From the bright lights of Times Square to breathtaking national parks, New York State never fails to amaze. But whether you’ve been here for a long time or are just visiting, there probably still are lots of things that you don’t know about one of the biggest and most densely populated states in the U.S.
New York is the fourth most populous state in the U.S. Its nickname “Empire State” is believed to have come about when George Washington referred to New York as the “present seat of the Empire” in a letter in 1784. But it was originally called “New Amsterdam” by Dutch colonizers in the 1600s.
With a colorful history and even more vibrant present-day stories, New York State has lots of interesting facts for you to discover, as explained throughout this article.
1. The Statue of Liberty Was a Gift from France
The Statue of Liberty may be the ultimate American symbol of freedom, but it was actually not made in the U.S. It was a gift from France in 1886 for the United States’ 100th celebration of independence.
As can be expected, it was a massive shipment that needed to be delivered in parts, requiring 214 crates in total!
When the gift arrived on U.S. shores (particularly on Ellis Island), it had to go through a painstaking and time-consuming process of assembling the parts together. And it took four months for the entire statue to be completed.
Originally copper-colored, the statue now appears to be green due to metal oxidation.
2. Albany Is New York State’s Capital
Because of its popularity and the city’s name, many people assume that New York City is the capital of New York State. However, although New York City may be the biggest and most well-known city in the state, Albany is the capital city of New York State.
In 1797, when the decision was made for Albany to be declared the state’s capital, New York was nowhere near the bustling center of trade that it is today.
On the other hand, Albany had a lot of things going on, such as trading, the production of military supplies, and even a history that goes back four centuries.
3. The Paleo-Indians Were New York State’s Original Settlers
The Dutch are well-known to be the first colonizers of what is now called New York State. But they were not the first people to settle in this region of the Americas.
Long ago, around 10,000 B.C., a group of Paleo-Indian hunter-gatherers wandered from what is now called Russia, crossing to the Americas. This same group of people were believed to have reached the Americas around 13,000 to 15,000 B.C. in search of food.
And unlike what we see today, these hunter-gatherers were not white but instead had darker complexions. Later on, in the 16th century, Native American tribes, such as the Iroquois and Mohawk, settled in New York, each tribe speaking a unique language.
4. Over 800 Languages Are Spoken in New York City
It’s not surprising for New York City to be called a melting pot of cultures. Spend a few hours in the Big Apple, and you’ll notice that most conversations aren’t actually in English!
There are over 800 languages that are spoken in the city at present, and most English-speaking people do speak another language.
Also, about one-third of the people living in New York are foreign-born. So if you’re planning a visit and worried about being out of place, don’t.
Whatever culture or race you are, you will blend in quite easily. Don’t be shocked to find a community where you can speak your native language freely.
And if you want to learn a new language? A cheap and easy way is to simply make bilingual friends in New York – best believe you won’t have a hard time spotting them!
5. Honking Is Illegal in the Big Apple
This may be a bit hard to believe for those who’ve been to New York. Besides, cars do honk a lot in movies, don’t they? Everyone seems to be in a rush in New York, which makes a lot of honking understandable. Well, a little.
But did you know that honking is actually illegal in the city that never sleeps? Yep, you read that right. Cars and cabs are not allowed to honk unless it’s an emergency, such as if you’re rushing someone to the hospital.
And we don’t recommend that you risk it, either (though a lot of people do), because if an officer spots you, you can be fined up to $350 for being a nuisance. That’s money better spent trying out the rest, don’t you think?
6. It’s Also Illegal To Fart in Church–Not That You Would
If you can’t believe that honking is illegal in New York City, you might have a hard time believing this one. It is illegal to fart in churches in New York. So if you’re feeling gassy, make sure to make your way out of that chapel unless you want to be behind bars.
But passing smelly, loud farts is not only illegal in church buildings. It’s also considered a misdemeanor when done in any religious service or gathering, like a funeral. If you do make the mistake of passing gas, just hope that it doesn’t stink and can’t be heard by your seatmate. But seriously, just don’t do it.
Other activities that are considered illegal are having sexual intercourse in a churchyard (I mean, who does that, though?) and smoking weed.
6. The World’s Smallest Church Can Be Found Here
And if you’re worried that a case of flatulence may be more noticeable in a smaller church building, you should definitely avoid the Cross Island Chapel in Oneida, New York. This teeny-tiny structure can seat only two people and is only 6 feet high and 3 feet wide.
You wouldn’t want anyone farting in here!
Seriously, though, this idyllic chapel is surrounded by water and its surroundings are quite serene, which is why lots of couples choose it as a wedding location. The church is only 29 square feet, though, so it will have to be a very intimate occasion.
7. New York State Is Home to the Third-Largest Library in the World
Coming from something very small, let’s go to one that’s huge. We’re talking about the New York Public Library. It is the third-largest library in the world, with more than 50 million books in its inventory.
But NYPL does not only boast of its books. It was opened to the public in 1911, and back then, it was the largest marble building in the country. It’s also a magnificent structure with ornate carvings, intricate interior design, and arches that remind you of ancient Greek architecture.
No wonder it has gained quite the reputation as a luxurious wedding venue. And although religious ceremonies are prohibited here, couples may hold their wedding reception parties as well as photo sessions.
8. Women–and Men–Can Go Topless in Public
Raise your hand if you’re here for the #freethenipple movement. Both men and women are actually permitted by law to walk anywhere within New York State topless. Yep. Is this a prank? A social experiment? Nope. This is real, people.
A New York State of Appeals case ruling actually allows people to expose their upper halves in public. Apparently, the ruling has something to do with gender equality, and the ruling argues that if men are allowed to go topless in public, women should be too.
If this sounds strange to you, you’re not alone. Many people are still unaware of this law. And perhaps one of the biggest reasons is that prior to this ruling, it was considered illegal to expose yourself in public anywhere in New York– and that exposure includes the nipples. It was not until the ruling in 1992 when this law was nullified.
So don’t be surprised when you see anyone, particularly in protests, walking or running around topless.
9. NYC Is a Great Birdwatching Spot
If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you will love New York City. It’s not just a trade hotspot, but it appears that birds love this place too! You can see275 bird species in the city alone. Some birders even report seeing up to 100 bird species in just a day!
One of the best places to catch a sight of birds is Central Park, particularly in spring, when birds migrate.
So if you live in the big city and don’t have time to go upstate, you can unleash the naturalist in you by taking out your binoculars or your camera and watching birds flock to this concrete jungle.
10. New York Is Home to the Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world, and it’s right here in New York State. Niagara Falls State Park was established in 1885 as the first state park in the United States. Since then, it has been one of the most popular tourist attractions in America, with Niagara Falls as its highlight.
Niagara Falls is actually made up of three waterfalls–American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls, which is the largest. Niagara is also known to have the highest water flow rate in the world, with 3,160 tons (8,948 cubic meters) of water flowing over it per second.
Because of its massive flow rate and water volume, Niagara Falls has also long been tapped as a source of hydropower, which produces part of New York City’s power resource.
11. There Are Copepods in the NYC Water Supply
Fond of drinking water from the tap? You can safely do that in New York City too, but be prepared to see miniature shrimps called copepods floating in your glass of water before you take a sip.
Yucky? Well, not really. These copepods are not dirty, and they are not harmful to our health, so they are safe even when ingested. Moreover, the presence of these copepods is actually quite beneficial, as they clear the water of mosquito larvae.
If you want to err on the side of caution, though, you can use a filter for your tap water to make sure it’s safe to drink. Because although copepods are harmless, you may not guarantee that the pipes that the water runs through are clean.
Filtering your water might also be a great option if you’re allergic to crustaceans like lobster, shrimp, and copepods.
12. A Resolution Prevents Buildings from Blocking Sunlight
Whenever we think of New York City, the first thing that comes to mind are the skyscrapers. And why not? They’re everywhere! The city is literally a concrete jungle with walls of tall buildings pretty much everywhere.
The view is breathtaking when you look at it from the top, but when you’re on the streets, the buildings can be overwhelming–even blocking much-needed sunlight from reaching down to the bottom.
But thanks to a regulation that guides the building of skyscrapers, architects have to make sure that their buildings will not prevent sunlight from reaching people at street level.
Some people may think this is a bit too extreme, but when you spend a bit of time in Midtown Manhattan, for instance, you’ll know exactly why it’s necessary.
13. NY Has the Largest Gold Reserve in the World
In New York, people love things that shine, and gold certainly does the trick. The Federal Reserve Bank in New York City has the world’s largest gold storage–about 90 billion dollars’ worth. It’s believed that there are approximately 497,000 gold bars in the gold vault, weighing almost 6,000 tons.
If you’re curious about the Federal Reserve, you can go on a guided tour to learn about what it does and its role in the economy.
Unfortunately, there are no tours that will take you to the gold vaults–they are understandably off-limits. Security in the Federal Reserve is extremely tight as well, so don’t get any ideas about doing any heists.
14. NYC Has the Most Billionaires
In connection to the billions’ worth of gold that is stored at the Federal Reserve, New York City also has the most number of billionaires than any other city in the world.
There are more than a hundred billionaires walking around the Big Apple, so it’s no wonder that the city is also known as the richest city in the world.
Aside from billionaires, there are almost 400,000 millionaires in this city! The non-stop, fast-paced business dynamic in New York City definitely is something that draws a lot of go-getters from around the world.
And true enough, the never sleeping bit seems like it’s paying off.
15. NYC is the Sixth Most Expensive City in the World
As the city with the most billionaires in the world, it isn’t surprising that New York City is also known as the sixth most expensive city in the world. The steady growth of its market and industries like technology and tourism is one of the reasons why the cost of living in New York is extremely high.
In fact, the cost of living is so high in the Big Apple that a one-bedroom apartment may cost you almost $4,000 or more in monthly rent.
And in order for you to be given a lease, you will have to earn a monthly income 40 times the cost of your monthly rent. Otherwise, most landlords won’t take you in.
This has become a real problem, though, because while there are lots of millionaires and billionaires in the city, there is also an increasing number of homeless people in New York, most of whom have been driven out of homes due to skyrocketing housing costs.
16. Central Park Has Been in More Movies Than Any Location
If you like watching movies, chances are you have seen plenty that were shot in Central Park. Why? Because about 200 movies have used this same location. These movies include Night at the Museum, Spiderman 3, Friends with Benefits, and Maid in Manhattan.
It is the single most commonly used movie location ever, and we understand why.
The park has everything: a stunning view of New York’s cityscapes, perfectly manicured gardens, charming bridges, and even lakes. Also, it’s one of those places that really say “New York” but in the most beautiful, charming way.
17. Central Park is Larger than the World’s Smallest Country
Aside from its beauty, Central Park is a massive public space 843 acres (341 hectares) big, making it one of the largest parks in the world. So, whether you’re shooting a film, going on a picnic with your family, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll, you’ll have endless options to choose from.
The park has artificial waterfalls, lakes, meadows, a zoo, and various greenscapes. So it’s not likely you’ll run out of things to do.
Some of the most popular activities here are:
- Riding a horse and carriage