Not many places in America have, for so long, been so dedicated to the pursuit of fun as the mile-long stretch along the southern edge of Brooklyn known as Coney Island. Luna Park, Astroland, the world-famous Cyclone roller coaster — for well over a century, these names helped define what amusement parks were, while their attractions and thrills still inform what summertime entertainment looks, feels and sounds like.
Here, on the anniversary of the Cyclone’s 87th birthday — the legendary wooden coaster opened for business on June 26, 1927 — LIFE.com presents a series of pictures that celebrate the unique, messy, vibrant energy of Coney Island. Even today, after decades of ups and downs, there’s no place else quite like it.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.