Whether you’ve seen the lights of New York City or not, chances are you’ve heard plenty about the Big Apple. You’ve seen it in movies, read about it in magazines, and if you haven’t been — you know someone who has. NYC probably calls to mind skyscrapers, a cosmopolitan lifestyle, and famous yellow cabs. You might think you’ve heard it all before, but here are ten things you definitely didn’t read in that magazine.

1. New York talks the talk

Tour guide in New York City uses an iPad to show tourists photos of figures he's speaking about on historic tour.

If you’re looking to learn another language or brush up on one, New York should be your first stop. Home to native speakers of about 800 different languages, the Empire City is truly the world’s cultural melting pot. Around half of NYC households speak a language other than English — and more than a third of New Yorkers are foreign-born. Go for a stroll around three of the five distinct boroughs on a half-day tour, and turn your ‘schlep’ into a linguistic voyage.

Who knows, you might even pick up some new phrases (apart from “hey, I’m walkin’ here!”)

2. Before New York, there was ‘New Amsterdam’

Young woman with a ponytail takes a picture of the Statue of Liberty while on a boat sailing by.

A walk around the hyper-modern metropolis might make you forget that there was a time before all the glitter and chrome. But New York wasn’t built overnight. In 1626, Manhattan Island was bought by Dutch settlers and named ‘New Amsterdam’, then used as a fur trading post for the Dutch East India Company. The city only became the New York we know today after the English took over in 1664. 

If you’re planning a future visit, learn about its humble beginnings on a walking tour through lower Manhattan. You’ll marvel at the famous architecture and learn a bit of history… and might even leave with some New York-style pizza.

3. The resolution that let all the light in

Young woman wearing a hat overlooks the New York City skyline and the Hudson River
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The city’s distinctive skyline is recognizable around the world, but from street level, it can be jaw-dropping. With such enormous buildings, it can be a wonder how architects ever managed to filter a little light through such an urban jungle. Take the Empire State Building: it’s so large it has its own zip code. With that kind of size, a change needed to be made. Enter the 1916 Zoning Resolution.

This regulation established how architects were allowed to build, preventing new skyscrapers from blocking light to the street below. It made life a lot brighter (and safer) for New Yorkers today.

4. New York City is LGBTQ+++

Two young women with backpacks bike around Central Park in New York City

It may come as no surprise that the cultural capital of the world is also one of the most gay-friendly cities anywhere. Did you know that more New Yorkers identify as LGBTQ+ than in any other city in the US?
Even though same-sex marriage only became legal in New York in 2011, the city’s long and colorful history within the gay rights movement goes back much further.

A trip to NYC wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Stonewall Inn. Those wanting to learn more about the gay rights movement can experience the history of the powder keg to the infamous 1969 riots. Considered the birthplace of the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the US — Stonewall opens its doors to everyone.

5.  City of gold

View of a statue of a strong man holding up a globe in New York City on a sunny day.

If you’re a fan of bank heist movies, you might already know the Federal Reserve Bank. Famous for having the largest store of gold in the world, this high-security institution is pretty loaded — having a reported 7000 tonnes of bullion! Hoping to climb in through an air vent to see it? That’s unlikely. But with a tour with a Wall Street professional, you can get tips on making your own fortune after travel picks up again. Until then, we recommend sticking to the movies.

6. ‘The Big Apple’ is named after horse racing

Young couple walks along a bridge in New York City while holding hands on a sunny day.

The origin of New York’s nickname is something of a mystery. But one thing’s for sure: it’s not that the city resembles a fruit. Instead, the ‘Big Apple’ takes its roots from the unlikeliest of sources — horse racing commentary. (Yes, really). Journalist John J. Fitzgerald coined the term in an article in 1921. His exact words? 

“There’s only one Big Apple. That’s New York”. With an explorer pass, you can enjoy 85 of the city’s attractions and really take a bite out of the city on your next trip. New York will be waiting for you.

7. Even library cards are bigger

Interior of a museum in New York City. Sun streams through the skylight.

“Knowledge is power” goes the saying. With a New York library card, locals have access to over 50 million books — that’s a pretty powerful possession! Open to the general public, the New York State Library is the third-largest in the world and a must-see on a full-day tour of the city. Behind the famous lion statues of the library’s grand facade are sets of elegant reading rooms ready for a snuggle-up with a good book. With some added time at home, New Yorkers can finally get through that reading list.

8. Pearls line the streets (sort of)

Young woman takes a photo of the New York City skyline from atop the Empire State Building.

The Dutch traders who formed New Amsterdam were blown away by the number of oysters on Ellis and Liberty Islands. So much so, that they were named ‘Little Oyster Island’ and ‘Great Oyster Island’. To cement their admiration, they even used oyster shells to pave present-day Pearl Street! Today, New York’s avenues are still lined with street food… but only the on-the-go variety. On a food-walking tour through the city, you can taste your way through the authentic and sometimes artistic street food cuisine. Working up an appetite for your next trip to New York?

9. Cab drivers can’t honk

Older man explains something to younger woman as they look out onto the New York skyline and the Hudson River

Thinking of the Big Apple, the first thing that springs to mind is probably bustling streets with yellow taxi cabs beeping (and maybe someone yelling “they’re walkin’ here”). But in reality, cab drivers are fined — heavily — for unnecessary honking. They only use their horns for emergencies. As for water taxis? Well, you’ll just have to ask those cab drivers on the Hudson River water taxi tour when you’re next in town.

10. High ‘cawfee’ consumption

Young couple walks along a bridge in New York City.

Looking to fit in with the locals? Sit outside a cafe with a large iced coffee you can sip while you walk the streets. According to data collected from a global health survey, New Yorkers gulp down 7 times as much coffee as their fellow Americans. Never slowing down, residents of the City That Never Sleeps are also the healthiest urbanites in the US. You can kickstart your local appreciation (and addiction) in Greenwich Village when you taste your way through town. 

Still dreaming of a trip?

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