New York is known for its endless entertainment options, iconic skyscrapers, and bustling atmosphere. It is home to some of America’s most recognizable landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and Times Square. One of New York’s defining features is its diversity – it has become a melting pot of different cultures, languages, religions and beliefs.
Without a doubt, the state of New York is most famous for New York City, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. And in this article, you’ll find out 30 things New York is famous for!
What Is New York Known For?
1. Being Called The Big Apple
One of New York City’s most famous nicknames is “The Big Apple,” which started in the 1920s and came about thanks to sports journalist John J. Fitzgerald who wrote a column for a local newspaper about the many horse races in and around New York, in one column he referred to the amazing prizes which could be won as “the big apple.” And so the nickname for the city began to stick.
Then, the jazz musicians in the 1930s started referring to New York City as “The Big Apple,” and so New York’s fate was eventually sealed!
2. Broadway Shows
No visit to New York is complete without seeing a Broadway musical. These shows are some of the most sought-out attractions in the city. Matter of fact, starting from 2009, over $1 billion dollars worth of tickets are sold every year!
Broadway Street is, in fact, several miles long, but the Theater District refers to the area between 42nd and 53rd, including Times Square. This area is home to no less than 40 large theaters, each one seating approximately 500 people.
Some of the most famous theaters on Broadway include Richard Rodgers, the Music Box, the Lyric, and the Gershwin Theatre. And each theater hosts an ever-changing selection of musicals and plays.
The Lion King is the highest-grossing Broadway show of all time. Since its opening night in 1997, the musical based on the Disney movie of the same name has earned over $1.5 billion in ticket sales! Other popular broadway shows include The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Cats, Wicked, and Les Miserables.
3. 9/11 Terrorist Attacks
Sadly, New York is known for being the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On September 11th, 2001, two planes struck the “Twin Towers”, which were two of the tallest buildings in the world. The attack destroyed the entire World Trade Center Complex, which was home to 7 buildings.
When the first plane hit 1 World Trade Center around 8:45 am, hundreds were killed, and hundreds more became trapped on higher floors. Initially, the crash was believed to be a freak accident, but 18 minutes later, when the second plane hit, it was widely recognized as a terrorist attack. The hijackers were part of al Qaeda, and the attack was reportedly financed by Osama bin Laden.
Nowadays, visitors can learn more about the event at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Don’t miss out on the 9/11 Memorial Pools that stood where the original Twin Towers once stood, they are some of the most instagrammable places in NYC.
4. NYC Subways
In the city that never sleeps, the New York City subway never stops running. Yes, this giant transit system which transports over 6 million passengers daily, runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
Would you believe there are 472 subway stations and 22 lines in the New York subway system?! The city’s subway system began operation in 1904, and the first line ran from City Hall to Grand Central Depot.
The New York City subway is the quickest and cheapest way to get around the city, that is, providing you know what line to take to get to your destination – it can get pretty confusing! It’s typically much faster than hopping in an Uber or taxi because, of course, the subway does not have to deal with New York’s notorious traffic.
But perhaps what the subway in NYC is notorious for is its sanitation condition. It is frequent for stations to have rats, homeless people, and the smell of urine.
5. Concrete Jungle
Another popular nickname for New York City is “Concrete Jungle”, a name that possibly came from The Jungle, a novel written by Upton Sinclair in which he introduced the phrase “asphalt jungle.” Over the years, this was changed to “concrete jungle,” although the origins of the term are unclear.
“Concrete” likely replaced “asphalt” in the phrase because New York City, specifically Manhattan, is an island made of concrete – much of the concrete is visible in the buildings but even more lies beneath the city’s surface in the subfloors of apartments, offices, and stores!
In native New Yorker Jay-Z’s smash hit “Empire State of Mind” he referred to New York as a “concrete jungle where dreams are made.” There is no mistaking that anymore!
6. Cultural Diversity
New York is a melting pot of culture. Matter of fact, in the five boroughs of New York City, over different 200 languages are spoken! This seems like a huge number, but when you consider that each of New York’s neighborhoods is home to a unique and diverse population, it’s easier to understand why so many languages exist in a relatively small space!
The city is accepting of everyone, and what’s great is that immigrants are encouraged to hang onto their old culture while partaking in the New York City way of life. Local New Yorkers have a collective understanding of how important it is to keep the traditions of their homeland!
Pass through any neighborhood in New York, and you will likely see country flags hanging from the porches, be it Puerto Rican, Mexican, Nigerian, or Jamaican!
When you are visiting New York, make sure you spend some time visiting each unique ethnic neighborhood. From Chinatown and Koreatown to Little Italy and Little Guyana, there is plenty of cultural diversity in NYC waiting to be discovered.
7. Being A Popular Filming Location
Thanks to NYC’s iconic landmarks, the city has become one of the most popular backdrops for some of the most famous movies in Hollywood. From blockbuster movies such as The Avengers to classics such as King Kong, there are numerous films set in New York.
Some of the most common filming locations in NYC are Central Park, New York Public Library, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
8. As the First Capital of the United States
You may not know this, but New York is historically known for being the first capital of the United States in 1789 under the constitution. During that time, the Congress and Supreme Court were also situated in NYC. Matter of fact, the first president of America, George Washington, was inaugurated in Federal Hall in New York.
But its status as the capital was short-lived as many congressmen believed the city to be too busy to serve as the capital. And after a few years of debate, congress met for the final time at Federal Hall in 1790 before transferring the title of capital of Philadelphia and, finally, Washington D.C.
9. Yellow Cabs
When you visit New York City, you’re likely going to ride in a yellow cab at some point – these brightly colored taxis are hard-to-miss and, over the years have become synonymous with the city.
The history of the famed yellow cab goes back over 120 years when taxis were introduced to New York in 1897 by the Electric Vehicle Company. However, after a couple of years, a fire at their base destroyed over 300 cabs, so horse-drawn carriages were re-introduced to the city’s roads.
But the fares for these carriages were very high, so an entrepreneur named Harry N. Allen decided to start New York Taxicab Company in 1907, and he imported 65 cars from France and painted them yellow! And that’s the short history of New York City’s yellow cab!
10. Incredible Museums
In New York City, there is literally a museum for every interest, from science to history to art and much more!
For example, the renowned Metropolitan Museum houses a varied art collection spanning 5,000 years! While the Guggenheim Museum and MoMa are some of the best places in the world to see contemporary art!
But perhaps one of the most famous museums in New York is The American Museum of Natural History, and much of its recent popularity can be owed to the Night at the Museum movies. Here, you can view 32 million artifacts in its 40 exhibits, from plant and animal specimens to meteorites and even human remains.
Other quirkier museums in the city include the Skyscraper Museum, the International Center of Photography Museum, the New York Transit Museum, and the Museum of Sex!
11. Being One Of The Most Expensive Cities To Live In The World
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit – New York City, together with Singapore, are the most expensive cities in the world to live in.
This fact comes as no surprise to New Yorkers who have seen their rents rise to an all-time high of $5,000 per month on average! While the average home price now stands at a whopping $1.5 million, over five times the national average!
So, it’s safe to say to live comfortably in New York; you need to earn approximately $100,000 per year – which is the salary for the average U.S. worker for two years!
Landmarks New York Is Known For
1. Times Square
Illuminated at all hours of the day by digital billboards, together with stores that are open 24/7 – Times Square is the focal point for the city that never sleeps. Often referred to as “the center of the universe” or “the crossroads of the world,” – the most famous landmark in New York City isn’t really a landmark at all, but a five-block long area between 42nd and 47th Street.
It’s one of the most visited attractions in the world, drawing in approximately 50 million visitors every year. Would you believe that around 300,000 people walk through Times Square every day – most of them tourists?
If you happen to be in NYC for New Year’s Eve, don’t miss the festivities that happen at Times Square. Thousands of people gather there to wait for the ball drop count down for the upcoming year!
2. Central Park
Nestled in between the Upper West and the Upper East side of Manhattan, Central Park covers a huge area of 843 acres – and is, in fact, the most visited city park in the U.S. It also holds the title of the most filmed spot in the world, and as a result, attracts millions of visitors every year!
The main attractions within Central Park include the Central Park Zoo, the Jackie Kennedy Reservoir, the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, Bethesda Terrace, and the photogenic Central Park Carousel. It’s also home to a very diverse ecosystem, and within the environs of Central Park, you can find hundreds of different species of flora and fauna.
The most popular things to do in Central Park are walking, cycling, having a picnic, and ice-skating in the winter. The park also hosts many exciting events and concerts!
3. Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is a copper statue just over 151 feet tall, but it stands on a platform making the whole attraction a whopping 305 feet tall! It is located on the aptly named Liberty Island in the middle of Manhattan Harbor and is a short distance from the well-known Ellis Island, an important island that was home to most active immigration station in USA.
The Statue of Liberty was gifted to the U.S. from France, and it represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty. Together with Ellis Island, these important landmarks represent hope and freedom for the many immigrants who call New York home!
As you wander around Liberty Island, be sure to take photos of this symbol of freedom from every angle and note how she changes color when the light changes. Also on the island is the State of Liberty Museum which houses the “lady of liberty’s” original torch!
If you don’t want to get on Liberty Island, you can take the free Staten Island ferry. Along the route, you can get pretty close to the State of Liberty for a good photo!
Read More: 25 Unusual Things To Do In NYC!
4. Niagara Falls
The world-famous Niagara Falls are not located in NYC but in the city of Niagara Falls in New York State, a 6.5-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan. The falls are, in fact, a group of three waterfalls that span the border between New York and the state of Ontario in Canada.
The biggest and most recognizable is Horseshoe Falls which sits right on the border and is a huge 670 meters wide! It’s one of the most Instagrammed places in the U.S., with 3.5 million tagged photos and counting!
You can get up close to Horseshoe Falls from the Hurricane Deck, which is located 175 feet in the Niagara Gorge – and you will even be treated to a “glacial facial” – where you get so close to the falls that the refreshing water sprays on your face.
A popular activity at Niagara Falls is to take the Maid of the Mist boat tour. This tour allows you to get close to the waterfall from the water!
5. Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is a 102-story art deco building on 20 W 34th Street – the 7th tallest building in New York City. It was built between 1930 and 1931 and is named after the city’s nickname “The Empire State.”
The Empire State Building, New York, is famous for its observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors which offer the most iconic views of Manhattan – in fact, the Empire State Building was recently named the top attraction in the U.S. in the TripAdvisor Travelers Choice Awards!
6. Thousand Islands
Lesser known than the other attractions on this list, the Thousand Islands refers to a group of over 1,800 small islands on the St Lawrence River, on the border with Canada. This hidden gem of a destination is 6.5 hours from downtown New York and is a hub for outdoor activities!
The majority of these islands are open to the public, and most contain parks and campsites. One of the most well-known islands here – Wellesley Island, is connected to the mainland via the Thousand Islands International Bridge.
Some of the best things to do in this scenic region include cycling, fishing, hiking, and cross-country skiing in the winter months. Visitors can also take a boat tour to explore some of the islands, many of which are privately owned and have homes built on them!
7. Brooklyn Bridge
Connecting the New York boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the 1,833-meter-long Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River and was the first bridge in the world to use steel for cable wire. It’s 83 meters tall at its highest point (the towers) and construction of the bridge finished in 1883.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the city’s most recognizable icons and is a major tourist attraction, with many tourists putting walking the bridge as one of their top things to do in New York. The best time of day to visit is at sunrise, when you can see the beautiful glow over the Financial District with nearly no tourists!
8. Wall Street
Wall Street is located in the Financial District in Lower Manhattan, and this eight-block-long street is home to the largest stock exchange in the world – the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Considered to be the center of global finance, the NYSE has over 2,400 companies listed.
Home to some of the world’s leading financial institutions, Wall Street has been a symbol of wealth and power since the late 18th century. One of the most iconic landmarks on Wall Street is the Charing Bull. Located near the corner of Wall and Broad Streets, it serves as a reminder of American capital markets’ strength.
The area around Wall Street is also incredibly historic, and visitors will find many old cobblestone streets and buildings.
9. World Trade Center
The World Trade Center is a complex consisting of 5 iconic office buildings, an 8-acre Memorial Plaza, and the Oculus, a huge shopping complex and a transportation hub that connects New Jersey with Downtown Manhattan.
The new World Trade Center is built at the same exact location where the old World Trade Center was, and it has been built bigger and taller than the original to show that the United States always comes back stronger than before.
Nowadays, the most recognizable building of the complex is One World Trade Center, the tallest building in New York, United States, and all of Western Hemisphere. At the top is a gorgeous observation deck where visitors can marvel at all the architectural achievements of New York City.
Food New York Is Known For
1. New York Cheesecake
New York cheesecake is slightly different from regular cheesecake, and as New Yorkers will tell you, it tastes better! This variation of the classic dessert contains more cream cheese making it a richer treat; it also contains additional eggs and egg yolks which help to bind the dessert together as well as a touch of sour cream and fresh lemon juice, giving it a slight tang!
You can find the best New York cheesecake at Eileen’s Special Cheesecake at 17 Cleveland Place and Lady M Cake Boutique on the Upper East Side.
2. Street Hot Dogs
On almost every street corner in Manhattan, you’ll find a street cart with a red and yellow umbrella serving up a typical food New York is known for – hot dogs! The most common type of hot dog is the beef variety which is typically topped with onion relish, sauerkraut, and brown mustard and served on a soft hot dog bun.
But recently, more food trucks only sell chicken hot dogs with only ketchup and mustard to keep the cost down!
3. Bagel with Cream Cheese and Lox
Known as the classic New York sandwich, the “lox bagel” is topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, thinly sliced red onions, and a touch of dill.
The sandwich was believed to be introduced to New York City by Jewish Immigrants in the early 20th Century, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it really became popular. The best places in the city to try the bagel with cream cheese and lox are Sadelle’s on 463 W Broadway and Ess-a-bagel on 3rd Avenue!
The Cronut is a cross between a croissant and a donut and was first created by chef Dominique Ansel in 2013 at his bakery right here in New York City! When it first arrived to NYC, the Cronut would sell out within hours and there would be a huge queue in front of the shop.
The original cronut had no toppings, and honestly, it didn’t need anything. The flakiness of the croissant and the sweetness of the donut were a match made in heaven. Nowadays, It can be topped with a variety of toppings, from fresh fruit to chocolate, or can be filled with cream!
The best place to try this popular dessert is at the inventor’s own bakery – Dominique Ansel Bakery, on Spring Street.
Famous People From New York
1. Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr, best known for his role as Tony Stark in the Iron Man movie series, grew up in Greenwich Village and now lives with his wife in East Hampton, New York. He is one of the most successful New York actors and has also starred as Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the famous character as well as the Marvel series The Avengers!
2. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is widely known as the “greatest basketball player of all time” and was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1963. During his basketball career, he made 11 All-NBA teams, won 5 MVPs, 6 Finals MVPs and 6 NBA titles!
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, more commonly known as the 32nd President of the United States, was born in Hyde Park in the Hudson Valley region of New York state in 1882. He is one of the most beloved Presidents, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his efforts in mediating the Russo-Japanese War.
His most famous quote is “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
4. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise was born in 1962 in Syracuse, New York – he is considered by many to be one of the most famous people from New York. And he is one of the highest-paid and most well-known actors in the world; his largest-grossing movies include Top Gun, Mission Impossible, War of the Worlds, and Risky Business.
5. Naked Cowboy
One of New York’s most famous residents – the Naked Cowboy, wasn’t actually born in New York but in Ohio. But he has been a permanent fixture in Times Square since 1999, wearing nothing but his cowboy hat, boots, and signature white briefs!
If you see him, make sure you get a photograph with him!
Jay-Z, or Shawn Carter, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1969 – he is one of the most influential hip-hop figures of all time and is a proud lover of the city, even writing the best-selling hit Empire State of Mind about his beloved home city. He still lives in New York with his wife, Beyonce, and three children.
New York Famous Things FAQS
What Are The Most Famous Buildings In New York?
The most famous buildings in New York are One World Trade Center, Rockefeller Center, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, Flatiron Building and Empire State Building.
What Are Some Interesting Facts About New York?
Here are some interesting facts about New York.
1. It was originally named New Amsterdam because the area was first settled by the Dutch.
2. Statue of Liberty is actually a gift from the French, who was an important ally for the colonists during the American Revolution.
3. The colors of the light near the top of the Empire State Building change regularly, and that is to honor special occasions around the world.
If you were not sure what New York is famous for, hopefully you have a better understanding at the end of the article. It is not surprising that New York is known for so many things, given how popular it is for people to live and visit!
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