Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is considered the unofficial last day of summer in the US. Summer holidays are over; beaches close to swimmers, kids go back to school, temperatures start to drop and days begin to grow shorter.
Coney Island, once known as America’s Playground, is no longer the nation’s preeminent amusement park; that honor has gone to sanitized, homogenized, ultra-safe-and-predictible corporate theme parks such as Disneyworld and SeaWorld. It may longer attract visitors from all over the country but this lively, accessible and inexpensive stretch along the Atlantic Ocean remains the favorite of New York’s working families.
In recent years this neigborhood has experienced a renassiance. A new baseball stadium, a revitalized New York Aquarium and a gorgeous new subway station have helped bring back the crowds. Kids flock to the hotdogs sizzling on Nathan’s grill, the rattling cars of the wooden roller coaster, the polished horses of the merry-go-round, the rolling waves, the cotton candy and stuffed animals, the seashells, scuttling crabs and polished glass. Grownups lose their pocket change to games of chance, suck down freshly-brewed beer and freshly-caught clams and spend a few bucks to savor the burlesque shows and sideshow freaks.
It is hard to say goodbye to the pleasures of summer, but if it has to be done, a day on the beach and boardwalk at Coney Island is the perfect way to end the season.