100 Fun & Interesting Facts About New York State, USA

New York state is famous for Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty, and of course New York City itself.

Find out what else the “Empire State” is known for with these fascinating and fun New York state facts! Also read these fun New York City facts while you’re at it!

General New York State Facts

  • New York state is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.
  • New York is the only state in the nation that borders both the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The state has a total land area of 54,555 mi² (141,297 km²), making it the nation’s 27th largest state. It is between Iowa and North Carolina in terms of size.
  • Compared to countries, New York state is slightly larger than Greece.
  • People say that New York state is shaped like a boot with a large heel, or a T on its side.
  • With a state population of 20 million, New York is the 4th most populous state, after California, Texas, and Florida. In terms of population density, it is the 7th highest.
  • 1 in 16 Americans live in New York state.
Skyline of Albany, New York State
Albany, the New York state capital
  • The capital city of New York state is Albany. With a population of 99,000 (metropolitan 1.1 million), it is the 6th largest city in the state. It was chosen for its central position on the Hudson River. First chartered in 1698, it is the longest continuously chartered city in the country.
  • New York is often referred to as ‘New York state’ in order to distinguish it from New York City.
  • The largest city in New York state, and in the entire country, is New York City. The city proper has a population of 8.8 million, making it the 41st largest city in the world, between Luanda, Angola and Wuhan, China.
  • The New York City metropolitan area spills into neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, so it is often called the “Tri-state area.” With a population of 20 million, it is similar in size to Osaka, Japan. The lists vary a lot, but on most of them, Greater New York City doesn’t quite make the top-10 cities in the world by population.
Skyline of New York city viewed from across the water and lit up in the early evening
New York City, the state’s largest city
  • Although New York state has 10 regions, people often use the general term “Upstate New York” to refer to everywhere north of the New York City metropolitan area. NYC, Long Island, and the Hudson River Valley are called “Downstate New York”.
  • Long Island, which is part of metropolitan New York City, is the most populous island in the United States, with 8 million people, and 18th most populous island in the world. It is the largest island in the contiguous United States (not counting Alaska and Hawaii).
  • The second largest city in New York state is Buffalo, which sits on the shore of Lake Erie near Niagara Falls. It has a population of 280,000 (metropolitan 1.2 million).
  • Niagara Falls is the name of a small city in New York state. It is across the Niagara River from a city of the same name in Ontario, Canada, with the famous waterfall lying between them.
View of Niagara Falls from the New York state side
Niagara Falls viewed from New York state
  • New York state was originally inhabited by the Algonquians and the Iroquois. Today they make up less than 1% of the population of the state.
  • People who live in New York are called Empire Staters, but the term “New Yorker” usually means a resident of New York City, not New York state.
  • “Empire State” is the official nickname of New York state. The nickname came before the Empire State Building and refers to the city’s importance on a global scale. It is said that George Washington first called the state “the seat of an empire” in 1784.
  • Other nicknames for New York state have included “Excelsior State” after its motto and “Knickerboxer State” after the pants worn by early Dutch settlers.
  • The official state motto is “Excelsior”, which means “Ever upward” in Latin. It is one of only 7 states that have a single-word motto (the others are California, Wisconsin, Utah, Texas, and Rhode Island, and Maine).
A vendor in New York City selling "I love New York" t-shirts and other items
“I love NY” t-shirts for sale
  • The official tourism slogan of New York state is “I Love NY”, and has been for many years.
  • “I Love New York” is the official state song, and “I ♡ NY” is often seen on t-shirts sold in the state.
  • NY is the two-letter abbreviation of New York state.
  • The beaver, which is North America’s largest rodent, is the state mammal of New York.
  • The nine-spotted ladybug is the official state insect of New York.
  • The sugar maple is the official state tree and the rose is the official state flower. Different types of rose are also the state flowers of Oklahoma, North Dakota, Washington D.C., and Alberta province in Canada.
The New York state flag
The state flag of New York
  • The New York State flag features the state’s coat-of-arms on a blue background. The coat of arms shows ships on the Hudson River, a sunrise above mountains, and the scene is held up by Liberty and Justice personified as women.

Interesting Facts About New York State

  • New York state was one of the country’s original 13 colonies before becoming the 11th state.
  • There are no national parks in New York state. The state does however have 215 state parks, the second most of any state, after California.
View of a long lake with forested hills on either side in Adirondack Park, New York state
Beautiful Adirondack Park in northeastern New York State
  • Allegany State Park is the largest state park in New York. Located in the west of the state, it is popular for camping and skiing. Niagara Falls State Park is the most visited state park in New York.
  • Adirondack Park in northeastern New York state is one of the country’s largest protected areas. At 9375 mi2 (24,280 km2), it is larger than Croatia or Costa Rica. It is managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation and is not technically a state park. It has the country’s largest system of trails.
  • The original Fort Stanwix was built by the British in 1758 to protect an important waterway and route to the coast. Later taken over by the Americans, the fort was burned down in 1781. In 1976, for America’s 200-year-anniversary, a copy of the fort was rebuilt and opened to the public.
Aerial view of Fort Stanwix in New York State
“Fort Stanwix” (image By NPS is licensed as part of the Public Domain)
  • There are 11 long, skinny lakes south of Lake Ontario in New York state. Called the Finger Lakes, they were formed by glaciers 2 million years ago. According to local Native American legend, they were formed by the fingers of the Great Spirit, hence the name.
  • Approximately 25% of New York State is occupied by farms.
  • New York produces the 2nd most maple syrup in the US, after Vermont, but it pales in comparison to how much is produced in Quebec province, Canada.
  • New York also comes 2nd in the country in production of apples.
A typical New York state farm with red buildings and hills in the background
A farm in New York state
  • There are around 400 wineries and 1600 family vineyards in New York state, making it one of the country’s top wine producers, after California, Washington, Texas, and Oregon.
  • Great white sharks are often spotted off the coast of New York.
  • Mount Marcy is the highest point in New York state, at an elevation of 5344 ft (1629 m) above sea level.
  • The highest temperature to ever be recorded in the state of New York was 108°F (42.2°C) on July 22, 1926 in Troy, while the lowest was -52°F (-46.7°C) on February 9 1934 and February 18, 1979 in Stillwater Reservoir and Old Forge, respectively.
  • Despite taking up just 1.4% of the country’s total area, New York contributes nearly 8% to the nation’s GDP.
A collage of famous brands from New York State
Some major brands, media, and organizations headquartered in New York State
  • Some of the world’s largest media and entertainment companies are based in New York, including the likes of Fox, ABC, CBS, New York Times, and many more.
  • Major companies that started or are headquartered in New York state include Kodak, IBM, PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer, Maybelline, and Sheraton Hotels.
  • New York is also the headquarters of the United Nations, including UNICEF.
  • New York state has the most unequal distribution of wealth in the country.
  • A long list of famous people were born in New York state, including actresses Lindsay Lohan and Claire Daine, actors Mel Gibson, Adam Sandler, and Charlie Sheen, politician Donald Trump, model Liv Tyler, radio host Howard Stern, TV hosts Rosie O’Donnell and Jon Stewart, and comedians Eddie Murphy and Jerry Seinfeld, just to name a few.
Famous Empire Staters Eddie Murphy, Rosie O’Donnell, Adam Sandler, Lindsay Lohan, Notorious B.I.G., and Donald Trump (clockwise from top-left)
  • Bands and musicians from New York state include Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., Nicky Minaj, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Vanessa Williams, Kiss, Blondie, New York Dolls, Anthrax, The Strokes, The Beastie Boys, The Ramones, and more.
  • Movies filmed in Upstate New York include Slap Shot, Bruce Almighty, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2016), The Irishman, The Other Guys, and The Amazing Spider Man 2. (For a list of movies filmed in NYC, see my New York City facts).
  • More winners of the reality show Survivor have been from New York than any other state.
  • Things invented in New York state include hip hop, punk rock, graffiti, toilet paper, tuxedos, credit cards, reclining dental chairs, modern air conditioners, potato chips, and Philadelphia Cream Cheese (despite the name), Eggs Benedict, and Buffalo wings.
  • Although there are several different claims to who invented the Bloody Mary cocktail, at least three of them come from New York.
Two foods that were invented in New York state, buffalo wings on the left and Eggs Benedict on the right
Buffalo wings and Eggs Benedict were invented in New York state
  • The world’s first cell phone call was made on April 3, 1973 in New York.
  • Peter Cooper of New York is not only known for running for president and building the first steam locomotive in the US. He’s also known for his patented formula of powdered gelatin, otherwise known as Jell-O.
  • There are some weird old laws still in existence (on paper only, that is) in New York state. For example, you’re legally not supposed to talk to anyone in an elevator, and you should look forward with your arms crossed.
  • Wearing slippers after 10 p.m. is also illegal.
  • Jumping off a building in New York is, ironically, punishable by death.
  • Last but not least, you aren’t legally allowed to walk around on a Sunday anywhere in New York state with an ice cream cone in your pocket.

Historical Facts About New York State

  • About 12,000 years ago, after the last continental glacier receded from North America, the New York region’s native ancestors entered the Hudson Valley.
  • In 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano of Italy, but exploring for France, was probably the first European to see New York’s harbor.
  • In 1609, the Hudson River was explored by Henry Hudson, who claimed the region for the Dutch.
  • Fort Orange was built by the Dutch in 1624, which later became known as the city of Albany.
  • The Dutch also established New Amsterdam in 1625. It would later become known as New York City. Names like Harlem, Brooklyn, and Wall Street come from Dutch.
  • In 1664, the British took control of New Netherlands, renaming it New York after the Duke of York, who had arranged their mission. (Another place named York would later become Toronto, Canada). The colony thrived for the next 100 years.
  • The Province of New York unsuccessfully invaded Canada in 1760.
A street sign for Wall Street, with American flags on the right, and buildings of New York City in the background.
Wall Street was thus named because the Dutch built a wall there to keep the British out.
  • At the start of the American Revolution in 1775, the British assembled the largest ever (at the time) fleet of 30,000 sailors and soldiers just off Staten Island.
  • In 1776, the British held New York and drove George Washington out.
  • In 1777, the Americans defeated the British in the Battle of Saratoga in New York state.
  • In 1786, New York state’s borders was permanently set.
  • New York became the 11th state to join the Union in 1788.
  • George Washington was sworn in as president of the US on April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York.
The NY state Capitol building in Albany
  • In 1797, Albany became the state capital.
  • In 1801, the New York Post was established, though it was originally called the New York Evening Post.
  • The Erie Canal was opened in 1825, which connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and Hudson River.
  • In 1831, the state’s first railway was opened, from Albany to Schenectady.
  • In 1886, the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, was unveiled in New York, becoming the tallest iron structure in the world.
  • In 1892, the country’s central immigration center, Ellis Island, opened.
Ellis Island in the foreground, with the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in the background
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
  • New York state has had four constitutions over the years, including ones written in 1777, 1821, 1846 and 1894.
  • The 1894 constitution was amended over 200 times and revised in 1938. That Constitution remains in place today.
  • By 1900, New York state was the country’s most populous and wealthiest.
  • President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901 in Buffalo, New York.
  • From 1908 to 1973, the world’s tallest building (7 different ones held the title) were all in New York, including the Empire State Building.
  • The start of the Great Depression was signaled by the crash of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929.
  • The Winter Olympic Games were hosted by Lake Placid in 1932 and again in 1980.
A village on the shore of Lake Placid in New York state, with mountains behind it reflecting on the lake
Lake Placid has twice hosted the Winter Olympics
  • In 1939, the World’s Fair was held in New York City.
  • During WWII, New York state provided over 10% of the US military’s armaments.
  • New York City became the chosen site of the UN headquarters in 1946.
  • Growth in New York slowed after the war. Over the course of 50 years, the population of Buffalo dropped 50%. California and Texas surpassed New York in population int the 1970s.
  • In summer of 1969, Woodstock was held in Bethel, Upstate New York. It was one of the largest, and arguably most famous music festivals ever held.
  • In the 1970s, graffiti, hip-hop and punk rock music emerged in New York.
  • In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic had a major impact on New York.
  • In 1994, a second Woodstock was held, this time at Saugerties, then another in 1999 in Rome. The first was plagued by rain and mud, while the second was an absolute disaster, descending into riots and huge fires.
Graffiti on some rooftops in New York City
Modern graffiti originated in New York
  • The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001. Two planes crashed into the towers, resulting in 3,000 deaths and billions of dollars in property loss.
  • Hilary Clinton was a New York Senator from 2001 to 2009, during which she ran for president in 2008, but lost the candidacy to Obama.
  • The New York City transit system was shut down due to a strike by workers in 2005.
  • During spring of 2020, New York City became the world’s epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In 2021, former NYC mayor Giuliani has his attorney’s license revoked for making false claims about voter fraud at the rally that led to the January 6 attack on the US capitol in Washington D.C.