What is New York Famous For: 18+ Things You Should Know

Our handy guide to 18+ things New York is famous for with some intriguing facts about well-known places...

Arguably, New York is most famous for being one of the most recognizable cities on Earth. 

But there’s much more to the Big Apple than meets the eye.

Besides yellow taxi cabs, skyscrapers, pizza and accents, NYC is famous for a bunch of stuff that often gets overlooked. Keep reading if you want to find out 18+ things New York is famous for, including some things you probably won’t read about anywhere else…

What is New York Famous For? Facts About New York That’ll Blow Your Mind


What is New York famous for? Let’s start easy. Here are a few things you probably already know New York is famous for, with some facts we’re betting you didn’t know…

“Dutch” Ado About Nothing: Buying New Amsterdam

The legend of Manhattan's purchase for $24 stems from a 19th-century document suggesting that Dutch colonists acquired the island from the Lenape Native Americans in 1626 for goods valued at 60 guilders, equivalent to about $24. 

However, this story oversimplifies complex historical interactions and the concept of land ownership between the European settlers and indigenous peoples. The transaction symbolizes the beginning of New York's transformation into a global metropolis but also raises questions about the fairness and understanding of such agreements, reflecting broader themes of colonization and cultural exchange.


New York is One of The Most Linguistically Diverse Cities in the World

Big cities can be lonely places, but not in New York. With over 800 languages spoken daily in the city, New York is famous for being one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the world. 

Unsurprisingly, Spanish is the second-most spoken language in NYC after English, but did you know that over 3% of NYC’s population speaks Mandarin or Cantonese?

The most common languages after Spanish and Chinese are Russian, Yiddish, Haitian, Italian, Bengali, French, Arabic and Korean. 

New York’s Taxis Haven’t Always Been Yellow

As anyone who has read The Great Gatsby will know, taxis weren’t always yellow in NYC.

New York is famous for its trademark yellow taxi cabs, but did you know that they were once red and green? In 1967, laws changed to force NYC taxis to be painted yellow to distinguish legit drivers from unofficial ones. 


Interested in exploring New York’s history, hidden gems or even solving a murder mystery? Check out our NYC scavenger hunts, walking tours and outdoor escape rooms for fun games to help turn your day out into an adventure! 

Baseball Caps Were Invented in NYC

No matter where in the world you go, you’re bound to see a Yankees baseball cap.

Baseball caps were “invented” in 1860 by the Brooklyn Excelsiors, an amateur baseball team from Brooklyn, NYC. Not only that, but an estimated 40 million baseball caps are sold in the U.S every year.


The Empire State Building Is One of The Most Photographed Buildings in The World

New York is famous for its colossal skyscraper The Empire State Building, which Cornell University researchers have found to be one of the most photographed buildings in the world.

The Empire State Building has 73 elevators and 103 floors. 


New York City is The Birthplace of Crosswords

If your day hasn’t started before you’ve done the Wordle, NY Times crossword and other associated puzzles, you can thank NYC.

The first ever crossword was distributed in The New York World newspaper on 21 December 1913. Invented by a British journalist named Arthur Wynne, the crossword was originally referred to as “the Word Cross” and was presented in a diamond format.

The crossword’s popularity has only grown since then, with the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament celebrating its 46th event in spring of 2024. 


TV Shows Set in NYC Set Decor Trends in The ‘90s

New York is famous for being a trendsetting city - after all, it’s one of the “Fashion Capitals of the World”. 

But New York’s TV influence went far beyond the classic examples such as fashion and food. 

Hit sitcoms Friends and Sex In The City both featured a world map shower curtain in the bathrooms of some of their best-loved characters (in this case Joey and Chandler, and Carrie Bradshaw). The curtain became so popular that a New York subway version was released to honor the iconic characters and the city they lived in!

What is New York Famous For? All This and More!


New York wouldn’t be NY without some of its iconic landmarks and bucket list things to do. Here are some of the most famous places in New York and some cool stuff you should know about them…

A Fashion Capital and Fifth Avenue: Dressing to The Nines

Fifth Avenue in New York City is renowned for its prestigious stretch of luxury shopping, iconic landmarks, and cultural institutions. 

It runs through the heart of Manhattan, including the opulent section between 49th and 60th Streets, known as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. Landmarks such as the Empire State Building, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the New York Public Library line its sidewalks, adding historical and architectural grandeur. 

Fifth Avenue is also famous for hosting the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a cherished tradition that transforms the avenue into a festive spectacle. This combination of luxury, culture, and celebration cements Fifth Avenue's status as a symbol of New York City's vibrancy and affluence.


Head’s Up: Love all things fashion or know someone who does? Step into your classiest walking shoes as you take on The Glamor of Midtown, a scavenger hunt and outdoor escape room that takes you all around NYC’s glitz and glamor spots! 

You Had to Be There - Times Square

New York is known for its iconic selfie destination, Times Square. 

Once known as Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in 1904 to honor The New York Times' move to the area. 

Famed for its electrifying annual New Year's Eve ball drop, Times Square is located at the vibrant heart of the Broadway Theater District, a buzzing cultural hub of premier musicals and plays. 

In 2009, Times Square transformed into a pedestrian paradise, reducing traffic congestion and creating public plazas for visitors to enjoy its dynamic atmosphere more safely and comfortably.


World-Famous Museums: The MoMA, Met & Guggenheim

Home to plenty of world-firsts and inventions, New York is famous for being something of a pioneering paradise. Nowhere is its eclectic collection of knowledge and cultural significance better exemplified than its many incredible museums.

Firstly, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its vast collection spanning 5,000 years, offers an unparalleled journey through human creativity. Secondly, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is a beacon for lovers of contemporary and modern art, showcasing influential pieces from the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso. Finally, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum - not just famous for its distinctive architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright but also for its impressive collection of modern art. 


Statue of Liberty: A French Gift of Freedom

It’s impossible to think of New York and not associate it with the famous Statue of Liberty that greets visitors to the Concrete Jungle’s shores, but do you know just how significant Lady Liberty really is?

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the United States, symbolizes freedom and democracy, officially named "Liberty Enlightening the World." 

Constructed in France, it was disassembled, shipped in 214 crates, and reassembled on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. Made of copper sheets on a steel framework designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, the same Eiffel as the tower!), it stands as a monumental figure of liberation, with broken chains at its feet and a crown with seven spikes representing the seven continents and seas. 

In her hands, she holds a torch signifying enlightenment and a tablet inscribed with the date of the American Declaration of Independence, "JULY IV MDCCLXXVI.

What Food is New York Famous For? (and related facts!)

What food is New York famous for? These and many, many more!


What Came First, The Sausage or The Dog?

New York is famous for its hot dog stands - and for very good reason. 

The first American hot dogs - which were called “Dachshund sausages” back then - were sold by a German immigrant in NYC in the 1860s on a street corner from a cart.  

As you might already know, “Dachshund” is the ‘proper’ name for a sausage dog, although it’s actually pronounced “Dax-hund” (not “Dash”) and when literally translated into English, the name becomes “Badger-dog” (Dachshunds were bred to be able to wriggle down to badger setts for hunting purposes). The sausages, long and thin, resembled the famous German dog so much that the “Dachshund” part was dropped but the “dog” remained!


From a Beigel to a Bagel

New York is famous for having the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, and this has led to some delicious diaspora foods making their mark on the iconic NYC.

Often referred to in NYC as a “lox and schmear”, the salmon and cream cheese bagel is a classic New York delicacy that originated around the turn of the 20th century. 

Believed to have been brought to New York and Philadelphia by Polish immigrants, the lox and cream cheese bagel gained particular notoriety around the 1940s and ‘50s where it has remained a staple snack or lunch for New Yorkers and visitors alike! 

Joe's Pizza NYC

A Slice of Pizza Pie In NY

New York is famous for its take on an Italian classic that has got the whole world under its charm, pizza. 

Characterized by its thin crust, which is crisp along its edge yet soft enough beneath its toppings to be folded in half, New York pizza is traditionally topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, with any additional toppings placed on top of the cheese.

New York pizzas are also typically larger in diameter than those found in other regions, and slices are cut large, making them ideal for folding, which has become a signature eating style for New Yorkers on the go.

The Humble Cheesecake: A Sweet Story


New York is known for its eponymously named cheesecake, famous all over the world for its sweet and smooth flavor. 

New York-style cheesecake stands out for its dense, rich texture and pure cream cheese flavor, achieved through a generous use of cream cheese. 

Unlike other variants, it favors simplicity, often enhanced with just vanilla and lemon zest. A distinctive feature is the optional sour cream topping, adding a tangy contrast to the creamy base. 

New York cheesecake is commonly paired with a graham cracker crust, offering a crumbly, sweet foundation. The baking technique involves high heat initially, followed by a lower temperature, ensuring a smooth, crack-free surface. This cheesecake's height and indulgence encapsulate New York's luxury, making it a globally cherished dessert.


Pastrami on Rye: A Delicious Deli Addition

New York is famous for Pastrami on rye, a quintessential New York City dish, rooted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with Eastern European Jewish immigrants.

This iconic sandwich, featuring spiced, smoked beef pastrami on rye bread, often accompanied by mustard, became a staple in New York's Jewish delis, symbolizing the city's diverse culinary landscape and melting pot culture. 

It embodies a perfect balance of spicy, savory, and sour flavors, showcasing New York's ability to elevate simple, immigrant dishes to legendary status. 

Additional Fun Facts about NYC

There’s always more to learn about New York city, and as creators of some of New York’s most immersive and fun outdoor experiences, we’re keen to share what we learn with you!

Here are three additional fun facts about New York that we really had to dig deep for. Read on and see what you think…

New York Little Italy-2

In 1920s New York, Green Road Signs Meant Both “Stop” and “Go” Depending On The Road’s Direction

If you were driving east to west, a green sign meant “stop”. If you were driving north to south, a green sign meant “go”.

Luckily, a traffic officer from Detroit called William Potts developed the “red-amber-green” system we still use today in 1920 and NY adopted the system a few years later!

The NYC Neighborhood Chelsea Was Named After a Hospital in London, England

But “Greenwich” didn’t come from its English counterpart - when New York was still called New Amsterdam, “Greenwich” was called “Groenwijck” (“Pine District”) and was later anglicized to what it is today!


In 1976, Queen Elizabeth II Collected 276 Years’ Worth of Rent From Trinity Church at Broadway and Wall Street

The Church originally received its charter from the British King William III in 1697, where the Church promised to pay one peppercorn annually.

When Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited New York in 1976, The Queen received a glass Steuben jar containing 279 peppercorns to make up the rent owed to her distant relative!

Find More Things to Do in New York with CityDays

So there you have it, 18+ things New York is famous for.

Whatever your interests are, there’s always something new for you to discover and do in New York.

In fact, you don’t have to go out of your way at all to find them - you just have to know where to look. 

Discover New York’s secret sights and noteworthy nooks by playing one of our NYC scavenger hunts, walking tours or outdoor escape rooms!


All you have to do is team up with your partner, friends, family or whoever to solve riddles, complete challenges and answer trivia to lead you on an unforgettable journey around NYC’s most intriguing streets. 

The best part? We’ll recommend top-rated bars and cafés along the way and give your team the chance to earn rewards by competing on our leaderboard! 

CityDays gives you total freedom to start and finish whenever you like, take extra breaks if you want or need them, and it’s suitable for people of all ages. 

You’re also guaranteed your money back if you don’t have an amazing time - although our previous reviews speak for themselves: we’re rated 5/5 on TripAdvisor and 4.95/5 on Google Reviews!