NYC Explorer: Fun Facts about ‘The Big Apple’

In the coming weeks, American Nomad will be exploring New York City – touring world class museums, to Broadway shows, good eats and beyond.

To kick off our tour of ‘the city that never sleeps’ I thought it’d be fun to share fun facts and history about NYC. The best part of this virtual tour – no cab fare required!

New York is home to over 8 million people…1 in 38 US Citizens is from NYC

Historical Facts:

  • The first inhabitants settled in the New York area in 10,000 BC
  • By 1100 AD the Native populations of the Iroquian and Algonquin people lived and thrived in New York state
  • The Lenape people inhabited Manhattan Island when the first Europeans came to the area. They speak an Algonquin language. You can learn more about the first peoples of NYC at The Smithsonian’s and Lenape Center
    • Lenape (len-AH-pay) means “the people”
    • The main trade route of the Lenape rand along Bowling Green and Broadway. The walking trail ran north from what is now Battery Park all the way to Boston, MA. It was a trade route for many Native American tribes
  • The first recorded European in the area was Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazano in 1524
  • The Dutch created the first European permanent settlement on Manhattan Island in 1609. They named the city ‘New Amsterdam’
    • Wall Street (Waal Straat)
    • Harlem
    • Brooklyn (Breukelen)
    • all come from the original Dutch settlement!
  • The English renamed the colony in 1664 after the Duke of York – New York
  • New York played a pivotal role in the The Revolutionary War…George Washington was charged to defend New York from the British. One Third of all the Revolutionary War battles took place in New York State
    • Want to experience Revolutionary War Manhattan/founding of The United States- you can grab a bite to eat at the Fraunces Tavern – an historical site where George Washington and Alexander Hamilton frequented. Click here for more information.
  • Due the Irish Potato Famine, over 1.5 million Irish immigrated to the United States during the 1840s and 50s. Many settled in NYC and the Irish influence can be found everywhere from neighborhood Irish pubs to St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Ellis Island was opened in 1892 to process immigrants into the US until 1954. 40% of all current US citizens can race at least one ancestor back to Ellis Island.

What’s in a name?

  • New York has many nicknames…
  • The Big Apple: moniker gained popularity in the 1920s when NYC was known for its horse races, which yieled a big prize ‘the big apple.’ NYC newspaper reporter John FitzGerald who covered the races, heard African-American stable hands in New Orleans say their were going to “the big apple” -aka NYC. In the 1930s, jazz musicians adopted the term because the city was home to big time music clubs.
    • The nickname all but disappeared until the early 1970s. NYC had fallen on bad times with the reputation of high crime. Charles Gillett, the president of the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau, a jazz enthusiast took the Big Apple slogan to bestow a revived respect on the city. Big Apple is forever synonmous with NYC
  • The City that NEVER SLEEPS – NYC always has something going on from clubs, music, good all night eats – NYC is a city for night owls
  • NYC is also known as The Empire City for its industry; The Empire State Building was once the tallest building in the world!


  • There are 41 Broadway theatres, but only 4 are actually located on Broadway
  • To be a ‘Broadway theatre’ you must be located between 40th-54th Streets and have at least 500 seats
    • Anything Off Broadway is either outside of 40th-54th streets and/or has less than 500 seats. Even if the quality of talent is the same!
  • The longest running Broadway production is The Phantom of the Opera (which is sadly closing in April 2023)
  • The highest grossing Broadway play is The Lion King (over 1 billion dollars in sales)

Museum Central

  • Considered the cultural capital of the US is home to over 140 museums (the most museums in any US city – although DC is close behind)
  • Home to second largest art museum in the world – The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Van Gogh’s Starry Night in in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC
  • The American Natural History Museum in NYC was the settling of Night of the Museum with Ben Stiller
  • The Neue Gallery is home to the famed ‘Woman in Gold’ by Klimt (the inspiration of the 2015 film ‘The Woman in Gold’)
  • NYC has over 1400 art galleries

Neighborhoods and Parks:

  • Central Park was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead in 1858 and has over 843 acres to explore including a zoo, two lakes, a ramble, a castle and more!
  • 42 million people visit Central Park each year! (14% for the first time)
  • NYC has 5 boroughs: Manhattan, Bronx, Brookly, Queens and Staten Island
  • 59 community districts like Chelsea, Harlem, etc…
  • The NYC subway system is the largest in the world…

Foodie heaven:

  • First pizzeria in America opened in NYC in 1905 – you can still eat at Lombardis!
  • Over 27,000 restaurants in NYC alone!
  • Known for their delicious hot dog stands…3100 hot dog stands in NYC feed hungry passerby

We’ll learn a lot more fun facts as we explore NYC over the coming weeks.

I’ll share stories from my recent NYC adventures as well as feature travel tips for your own NYC adventure.

Look forward to taking a bite of the ‘Big Apple’ with you!

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Purpose of American Nomad: To share my love of travel, history and museums with others. Follow American Nomad on facebook here.

About: American Nomad is written by Adele Lassiter, a travel enthusiast with a background in history, art and technology sales. In addition to running American Nomad, Adele is an artist and published author of cozy romances. Check out her cozy romance novel, Solitude Lake on Amazon (Adele Darcy)

Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on

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