The High Line: New York’s Park in the Sky

Highline NYC

Walking New York’s High Line

Ah, the High Line. It’s on the tip of everyone’s tongues—and might just be the coolest park in New York.

In a few short years, the High Line, located in Chelsea, has become one of the world’s most celebrated parks. Formerly a decrepit elevated rail line, the area’s been transformed into a green space, complete with gardens, lawns, city and river views, art installations, food vendors, and community events.

Last year, almost 4 million people visited the High Line; Travel + Leisure has named it one of the world’s 10 most popular monuments. And we don’t blame them.

Here’s what to know about the High Line… and why to go now!

History of the High Line

New York High Line

The High Line… back when it was a railroad!

Long before the High Line, the Hudson River waterfront was once a bustling industrial district of piers, warehouses, and factories. In fact, it was so bustling it became known as “Death Avenue” for the tangle of trains, trucks, and wagons that caused pedestrian fatalities.

Enter the solution: an elevated rail line (or “high line”). In 1934, the line was built 30 feet above street level to carry meat to the meatpacking district, agricultural goods to factories and warehouses (and sometimes directly into them), and mail to the main post office.

Eventually, freight trucks replaced locomotives. Rail deliveries ceased in 1980.

The result? The line sat derelict for decades. The decaying eyesore was scheduled for demolition… and then community activists saved it and formed the nonprofit Friends of the High Line, which saved the line, created the park, and oversees ongoing operations.

For more, don’t miss this great video about the history of the High Line.

Walking the High Line

Running primarily west of Tenth Avenue, the High Line park stretches from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, to West 30th Street. Entrances are at located at Gansevoort St., *West 14th St., *West 16th St., West 18th St., West 20th Street, *West 23rd St., West 26th St., West 28th St., and *West 30th Street. The asterisk indicates elevator access.

Some of the highlights along the High Line include:

  • Highline, NYC

    Chelsea Grasslands Photo: Author

    The Rail Yards (at 30th St.): This yet-to-be-restored section was recently acquired by New York, and will be revitalized and open to the public in the spring of 2014. This final third of the rail line gives an idea of the High Line’s condition before restoration.

  • 26th Street Viewing Spur: A rest area providing a framework for views of the city. The viewing frame recalls the billboards once attached to the Highline.
  • Woodland Flyover: A metal walkway above the park’s surface, which allows moss and shade undergrowth and sumac trees. The enveloping buildings create a microclimate, which supports dense plant growth.
  • 22nd St. Seating/23rd St. Lawn: An open gathering place with the park’s only lawn, as well as bleacher-style seating.
  • 10th Ave. Square: A terraced, theater-style area that faces not a stage, but windows looking over the traffic of Tenth Avenue and beyond to the Manhattan skyline.
  • High Line New York

    Playing in the water on New York’s High Line. Photo by Amanda Ruggeri

    Chelsea Market Passage: Passing through the old Nabisco Biscuit factory (where the Oreo cookie was first manufactured!), this section includes the art installation The River That Flows Both Ways, in which each pane of glass in the former factory windows represents a color of the Hudson River surface. Temporary art installations also are showcased here, along with performances and special events. The Highline’s selected food vendors are here as well. (There’s a vast selection of food, dining, and shopping options inside the building, too, which is the renowned Chelsea Market.)

  • Diller-Von Furstenberg Sundeck and Water Feature: This popular sundeck features wooden chaises (with wheels on train tracks!), great views of the river and harbor, and, in warm weather, a layer of water running over the west half of the deck.
  • Gansevoort Woodland: A lush grove of trees, grasses, and wildflowers with great views of the Meatpacking District below.

More useful info about the High Line park

The High Line New York

The High Line’s sundeck. Photo by Jeff Dobbins

Getting there:You can get to the High Line by taking the L or the A/C/E to 14th St. and 8th Ave., or the 1/2/3 to 14th St. and Seventh Ave., or the 1 to 18th or 23rd Sts. and Seventh Ave.

Hours: The High Line is open from 7am to 11pm daily.

Rules: Smoking, dogs, skates and skateboards, sports games, and alcohol are not permitted on the High Line. It’s important to always remain on the paths and never pick any of the flowers or plants.

Restrooms: Located at the 16th St. access point.

Tours: Free, guided walking tours of the High Line are available every Tuesday at 6:30pm. Walking tours are led by High Line docents and meet on the West side of the 14th Street Passage. Arrive by 6:15pm to guarantee a spot.

New York High Line

Relaxing on the 23rd Street lawn. Photo by Jeff Dobbins

Art: Friends of the Highline commissions and produces public art projects, including site-specific exhibitions, sculptures, performances, video programs, and a series of billboard interventions. Here’s a map of the current art exhibits at the High Line.

Have you ever walked the High Line? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!

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