Within the resort, particular gambling areas, lounges, restaurants, and meeting rooms are named after New York City neighborhoods or landmarks. The main casino area, for example, is named after Central Park, while the shops are modeled after Greenwich Village. At the casino, special decks of playing cards are used where the "heart" suit is replaced by apples.
The idea of a casino modeled after the New York skyline was conceived by Sig Rogich (a former White House staffer and United States Ambassador to Iceland) and Mark Advent. Rogich brought the idea to his friend, Gary Primm, head of Primadonna Resorts. Primm approached MGM president Bob Maxey in 1994 with the idea for MGM's prime Strip location, and a joint venture was formed between the two companies. Construction began in March 1995.
Completed at a cost of $460 million, New York-New York opened on January 3, 1997.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, people spontaneously sent various tributes to New York-New York, especially T-shirts from police, fire and rescue departments around the country. These were displayed along the fence in front of the "Lady Liberty" replica. Eventually, they added a permanent memorial from 2003 to 2013. The twin towers of the World Trade Center have never been included in the skyscrapers depicted in the resort's facade; it is claimed the facade is meant to represent New York City as it was in the 1940s. The 9/11 Memorial was removed in 2013 for a casino expansion.
The US Post Office Forever Statue of Liberty Stamp, which was intended to show the actual Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, actually shows the replica at New York-New York. This is due to an error by the stamp designers, who incorrectly chose a stock photo of the replica instead of the original and did not recognize the difference. Over 10.5 billion stamps had been printed with the error before it was noticed, by which point it could not be corrected.
The Roller Coaster, formerly Manhattan Express, at New York-New York travels through the property's interior and exterior, and replaced the trains to resemble a traditional Checker Cab; the coaster is 203 ft (62 m) high, has a maximum drop of 144 ft (44 m), and reaches speeds up to 67 mph (108 km/h). The ride has undergone a variety of enhancements including the introduction of a magnetic braking system and new trains.
New York-New York is also home to Zumanity, the third show from Cirque du Soleil to take up permanent residence in the Las Vegas area and the first to be directed primarily toward adult audiences. It is the only permanent Cirque show to allow admission only to those over 18 years of age. The theatre is arranged as a cabaret, with sofas and bar stools complementing the standard theatre seats. The Master of Ceremonies for the show is Edie Entertainer (formerly Joey Arias), a drag queen hailing from New York City.
Until June 2010, an ESPN Zone was located in the hotel, accessible from street level and from within the casino. It was a sports-themed restaurant with an upstairs arcade room full of sports-themed interactive games such as bowling, basketball, football, boxing, golf, horse racing, and auto racing. On October 10, 2010, the hotel re-opened the facility after an extensive remodeling and dubbed it "Sporting House", catering to the same sporting crowd. The new facility was staffed and maintained by ARK, the food-and-beverage firm that already runs other in-house facilities, including the employee dining room (EDR). The Sporting House closed down for good on June 3, 2014 and was replaced by a Shake Shack and Tom's Urban in late December 2014.
The hotel also features nearly a dozen bars and nightclubs, catering to a largely youthful demographic, including Nine Fine Irishmen, Coyote Ugly, Pour 24, the Bar at Times Square (a piano bar), and the Center Bar, the latter of which is located in the center of the main casino floor. On weekend evenings, the casino also features a live DJ and go-go dancers performing on an elevated stage within one of the table game pits, known as the "Party Pit".
The first production show to open at the hotel was called Madhattan, which brought street performers and put their acts together to create a full show.
The second major show at the hotel was a long-running production of Lord of the Dance.
The casino had a club called ROK Vegas, but it closed on April 2, 2012 due to financial problems.