Women half dressed wearing fish costumes. Men half dressed wearing fish costumes. Elaborate doos, makeup for days. Painted floats and classic cars. The streets filled with cheering crowds.
Welcome to the Mermaid Parade. It’s quite a spectacle.
When to Go
I’d read about the Parade for years before finally going in 2016. Once I was there I felt a little stupid not having gone earlier.
This Saturday, June 22, the Mermaid Parade will celebrate its 37 years and kick off the summer in grand fashion. My advice: grab the family, jump on the subway and head for Coney Island. It’s a lot of fun and slightly surreal. The epitome of a perfect New York event.
Though the parade starts at 1:00 pm, I suggest getting there a lot earlier. I arrived at noon but by that time the sidewalks along the parade route had already been transformed into a tailgate party. Revelers had staked their claim with folding lounge chairs, blankets, and coolers. One group had a hibachi set up until a police officer shut it down.
The Parade Route
According to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade website: “The Parade will start on West 21st and Surf Avenue and head toward West 10th Street, the marchers and push-pull floats will go to the Boardwalk and march to Steeplechase Plaza, where the Parade will disband.”
A Little History of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Launched in 1983, the parade was conceived with three goals in mind according to its website: 1) to bring the “mythology to life for residents who lived on the streets named Mermaid and Neptune.” 2) to bring a sense of self-esteem to “a district that is often disregarded as ‘entertainment.” 3) to give artistic New Yorkers a vehicle for public self-expression.
I’d say they’ve achieved their objectives in spades.
It’s a good time, plain and simple. And if for some reason you get tired of looking at the paraders in their sparkly scales and fish tails, trust me, plenty of your fellow spectators are bound to entertain.
After the Parade
At 3 or 4 pm, the festivities will come to an end, but stick around, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Coney Island’s famous boardwalk only steps away, and if you get hungry there’s a smorgasbord of tantalizing junk food at your fingertips—deep-fried Oreos, funnel cakes and Nathan’s hot dogs are my favorite. Plus a midway full of amusement park rides including the famous Cyclone Roller Coaster and legendary Wonder Wheel.
If you decide to check it out the Mermaid Parade, here are a few tips to make the most out of your day.
- If you’re coming from Manhattan, take the subway, don’t bother with a taxi (too expensive) or a car (parking is a nightmare). The F, D, N, and Q lines are a straight shot to Stillwell Avenue. The Parade is a block or two away. Leave yourself at least 45 minutes to an hour for the trip.
- I positioned myself on 10th street so that when the parade turned south towards the boardwalk (see route below), I could photograph them head on as opposed to shooting them from the side.
- Bring sunglasses.
- There’s no shade so wear sunscreen and plenty of it, plus a hat or else you’ll fry.
- The crowds are pretty thick so be prepared to be extra diligent with your kids. It’s easy to get separated.
- Depending on your sensitivities, be advised, there’s a lot of flesh on display in case that’s an issue for you or your children.
Parade Route (Per the Mermaid Parade website)
The Parade starts at West 21st Street and Surf Avenue, then 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.