Curious things you probably didn't know about New York (2023)

New Yorkmight be one of the most visited and recognisable places on the planet, but here we shed light on some of the fascinating, lesser-known facts about one of the world's greatest cities.

1. There’s a secret train station below the Waldorf Astoria

New York’smost famous historic hotel, whose original location back in 1893 was on the site of what is now the Empire State building, sits above a ‘secret’ train station known as Track 61, which forms an extension ofGrand Central Terminal, located a few streets from the hotel.

Track 61 was said to have been built in the Thirties for former US president Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) to be used as a discreet entrance for the hotel in an attempt to keep his polio condition hidden from the public eye. A customised train car and lift (for transfers to the hotel’s garage) were built to accommodate his presidential limousine during his stays at the hotel.

“It was housed there [Track 61] to be protected from the elements,” Grand Central historian Daniel Brucker toldSkift, “but in 1945, it was being prepped [for a presidential voyage] when FDR suddenly died. It hasn’t moved since.”

Evidence of the secret entry to Track 61 can be seen at the 49th street location of the hotel, where the numbers “101-121” are said to denote an exit leading to the lift created by FDR.

Track 61 has previously been used by the US military general John J Pershing in 1938 and was the site of a diesel locomotive exhibition in 1946, and a fashion show in 1948. It is rumoured to still be in use and was said to have served several other US presidents, including George W Bush, who apparently “had a train kept permanently idling on Track 61 in case he had to escape quickly” during a previous stay at the hotel, according to Christopher Winn, author ofI Never Knew That About New York.

2. There’s a whispering gallery at Grand Central Station

The world’s largest railway station features an archway just outside the Oyster Bar & Restaurant (one of the city’s oldest restaurants and culinary landmarks known for its incredible seafood and vaulted tiled ceilings) where two people standing at diagonal corners of the arch are able to hear each other perfectly when speaking softly, even in whispers. It is rumoured to be the spot where Charles Mingus, the American jazz legend, proposed to his wife using the unique acoustic feature.

3. Coney Island’s beach was named after Brighton

With a similar history, topography and southern location, Coney Island’s historical roots can be traced back to the famed English seaside resort.

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New York was taken over by the English from around the 1660s and Coney Island started to become a holiday destination around the 1830s and 1840s, after a bridge was built that connected it to the main part of New York. Quicker transport times, made possible via steamship services and more carriage roads, soon made Coney Island a popular holiday spot for the residents of Manhattan, Brooklyn and other New York boroughs. This led to the building of the coastal resort area of Brighton Beach in 1878, named after Brighton in England, which around the same time was also becoming a popular day-trip destination for Londoners after the arrival of the London and Brighton Railways service in 1841.

Similar to England’s Brighton resort, Coney Island was also home to a grand hotel (Hotel Brighton) visited by mostly the upper middle class at the time, as well as a pavilion (the 400 ft-tall Brighton Beach Pavilion) - an homage to Brighton’s Royal Pavilion built back in 1783 - and of course a boardwalk and beach pier comparable to Brighton’s.

Coney Island today continues to serve the city as a seaside resort and amusement park offering more than 50 rides and attractions, including its newest - the Ford Amphitheater, a 5,000-seat open-air concert venue set on Coney Island’s boardwalk which opened in 2016, with inaugural gigs from the singer Sting and other artists.

4. It was the Hollywood of the East

The heart of the American film industry was based on the east coast of the country before the birth of Hollywood in the early Thirties. Major cinema companies, including Paramount Pictures (the second oldest surviving film studio in the country and fifth oldest in the world), based their operations in New York, where several films, such as the first Sherlock Holmes sound film (The Return of Sherlock Holmes), were shot at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens. The historic studio, built in 1920, was declared a national historic district in 1978 and was where other major Hollywood films, includingGoodfellasandCarlito’s Way, and several classic American television programmes, includingSesame Street andThe Cosby Show, were later shot.

Kaufman Astoria Studios sits adjacent to the fascinating Museum of the Moving Image, the only museum in the country dedicated to exploring the art, history and technology of the moving image, with a collection of more than 130,000 quirky artefacts tracing the history of the film and television industry. One of the museum’s latest projects isJim Henson’s World, a new monthly screening series showcasing the work of the American director best known as the creator of The Muppets characters. The museum will unveil a new permanent gallery devoted to his works later this month. And New York City’s Central Park has been featured in more films (more than 350) than any other location in the world since 1908 when the first film shot in the park wasRomeo and Juliet.

5. The best 360-degree view of the city is from...

...Governors Island, the birthplace of New York. The opening of The Hills, one of New York City’s newest landmarks, has breathed new life into this former military base. The 10-acre public park is made of four hills that pay homage to the hilly landscapes of pre-colonial Manhattan, including Outlook Hill from where visitors can enjoy the best vistas of Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as the best 360-degree panoramas of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City in the distance.

The park is also home to the longest slide in the city at Slide Hill, while Discovery Hill houses a sculptural work by British artist Rachel Whiteread - said to be her first major permanent public commission in the US.

The latest development marks the first phase of theGovernors Island Park and Public Space Master Plan, which has been in the works for more than a decade to transform the 172-acre island into year-round tourist destination.

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6. It has wildlife

There is a wealth ofwildlife to be discovered across the concrete jungle, such as the world’s highest concentration of peregrine falcons, which set up their nests on bridges and skyscrapers around the city.

Thousands of animal species are found in the city’s parks including in Staten Island which hosts a diverse selection of wildlife from hundreds of bird species to white-tailed deers, cotton-tailed rabbits and snapping turtles, one of the world’s largest freshwater turtles.

Other animals to be spotted include coyotes in the Bronx, opossums (North America’s only marsupial), striped skunks (said to prefer the parks of northern Manhattan) and baby bats, the most common species of bats in New York.

7. It was going to be home to one of the world’s tallest Ferris wheels

The 630ft-tallNew York Wheelset in Staten Island would have been the world’s second tallest Ferris wheel once completed, surpassed only by the planned 689ft-high Ain Dubai wheel.Expected to be built by 2018, the New York Wheel promised to be one of the city’s greatest landmarks and offer some of the best vistas of the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and the New York skyline. Only it was canned in 2018, instead, amid ballooning construction costs and dwindling support.

8. It houses the world’s first underground park

Following the success of the city’s hugely popular High Line, an elevated public park built on an abandoned freight railway line on Manhattan’s West Side, the city introducedThe Lowline, currently set in a preliminary space for what will be the world’s first underground park when completed, hopefully by 2021.

The Lowline is an all natural green space that aims to breathe new life into a disused trolley terminal dating back to 1908. Using innovative solar technology designed by James Ramsey of the New York-based Raad Studio, sunlight will be transmitted throughout the park via a reflective surface underground. Set in the 1.5-acre space of the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, below Delancey Street, in the heart of Manhattan's Lower East Side, the Lowline is located in "one of the least green areas" of the city but hopes to be a "bright new spot" for the area.

9. It is has the biggest Chinatown in the West

The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Manhattan’s Chinatown in the 1800s when it was part of the former Five Points neighbourhood, which came to be known as one of New York’s worst slum areas, plagued by crime, disease and a red light district known as the Mulberry Bend. The first person to have highlighted the devastating conditions of this part of New York was English author Charles Dickens in his travelogue titledAmerican Notes, which prompted several upper and middle class New Yorkers to visit the area to glimpse the incredible scene for themselves.

Today, housing nearly 150,000 Chinese residents across a two square-mile plot of land, Manhattan’s Chinatown is home to the largest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. It is one among the 12 Chinatowns spread across the New York metropolitan area (including in the neighbouring ‘Tri-state’ area of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania) which forms the highest population of Chinese people outside of Asia, with nearly 812, 410 Chinese residents (nearly 574, 900 in the five boroughs of New York City alone, making New York’s Chinatown the largest in America) as of last year. Most of New York’s Chinese population resides in the borough of Queens, where Flushing is home to one of fastest growing and largest Chinese communities outside of Asia.

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10. There is a ‘Little Britain’

While many cities around the world might have a Chinatown or two, a Little Italy, and perhaps a Little Greece, New York City may be the first to have a ‘Little Britain’ (unofficial, at the moment). A cluster of small shops around Greenwich Avenue in the trendy West Village neighbourhood of Manhattan have become a favourite haunt among Anglophiles and British expats alike.

One of the street’s most popular venues is Tea & Sympathy, a tiny bolthole of a cafe themed after a traditional English tea room which has been graced by the likes of various British celebrities for years since, from David Bowie, Joanna Lumley and Rupert Everett to Joss Stone, Jools Holland and Kate Moss, who is reported to have been visiting the cafe for nearly years. Visitors can enjoy some of Britain's classic comforts foods with a menu offering everything from bangers n' mash, Welsh rarebit, and Yorkshire pudding to treacle pudding and rhubarb crumble, and of course traditional afternoon tea served with scones and clotted cream.

Other UK-themed venues nearby include the fish and chip shop A Salt and Battery as well as Myers of Keswick, owned by Peter Myers from Keswick, England, where you can take your pick of all-things-English, from McVities biscuits to Walker’s crisps.

The area has yet to receive the official stamp of approval from the city as “Little Britain” following anofficial campaignfor its recognition, backed by various celebrities including Sir Richard Branson and London born American actress Mischa Barton, in 2007.

11. There's a waterfall in Central Park

Tucked away in the North Woods - a 40-acre woodland part of Central Park - drowning out the rush and noise of the city, is the quiet calm of The Ravine (pictured below). Forming the park’s only stream valley, its waterfall is created by a loch that’s dammed in several places to create the cascades. The area was intended by the park’s designers to resemble the wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains of rural upstate New York.

12. It housed the first ever hospital in the US

The island forming part of the city’s historicStatue of Libertyattraction (which is set on nearby Liberty Island) is also home to an abandoned hospital (pictured below), which dates from 1902 and once served as a detention facility for immigrants arriving on the island who were considered to be too ill and physically unfit to enter the country.The complex was the first public hospital to open in the US and the largest at the time. It functioned as a hospital until 1930 before it was abandoned in 1954. Its main building was restored and opened as a museum in 1990, while the unrestored parts of the complex were opened to the public for hard-hat tours from October 2014.

13. You can go surfing in the city

Beyond the much-loved Coney Island, the Big Apple offers a host of sandy beaches just a short metro or car journey from the heart of the city in Queens and Brooklyn, including Rockaway Beach (pictured below) and Long Beach - New York’s only two surfing beaches.

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The coastal resort area of Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, pictured below, is a popular spot for locals. Offering plenty of specialty restaurants and shops offering vodka, black bread, dumplings and jams, the beach is known as “Little Odessa” for its Ukrainian feel.

For more information about visiting New York, seenycgo.comand our other NYC articles

FAQs

What are 10 facts about New York? ›

10 Cool Facts About New York City
  • New York City is divided into five boroughs. ...
  • Try to visit a borough other than Manhattan. ...
  • It's very easy to navigate. ...
  • There is lots to do for free. ...
  • It's home to some of the world's most famous museums. ...
  • It's home to the world's most famous city centre Park.

What are people from New York called? ›

People who live in New York are called New Yorkers and Empire Staters.

Why is New York so famous? ›

Often defined as the cultural, financial, media, and entertainment capital of the world, it is one of the most expensive real estate in the world. Manhattan hosts the United Nations Headquarters, Wall Street, several media conglomerates, Central Park, Broadway, and many famous buildings.

What did New York used to be called? ›

Following its capture, New Amsterdam's name was changed to New York, in honor of the Duke of York, who organized the mission. The colony of New Netherland was established by the Dutch West India Company in 1624 and grew to encompass all of present-day New York City and parts of Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Is it illegal to honk in New York? ›

Although the law is rarely enforced, drivers could be fined.

What type of food is NYC known for? ›

Food identified with New York
  • Manhattan clam chowder.
  • New York-style cheesecake.
  • New York-style pizza.
  • New York-style bagel.
  • New York-style pastrami.
  • Corned beef.
  • Baked pretzels.
  • New York-style Italian ice.

How do New Yorkers say hello? ›

Ayo. Another greeting you might hear New Yorkers say is Ayo. It is an informal way to say hi and basically means ay, you, how ya doin?

What does B mean in NY slang? ›

B is an affectionate term for a loved one. It is often times used to address a homie, ya girl, or ya moms.

What are some NYC slang words? ›

40 Slang Words From New York
  • Grill (v.) - to stare at someone in a judgmental or angry way; to look at another person for a long period of time. ...
  • Kid/Son (n.) - ...
  • Real Talk (phr.) - ...
  • Guap/Cake/Cheese (n.) - ...
  • Mad (adj.) ...
  • Frontin' (ger.) - ...
  • Dead-ass (adj.) - ...
  • Whip (n.) -
1 Oct 2020

What are 5 interesting facts about New York for kids? ›

New York City was the capital of the United States from 1785 to 1790. One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the U.S. It is 1,776 feet tall--the year America got its independence. France donated the Statue of Liberty to the US in 1886. The first pizzeria in the US was opened in New York City in 1895.

Why is New York called the Big Apple for kids? ›

The nickname "The Big Apple" originated in the 1920s in reference to the prizes (or "big apples") rewarded at the many racing courses in and around New York City. However, it wasn't officially adopted as the city's nickname until 1971 as the result of a successful ad campaign intended to attract tourists.

What is the number 1 attraction in New York? ›

Statue of Liberty

America's most iconic sight, the Statue of Liberty is at the top of every first-time visitor's list of things to do in New York.

How can I have fun in NYC? ›

The 60 Fun Things to Do in NYC
  1. Visit a Van Gogh Exhibit. ...
  2. Take a Ride in a Luxury JetBoat. ...
  3. Take in a Nighttime Theatre Performance. ...
  4. Take an NYC Architecture Tour. ...
  5. Visit Famous Filming Locations. ...
  6. Appreciate the Street Art. ...
  7. Visit the Museum of Sex. ...
  8. Visit the Mythic Cotton Club in Harlem.

Is NYC safe right now? ›

Overall, New York City is a rather safe city for solo travelers. New York City is safe at night too, because the streets have plenty of lights, and people are walking around at all hours. But, if you're traveling alone, you might want to walk around and travel during the day, as it is easier to navigate.

How do New York people talk? ›

New York City English, or Metropolitan New York English, is a regional dialect of American English spoken by many people in New York City and much of its surrounding metropolitan area.

What do New Yorkers call Manhattan? ›

New Yorkers may also use "The City" to refer specifically to the borough of Manhattan.

Why is NY called Gotham? ›

Gotham City, whose atmosphere and appearance were influenced by New York City's infrastructure, actually takes its name from a store called Gotham Jewelers.

What attracts people to New York? ›

New York City is a top global destination for visitors drawn to its museums, entertainment, restaurants and commerce.

Is New York best city in the world? ›

In 2019, New York was voted the greatest city in the world per a survey of over 30,000 people from 48 cities worldwide, citing its cultural diversity.

What's good about New York City? ›

11 Reasons New York City Is The Best
  • Good eats. From food trucks on the streets of Brooklyn to a Michelin-rated restaurant, New York City is home to some of the best food in the world, from all over the world. ...
  • The shopping. ...
  • The cultural diversity. ...
  • The literary scene. ...
  • Art Museums. ...
  • Central Park. ...
  • Broadway. ...
  • Film and television.
12 Oct 2015

Who gave New York its name? ›

Dutch settlers named the lower part of the island New Amsterdam in 1624. When the English seized the land in 1664, they renamed it New York in honor of the Duke of York.

Who named the Bronx? ›

Jonas Bronck

Who founded New York City? ›

In 1626, Peter Minuit, Governor of the Dutch West India Company bought the island of Manhattan from Native Americans for 24 dollars and founded a colony called New Amsterdam. The colony developed a profitable fur trade in the region with the Native American tribes.

What does New York smell like? ›

Why Does New York City Smell So Bad? - Cheddar Explains - YouTube

What is the coldest month in New York? ›

The daily mean temperature in January, the area's coldest month, is 32.6 °F (0.3 °C); however, temperatures to 10 °F (−12 °C) or less can occur several times each winter while on the other hand mild spells to 50°F (10 °C) or more occur several days each winter month as well.

What happens if you beep at a cop? ›

It's not illegal to beep at a cop car. But beeping too long, out of frustration, will undoubtedly call attention to yourself and may result in an unwanted ticket.

Which city honks the most? ›

Kolkata, India

This honk-happy city, according to The Telegraph, Calcutta, has honked its way to the top of the decibel charts.

Are car alarms illegal in NYC? ›

New York may be the first city in the nation to ban car alarms.

How much is a hot dog in New York? ›

Drinks and Snacks
ItemPrice
Hot dogs (10 to the pound)$4.00
Sausage$5.00
Pretzels$3.00
Pretzel dogs$5.00
29 more rows

How much is pizza in NYC? ›

According to the pizza-delivery platform Slice, the average price of a standard 18-inch pie in NYC is $16.98, while a 12-inch specialty version hovers at $19.23. In neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side and the East Village, the price of pizza has grown 7 percent from 2016 to 2017, Seamless and Grubhub data show.

How do New Yorkers say water? ›

Water is pronounced "waw-tuh"

New Yorkers drop the "R" here.

What do New Yorkers say weird? ›

Other Words New Yorkers Say Weird
  • Idea – I-dear – You will likely hear people from Brooklyn pronounce idea like idear.
  • Gyro (YEE-roh) – Ja-eye-roh.
  • Long Island – Lawn-guy-land.
  • Out of – Out-ta.
  • Either – Eith-a.
  • Understand – Unda-stand.
  • Let Me – Lemme.
  • Sure – shore.
14 May 2022

How do New Yorkers say coffee? ›

He found that all those charming New Yorkisms ("cawfee" for "coffee," "dawg" for "dog," "fawth flaw" for "fourth floor") are going the way of the Jewish deli.

Is Jit a bad word? ›

(US, originally prison slang, derogatory) An inexperienced, foolhardy young man.

What is G slang for? ›

noun. short for "gangster" or "gangsta." Used in greeting to a friend or associate.

What does Mook mean in NY? ›

Definition of mook

slang. : a foolish, insignificant, or contemptible person.

What do New Yorkers say when hot? ›

Schvitz

This New York slang word derives from Yiddish but is now used by all New Yorkers. It usually means to sweat. “I was schvitzing on the train to the city yesterday. These New York summers are so hot!”

What does K mean in NYC slang? ›

The abbreviation K is typically used as a way of shortening the abbreviation "OK" (meaning "Okay") still further. As with "Okay," the use of K indicates acceptance, agreement, approval, or acknowledgment. However, it may sometimes be interpreted as lacking enthusiasm.

What do New Yorkers call the subway? ›

While the word “subway” suggests underground trains only, New Yorkers call all municipal rapid transit trains “the subway”, even though some of them run above ground.

What is New York known for? ›

Some people come here to enjoy the Broadway shows; others come specifically to shop and dine; and many come simply to see the sites: the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, historic neighborhoods, and numerous world famous museums.

Why is New York so famous? ›

Often defined as the cultural, financial, media, and entertainment capital of the world, it is one of the most expensive real estate in the world. Manhattan hosts the United Nations Headquarters, Wall Street, several media conglomerates, Central Park, Broadway, and many famous buildings.

What is beautiful about New York? ›

There are ten tourist attractions that most people would have on a list to see if visiting NYC; The Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Staten Island Ferry, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park, The Museum of Modern Art ...

What is New York State known for? ›

New York State is known for NYC, cultural diversity, and breathtaking sights like the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, Adirondack Park, and historic covered bridges. The state is also famed for its diverse geography, bustling economy, high cost of living, and well-known inventions.

What do New Yorkers call themselves? ›

People who live in New York are called New Yorkers and Empire Staters.

What attracts people to New York? ›

New York City is a top global destination for visitors drawn to its museums, entertainment, restaurants and commerce.

Is New York best city in the world? ›

In 2019, New York was voted the greatest city in the world per a survey of over 30,000 people from 48 cities worldwide, citing its cultural diversity.

Why is New York called the Big Apple? ›

It began in the 1920s when sports journalist John J. Fitz Gerald wrote a column for the New York Morning Telegraph about the many horse races and racecourses in and around New York. He referred to the substantial prizes to be won as “the big apple,” symbolizing the biggest and best one can achieve.

What is the most visited place in NY? ›

With over 39 million visitors annually, Times Square is the world's most visited tourist attraction. The bright lights and big city feel of this commercial intersection have iconified this spot as “The Crossroad of the World.” Today, Times Square is a major center of the world's entertainment industry.

What's the most stylish place in New York? ›

The 15 Best Stylish Places in New York City
  • Diane Von Furstenberg. 874 Washington St (at 14th St.), ...
  • Hotel Riu Plaza New York Times Square. 305 W 46th St, New York, NY. ...
  • citizenM Hotel New York Times Square. ...
  • Warby Parker. ...
  • Theory. ...
  • Brookfield Place (BFPL) ...
  • The Mark Hotel. ...
  • The Skylark.
11 Sept 2022

What is the prettiest place in New York? ›

Lake Placid

Technically more of a village than a city, Lake Placid is perhaps the most beautiful town in New York State. If you're looking for a scenic spot to eat good food, shop in small boutiques, and spend the day skiing down hills or kayaking on a lake, Lake Placid is the place to be.

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