Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park to reopen April 9

deno's wonder wheel
A man walks past the Wonder Wheel ride and an amusement part on the seaside Coney Island boardwalk.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

Thrill-seekers rejoice!

Coney Island’s own Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park will reopen for the 2021 summer season on April 9, the park’s owners announced on March 30.

“It’s exciting, but at the same time, we know that we have a responsibility to open safely. And that responsibility comes before anything else,” said DJ Vourderis, whose family has operated the famous Wonder Wheel and its surrounding amusement park since 1983. “We’re just happy to be a glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.” 

To ensure the safety of park-goers, the amusement park will operate at 33 percent capacity, require social distancing and mask-wearing, and install plexiglass and air ventilation systems in many of its rides. The park will be open only on weekends in the spring and fall, but will be open daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. 

Attendees are asked to make reservations online in advance with a timed entry, or they can get on a standby line for times that are sold out. Once inside the park, thrill-seekers can purchase tickets for the rides and stay for up to two hours, said Vourderis, who added that the park may change its rules as the season progresses. 

“It’s mostly staggered entry, and we’re going to see how it goes,” said Vourderis, noting that the state still hasn’t released reopening guidelines for amusement parks. “We still haven’t officially received the guidance, we’re just going on the mayor’s announcement.”

Word of Deno’s guaranteed reopening comes more than a month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared that outdoor amusement parks could reopen at reduced capacity beginning April 9. The news brought a sigh of relief to the Coney Island amusement district, which suffered a tough economic blow after the season-long closure of the parks last year.

The owners of Luna Park — who operate the Luna Park amusement park and the Cyclone and Thunderbolt rollercoasters — have not yet announced their reopening, and did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

According to Vourderis, all of the rides inside Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park will open, including the namesake Wonder Wheel and the indoor “Stop the Zombies” ride, which will host only one group at a time and will be equipped with air filters.

Daredevils can also look forward to the new Phoenix rollercoaster — a 68-foot-tall, moderately intense rollercoaster that will open beside the Wonder Wheel in a few months. 

As is custom, the Vourderis family will kick off opening day with their annual “Blessing of the Rides,” where elected officials and locals will gather for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. DJ said that the family hoped to adjust this year’s event to honor the city’s essential workers. 

We would like healthcare workers to be the first ones on the Wonder Wheel,” said the park operator.

The Blessing of the Rides will double as a mini celebration for the Wonder Wheel’s 100-year anniversary, which landed last year. However, the family will wait until a later date to fully celebrate the ride’s centennial, DJ said. 

“When it’s time to celebrate the 100th anniversary, when things are really under control, we will. Now we really have to be cautious,” he said. “We know we are still in a global pandemic, and that things are not normal yet, but are happy to give people a chance to enjoy an outdoor space and hopefully remind everyone what it feels like to smile again.”

Correction [April 1]: A previous version of this article said that the Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park will be open only on weekends this summer. The park will be open weekends in the spring and fall, but will be open daily between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. We regret the error.