What to Know
- After 18 months, Coney Island is welcoming visitors back to its amusement attractions for the first time since 2019 starting Friday
- Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and Luna Park in Coney Island open with limited capacity and new COVID guidelines for guests
- Parkgoers can make reservations online if they want a guaranteed entry, but there's also a standby line; masks are required
Standing a test of time, Deno's Wonder Wheel on Coney Island is spinning again after 18 months of closure.
Coney Island welcomed visitors back to its amusement attractions Friday for the first time since 2019. With limited capacity and new COVID guidelines for guests, including advanced reservations that can be made online prior to visiting the parks, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and Luna Park have come alive once again.
"Coney Island has always been a place where people have come to find comfort. To remember what it feels like to smile. We need that now more than ever," said DJ Vourderis, the owner and operator of Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.
In order to make that experience not only memorable but safe, the family-owned park is adding extra layers of protection in accordance with the state's guidelines. Some of the safety measures that the Vourderis family has added include social distancing markers, gates and plexiglass at every point of sale and food stand.
"We’re following the guidance best way we can, things change all the time but hand sanitizing is always a good idea, they’re everywhere in the park. Entrances, exits, in between," Vourderis said.
The days of paper tickets are also over. Instead, visitors will receive a plastic card they can load with money. They need to tap the card on readers outside the rides.
The iconic Wonder Wheel was built during the 1918 pandemic, so social distancing is already incorporated on the ride. The swinging cars were made to be about 12 feet apart.
Just like most venues in New York City, the amusement park's capacity limit is 33 percent. Parkgoers can make reservations online if they want a guaranteed entry, but there's also a standby line, Vourderis said. Masks are required.
On Friday morning, the decades-long tradition of the “Blessing of the Rides” ceremony took place on the boardwalk in front of Deno’s Wonder Wheel. Mayor Bill de Blasio was on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony before taking a ride on the famed Cyclone rollercoaster. Deno's said it'll give free Wonder Wheel rides Friday to 100 front-line workers including EMT, FDNY, NYPD and Coney Island Hospital staff.
"2020 marked the first time in 100 years that the wheel has not spun. While it was a devastating time for many, we are excited to welcome back guests and celebrate the life and passion of our parents and grandparents’ hard work who dedicated their lives to providing Coney Island with a warm welcoming amusement park on the Boardwalk. We hope to see everyone this season!" the Vourderis family said in a statement.
After the mandated closure of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Coney Island Amusement District took a devastating hit financially.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that New Yorkers are eager to get back to the well-known boardwalk.
"After a long and painful year of social isolation, New Yorkers are eager to get back to the boardwalk and enjoy a Nathan's hotdog under the Wonder Wheel and Cyclone," Schumer said in a statement. "I've fought hard in Washington to deliver tens of billions of dollars to shore up the local economy, support our small businesses, and speed vaccinations so we can safely re-open the parts of New York like Coney Island that make our city so special. As a native son of Brooklyn who grew up a short B36 bus ride away in Sheepshead Bay, I’m proud to see this quintessentially New York attraction open this year and I will continue to support the community’s recovery and revitalization for years to come.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called the grand reopening a sign of "joy and relief," particularly after a "difficult year."
“Opening season on Coney Island means that spring is finally here and summer is right around the corner,” Gillibrand said. “This has been an incredibly difficult year, but with the reopening of Coney Island’s attractions comes signs of joy and relief. Coney Island’s rich history has created countless memories and smiles for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Deno’s Wonder Wheel will be able to celebrate its delayed 100th Anniversary which opened in 1920 and safely welcome back guests to bring out the kid in all of us.”
The amusement attractions will be open on weekends through Memorial Day. They will move to daily operation starting Memorial Day weekend.