money to an organization aiming to preserve an important –and really fun– piece of American history.