New York City is one of the oldest and most iconic cities in the world.
With five sprawling boroughs and a wealth of culture and history, there’s an endless amount of New York City secrets to discover! Check out some of these little known facts about the city that never sleeps.
H I S T O R Y
1. The Lenape, the indigenous tribe who first occupied Manhattan, called the island Manhatta, which means “island of many hills.”
2. Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital was founded in 1736 and is the oldest operating American hospital. Bellevue had the first medical ward for patients with mental illness, the first residency training program, and the first men’s nursing school. Bellevue also employed the first ambulance system using horse-drawn carriages!
3. New York City was the first capital of the United States. This esteemed designation lasted from 1785 to 1790. George Washington actually took his first presidential oath of office in NYC!
4. On May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge opened and New Yorkers were skeptical of its stability! This fear resulted in a human stampede along the bridge after someone tripped on the stairs, prompting others to panic.
Twelve people were killed, seven irreparably injured, and 28 severely wounded.
To alleviate public fear, P.T. Barnum, the famed circus conductor, marched 21 elephants and 17 camels across the bridge! The animals crossed without incident, proving that the bridge was steady enough for people.
5. Albert Einstein’s brain and eyeballs are allegedly stored in a safety deposit box in New York City!
Dr. Thomas Harvey performed an illegal autopsy on Einstein and dissected his brain into approximately 200 blocks. Gross, right?
Harvey made 1,000 microscopic slides of the brain tissue, then sent them to researchers world-wide.
Harvey’s actions went against Einstein’s posthumous wishes. He desired to be cremated and have his ashes spread in an unmarked location, in order to avoid any kind of hero worship after his death.
Scientists who’ve examined the brain have concluded that it is not normal!
Neuroscientists speculate that the abnormal features could account for Einstein’s increased mathematical and spatial reasoning skills. Also, Einstein’s brain lacks several degenerative changes that would normally be present in a 76-year-old!
You can actually SEE pieces of Einstein’s brain at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia!
6. May 1 used to be “Moving Day” in New York City. That meant anyone who planned to move apartments had to do so on this day up until the 1920s. How chaotic!
7. November 28, 2012 was the first day in New York City history that had zero recorded stabbings, shootings, murders, or otherwise violent crimes and incidents.
P O P U L A T I O N
8. There are more undergrad and graduate students in NYC than Boston has people.
9. More than 800 languages are spoken in NYC!
10. New York City is home to the second most billionaires in the world, having recently been overtaken by Beijing. There are also more than 380,000 millionaires in the city. That means about one out of every 21 people living in New York are millionaires!
A R T S + E N T E R T A I N M E N T
13. On average, more than 250 feature films are shot in New York City each year!
14. Central Park has been featured in over 300 films, more films than any other location!
15. Sesame Street is the longest-running kids’ tv series and is still filmed in Astoria, Queens!
16. The New York Knicks legal name is the Knickerbockers, which was once a nickname for New Yorkers.
17. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was the world’s first museum exclusively for kids.
18. There are 83 different museums in the city, ranging from focuses on historical events to niche groups and topics.
19. Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show in Broadway history, with over 10,000 performances.
20. There is no ‘I’ in Broadway, Both in the spelling and inside the theaters! Each theater has rows A-H and J-Z, but no row ‘I’.
Because the letter ‘I’ closely resembles the number 1, many theater goers confused their “front row” tickets for seats actually back in row 9.
To avoid confusion and disappointment, the letter ‘I’ was eliminated in most theaters!
21. There are 41 venues classified as Broadway Theaters, but only three actually lie on Broadway!
In order to qualify as an official Broadway theatre, the venue must have 500 seats and be located between 40th St. and 54th St., and from West of 6th Ave. to East of 8th Ave.
Other New York theaters with 99-499 seats are called “Off-Broadway.” Only official Broadway theaters are eligible for the Tony Awards!
G E O G R A P H Y
22. New York City has 520 miles of coastline. That’s more than the coasts of Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco combined!
23. The previous fact seems more believable when you realize that four of the five NYC boroughs are located on islands. Staten Island and Manhattan are both their own islands while Queens and Brooklyn are both situated on the western tip of Long Island. The Bronx is the only borough located on the US mainland!
24. The Empire State building gets hit by lightning about 23 times per year!
25. Alligators in NYC sewers are not a myth and there have been 12 notable sightings!
26. Manhattan is famous for its iconic skyscrapers including the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, The Chrysler Building, The Woolworth Building, and the Flat Iron Building (pictured left)!
New York City skyscrapers are concentrated in mid-to downtown Manhattan!
27. Broadway is actually the longest street in NYC. It begins in Lower Manhattan and runs north all the way to Albany! The famed street has roots traced back to indigenous tribes, with the first written reference of the term seen on a 1700s map.
28. Several NYC locations have their own unique lingos, acronyms, and pronunciations.
You may have heard of them, but not known what they stand for! And don’t get caught sounding like a tourist! Houston St. is pronounced HOW-stan, NOT HEW-ston, like the Texas city.
- NoHo – North of Houston Street
- SoHo – South of Houston Street
- TriBeCa – Triangle Below Canal Street
- NoLiTa – North of Little Italy
- DUMBO – Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass
29. In New York City, it’s illegal to honk your car horn except under emergency circumstances.
The NYPD can issue summonses that carry a $350 fine for unnecessary use of the horn, or any other noise coming from a car, such as a car alarm. However, this no honking mandate seems to be one that very few drivers follow!
30. Times Square’s bright lights can be seen from outer space! Those huge LED signs sell for anywhere from $1.1 million to $4 million per year.
F O O D
31. The Waldorf Astoria Hotel invented several popular dishes we know today!
- The Waldorf Salad: Comprised of lettuce, apples, celery, walnuts, grapes, and mayonnaise, this salad takes its name from the hotel!
- Eggs Benedict: A hungry guest, hoping to cure a hangover, invented this breakfast favorite. The maître d’ liked it so much, they added it to the menu!
- Red Velvet Cake: A 1920s hotel chef baked the first of this popular cake, inspired by the velvety textures of Victorian cakes. In an attempt to create that unmistakably bold color and unique flavors, the chef added beetroot extracts.
32. The hamburger we know today is rumored to have been invented in NYC by immigrants from Hamburg, Germany.
33. Deli owner Arnold Rueben invented the Reuben sandwich after combining leftover ingredients. However, this is just one iteration of the Rueben’s origin story and its true beginnings are disputed.
34. Italian immigrants in Little Italy invented spaghetti with meatballs, which many Italians consider an American dish.
35. Feltman’s, an 1867 Coney Island food cart, invented the American hot dog. Nathan, a worker at Feltman’s, eventually started his own business, now known as Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs!
36. Contrary to popular belief, chicken and waffles did not originate in the South. Instead, the Wells Supper Club in Harlem invented the dish.
S U B W A Y
37. Grand Central Terminal has a Whispering Gallery. If you and a friend stand at opposite diagonal corners of the room, you can whisper and actually hear each other!
38. Want to look like a local? Don’t bother asking if the train is going north or south. Ask if it is going uptown or downtown!
39. NYC transit collects approximately 2,500 items per month and stores them in Grand Central Station’s lost and found.
40. Laid end to end, New York City Transit train tracks would stretch all the way from NYC to Chicago!
F I N A N C E
41. The average rent in Manhattan is currently around $3,600 per month. Seems pretty outrageous compared to other, lower-cost areas around the country!
42. New York City’s Federal Reserve Bank has the largest gold storage in the world.
Located 80 ft below ground, the vault holds more than 7,000 tons of gold bars or roughly $90 billion dollars! Want to see for yourself? You can take a public tour!
43. UPS, FedEx, and other commercial delivery companies receive up to 7,000 parking tickets a day! That results in millions in revenue for the City.
How many of these mind-blowing facts did you know?
In a city as iconic as NYC, there’s always something new to discover! Check out some essential travel tips here.
One more bonus fact, The Escape Game New York is one of the most fun outings in the city! Check it out if you’re ever in the Big Apple!