Fun Facts about New York City (2023)

Author:Denise Perreault

Known by many nicknames, including the "Empire State" and "The Big Apple," New York City is one of the most important places in the world. As one of the largest and most diverse cities, New York is home to many famous and talented people. Over its long history, New Yorkers have filled the city with thousands of important landmarks. Additionally, because New York City is home to so many cultural attractions, millions of visitors flock there annually to experience the city first hand. All of these factors lead many people to consider New York the finest city on Earth, and simply call it "The City" to demonstrate its greatness.


New York City has a long and interesting history, stretching almost 400 years. It has changed greatly over this time, from its primitive state as a forest to the skyscraper-filled city it is today. It is interesting to consider what New York City will look like in another 400 years.

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  • The city was originally called New Amsterdam.
  • While the official seal of the city proclaims that New York City was founded in 1625, many historians argue that the first settlers arrived in 1624.
  • Most of the initial colonists were Dutch, and they were fleeing the religious persecution of the Spanish Inquisition.
  • Chief among the goals of the settlers was the development of a fur-trading post; this is why beavers are on the New York City seal.
  • The first settlers established their camp on Governor's Island. The next year, they set out to colonize lower Manhattan.
  • In 1626, Peter Minuit purchased the land from Native Americans.
  • The Island of Manhattan derives its name from the Native American tribe that lived in the area, called the Mannahatta.
  • Initially, Manhattan was little more than a cattle pasture.
  • By the beginning of the 20th Century, the population of New York City was over 3 million.
  • The oldest standing building in New York City is the Wyckoff Farmhouse, originally built in 1652.
  • From 1789 to 1790, New York City was the nation's capital.

Size and Population

New York City is a busy, crowded metropolis. Known as a "Melting Pot," it is home to people from virtually every country in the world. This combination of different cultures gives New York City its unique charm and makes it like no other place.

  • According to the 2012 census, New York City has a population of over 8 million. This represents more than one-third of the entire state's population.
  • Almost half of the city's residents over the age of 5 speak a language besides English.
  • The population of the entire metro New York City area is close to 12 million.
  • New York City is home to more women than men. Approximately 52 percent of the residents are female.
  • New York City's population is approximately 44 percent white, 25 percent African American, 28 percent Hispanic, and 12 percent Asian. People with Pacific Island or Native American heritage make up most of the remainder. These percentages add up to more than 100 percent, because many people have mixed ancestry.
  • Approximately one-third of all New York City residents live at or below the poverty line.
  • Approximately 6 percent of New York City residents have an income that is more than 10 times the poverty level.
  • New York has approximately 50,000 homeless people.
  • New York City is not very big. The entire city is approximately 300 square miles in size.
  • New York City is the most densely populated major city in the United States.
  • New York City is divided into five different boroughs, or neighborhoods. They are Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
  • Normally home to about 1.5 million residents, Manhattan's population nearly doubles during the work week, when an additional 1.5 million commuters come to the island.

Famous Landmarks

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Over the years, artists, architects and elected officials have constructed many noteworthy structures in the city of New York. Others were constructed elsewhere and moved to the city, such as the Statue of Liberty. Some of the most noteworthy buildings in the world – including the Empire State Building – call New York home.

  • The Empire State Building was the world's tallest structure from its construction in 1931 until 1972.
  • In addition to the Empire State Building, many notable sky scrapers were built in New York City, including the Woolworth Building, the New York Life Building, and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower.
  • Central Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world. Encompassing over 800 acres, the park draws over 35 million annual visitors.
  • The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France, and opened in New York Harbor in 1886.
  • The Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel wire suspension bridge constructed, and the first to include electric lighting. It spans the East River to connect Brooklyn with Manhattan.
  • Manhattan is home to the first commodity market in the world, called the New York Cotton Exchange, as well as the largest securities exchange in the world: the New York Stock Market.
  • The Staten Island Ferry moves across the Hudson River, so it may not qualify as a landmark, but it attracts thousands of annual visitors.
  • Times Square, which is sometimes known as the "Center of the Universe," is one of the most iconic and popular places in New York City.

Famous people from NYC

Because so many people live in the city, it should be no surprise that many famous people live in New York City. New York is the cultural, business, and entertainment center for the world and this is where the best of the best choose to live. On any given day, you may encounter celebrities on the street, the subway, or at a restaurant.

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  • New York City is home to many entertainers, including living legends such as Denzel Washington, Robert De Niro, Spike Lee, and Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Michael Jordan, Joe Namath, and Vince Lombardi were all New Yorkers at one point in time.
  • New York City was home to some of the greatest minds in history, including physicists Richard Feynman and Robert Oppenheimer as well as author Carl Sagan.
  • Many music legends hail from New York City, including Billy Joel and Ira Gershwin.
  • Current musicians, such as Christina Aguilera, 50 Cent, and Lady Gaga were born in New York City as well.
  • Lucile Ball was born in Jamestown, but moved to New York City.
  • Both Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt were born in New York.
  • New York City is home to some of the world's funniest people, like Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, and Jerry Seinfeld.
  • Any city with the nickname of "Gotham" must have its share of famous criminals, and New York City has plenty of them. Al Capone, Billy the Kid, and David Berkowitz were all from New York City.
  • Several New Yorkers have been reality television stars, including Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino from the show Jersey Shore, and Paul John Teutul from the series American Chopper.


New York hosts many events and attractions that draw people from all over the world. From sporting events to theater productions, New York City is one of the most entertaining places on Earth. New York City is also home to world-class zoos, amusement parks, and museums as well.

  • Ellis Island was the location where immigrants entered the United States, but today the island houses a museum dedicated to teaching early immigration policies and procedures to visitors.
  • Rockefeller Center, the site where Saturday Night Live and Today are filmed, is a popular tourist destination.
  • Famous ethnic neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and Little Italy, are favorites among visitors.
  • The New York City Marathon draws up to 50,000 runners annually, and travels through all five boroughs.
  • Famous scenes from movies and television programs abound in New York City. Many visitors enjoy visiting the places where Friends, Law and Order, and Seinfeld were filmed.
  • Many people visit New York City exclusively for the nightlife. Hundreds of restaurants, theaters, and nightclubs fill the city.
  • The Museum of Modern Art is one of the finest museums in the world, and displays important pieces from around the globe.
  • Coney Island has a number of fun attractions, including roller coasters and other thrill rides.
  • The Bronx Zoo is one of the finest zoos in the country and has been instrumental in the survival of many rare species. The New York Aquarium, located on Coney Island, provides visitors with the opportunity to see sea creatures up close.
  • The New York Botanical Gardens allow residents and visitors to see numerous examples of beautiful plants and flowers.


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New York is well known for its incredible food. The diversity of the population of the city has truly created a melting pot of cuisine. Visitors can find food from hundreds of different countries within a few city blocks, as well as dine in some of the finest restaurants in the world.

  • Many authorities consider New York Pizza the best in the world. According to most experienced pizza chefs, the municipal water in the city that is used to make the crust is better than any other water in the world.
  • New York is home to nine of the top 100 restaurants in the world, according to Restaurant magazine.
  • Thousands of mobile food carts provide quick, affordable, and delicious meals to New Yorkers on the go.
  • Many neighborhoods are renowned for a different type of food. For example, Koreatown is well known for its Korean food, while Little Italy is home to several famous Italian restaurants.
  • Drinks like the Bloody Mary and the Manhattan Special are rumored to have been invented in New York City.
  • The ice cream cone, pasta primavera and eggs Benedict were all invented in New York City.
  • Famous street foods available in New York City include hot dogs, pretzels, falafel, tacos and Italian ices.
  • Eastern European Jewish communities invented delicatessens, often called delis, in New York City.
  • The headquarters for several national food businesses are in New York City, including Blimpie, Yoo-hoo, Sbarro, and Haagen-Dazs.
  • Many of New York City's restaurants rank among the most expensive in the world. Some cost patrons an average of $400 or more per person.

Click on these links to learn more basic facts about New York City.


What are 10 fun 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 3 historical facts about New York? ›

10 Surprising historical facts about New York City, The City That Never Sleeps
  • It used to be called New Amsterdam. ...
  • It's been a melting pot of cultures for nearly 200 years. ...
  • Its stock exchange was founded under a tree. ...
  • It popularised bingo in America. ...
  • It has one of the world's largest libraries.

What makes NYC so special? ›

Our skyline is such a big deal, it has its own museum. We may be biased, but nothing compares to you, New York City skyline. Widely recognized around the world, the cityscape is our trademark. Watching iconic skyscrapers like the Empire State Building glisten at sunset can bring a tear to even a jaded New Yorker's eye.

Is it illegal to honk your horn in New York? ›

Yes, it's illegal for drivers to honk their horns in New York City except in an emergency.

What was NYC called before? ›

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.

What things are only in New York? ›

7 Things you'll Only Find in New York City
  • Pigeons.
  • Ridiculously inexpensive food.
  • Every single kind of pizza in existence.
  • Listen to literally hundreds of languages in a single neighborhood.
  • Shop at the country's largest department store.
  • See a real Broadway show.
  • Events for every calendar day.

What attracts people to New York? ›

New York City is undeniably the state's most popular tourist destination, and it's packed with famous attractions, restaurants, and shops. The borough of Manhattan is home to many of the city's top destinations, like Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and much more.

Why is New York called the city that never sleeps? ›

New York City is famously the city that never sleeps — partly because it won't shut the hell up. Half of NYC barely gets six hours of shut-eye a night, a far cry from the recommended eight. The constant noise can't be helping.

Which city does not sleep? ›

Although New York City may be the most prominently recognized city termed "The City That Never Sleeps", and the city's subway system never closes, the term has been applied to other cities.

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 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.

Is beating your horn illegal? ›

It may be tempting to honk your horn at the driver in front as soon as a traffic light changes to green, but this is interpreted as honking aggressively, and is against the law.

Can you get pulled over for loud music in NYC? ›

Currently, in New York, there is no law that allows you to be fined for playing your music too loud while inside your vehicle. If you are blasting your music, police could fine you or arrest you for Disturbing the Peace.

What is the most common name in New York? ›

The Health Department's birth certificate records show 442 Emmas and 682 Liams were born in New York City in 2020. "2020 was a challenging year, but these babies were bright spots,” said Health Commissioner Dr.
Most Popular Baby Names in New York City, 2020
8 more rows
23 Dec 2021

What do they call New Yorkers? ›

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

Who was the first person in New York City? ›

According to historical documents, Juan Rodriguez arrived in lower Manhattan in 1613 – twelve years before the founding of New Amsterdam by Dutch colonists, and 51 years before the English took control of the colony and renamed it New York.

What's a fun fact for the day? ›

Fun Facts and Trivia
  • It is impossible for most people to lick their own elbow. ...
  • A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out.
  • A shrimp's heart is in its head.
  • It is physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.

What is a fact about New York State? ›

New York State is home to 58 species of wild orchids. New York has over 70,000 miles of rivers and streams. The Genesee River is one of the few rivers in the world that flows south to north. Rochester is known as both the Flour City and the Flower City.

What is the craziest fun fact? ›

Honeybees flap their wings 230 times every second. At birth, a panda cub is smaller than a mouse and weighs only four ounces. Horses and cows can sleep standing up, but they can only dream when lying down. Koala fingerprints are almost indistinguishable from humans' — so much so, they can taint crime scenes!

What are 5 weird facts? ›

65 Facts So Weird You Won't Believe They're True
  • There's a company that turns dead bodies into an ocean reef. ...
  • The name "bonobo" resulted from a misspelling. ...
  • There is an annual Coffee Break Festival. ...
  • You can buy a flying bicycle. ...
  • Dolphins sleep with one eye open. ...
  • Vacuum cleaners were originally horse-drawn.

What are 5 fun facts? ›

52 of the best random facts
  • Avocados are a fruit, not a vegetable. ...
  • The Eiffel Tower can be 15 cm taller during the summer, due to thermal expansion meaning the iron heats up, the particles gain kinetic energy and take up more space.
  • Trypophobia is the fear of closely-packed holes. ...
  • Australia is wider than the moon.
8 Jul 2022

What was NYC called before? ›

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.

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.


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