Wednesday, Oct. 01, 2008

New York City Beach

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.