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Mermaids, sailors and pirates: New York City’s whackiest celebration

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Mermaids, sailors, pirates and lots of naked skin?

I had been fascinated by the Mermaid Parade on Coney Island ever since the first time I heard about it a few years back. And this summer, I happened to be in New York when the iconic parade took place – there was no way I’d miss it (even if that meant not watching Germany’s second game in the soccer world cup).

coney island mermaid parade 2014 seamenconey island mermaid parade 2014 marineA parade with whacky costumes, right by the ocean and in the summer – to me it seemed like this was Brooklyn’s very own version of Halloween and Mardi Gras, all mixed together. Some of the costumes actually reminded me a lot of Mardi Gras – although overall the costumes were less political and more provocative.
coney island mermaid parade costumes popeyeconey island mermaid parade 2014 costumes‘You’ll get to see lots of boobs!’ my friends kept telling me before the event, but obviously that wasn’t the only reason why I was eager to check out the parade πŸ˜‰

coney island mermaid parade bodypaintingThe Mermaid Parade was introduced in 1983 to celebrate the arrival of summer and to bring to life the mythology behind street names such as Mermaid and Neptune, which are among the main roads in Coney Island. Plus, it was supposed to encourage the locals to express themselves in an artistic way.

coney island mermaid parade 2014coney island mermaid parade 2014coney island mermaid parade 2014 mermaidsSeeing that this June the parade marched down Surf Avenue and the Coney Island Boardwalk for the 32nd time, it seems like Coney Island’s artsy residents have made this celebration a fix institution in their annual event itineraries.
coney island mermaid parade 2014 guysBut not only Brooklynites – over the years, the parade has evolved in much more than a little local festivity, with participants and spectators arriving from neighboring states and far away neighborhoods like the Upper West Side (which feels like it’s a journey from another country, let me tell you.)

golden girl coney island mermaid parade 2014The best thing about the parade is that literally anybody can register to march in it – you don’t need a group or a float, you can just walk by yourself, as long as you have a costume. And oh boy, do people get into their dresses!! Understandably so, because there are several categories for best costume prizes.

coney island mermaid parade whacky costumesBecause anyone can participate, the Mermaid Parade has grown to over 1,500 people marching, making it the largest art parade in the U.S.

coney island mermaid parade mermaidsconey island mermaid parade 2014 sailorconey island mermaid parade mermaid costumesWhile the overall theme of the sea and its inhabitants was prevalent, I noticed that many people also just dressed up in a random costume of their choice.

coney island mermaid parade 2014 marilynconey island mermaid parade CostumesThat’s why there were Transformers…

coney island mermaid parade 2014 transformerZombie-Mermaids…

coney island mermaid parade walking dead…and some costumes I wasn’t sure what they were supposed to be…
coney island mermaid parade 2014  doggieSee that little dog above? There were actually quite a few dogs in the parade:
coney island mermaid parade dogsAnd I spotted several parrots.
coney island mermaid parade 2014 parrotEven the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, joined the parade with his wife and children, and so did Uncle Sam!

Coney Island Mermaid Parade Mayor and Uncle SamThat was another aspect I really liked: lots of families with children were walking in the parade. Knowing how much fun I had dressing up as a kid, I can only imagine how cool it must be for them to actually be in the parade. Right away, I began to hatch a plot to get my little nieces over here one year – no doubt that they’d have a blast walking in the parade dressed up as mermaids.

coney island mermaid parade 2014 little girlsI love how much detail most people put into their dresses – some people spend months tailoring their handmade and self-designed costumes.

coney island mermaid parade 2014 girlsThe mermaid in pink pictured below (on the left) took the prize for ‘Best Mermaid Costume’!
coney island mermaid parade floatsWhile there were some family-friendly costumes, I also saw quite a few provocative costumes.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade Butt*Attention.. the following photos are rated R*

coney island mermaid parade 2014 boobsI loved the eclectic mix of people in the parade – seniors, families, young lovers, queer couples,… and everyone was having a great time.
coney island mermaid parade topless girlsI learned that it is legal for women to walk around topless in the state of New York.
coney island mermaid parade topless mermaidsSo why not embrace our natural beauty πŸ™‚coney island mermaid parade 2014 topless mermaids1coney island mermaid parade 2014 topless lady*If you’re planning to visit New York City next summer, mark 20 June in your calendar – that’s when the next Mermaid Parade takes place!*

Tips for attending the Mermaid Parade:

Don’t forget water, sun screen and your camera! Especially sun screen because there is barely any shade.

coney island mermaid parade 2014 coupleDon’t come hungry. I made the mistake of not eating before heading down there and had to put up with the sub-par fast food options around there (if you love Hot Dogs though, make sure to try one of Nathan’s world famous hot dogs!)

I wish I would have dressed up for the parade! Many of the spectators were also wearing costumes

Come early to get a good spot. It took us about 90 minutes to get from Midtown Manhattan down to Coney Island. The parade started at 1pm this year, and we arrived about half an hour before it started – and snagged about the last two first-row places along the parade route.

coney island mermaid parade BoardwalkThe next time I go, I’ll watch the parade on the boardwalk – I just feel like it is a prettier backdrop for it than Surf Ave.

Check the official website for the detailed route and starting time.

Bring a towel and stay at the beach for a couple of hours after the parade. We loved the festive vibe and had a blast sunbathing with all the mermaids and other participants.

dani at the beach

Which one is your favorite costume? Share in the comments below!

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Tags : festivalnew york city

20 Comments

  1. The last parade I took part in was some time during the ’90’s when I was still a kid, but I remember nothing but laughter during the entire thing as we rode on the back of a lorry throwing all sorts of stuff into the crowd. This looks MUCH better than that πŸ˜›

    I love that absolutely EVERYONE in your pictures is smiling, smiling because they feel comfortable and happy to be out and doing something different, celebrating as a community which is even more fantastic to see.

    1. Oh I think you’d love walking in this parade! You could create some kind of couple costume πŸ™‚
      And you’re right – everybody was so happy during the parade, such a great vibe there!!

  2. Who doesn’t love a parade, especially such a fun and quirky one! It reminds me of the Fremont Summer Solstice parade in Seattle. It’s a crazy mix of wild and outlandish people and costumes and it attracts thousands of people of all ages. One of thee days I going to be a participant instead f just a spectator!!

    1. Sarah – after a quick Google image search of the Fremont Summer Solstice I have to say two things:
      1) I can see why it reminds you of the Mermaid Parade and
      2) the Fremont Summer Solstice reminds me of the Naked Bike Ride that takes place in London every year (and other cities, I think)!!
      And I have to try to plan my trip to Seattle around that parade πŸ˜‰

  3. I chuckled at the timing of the first and second photo in this post. I’d love this parade! Ever since I was a little girl I’ve dreamed of being a mermaid. I wonder if anyone is brave enough to attempt swimming in their costumes after the parade is done!

    1. I can totally see that happen, Chantae – people just running into the ocean with their costumes πŸ˜€ It was so hot that day, some of the people with the ‘bigger’ costumes must have been SO hot!

    1. I am sorry to hear that you’re freezing, Katie, but I think the winter in Sydney is still much more bearable than the German or American winters πŸ˜‰ I am planning my winter escape at the moment though, to make sure I won’t be stuck in the cold somewhere πŸ˜€

  4. Not meant to ignore the wacky stuff, but I really like the photo of you Dani! Looks like you are embracing life… πŸ™‚
    Have fun and keep celebrating moments!

    1. This comment means so much to me, Oliver!! I am indeed embracing life again and happy to hear that it shows πŸ™‚

  5. Mermaid Parade! How did I not ever hear about this when I lived in NY. I lived for 4 years and would have love to have gone to this. I see myself dressing my self up as a merman just like Derek Zoolander.

    Darn I am going to have to come back now and see some friends next year so I can partake.

    Really great pics and there are really are some great costumes here.

    1. Like Derek Zoolander!! Haha, love it! You’ll definitely have to come back and participate! I’ll look out for you next year πŸ˜‰

  6. Thanks for sharing your photos Dany!…its really colorful and beautiful.Wow!One day I think i will be not a spectator but a participant.

  7. Awesome photos! My boyfriend actually builds the rides at Coney Island so I love going down there, especially for the Mermaid Parade. Even by NYC standards it’s pretty crazy πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Jessica! I can’t believe your boyfriend builds the rides at Coney Island!! I have so many questions for him πŸ˜‰ I was hoping to see you at the Travel Massive, btw, but I don’t think you were there? Would be great to meet you while I’m still in NYC.

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