A guide to visiting the High Line in NYC. Everything you need to know about visiting this unique elevated park in New York that takes in public art, imaginative planting, architecture and industrial history.
A November stroll along the city of New York’s High Line had me falling big time for the elevated parkway that straddles Manhattan’s West Side.
With imaginative planting, reflective spaces and intriguing art installations en route, the High Line ribbons its way through New York City, snaking between dilapidated warehouses and striking new developments.
And despite dull, mizzly weather, my walk through a blaze of autumn colour and fall foliage couldn’t help but lift my spirits. It’s a great time of year to visit.
The bold colour of the leaves provided a stark contrast to the monochrome surroundings of gleaming office blocks, swish apartments and old brick-built warehouses.
High Line history
Nowadays, New York’s High Line is an urban oasis, but it hasn’t always been that way. The West Side Elevated Line, as it was originally known, was built at the start of the 20th century as part of the West Side Improvement.
The viaduct was designed to support a freight rail line running 30 ft above street level, replacing the dangerous street-level freight trains which were responsible for the deaths of more than 540 people by 1910. It’s no surprise that 10th Avenue became known as ‘Death Avenue’!
The first trains ran on the elevated rail tracks in 1934, carrying their cargo of meat, produce, and factory goods to the upper floors of NYC’s warehouses and factories. The route became known as the ‘lifeline of New York’.
A train carrying frozen turkeys made the route’s final delivery in 1980, and then the High Line closed. Part of the structure was torn down, and the remainder of the abandoned relic quietly evolved into a naturally overgrown urban landscape until 1999, when it was threatened with complete demolition.
Redevelopment of the New York High Line
At this point, New Yorkers Joshua David and Robert Hammond stepped in. They formed a group called Friends of the High Line to lobby for the preservation and re-use of the structure. The aim was to create a unique and unusual public landscape as distinctive as the High Line itself, inspired by a similar project in Paris, the 2.9 mile long Coulée Verte.
As well as overseeing the operation and maintenance of the urban park, Friends of the High Line hosts special events and activities that support the local community and raise the essential funding that will keep the High Line open into the future.
View from the highline on bridge crossing 15th street connecting Milk Building to Chelsea Market
Where does the NYC High Line start and end?
The first section of the High Line opened in the summer of 2009 in Manhattan’s West Side. The High Line starts at Gansevoort Street and stretches along to West 20th Street, crossing Tenth Avenue en route.
In June 2011, the second section extended the park by another ten blocks, roughly half a mile, to West 30th Street.
The third half-mile-long phase opened in September 2014, stretching between 30th and 34th Streets and 10th and 12th Avenues. It ends at the Hudson Rail Yards at the northern end of the High Line.
The final section of the original rail structure, the Spur, was opened in 2019 at 30th Street and 10th Avenue. And in 2023, the High Line – Moynihan Connector was added, allowing pedestrians to travel from Moynihan Train Hall through Manhattan West and join the High Line.
Where to access the High Line?
If you don’t want to walk the full length of the High Line park, there are eleven places to join along the way. You can find a full list of access points on the High Line official website.
Most of the access points have stairs up to the park, but there is also a ramp at the High Line entrance on 30th Street Hudson Yards.
Elevators are available at:
- Gansevoort Street and Washington Street
- 14th Street
- 23rd Street
- 30th Street Southwest
- 31st Street and Dyer Avenue for the High Line – Moynihan Connector
You can check the elevator status on the park website before you travel.
Walking the High Line NYC
We started our saunter in The Meatpacking District on West 14th Street. We hadn’t planned to walk The High Line that day as it was drizzling and dull, but we came across the steps leading up to it and couldn’t resist. Luckily for us, the bad weather meant that the High Line wasn’t too busy.
The High Line evolves as you walk along its length. One moment, you’re enjoying wide open views of the city, next you turn a bend into a narrow corridor between two buildings and then a green space looms up ahead, offering a more open park-like vibe.
The route rolls and bends, slipping under three buildings at one point to form a short tunnel before breaking into the open again with views of the Hudson River and Midtown Manhattan.
There are places to stop a while and soak up the environment, the planting and wildflowers. Always a different view, a different perspective, and a different feel.
Features of the High Line
The High Line park is interspersed with unique features like the Gansevoort Woodland, Sun Decks, Washington Grasslands and Water Features, Chelsea Grasslands, 23rd Street Lawn and a wildflower field.
The Sun Deck is one of the wider areas of the park, with wooden day beds lined up along the old track like rolling freight, a nod to the High Line’s history. There are details like this all along the walkway that reflect a sense of the High Line’s original purpose.
Between 14th Street and 15th Street, you’ll find a semi-enclosed section where art videos and historic works are shown on an outdoor video screen.
From April to October, food vendors sell their wares in an open-air food court at the Chelsea Market Passage, the former site of the National Biscuit Company factory between 15th Street and 16th Street. The Oreo cookie was invented in the Nabisco factory, using flour delivered by trains travelling on the West Side Elevated Line.
And if you have a head for heights, be sure to peek through the 10th Avenue Overlook at 17th Street. The steel beams of the original High Line viaduct were removed to create a wheelchair accessible amphitheatre, the perfect place for people-watching on the pavement below.
High Line Plants
When David and Hammond first viewed the High Line, they were amazed to find 1.5 miles of meadow in Midtown Manhattan. This has been reflected in the planting, which places an emphasis on reeds, tall grasses and wildflowers to echo the viaduct’s abandoned years.
The Donald Pels and Wendy Keys Gansevoort Woodland lies near the southern end of the Highline at Gansevoort St. It’s a shaded woodland with raised steel planters that create a tiered aesthetic, while tumbling wisteria and clematis form a cascading curtain of colour in the warmer months.
The Chelsea Grasslands are planted with many of the wild grasses and self-seeding plants found growing on the High Line during the 25 years it lay dormant. Sparrows flit through the grasses – a little haven in the city for them, too.
On the Interim Walkway between 30th St. and 34th St. you’ll find a mostly uncultivated landscape of self-seeding plants that honours the High Line’s history. It’s also a great place to grab a photograph of the Hudson River, with stunning 360-degree city views.
And steel planters at the Diller – Von Furstenberg Sundeck are filled with wetland plant life such as cattails and rose mallow. The planting is a reminder of how water would naturally accumulate here during the High Line’s derelict years, and this spot is popular with summer visitors keen to dip their toes in the cooling water.
High Line Art
Public art is also prominent along the High Line, from the graffiti on the walls of neighbouring buildings to installations by local and international artists that change with the seasons. In some areas, you can even spot glimpses of the original Art Deco steel railings between the planting.
The Friends of the High Line commission and exhibit world-class art projects, helping to bring contemporary art to the local community.
Eduardo Kobra Mural
When we visited, Brazilian muralist Eduardo Kobra had transformed the original black-and-white image of a sailor kissing a nurse into a rainbow of colour on one of the local buildings. It was pretty hard to miss, and could be seen from the High Line at West 25th Street at 10th Avenue.
High Line at the Rail Yards
The High Line at the Rail Yards opened in 2014 between 30th and 34th Streets and 10th and 12th Avenues.
Much of the design here mirrors the structure’s industrial history, with stretches of raised railroad tracks that remain in the same overgrown state they were found in. Some of the original train tracks are set into the pavement and landscape, and sleek wooden benches reflect the lines of the original rail track.
How long does it take to walk the High Line New York?
That really depends on how much of a hurry you are in. If you don’t stop along the way to take photos or gaze at the view, you can probably walk the 1.45 mile park in around 30 minutes.
But if you’d rather stop off to admire the cool artworks and capture a photo of the NYC skyline, it will take around an hour to walk the High Line.
And if you want to get the full experience, enjoy a live performance or stop off for something to eat or drink, your visit could take 2-3 hours!
How long is the High Line?
With the completion of the Spur and the High Line – Moynihan Connector, the High Line now forms a continuous 1.45 mile greenway through Manhattan’s West Side.
What is the High Line New York famous for?
The High Line walk is more than just a public park. It’s famous as a hybrid public space where you can meet up with family and friends to enjoy a unique perspective of New York City, check out local food vendors or experience art and live performances.
When is the High Line New York open?
The New York City High Line is open all year round. It opens from 7am to 10pm, 7 days a week between 1st April and 30th November, and in the winter months, it is open from 7am to 8pm, 7 days a week.
How to visit the High Line NYC
It’s free to visit the High Line, and experiencing the park is as simple as turning up and strolling along its length. However, dogs are not permitted at the High Line, except for service dogs.
If you would like to learn more about the park from an expert tour guide, you could join a High Line walking tour. There are also occasional free walking tours of the High Line available on a first come, first served basis. Details of future tour dates can be found on the High Line website.
Toilet facilities are available at Gansevoort Street & Washington Street, 16th Street, 30th Street Southwest and at 31st Street and Dyer Avenue.
There are also bike racks available at various access points along the line, as cycles are not permitted on the High Line.
High Line New York Map
The High Line is a great way to see life in New York from a unique perspective. It’s connected yet disconnected from the city, immersed in urban life but at the same time surrounded by planting, texture and colour. This meandering ribbon allows you to enjoy a little tranquillity amidst the roar of the city streets.
Where to stay in New York City
We stayed at the 4* Novotel Times Square New York which has fabulous New York views of Times Square. The bar, restaurant and outdoor terrace have breathtaking views of buzzing Times Square and the city lights, while the food and service are both excellent.
The Novotel’s sleek, contemporary style is so New York, and sits in a prime location. Central Park and Times Square are just a short walk away, and the Metro is nearby for exploring further afield. This is a hotel I’d definitely recommend, and I’ll certainly stay there on my next visit to New York City.