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New York City is truly the city that never sleeps, there is always some sort of cool event happening: from weird festivals, to conferences, to pop-up shops, to the largest parades in the US including a Mermaid parade. Yes, you heard it right. New York City has its own Mermaid Parade and, guess what? It is not just any parade but the largest art parade in the United States and the World’s biggest art parade! 

This Mermaid Festival, known as The Mermaid Parade, is held every year (for the last 37 years) in Coney Island, part of the borough of Brooklyn, New York. And, most local New Yorkers, like myself, totally love attending.

Coney Island is a destination itself in New York City with plenty of things to do, and historical places to see, such as Nathan’s famous hot dog. But, for this post, I will cover the Mermaid Parade History, how to get to Coney Island to join the festivities, and why you are even celebrating Brooklyn, NYC’s very own National Mermaid Day.

The Mermaid Parade History

The iconic Mermaid Parade has been celebrated since 1983, for the last 37 years, to welcome the summer season. It usually falls around the Summer Solstice. It is a symbol of New York colors, freedom, self-form of expression and, as mentioned above, the largest art parade in US and, honestly, one of the best summer events in NYC, not forgetting that other huge parades also take place in the summer, such as the National Puerto Rican Day Parade (celebrated along fifth avenue in Manhattan), among others.

Over 800,000 people attend the Mermaid Parade every year, and it is a day of fun, sun and colors. Well, I cannot guarantee the sun, but for the several years that I’ve been attending, Mother Nature has been good to me. Make sure to ask Mother Nature for your own favor before attending. Although mermaids generally love the water, the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island is their rare chance to walk about with us mere mortals.

Essentially, the Mermaid Parade is a completely original creation of Coney Island USA (the not-for-profit arts organization at 1208 Surf Avenue) and it is a celebration of ancient mythology and honky-tonk rituals of the seaside.

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The largest art parade in the US - Coney Island Mermaid Parade Brooklyn NYC

What you will see at the NYC Mermaid Parade?

You will find thousands of artists and creative individuals, from all the 5 boroughs and beyond, showing off their creativity by marching in the parade. I always enjoy seeing all of the unique creations, the smiles and the community pride in this area, Coney Island, which is all about amusement (with it’s boardwalk, rides and games).

As stated on the Coneyisland.com website, the 3 main goals of the Mermaid Parade are: (1) Bringing mythology to life for local residents who live on streets named Mermaid and Neptune; (2) Generating self-esteem in a district that is often disregarded as “entertainment”; and (3) Providing a self-expression opportunity in public where artistic New Yorkers can be appreciated. 

The Mermaid Parade is a major New York City holiday invented by artists! It’s the American version or, more specifically, the NYC version of the summer-solstice celebration.

Dreams in Heels at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade NYC

The Mermaid Parade 2019 – A Mermaid Festival

Every year during the parade, you can spot participants dressed in hand-made costumes, based on themes and categories set by the parade organizers. Every year there are different themes and things they look for, which makes the parade incredibly unique and different every time.

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Mermaid Parade NYC - NYC Style version of Mermaid National Day

How do you get to the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island?

I personally don’t recommend driving, since sometimes it’s difficult to find parking with so many people attending. I believe the best way is via public transportation, mainly the subway (especially if you truly want to enjoy the festivities and even join some of the fun Mermaid Parade after parties!).

Subway Directions:

By subway, it takes about 50 minutes to get from midtown Manhattan to Stillwell Avenue — which is the stop for Coney Island.

From Midtown or the Village, take the “F” or “D” trains that run along Sixth Avenue (in Manhattan) or the “N” or “Q” trains that run down Broadway to Canal Street. All four of these trains will take you directly to Coney Island in Brooklyn.

From the Upper East Side, take the “4,” “5” or “6” train to Union Square and then transfer to the “N” or “Q” train, which goes directly to Coney Island. Alternatively, take the “4” or “5” train all the way to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and then transfer to the “F,” “D,” “N” or “Q” train, any of which will take you to Coney Island.

Bus ride Coney Island Mermaid Parade Party

From the Upper West Side, take the “D” train (usually on Eighth Avenue) all the way to Coney Island in one straight shot. Alternately, you can take any of the “1,” “2” or “3” trains to Times Square and transfer to the “N” or “Q” train, which will take you all the way to Coney Island.

From downtown Manhattan or the financial district, take any Brooklyn-bound train that goes to Atlantic Avenue and transfer to the “F,” “D,” “N” or “Q” lines to Coney Island from there.

From Queens, take the “F” train, from as far away as Flushing, all the way to Coney Island. Alternately, and in order to bypass traveling through Manhattan, take the “G” line to Brooklyn which begins to run parallel to the “F” line at Bergen Street, and transfer over at any point between Bergen and where the line ends at Church Avenue.

This year, the 37thAnnual Mermaid Parade is presented by Coney Island USA and the Coney Island Brewery.

Itinerary of the Mermaid Parade 2019

Parade route

* The Parade will start at West 21st Street and Surf Avenue
* The Parade will roll east to West 10th Street
* At West 10th Street the Parade will turn south towards the boardwalk
* Cars and Motorized Floats continue down Surf Ave. passing W. 10th Street and exit the parade.
* At the Boardwalk, the marchers and push-pull floats will turn west and head towards West 17th St.
* At Steeplechase Plaza, the Parade will disband.

Ocean Opening

Immediately after the last participant passes the review stand (approximately 4pm) at West 19th and Surf Avenue, parade founder Dick D. Zigun leads the King and Queen procession from the review stand at 19th and Surf Avenue, through MCU Parking lot to the beach for the official Beach Ceremony and opening of the ocean for the summer swimming season.  

If you are interested in being part of the parade, you can register here.

Another helpful resource is this detailed map of the Mermaid Parade.

Overall, for a New York City local experience, the Annual Mermaid Parade is the place to be. It let’s you feel the local vibe and ambiance of New York City in a unique setting. An amazing place for people watching, great photos and unforgettable memories. There is also many more things to do in Coney Island, and you can also enjoy next door neighborhoods such as Brighton Beach, which is a place populated by ex Soviet Union immigrants, so you can truly find the best Russian and Ukranian food options. That is the magic of New York City, amazing events, and super multicultural neighborhoods. 

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