Manhattan, United Nations, and Wall Street are a few things we instantly correlate with the State of New York, but what is New york famous for besides these?
Located in Northeastern USA, New York State is much larger than only Manhattan or New York City. It borders New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont to the east, and Canada to the North.
New York is a medium-sized state (the 27th in the Union), but it is significantly big compared to the other east coast states. On the other hand, with 20.2 million people, it is the 4th most populous state (only after California, Texas, and Florida) and the 7th in population density. New York City is the most populous city in America, with almost 9 million inhabitants. However, its metro area is much larger, with nearly 20 million people.
This post is about New York State as a whole, not only New York City. But, naturally, many of the things NYC is known for corresponding to the things New York State is famous for. Still, without any other delays, let’s explore what is New York famous for!
16 things New York is famous for
New York is possibly the most famous city in the world, and Manhattan is its core. It is where New York originated to become the megalopolis that now stretches to several cities, counties, and states. Manhattan is the economic, administrative, and cultural identifier of NYC and NY state, as we will see below.
Manhattan is an island bounded by the Harlem, Hudson, and East rivers. With almost 1.7 million people and only 33.58 sq. miles, Manhattan is the most densely populated and the smallest county in New York. If Manhattan were a city, it would be the 5th most populated in America. With commuters, the number of people on any given day in Manhattan increases to almost 4 million.
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.
For all this, it is naturally the setting of a countless number of books, films, tv shows, etc. Villains and Superheroes sure seem to enjoy fighting in downtown Manhattan. We will explore many of these topics below, starting with the United Nations.
Established after WWII to prevent future wars (particularly world wars), the United Nations is an intergovernmental organization that gathers almost every country in the world. The primary purpose of the UN is to maintain international peace and security, protect human rights, and deliver humanitarian aid.
With 193 members, the United Nations is the world’s largest international organization. It has several organs, including the General Assembly, the security and economic councils, and a few others. Yet, the UN system is much larger and includes many well-known and crucial agencies, funds, and programs such as:
- UNESCO – Culture
- UNICEF – Children
- World Bank
- WHO – Health
- WFO – Food program
Constructed in 1951, the UN headquarters was designed by a board of architects led by Wallace Harrison. It holds the seats of the principal organs of the UN, most notably the General Assembly and the Security Council.
Despite being located within New York City, the lands where the United Nations Headquarters are established are considered international territory and are under the sole administration of the United Nations and not the US government. Although it still agrees to acknowledge most local, state, and federal laws. Besides the headquarters in NYC, the UN also has major offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna, and The Hague.
What is New York famous for? The Skyscrapers. The huge population density of New York City and Manhattan is only possible to achieve by building enormous buildings to house people and offices. The skyscrapers quickly became a hallmark of New York, with several turning into famous landmarks and monuments.
These landmarks and other skyscrapers are from the well-known New York Skyline. It is easily the best-known skyline in the world and recognizable by almost everyone as it appears in so many films and tv shows. It features some of the most famous buildings in the USA:
- The Empire State Building
- Chrysler building
- Bank of America Tower
- One World trade center
- Central Park Tower
The New York Skyscrapers were some of the tallest buildings in America and even the world. They are still among the highest, but they are no longer close to the top. The Chrysler building, the Empire State building, and the twin towers were all the tallest buildings in the world at some time.
World trade center – 9/11 terrorist attacks
New York is one of the most important cities in the world, and it’s regularly featured in media, but there was a time when it was everywhere. For a few weeks, it was everything anyone would talk about. This was obviously in the aftermath of the world trade center terrorist attacks.
On September 11, 2001, two planes were hijacked and flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The impact created a hole in the buildings, and the jet fuel burned until both buildings collapsed, killing thousands of people. All this was shown live on TV, and it was imprinted in many people’s memory forever.
This was one of the most impacting moments in recent US history; it completely changed in many ways, from airplane travel to freedom restrictions and the wars and initiatives to combat terrorism that was triggered.
Even today, more than 20 years later, when people think about NY, they immediately remember the twin towers burning and hitting the ground.
If someone asks me what New York is famous for, the economist in me immediately thinks about Wall Street. Not the street per se, but everything the expression represents. We initially mentioned that New York is the world’s financial capital, and Wall Street became the metonym of NY’s Financial District, the US financial markets, and the American finance industry.
Located in the financial district in lower Manhattan, it runs between Broadway and the East River. In the 17th century, Wall Street had a wall. It started as a slave-trading marketplace and a securities trading site, but businesses increasingly dominated, and in the 19th century, the financial industry took over.
Today, the two biggest stock exchanges (NASDAQ and New York Stock exchange) in the world are located on Wall Street. Plus, several other important exchange markets are also located there, like New York Futures Exchange and the American Stock Exchange. It is the world’s most important financial and exchange cluster.
If Wall Street is the metonym for the financial markets and services, Broadway is for theatrical performances and the Theater District. It is also the name of the oldest north-south street in New York City, and it runs 33 miles, though it’s the stretch between 42nd and 53rd streets, including Times Square, that it’s associated with theater.
Broadway Theater is also known as “The Great White Way” because it was one of the first streets in America to have electric lights. Even today, the millions of lights and ads in the theater help brighten the night continuing the justify the name.
There are 41 theater venues with more than 500 seats in the Theater District, making it the most prominent commercial live theater cluster in the English-speaking world. These 41 theaters are the “Broadway theaters,” there are plenty of other smaller venues, usually called the “off-Broadway” theaters, even if they are also on Broadway. The largest is the Gershwin Theatre with 1933 seats, while the smallest is the 59-seat Hayes Theater.
Broadway is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York, with a total attendance of more than 13 million per season, before Covid. Besides enjoying a show, you can also have a tour with a professional actor that will show you everything about Broadway.
Broadway shows tend to be commercial productions intended to make a profit, and they are usually open-ended, and continually run until they are not profitable anymore. Performances may be running for several years, even decades, before closing. The Phantom of the Opera has been on display since 1988, and it’s the longest-running broadway show, but Chicago, Cats, and The Lion King are also incredibly successful.
Located between the Upper West and East Side of Manhattan, Central Park is another extremely popular landmark in New York. With about 843 acres, it is 2.5 miles long and 0.5 miles wide. It is a large park, but it is only the fifth largest in the city. Yet, it is visited by 42 million people annually, making it the most visited urban park in the United States.
Besides being one of the most visited tourist attractions worldwide, Central Park is also considered the most filmed location in the world. It naturally became a model for urban parks worldwide and became a National Historic Landmark.
The park’s popularity has much to do with its location. Central Park is located right in the center of Manhattan, making it a green oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle that is New York City. The central location also means that it is easily accessible by public transportation, and millions of people live, work, and visit the area.
Central Park was mostly landscaped in the 19th century with natural-looking plants, several lakes and ponds, and various sections of woodland, lawns, meadows, and grassy areas. Some of the most famous landmarks in Central Park are the Central Park Zoo, the Carousel, the Rink, and the lakes and reservoirs.
The park has created a diverse ecosystem with a few hundred species that coexist with human recreational activities like biking, sports facilities, and tours. One popular tourist activity is taking a carriage tour through the park, or alternatively going on a bike tour.
Statue of Liberty
More than a famous landmark in New York, the Statue of Liberty is an American icon and a symbol of freedom. Located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, the colossal statue welcomes everyone who arrives by sea.
Dedicated on the 28th of October of 1886, the copper statue was a gift from the French people to the USA intended to commemorate the lasting friendship between the peoples of the two nations.
Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi designed it in a neoclassical style, but Gustave Eiffel built the framework. The statue depicts Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty, with a torch in her right hand and a tabula ansata with a date of the declaration of Independence.
The statue of liberty was inscribed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1984. UNESCO states that it’s a masterpiece of the human spirit, and it “endures as a highly potent symbol—inspiring contemplation, debate, and protest—of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, abolition of slavery, democracy, and opportunity.”
As we said, the Statue of Liberty was put on liberty island to welcome everyone who came by sea. However, this location was especially significant in the 19th century, when millions of immigrants came to America, fleeing crop failure, land and job shortages, rising taxes, and famine in Europe.
About 70% of them would arrive in New York City via Ellis Island. One of the first things they would see was the colossal statue, symbolizing their freedom, new beginnings, and economic opportunity. Nearly 12 million immigrants arrived in the late 19th century, many from Germany, Ireland, and England.
This large-scale immigration may have created social tensions, but it also produced dynamism in New York (and other states). The immigrants transformed American society and culture, demonstrating that diversity and unity could be the basis of a new superpower.
Due to its extraordinarily diverse population, New York is known for being a “melting pot”. This has much to do with the long history of immigration, but it’s something that still happens in the current day. Tons of people travel to New York in search of the American dream, new opportunities, and a better life.
With more than 800 languages spoken, New York is the most linguistically diverse city in the world. While English clearly remains the most spoken language, there are areas in which up to 25% of people speak English as an alternate language. Usually, immigrants create ethnic enclaves and neighborhoods, existing Chinatown, a little Italy, Koreatown, Little Odessa, and much more.
This cultural hodgepodge influences New York’s food, art, and economics. Through the city, you can find restaurants with food from all over the world. People dressed in many different ways from the most diverse backgrounds. The cultural richness makes New York a fascinating place to travel and live.
One of the most famous areas of New York State is the Hamptons on Long Island. It consists of the towns of Southampton and East Hampton (thus the name). They are located at the eastern end of long island in Suffolk County. The Hamptons are a popular seaside resort and getaway for New Yorkers and one of the historical summer colonies.
The Hamptons are very popular among celebrities to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. The mixture of rural and ocean settings, nice beaches, historic charm, and an overall informal atmosphere make it an ideal place to rest and relax. Some of the Hamptons’ villages and hamlets became extremely expensive, with luxurious mansions and exclusive spots.
All of this is within driving distance from the hustle of New York City, though do not underestimate the distance. It should take at least 3 hours to reach Montauk Point, but with traffic, you should estimate at least four.
Seinfeld, Friends, and all the other shows
As we have shown, New York is incredibly popular for many things. It is one of the most visited cities in the world; it is the headquarters of the UN, making it the unofficial “World Capita,” it is the most influential economic and finance center in the world… and so on.
But it is also the setting for a massive number of tv shows and movies. Seinfeld, Friends, Sex in City, Woody Allen, and all the superhero movies are extremely popular, and they all tend to be set in New York City and usually in downtown Manhattan.
We have all seen New York so many times that it is familiar, even if we happen to have never been there. We see the skyline, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and Broadway, and we immediately know where we are. Furthermore, it’s almost impossible not feeling a little bit at home.
New York Food
A state with so many people with diverse backgrounds is naturally home to many dishes, food styles, and versions of famous dishes. We have selected a few of the most popular and iconic dishes in New York.
Originating from the Jewish community in New York, the New York bagel is the original bagel available in the USA. Its roots can be traced to the Ashkenazi Jew of Poland. They are usually larger and fatter than other types of bagels.
The New York-style bagel is boiled in water with barley malt, giving the bagel its distinctive taste, texture, and leathery skin. Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion, or garlic are some of the most popular toppings, but they may also be served plain or brushed with egg wash.
Pizza is one of the most popular foods in the world. The New York version of pizza derived directly from the Neapolitan Pizza in the 1900s when a huge wave of immigrants settled in east Harlem and Little Italy.
The New York-style pizza is made with a large hand-tossed thin crust and is often sold in wide slices to go. The main characteristic is the thick and crisp crust of the edge and a soft, thin, and flexible crust beneath the topping. The most traditional are tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Hot dogs are one of the most famous street foods in the world, and they are extremely popular in New York. The sausage was imported from Germany and became a favorite fast food in NY during the early 20 century, and then spread to the rest of America.
The hot dog consists typically of grilled or steamed sausage served in a partially sliced bun. It is usually topped with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and other garnishes. A typical “New York-style” hot dog is a natural-casing all-beef frankfurter sausage topped with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard, onions optional.
Pastrami is another classic in New York. Pastrami originated in Romania and came to the US with the wave of immigration from Eastern Europe and Germany. You will find it everywhere in New York’s delis, another city icon.
The raw meat (usually beef) is brined, partially dried, spiced, and then smoked, steamed, and served sliced in two pieces of rye bread and garnished with spicy brown mustard. Pastrami may mean meat or a sandwich.
For something completely different, but clearly another famous thing in New York: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Considered the world’s largest parade, it is presented by Macy’s department store chain.
Macy’s parade is held every year on Thanksgiving Day in Manhattan. It takes about three hours, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, before ending outside Macy’s Herald Square. The parade delights the audience with unique artistry & quality craftsmanship, marking the beginning of the holiday season in New York.
The parade was first marched in 1924, making it the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the US. Philadelphia’s parade is four years older. Since 1953, New York’s Macy’s Parade has been televised nationally on NBC, making it an essential American pop culture event.
Niagara Falls are one of the most famous natural wonders in the USA, so it is not surprising it made the list. Though, some people may not realize that they are still part of New York state, as they are on the NY state border with Ontario, Canada.
Niagara Falls consists of 3 waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge. Horseshoe falls are the largest and are located on the Canadian side of the border, while the smaller American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are within New York State.
Famed for their beauty and proportions, the Niagara River creates the falls, draining water from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. With a vertical fall of 167 ft (51 m), they have a combined flow rate of 85,000 cu ft/s (2,400 m3/s), making the most powerful in North America by flow rate.
It is always advisable to visit the falls from both sides to have a comprehensive view and experience. While the American side is usually touted as the best because of its dimension, it is also much more commercialized. The American side is within a state park (the oldest in the USA), creating a more natural experience, which is what you would expect when visiting a waterfall.
Visiting Niagara Falls state park to experience this natural wonder is free, and it is open 365 days a year. You can walk around on the 400 acres of lush terrain and find several activities and attractions. The tours and activities are (obviously) mostly paid for. You can go behind de falls, go on a walking tour, navigate the falls on the Maid of the Mist boat, and much more.
Facts and records about New York State
Finally, New York holds a few impressive records and is home to some unique and fun facts globally known. As one of the original colonies and most important states, there are many firsts, biggest, and largest in New York. Let’s explore some of them:
- New York was founded by the Dutch in 1624 and named New Amsterdam;
- After passing to British control, New Amsterdam was renamed New York in honor of James, the Duke of York. He would later become King James II of England.
- New York is known as the Empire State. The nickname refers to the state’s wealth and resources;
- New York City was the capital of the US for five years, between 1785 and 1790.
- There are 64 Nobel prize winners born in New York State.
- The tallest building in America is the One World Trade Center, with 1 776 feet.
- If Brooklyn and Queens were cities, they would be the 4th and 5th most populous cities in the USA.
- With 422 stations, the NY city subway has the most number of stations in the world.
- Founded in 1803, the New York Post is the oldest running newspaper in the USA.
- The first railroad in America had only 11 miles and went from Albany to Schenectady.
- With six million acres, Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous USA. It is larger than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, and Olympic parks combined.
- The Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk, New York, is the oldest cattle ranch in the USA.