Coney Island was the largest amusement area in the United States, between 1880 and World War II, attracting several million visitors per year. At its height, it contained three competing major amusement parks, as well as many independent amusements. It was finally eclipsed by Disneyland in California.
After the Civil War, with rail lines, steamship lines and access to the beach, Coney Island became a resort with major hotels, public and private beaches, horse racing and less reputable entertainments, including gambling and prostitution. When the steam railroads were electrified, at the beginning of the 20th century, Coney Island began to turn more rapidly from a resort to an accessible location for day-trippers seeking to escape the summer heat. After World War II, the advent of automobile access to the less crowded and more appealing Long Island state parks, lessened the attractions of Coney's beaches.
Once home to many Jewish and Italian-American residents, most of those living on Coney Island today are African-American or Hispanic. In recent years, an influx of Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union have also established a community on the island and neighboring Brighton Beach.