What would summer be without a little heat? A little adventure? A little mischief? Last month, The New York Times for Kids visited Coney Island to get all three. Along the beach, in the maze of rides at Luna Park and on the sandy boardwalk, we found and spoke to more than 50 kids to find out what they love most about this quirky but classic New York destination. For some kids, it was the roller coasters. For others, it was just being with their friends when school’s out. Yet one thing seemed to be true among the kids we met: There’s no better place to stay cool.
Where do you find your clothing? Uniqlo. I also sew. These shorts used to be my brother’s. My parents promised me a sewing machine if I could make my Halloween costume one year — and I did.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen here? There was this guy with two huge snakes. My friend is really into animals, and he let us touch them.
What would you change about the world? The way people see kids, especially queer and trans kids and kids of color.
Hi! I’m celebrating my birthday! I wanted to come here because there’s a beach and we can make sand castles. But we don’t have a bucket. So next year on my birthday, my mom has to buy a bucket so I can come to the beach again.
What else did you do? I also went on rides, like the plane. It went so high that I got dizzy. But I’m OK. It was spinning and spinning and spinning like 10 times.
Do you have a favorite subject in school? [Serenity] Fashion. I made my bag in class. It was originally a top. I didn’t like it at first, so I cut it into pieces and made a purse. I want to go to college for business and then start my own fashion business.
How would you describe your style? [Serenity] Random and chaotic.
If you could change any rule, what would you change? [Serenity] Dress codes. My friend is doing this program, and girls aren’t allowed to wear leggings.
What are you doing on Coney Island? I’m on vacation with my mom.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen? There were a lot of people blasting music from a speaker. I had no problem with it, but where I’m from, it’s not as common to play music out loud for everyone to hear.
What do you think of New York? I’ve been looking forward to coming here for a long time. Where I live right now, it’s not a big city. There are a lot of farms and stuff. It’s cool to see a lot of people.
SIENNA WOOLCOCK, 10
FREDDIE GLASER 10
BELLA D’ARCANGELO, 10
What do you like to do when you’re not in school? [Freddie] I go horseback riding. I also like thrifting. My friend and I went to this thrift store called L Train. I bought this sweatshirt, and it was white and black and it was of Mickey Mouse.
What’s your style? [Freddie] Cute, cozy and casual.
If you could change the world, what would you change? [Freddie] Probably all the gun violence. It seems like every single day you hear another story about a shooting.
You’re wearing a wrestling shirt. I’m on the wrestling team at school. It’s a fun sport. It keeps your body in good shape. It’s just my favorite thing to really do. I’ve been wrestling for almost a year.
What are you doing the rest of the summer? Probably chilling. I also wrestle off-season, so I’ll just get ready for that. And then football tryouts. I know for a fact I’m going to make it.
JAMES MENDOZA, 16
What are you up to today? [James] Just riding the roller coasters.
How do you describe your style? [Yangki] I love black. [James] I just try to match her.
West Plains, Mo.
What are you doing today? We went to Nathan’s hot dogs. I got cheese fries.
AVIANA DAVID, 12
New Rochelle, N.Y.
If you could change any rule, what rule would you change? [Aviana] At school, phones would be allowed in the hallway.
What’s the best part of Coney Island? The Cyclone.
What musicians are you listening to? Pascu y Rodri.
MARTINA PASQUON, 17
Aosta and Venice, Italy
How would you describe your style? [Martina] I wear what I really like. I collect T-shirts from different bands. [Davide] I don’t really have a defined style. I just tend to dress in the way that I feel represents me. I don’t really care about gender norms. If I want to wear a crop top, I don’t really care about what other people say.
Your mom’s a henna artist here. What’s the best part of coming to Coney Island so often? The games and the roller coasters and the arcade.
Why did you decide to wear this today? Because my mom likes it, and it’s Pride Day.
What don’t you like about Coney Island? All the people. There’s, like, a lot of people. And a lot of weird smells too.
Fave artist? [Matthew] J. Cole. [Amie] Frank Ocean.
Do you have a favorite book? I have too many! “The Princess Book.”
How many times have you been to Coney Island? 10! I don’t like all the rides. I only like the ones that go up and down.
What do you want to do when you’re older? Draw. Build a new bike that can go on snow. Climb up buildings.
What are you doing? Going to the beach and looking at the sunset.
What’s the best part of Coney Island? The sunlight.
What do you want to be when you’re older? F.B.I. agent.
Do you have a favorite musician? The Cure.
What are you looking forward to most today? Roller coasters.
Who is your favorite musician? Lil Durk.
What’s the best part of Coney Island? I like the Ferris wheel, because the people who work there let my dog go on it.
What was the weirdest thing you’ve seen today? We went to this history museum, and there was this huge Cyclops statue. Its eye was moving and staring at you. It was really creepy.
What did you eat? We went to the Tatiana restaurant. I had potato dumplings.
How much time do you spend here? I stay at least six or seven hours. My goal is to make around $100 a day.
How long have you been doing this? I’ve been doing a lot of business since I was in the fourth or fifth grade. I actually won a competition selling chocolate. So I started talking to people, learning how to promote water. And then I came to Coney Island during the summer and was like, wow, this is an amazing business. I’m really good at speaking to people.
Have you been here before? This was my first time. I collected shells at the beach. I found a lot.
Could you tell us about your stuffed animal? Her name is Cecilia. I picked that name because it sounds like it has an S in it, and she’s a sea lion. I got her at the aquarium’s souvenir shop.
Did anything funny happen today? A sea gull ate my hot dog. First, the wind blew my hot dog onto the ground. Then a sea gull got it and ate it.
GUILLERMO MIRANDA, 18
How would you describe your style? [Rosalba] Mine tends to change. It’s very versatile.
Do you have a go-to store? [Guillermo] KCDC. It’s like a skate shop, but they also have nice clothing.[Rosalba] I like Uniqlo.
What are you looking forward to most today?[Guillermo] Taking photos of my friends.
BUDDY, 10 MONTHS
JAMIE ZHENG, 19
Why are you here today? [Jamie] My parents brought my siblings to the aquarium, but we didn’t really want to be there, and they didn’t allow pups. So we decided to go to the beach. We’re taking care of Buddy for my sister’s friend. He’s really excited. He’s never been near the ocean.
Who is your favorite artist? Billie Eilish. My favorite song by her is “Happier Than Ever.”
Who is your favorite musician? Chase Atlantic. It used to be BTS.
What’s your favorite food? Spaghetti.
What’s the secret to making a great sand castle? Do not mess it up.
What’s the first thing you did when you got here? We went on a few rides. My favorite was the Cyclone. There was a view at the top where you could see all of Coney Island.
What do you do when you’re not in school? I like playing piano. I stopped taking lessons, so right now I’m doing whatever I want. Playing pop songs but also classical songs.
If you could change the world, what would you change? I’d say hunger or poverty. I’ve been traveling a lot this summer, and I’ve seen a lot of poverty.
What’s your favorite food? McDonald’s. Favorite book? Every book in the world.
How many times have you been to Coney Island? I would say around six. It’s great. I think more people should go. My favorite part is the Soarin’ Eagle.
I heard you’re moving soon to Berlin. What are you going to miss most about New York? My friends, because I made really deep connections with them over the past four years.
What do you want to be when you’re older? A soccer player, and if I don’t become a soccer player, a professor. I think I’d teach math.
Do you win a lot? Yes, I have a room full of prizes. I’m here every single day.
What don’t you like about Coney Island? The litter and the rats.
Favorite band? Kiss.
How is Nathan’s? They’re OK. I’ve had better hot dogs.
What do you want to be when you’re older? A soccer player.
MEILANI ROMAN, 15
What’s the best part of Coney Island? [Mason] The boardwalk, the people, the energy. I love my city. [Meilani] The rides.
How many times have you been to Coney Island? Just this once. I also liked seeing the Statue of Liberty. It was really big.
What do you want to do when you’re older? I think I might want to be a phlebotomist. I don’t know why. My mom’s a physical therapist.
If you could change anything about the world, what would it be? I would stop Covid, because it’s annoying and I don’t want to wear a mask anymore.
What about a rule at home? My mom lets me drink three cups of milk a day. If I could change that, I would drink four.
What inspired your style today? Anime. Anime is all about friendship and learning other people’s cultures. I’d recommend “Fairy Tail.” The protagonist leaves her home for this world that revolves around magic.
What grade are you in? I’m going into eighth grade. I’m excited because we have a new principal. No one liked the old one.
What’s your favorite book? [Brooke] “Quarantine: A Love Story.” I haven’t gotten halfway through the book yet, but it’s a really good book. There were two people who met on an airplane. One of them became sick and kissed the other, so they’re in a 30-day quarantine.
Why are you visiting? I ask my mom to go to Luna Park when I’m bored. I’ve been here twice, and both times I rode my bike. It’s electric, so if you get tired, you can rest your legs. It’s very far away from where I live.
Do you have any big summer plans? Yes! Soon, we are going rafting.
What ride would you recommend? The bumper cars.
What about a favorite musician? My dad.
What are you up to today? We went to see the Brooklyn Cyclones. Later my brother and I are going to set up bases and play baseball.
What do you like to do for fun? Roblox. Minecraft.
How often do you catch a fish? I’ve actually never caught a fish at Coney Island, ever. They take the bait and just go.
What inspired your style? I’m wearing a hat because I don’t like sunscreen in my face. These are actually polarized sunglasses, which take the reflection off the water while I’m fishing.
QIN LI, 19
(They were playing volleyball when we met them.)
Why did you pick this outfit today? Because I was going to go to the beach.
What grade are you in? I’m going into fourth. I want to learn more math. I like multiplication, division, subtraction.
If you could change any rule, what would you change? I’d eat whatever I want. I’d always eat pizza.
YELI LIU QI, 21
What’s been the best part of your day? [Vincent] Just seeing the beach.
Who is your favorite musician? [Vincent] Migos.
What was the best part of your trip? I liked going on the Cyclone. I like fast rides. The Electro Spin is also fun. You go up and down in a circle and you get a really nice view of the beach.Have you eaten anything? I did. I ate some hot dogs from Nathan’s hot dogs. I always go there when I go to Coney Island because they have really good hot dogs.
What do you like about school? My friends. I have a lot. We’re a girl group.
If you could change a rule, what would you change? I go to bed at 8. I’d stay up later.
Additional reporting by Alexa Díaz
Josh Ocampo is a Senior Digital Editor for The New York Times for Kids. Caroline Tompkins is a photographer and a professor at the School of Visual Arts.