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Coney Island fun: Rides, mermaids, hot dogs

When the mercury rises and thoughts turn to sun and sand, New Yorkers head for Coney Island, that iconic stretch of beach and boardwalk on the southern edge of Brooklyn, where generations have passed their summers. With a world-renowned roller-coaster and amusement park, hot dogs and the Atlantic Ocean, there's no better spot in the city for an easy summer day trip. Visit next Saturday, June 20, and you'll catch the annual spectacle that is the Mermaid Parade, stepping off from 21st Street and Surf Avenue at 2 p.m. (For parade info, www.coneyisland.com/mermaid.shtml).

Riegelmann Boardwalk , Between W. Eighth St. and Stillwell Ave.

Nibble on cotton candy while you stroll the boardwalk or pitch your towels on the beach and get your feet wet in the waves.

Amusement Park Rides

Cyclone , 834 Surf Ave., 718-265-2100, coneyislandcyclone.com

Wonder Wheel , Riegelmann Boardwalk at W. 12th Street, wonderwheel.com

From the kid-friendly carousel to the sky-scraping Wonder Wheel to the National Historic Landmark wooden roller-coaster, the Cyclone, this is old-time amusement park fun at its best.

Coney Island Circus Sideshow , 1201 Surf Ave., 718-372-5159, coneyisland.com/sideshow.shtml

Sword swallowers, snake charmers, a human tripod and other human oddities round out the bill at the self-proclaimed "freak show."

New York Aquarium , Surf Avenue & W. Eighth St. , 718-265-3474, nyaquarium.com

From walruses and octopuses to sharks and sea lions, there's a lot to see at this perennial family-friendly destination.

Siren Music Festival , Between Riegelmann Boardwalk and Surf Avenue (between 10th Street and Stillwell Avenue), siren.villagevoice.com/siren/

All ages are welcome at this free rain-or-shine event on Saturday, July 18. This year's lineup includes The Raveonettes, Frightened Rabbits and Built to Spill.

Nathan's , 1310 Surf Ave., 718-946-2705, COST $

They may or may not have invented the hot dog, but it's hard to find one better than at Nathan's. The thick-cut fries can't be beat.

Red Hook Food Vendors at Festival by Sea , Surf Avenue at Stillwell Avenue. $

The Red Hook food vendors set up shop in the Festival by the Sea stalls, dishing out authentic (and delicious) Latin-American street food.

Gargiulo's , 2911 W. 15th St., 718-266-4891, gargiulos.com , COST $$-$$$

Can't stomach another hot dog? Head for this upscale neighborhood stalwart, serving locals and tourists Italian cuisine for more than 100 years.

Ruby's Old Tyme Bar & Grill m 1213 Riegelmann Boardwalk, 718-372-9079, COST $

Drinks in plastic cups and bar food are served at this timeworn Coney Island watering hole. Sit inside with the old-timers, or grab a seat on the boardwalk and watch humanity amble by.

Williams Candy , 1318 Surf Ave., 718-372-0302, candytreats.com

Cotton candy, fudge, ice cream, candy apples and more make this 75-year-old candy shop a sweet stop for all ages.

Red Envelope , 3100 Ocean Pkwy., 718-372-3697

Far from the kitschy vibe of Coney Island souvenir shops, this Russian gift store, just off Brighton Beach Avenue, has a mysterious, exotic feeling to it. The selection ranges from delicately-crafted jewelry and hair accessories to tiffany lamps, antique-looking clocks and even ornate feathered masks.

KeySpan Park , 1904 Surf Ave., 718-449-8497, brook lyncyclones.com

Arguably more fun (and certainly cheaper) than a visit to Citi Field is taking in a game at the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, the New York Mets' Class A farm team.

The National , 273 Brighton Beach Ave., 718-646-1225, come2national.com

A few short blocks but worlds away is Brighton Beach Avenue, known as Little Odessa, home to Russian restaurants, shops, and legendary nightclubs like The National. Elaborate Vegas-style stage shows, traditional Russian food and vodka are in abundance.

BY CAR Take the Belt Parkway to Exit 7/Ocean Parkway. Go south on Ocean Parkway until you hit Surf Avenue. Turn right on Surf Avenue. Most Coney Island attractions run between W. Fifth Street and Stillwell Avenue.

BY SUBWAY Take the D, F, N or Q to Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue. Or take the F or Q to W, Eighth Street/NY Aquarium.

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