Last Updated on June 20, 2023
Mermaids, sailors, pirates and lots of naked skin?
I had been fascinated by the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island ever since the first time I heard about it a few years back. And this summer, I finally 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).
A parade with wacky 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.
‘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 😉
The 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.
Seeing that this June the Mermaid 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.
But 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.)
The 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.
…and some costumes I wasn’t sure what they were supposed to be…
See that little dog above? There were actually quite a few dogs in the parade:
And I spotted several parrots.
Even the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, joined the parade with his wife and children, and so did Uncle Sam!
That 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 from Germany one year – no doubt that they’d have a blast walking in the parade dressed up as mermaids.
*Attention.. the following photos are rated R*
I loved the eclectic mix of people in the parade – seniors, families, young lovers, queer couples,… And everyone was having a great time.
I learned that it is legal for women to walk around topless in the state of New York.
So why not embrace our natural beauty 🙂
Tips for attending the Mermaid Parade:
Don’t forget water, sun screen and your camera! Especially sunblock because there is barely any shade.
Don’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.
Check the official website for the detailed route and starting time.
Bring a beach 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.
If you are looking for other fun summer activities in NYC, check out these 28 cool things to do in New York City in the summer, compiled by yours truly.