New York City: Side Trips

New York City Beach

coney island beach Mario Tama / Getty
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Surrounded by the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan it's easy to lose sight of the fact that New York City is situated on the Atlantic Ocean. Though the white-sand beaches of Eastern Long Island and the Hamptons are within reach, you can get a distinctly New York experience much closer by, in Brooklyn, along the bustling oceanfront boardwalk that links Brighton Beach and Coney Island.

Take the B or Q train down to Brighton Beach, where there's as much (if not more) Cyrillic signage as English — it's home to a recent wave of immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet republics (you might recognize it as the turf of protagonist Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto 4) — so you'll feel like a foreign tourist as you explore the shops and cafes of "Little Odessa." For a jaw-droppingly weird experience, check out the floor show at the National, a supper club on Brighton Beach Avenue that's half-Moscow, half-Vegas.

Farther west along the boardwalk is Coney Island, home of the legendary amusement park. A major development proposal is threatening to close parts of Astroland, but it seems the Cyclone, a popular wooden roller coaster, will survive. Coney Island is a people-watcher's paradise. On hot summer days it can still resemble Weegee's famous photograph of sunbathers packed like sardines on the beach. Down a couple red hots at Nathan's Famous hot dog stand or feed your inner aggressor at the Shoot the Freak paint-ball attraction, just around the corner from the Coney Island Freak Show. You can even catch the Mets' rival to the Staten Island Yankees: The Brooklyn Cyclones play in stunning KeySpan Park, right off the boardwalk.

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