High Line Park, also known as The High Line, is an oasis of greenery within the concrete jungle of New York City. An incredibly innovative feat, The High Line transformed an abandoned line of railroad tracks into a 1.45 mile-long park that is elevated 30 feet above the streets of southwestern Manhattan. It provides a relaxing setting with scenic views where you can take a stroll along its trails avoiding the hassle of crossing busy street intersections along the city’s ground level sidewalks while trying to get around that part of town.
Whenever visiting Manhattan I always make an effort to visit The High Line for a jog or walk along its elevated pathways. I especially enjoy stopping by the park early in the morning or at dusk when there really is a sense of calm to the place. During my visits it has never been excessively crowded but it does get a fair amount of use from joggers wanting to avoid the city streets, residents and employees of local businesses using it as a cut through, moms and dads enjoying a leisurely walk with their kids, and young couples walking hand in hand enjoying the atmosphere.
The High Line’s landscaping maintains a “natural theme” incorporating many of the plants, shrubs and trees that had overtaken the elevated train platform when it was out-of-use. Landscape architects have added new varieties of plants as well as maintained many of the species that originally grew out of The High Line’s rail beds that instill a wild vibe even though gardens spread throughout this rail-to-trail park are well manicured. Brightly colored wildflowers such as azure blue sage, rose mallow and tall tickseed along with birch, crab apple, and dogwood trees attract numerous butterflies and birds to the area.
In addition to the park’s garden landscapes there are also some great views of cityscapes to take in as well while making your way around The High Line’s. It really is interesting to see the city from a bird’s eye perspective. I personally enjoy seeing the Empire State Building stand out in the distance.
There is also a variety of artwork on display throughout the park. The High Line commissions 30+ public art projects each year. Some really stand out but there are also more subdued works of art that you might not notice unless a curious eye stumbles upon it. If you take your time exploring The High Line instead of rushing through it you’ll be rewarded be discovering lots of interesting details.
Sometimes just looking at the architectural details surrounding the park can be enjoyable as taking in the art being exhibited. Checking out the angles and architecture of this alley was just as interesting to me as viewing some of the artwork on display.
A gradually rising handicap accessible ramp located near the Javits Convention Center on 34th Street between 11 and 12th Avenues wraps around the Penn Station railroad yard taking people to the elevated platforms of High Line Park. Enjoy a nice view of the Hudson River and its New Jersey shore while going up or down the ramp. From there you can make your way all the way down to 14th Street close by the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Sprinkled every few blocks are additional spots to enter and exit the park. Some are gradual staircases while others are more adventurous routes that those who are afraid of heights may be wary of. There are also several elevators along The High Line’s route people can utilize. Other conveniences along the parkway include bathrooms and water fountains.
Here are a few of my favorite places within High Line Park:
Billboard Viewing Spur
The old railroad tracks had been prime real estate for billboards at its street crossings. They are all gone now but The High Line pays tribute to their past association with the property by providing an experience that lets people experience the views of a New York City street from the perspective of a billboard. Enjoy the view at West 26th Street within a rectangular frame sitting in billboard inspired seats from a spot where these displays were once prominently featured.
23rd Street Lawn
Lawns are a rare sight in the city so it is really nice to find a grassy spot. The High Line has a spacious lawn area that stretches an entire block between 22nd and 23rd Streets that is popular for summer picnics and many of the park’s summer programs. Bleachers to the south provide an additional spot to encourage people gathering around this spot.
Pershing Square Beams
If you are visiting with children, spend some time in this play area for kids 12 years old and younger. The original elevated train platform’s framework of steel beams and girders have been coated in a silicone surface for safety and transformed into a maze that kids can run through, climb over and play within. It really is a neat space!
Approaching the end of the trail a railroad tunnel appears. At first it seems these are more tracks that may be the next expansion for this rails-to-trails public space. Alas it is not. Rather you are looking at an elaborate painting honoring the railroad history of the park. At first you’ll be disappointed that there isn’t more to explore but then will begin to appreciate how remarkable this portrait is.
These are just a few of the wonderful spaces to discover while exploring The High Line. Admission is FREE and the park is open 7am – 7pm (December through March), 7 am – 10pm (April – May) 7am – 11 pm (June – September) and 7am – 10pm (October – November). Before you go download this great digital pocket guide which includes a map and tons of useful information about The High Line.
While you can explore the park on your own, Friends of the High Line, a non-profit conservancy group that maintains and operates High Line Park, provides a number of FREE public tours. The tour led by an informative guide provide an overview of The High Line’s history, design and landscaping. Friends of the High Line also have a wonderful website that is a wealth of resources about the park. Before a visit thehighline.org is a must-see read.
A trek through The High Line really is a great way to unwind and enjoy some down time while in the Big Apple. No matter a person’s age they are sure to find something interesting and have a fun time exploring this park up in the sky. Don’t miss out on a great experience!