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25 Totally cool facts about New York (that you never knew!)

View of the Empire State Building at dusk from the view point of another building - pinterest image

25 Totally cool facts about New York (that you never knew!)

New York is a firm favourite amongst travellers and one of my all-time favourite cities too! It has such a diverse and interesting history that I’ve put together a few of my favourite facts about New York that all travel nerds will absolutely love!

Here are 25 totally cool facts about New York (that you never knew!).


1) New York was named after England’s Duke of York

New York was first settled in 1624 before the English took over the established dutch colony (soz guys!) in 1664.

They changed the name of the city from “Nieuw Amsterdam” to “New York”, in honour of the Duke of York, who later became King James II.

2) The name “Big Apple” was coined in horse racing

New York’s nickname, “The Big Apple” was first popularised in the 1920s by John J. Fitz Gerald, a sports writer for the New York Morning Telegraph. Fitz Gerald first used it in a 1921 article after hearing the term being used around the stables of New Orleans from stable hands who aspired to race on the prestigious New York City tracks.

Everyone wants a bite of the biggest and juiciest apple after all – am I right?

View of Times Square with billboards and people in the background at night

3) About 1 in every 38 people living in the United States resides in New York City

If you ever needed proof that New York was one of the best cities on the planet, it’s this! New York has the highest population density of any major city in the United States, with over 27,000 people per square mile. A quarter of which arrived in 2000 or later!

4) New York has one of the lowest big-city crime rates in America

For a city so densely populated, it comes as quite a surprise that New York actually has the lowest big-city crime rate in America. Go NYPD!

5) New York was the first capital city of the USA

New York City was first settled by the dutch in 1624, making it one of the oldest cities in the country. Founding father, George Washington even took his oath as president on the balcony at Federal Hall in 1789.

Outside the Federal Hall in New York - with columns and tall steps and a George Washington statue outside

6) The New York Post is the oldest running newspaper in the US

Founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801, The New York Post is not only the oldest New York City newspaper still in continuous publication but the oldest running newspaper in the whole US!

It’s changed over the years, starting off conservative before turning liberal, strongly supported Abraham Lincoln and opposing slavery.

In the 20th century, The New York Post shifted towards a more tabloid format, becoming best-known for its sensationalist headlines and reports.

7) The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France

Officially called, “Liberty Enlighting the World” – the Statue of Liberty was gifted to the US in 1886 by the French, representing international friendship. It has since become one of the most famous landmarks in the world and is an icon of freedom and democracy the world over.

Statue of Liberty on her platform with people walking underneath from the view point of a boat

8) Subway musicians have to audition

With over 4.3 million people riding the subway every day, the earning potential of a subway musician is immense!

But you’ll be surprised to hear that even known artists that have performed at NYC’s famous Carnegie Hall have to audition for a permit.

9) Elephants were used to convince the public that the Brooklyn Bridge was safe

This is one of my all-time favourite facts about New York, imagining a line of elephants casually strolling over one of the most famous bridges in the world!

Although the Brooklyn Bridge was of course structurally sound, people were initially frightened of it collapsing if they walked over it. So, renowned circus showman, P.T. Barnum led 21 elephants across the bridge in 1884 after its completion to show how safe it was. Makes sense…

New York skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge

10) The deepest subway station is 173 feet below street level

At an incredible 173 feet below street level, 191st Street Station in Manhattan is the deepest subway stop in all New York.

11) The lions in front of the New York Public Library have names

They may be Kings of the concrete jungle, but not many people know that these famous marble lions actually have names. But Patience and Fortitude and have guarded the entrance to New York’s massive archives for over 100 years.

Stone statue of a lion outside the New York City Library

12) The Empire State Building was first publicised as a dock for airships

The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic structures in the world and has been at the centre of a myth for decades!

It was alleged that the Empire State Building’s mast was intended to dock airships. But in fact it was put there so that it would be taller than the Chrysler Building!

The President of Empire Inc who oversaw the building’s construction, publicly promoted the idea of the mast as a dock so that he could hide the true reason for its construction.

All airship traffic suspended after the Hinderburg Disaster but it didn’t stop this myth from perpetuating, even today!

13) The Empire State Building has its own zip code

The Empire State Building houses hundreds of businesses and has 15,000 employees passing through its doors every day; the place definitely needs its own zip code!

View of the Empire State Building at dusk from the view point of another building

14) There is a “secret” whispering gallery at Grand Central Station

Shhh! Can you keep a secret? New York’s Grand Central Station houses a “secret” acoustical phenomenon.

Right by the Oyster Bar restaurant you’ll find a small cove where some people will appear to be talking to the walls. But they’re actually whispering into the corner.

Turns out, the sound bounces across the vaulted tiled ceiling and your buddy can hear you over 30 feet away!

The tiles making up the curved ceiling are tightly set so there is nowhere for your sound to disappear to. It’s a total happy accident of design!

15) There is a dirty tile left on the ceiling of Grand Central Station

When the ceiling of the main concourse of Grand Central Station was restored between 1994 and 1998, a patch was left untouched to show just how filthy it had been!

I guess that’s one way to show what a good job you’ve done…

Inside Grand Central Station in New York with people walking around the main concourse, high arched windows and turquoise ceiling

16) There is a secret train platform in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel

New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel has been the home of many firsts. The first hotel to have electricity on every floor, the first to have ensuite bathrooms and the first to offer 24-hour room service.

But it’s also at the centre of one of the coolest facts about New York. There’s an underground railroad that runs from Grand Central Terminal to the fourth floor of the Waldorf’s basement.

The train station was commissioned by then President Franklin Roosevelt as he didn’t want the world to know he was in a wheelchair due to polio. He used the bespoke locomotive to commute between New York and Washington with ease and privacy.

17) There’s a wind tunnel by the Flat Iron Building

New York’s iconic Flat Iron Building was built in 1902 and is most famous for its unconventional iron shape.

But its shape was simply to maximise the footprint of the building. It’s sat on a small triangular piece of land set on Fifth Avenue, Broadway and 22nd and 23rd Streets. Unbeknownst to the designers, the shape of the building would cause a wind tunnel on the corner of 23rd Street.

In the early 20th century, men would hang out here and watch the wind blowing women’s dresses up to catch a glimpse of a scandalous bit of ankle!

Flat iron building in New York with yellow taxi cab driving by

18) On November 28th 2012, not a single violent crime or incident were reported in NYC for an entire day

It’s incredible to think that a city as highly populated as New York could go a whole day without reporting a crime.

Once again on this facts about New York post – go NYPD!

19) The winter of 1780 was so harsh that New York Harbour froze over

During the bitter winter of 1780, people could actually walk from Manhattan to Staten Island on the ice!

View of liberty island, the statue and the skyline of New York in the background

20) Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park, Union Square Park and Bryant Park all used to be cemeteries

Try and get that out of your head next time you go for a leisurely stroll in the park! 😂

21) Wall Street isn’t named for its strong financial connection

Many people think that “Wall” Street was named to denote the strength of the financial market.

But it was originally named Wall Street in the 17th century, when the Dutch built an actual wall to protect themselves from invaders.

New York Stock Exchange building on Wall Street with a large USA flag across the front

22) There is 840 miles of subway track

New York is one of the most connected cities in the world and the subway is its lifeblood.

Building work started on the subway system in 1900 and it now encompasses 473 stations and 840 miles of track!

23) An estimated 40% of immigrants are descended from immigrants that passed through Ellis Island

After processing more that 12 million immigrants into the US since its opening in 1892, Ellis Island closed on 12th November 1954.

Once America joined WWI, immigration declined and Ellis Island was used as a detention centre for suspected enemies instead.

After the war, Congress introduced the Immigration Act of 1924 which sharply reduced the number of people immigrating to the US but enabled immigrants to be processed at US consulates abroad so Ellis Island was no longer needed.

Old black and white photo of iside the processing building on Ellis Island with people queuing sat down to have their paperwork done

24) New York is home to a sh*t tonne of inventors!

People always associate the ancient Greeks and Romans as the innovators of our modern world. But what people don’t know is that many of our essential every day items were actually invented in New York.

Toilet paper, yale locks, air conditioning, credit cards, teddy bears and traffic lights to name just a few!

25) New York is the most linguistically diverse city in the world

New York is well-known for being a melting pot of different cultures. But did you know that more than 800 languages are spoken there? With 4 in 10 households speaking a language other than English. Now that’s a diverse and all-inclusive city!

Other New York posts you might like…


What are your favourite facts about New York? 😊

Mel x

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About the author

Hi, I’m Mel! The adventure-seeking vegan travel blogger behind Footsteps on the Globe. On this blog you'll find my latest adventures, travel inspiration as well as tips and tricks on how to be vegan around the world. You don’t have to give up being vegan to follow your travel dreams and I’m here to show you how!