We started with lunch at Rudy's Bar & Grill. From the looks of things, this place has been there forever. I had two hot dogs and a Coors Light (The beer of champions! It was either that or Bud...) and Alison had a sausage on a bun with a Sunkist. It was a little spendy for the amount of food that we got, but we got to eat right on the boardwalk so it was worth it. You kind of pay for the gimmick and novelty of it all, rather than the quality of the food.
From there we wandered a bit. The beach was pretty hopping and there were even a few brave souls swimming in what I'd assume would still be a fairly chilly Atlantic Ocean. We also walked by the beloved SHOOT THE FREAK attraction to see what it was all about. I was fascinated by it when I saw it closed down, but really, the freak is just a guy with a shield and some paintball gear on. A barker calls people over to pelt him with paintballs for a few dollars. There was a surprisingly big crowd for it.We wandered over towards Deno's Wonder Wheel and Amusement park where one of the first things we saw was a strange caricature booth where the artist would draw you or, if you prefer, Hulk Hogan or possibly random African guys. A lot of old carnival attractions like 'grandma's predictions' and arm wrestling machines are still littered across the park for added camp appeal. Being as obsessed with The Warriors as I am, I pushed for us to go on the Wonder Wheel despite the fact that Alison doesn't really like ferris wheels (neither do I, for that matter). I didn't realize that there are two types of cars on this ferris wheel - stationary and swinging. We wound up in line for the swinging cars and figured, if we don't rock it, it'll be fine. No. We were way wrong on that. The colored cars on the Wonder Wheel are on an inside track and as soon as they reach a certain point on the way up, they wooosh up at about a 45-90 degree angle. This did not sit well with either one of us, especially because we were both sitting in the back, which meant no weight at all in the front. The added bonus was that the car did the same thing on the way back down, only in the opposite direction - and the ride goes all the way around twice, so we swung four times. We got off, and promptly sat down. Amazingly enough, neither of us puked so thank God for small mercies.
Stomachs slightly settled we wandered over to the Sideshow by the Seashore, one of the few active live Freak Shows that still exists in the United States. You can't take picture inside unfortunately but it's well worth the $7.50 admission and you can drink cold beer inside while you watch if that's your thing. A ringleader with a handlebar moustache and a bowler starts the show off by pounding a nail up his nostril and then inserting the action end of a power drill into the same nasal cavity. Ouch. From there we got to see a gal dance with an albino python, a sword swallower who doubles as a contortionist, some knife and fire juggling, a real live lobster boy, a woman who could conduct electricity and an impressive fire dancer. It was all good, goofy fun and interesting to watch if you're at all one of those 'how did they do that?' types like I am. I'd scene footage from this show in the American Carny documentary so it was kind of exciting to witness it first hand. At least I got these sweet pictures of the outside of the building and of the barker and midget in a Misfits shirt...
After that we perused the Coney Island Museum, which is fairly small but also only $0.99 to get in, making it by far the cheapest thing to do in the area. They do Q&A sessions in there with local historians and experts but we didn't stick around for that because there were two more important quests to complete, the first of which was the SPOOK-O-RAMA! This dorky haunted house was pretty silly but I was intrigued by the garish sign and the giant skeleton on top of the building. I'm a sucker for advertising. It was pitch black inside and all manner of dumb monsterish things pop out at you. I turned the flash on and shot some pictures. Maybe it ruins some of the magic but some of the monsters were pretty rad. On the way there we passed a strange midway attraction with a creepy bloodied clown inside. I don't know why that clown was there, I only know I hate him.
Once that was over with I had to ride the Cyclone next door at Astro Land, the big old rickety wooden roller coaster that Coney Island is famous for. Alison opted out, having done it before and because it's $8.00 for a three minute ride, but I plunked down my cash and got in line. This coaster packs a much stronger punch than you'd think and while it might be older than dirt, that does add an element of danger to it all. The coaster is obviously well maintained but you can't help but wonder if you're not going to go flying out of your seat and onto the pavement below as you hurl down the hills or around the corners. Good times! You can tell by the expression on my face in the last picture (I'm in the 2nd car) picture that my stomach is about to come flying out.
From there we wandered past a few odd sights like the Dante's Inferno ride, a strange BREAK DANCE ride that was obviously left over from the eighties and which had nothing to do with break dancing, and a fantastic arm wrestling machine with the most cliche looking goomba you've ever seen. If you look closely you can see where his face got punched in and repaired.
We got home and had some dinner and spent the evening in bed watching movies, both a little sunburnt and a lot tired from the hour plus subway journey each way and the hours of walking. It was a lot of fun though, and it's really only as expensive as you want it to be. The attractions and rides aren't cheap but you can wander the boardwalks and the parks without spending a penny if you just want to explore or people watch.