This post was last updated on March 27th, 2017
Apparently, no one actually knows why New York City is nicknamed the Big Apple. There’s a whole website called “The Big Apple” dedicated to investigating the origins of American words and phrases — specifically NYC’s most unexplained nickname. Evidently there was a horse racing reporter for the New York Morning Telegraph in the 1920s who frequently referred to NYC as the Big Apple, and that’s the earliest concrete evidence of the nickname gaining any sort of popularity.
This is all to iterate New York is a land of mystery, and we’re still not sold on the whole large, red fruit thing.
But on the upside, the Big Apple does have some finer selling points — including it being a massive, bustling metropolis of American culture. With all that mystery and culture, there’s a few things everyone should be prepared for upon your first visit. Here’s a few of the most necessary:
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8 Things To Know Before Your First Visit To New York City
- Times Square is not New York. I mean, it is, technically speaking. But it’s more of the over-visited, over-priced touristy version of New York. Most everyone who actually lives in New York exerts a lot of energy avoiding it. You should, too.
- 99-cent pizza is a thing, and it exists on the streets of the Big Apple. So are $1 hotdogs and nice street vendors who give you free bagels (and a banana) when you don’t have cash. You would think New Yorkers don’t have that kind of sympathy, but clearly, you’d be wrong.
- Hipster bars with crafty titles like “Baby’s All Right” (I don’t think we’re meant to actually understand what that means) also exist. They come equipped with a DJ playing records from a turntable and a secret back room with live music and a guest list. At midnight they lower the wall behind the bar so you can catch a glimpse at people who are way cooler than you jamming to whatever new hipster, alternative style punk band is playing — then they put it back up.
- Celebrity sightings are as hilariously awesome and awkward as you’d imagine. Keep an eye out on the Big Apple subway cars (starlets do ride with the peasant-folk sometimes). Also consider joining Tinder for the shear chance of matching with a D-list celebrity — the actor who played Ethan Craft on Lizzie McGuire met his current girlfriend on Tinder. Trade secrets, my friends.
- Don’t walk slow. Walking slow is a sign of many things in New York. It screams “I’m a tourist,” “I don’t know where I’m going,” “Why are these streets so confusing,” “I can’t seem to find this large tourist attraction I’m trying to visit,” and “I know I’m in your way but can’t actually help it.” Being in the Big Apple means being apart of the culture, and that culture translates to ‘briskness.’
- St. Paul’s Chapel across from Ground Zero is under appreciated. The 9/11 memorial is beautiful, and the museum has stirred some controversy (see this article titled “The Worst Day of My Life is Now New York’s Hottest Tourist Attraction”). But the chapel is one chapter of the story we often forget — it’s the “what happened next,” when firefighters and police officers and safety officials spent weeks digging through rubble looking for survivors and cleaning up the mess. The chapel was their safe haven, and it tells an equally painful story about a city rallying to recover.
- Don’t expect much from public transportation (except maybe celebrities). Not only is the New York subway system an absolute terror to navigate, but the chances of a train just stopping in a dark tunnel with you inside of it for unexplainable “mechanical issues” is extremely high. It’s amazing how these people get anywhere on time.
- Everything is expensive (except that street food). You think you know this, I’m sure. But I also thought I knew this, and I still wasn’t fully prepared. Maybe it’s my small-town upbringing showing its true colors, but since when is a hamburger and a milkshake $12.00?