Coney Island, Ohio: More than 125 Years of Fun

A section of a vintage style mural highlighting Coney Island's early days.
A section of a vintage style mural highlighting Coney Island’s early days.

When my cousin and I were searching for a location for our twin fathers’ recent birthday celebration, my dad suggested Coney Island on the banks of the Ohio River, 10 miles east of Cincinnati. This is the amusement park of our childhoods. With its more than 125 year history, Coney Island also enchanted my grandparents in their youth. In the 1920s, Coney Island was one of the largest amusement parks in the United States.

A marker chronicles the height of the waters that have flooded Coney Island over the years.
A marker chronicles the height of the waters that have flooded Coney Island over the years.

Serious floods, the kind that submerged its rides and dance hall in 28 feet of water in 1937, and left its Sunlight Pool filled with mud, could have been the end of Coney. Like the phoenix that rises again, Coney Island has weathered storms ranging from the Great Depression in the 1930s to the opening of swankier, larger amusement parks like Kings Island that opened north of Cincinnati in 1972 with some of Coney Island’s most popular rides as its centerpiece.

With the opening of Kings Island, I confess that my family abandoned Coney Island for the thrill of The Beast, a rip roaring good time wooden roller coaster with a 4 minute, 10 second ride. Although I am still a faithful Kings Island fan, my heart is once again with Coney as I have rediscovered my childhood love.

When my cousin and I scouted out Coney Island as this summer’s  birthday party/family reunion location we found it to be perfect. Instead of fading with nothing left to do but close like several of Ohio’s historic amusement parks have done over the years, Coney Island has survived.

Thankfully, about the time Coney Island seemed to reach the end of its amusement park line, a new owner recognized the beauty and allure of this gem, and Coney Island has rallied to thrive once more. Moonlight Gardens, opened in 1925 as an open air dance hall is still going strong with dances and a live band on Friday nights in the summer.

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Moonlight Gardens, built in 1925, still going strong.
Moonlight Gardens, built in 1925, still going strong.

Sunlight Pool remains the largest recirculating swimming pool in the world–its larger than a football field, and has been updated to include water slides.

Just a section of Sunlight Pool that is bigger than a football field.
Just a section of Sunlight Pool that is bigger than a football field.

Lake Como, made for canoeists to paddle around is still a beloved Coney Island fixture. Canoes are available, as well as, paddle boats. With the park’s low keyed approach, you can stay out in a boat as long as you want.

Call it the Scrambler or the Merry Mixer. It's this writer's favorite Coney Classic ride.
Call it the Scrambler or the Merry Mixer. It’s this writer’s favorite Coney Classic ride.

Although the many of Coney’s rides were siphoned off and sent to Kings Island, other rides have taken their place with the park’s resurrection as family fun entertainment.

There are live shows, an arcade that includes some games that you can’t lose, such as my favorite–the ducks. Pick up a duck out of the sea of ducks floating in a circle and see what prize you get. It’s that simple as that.

coney island ducksDining options range from burgers to La Rosa’s pizza to Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati, Greek inspired favorite. Get the Coney dog with its hefty pile of shredded cheese on top of the chili. Soft serve ice-cream is the go-to sweet treat.

Sweet treat favorites are easy to find.
Sweet treat favorites are easy to find.

Coney Island made 73 people happy, from the 10 month old, an offspring of my cousin’s son, to my dad and his brother, and their older twin sisters.  While we made new memories, we reminisced about the good old days when we came to Coney Island on the ferry that crossed people from northern Kentucky to the Ohio side of the river.

Even though the ferry is no longer there, the stone tower and archway of the entrance remains as a sentry and a promise that when you pass through, you’re guaranteed family fun you’ll remember.

Coney Island's historic entrance on the bank of the Ohio River
Coney Island’s Historic Entrance on the bank of the Ohio River

If you go, check out Coney Island’s webpage to look for deals. Parking costs $8 per carload. If you’re not riding on rides or going into Sunlight Pool’s area, admission is free.

This season ticket prices were: $14.50 for ages 5 & up at the gate. Ages 2-4, $6.95. After 4 pm, ride band cost dropped to $9.50.

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Another section of Coney Island's mural highlighting its historic past.
Another section of Coney Island’s mural highlighting its historic past.

Discount tickets are offered through the webpage for parking and ride bands. Sunlight Pool tickets can be purchased separately or in combination with ride bands.

Although Coney Island’s summer season is finished, in October the rides and more are operating for the Fall-O-Ween Festival, October 10-11; 17-18; and 24-25, 1:00 – 7:00 pm each day.

Coney Island– 6201 Kellogg Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45230,  513/232-8230.

Post and photos, courtesy of Jamie Rhein