Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel set to open on New Year’s Day for first time

The Wonder Wheel, which opened in 1920, reaches 150 feet at its highest point.
The Wonder Wheel, which opened in 1920, reaches 150 feet at its highest point. Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

New Yorkers could have an opportunity to take a spin on Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel on New Year’s Day for the first time in the 95-year-old ride’s history. 

The owners of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park say they plan to open the ride on the first day of 2016 as long as the weather cooperates. 

“For safety reasons, if there’s ice up there or extreme winds or snow, we’ll definitely not be open,” said Steve Vourderis, who co-owns the family-run amusement park with his brother and oversees the Wheel. 

He said they’ll be paying close attention to whether there is any ice on the Wheel. If it were to fall, he said, “it could seriously injure somebody.” 

Also for safety reasons, only the stationary cars of the Wheel will be in operation. The famous swingings cars are more susceptible to getting stuck from ice. 

Vourderis said the cold alone wouldn’t be a deciding factor whether to close. “If it’s cold, people are going to come prepared,” he said. “They’re going to wear a jacket.” 

In recent years, more and more people have been flocking to Coney Island to celebrate the New Year. Crowds take part in the annual Polar Bear Club swim, where they swim in their beachwear into the icy Atlantic Ocean in a show of courage against the cold.  

Vourderis said opening the Wheel would give visitors another attraction to experience and riders will be able to look down on the Polar Bear swimmers. 

Most amusement rides are closed at Coney Island during the winter. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park’s season runs from Palm Sunday to after Halloween. 

Vourderis couldn’t recall another time when the Wheel had been open to riders in the winter, though he said that the original owners may have opened in February at one point. 

He said New Year’s Day could be very sunny with clear skies allowing views to Manhattan. 

If that happens, he said, riding the Wheel “will be very pleasurable.”