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New York City – Walking the High Line

A November stroll along New York’s High Line had me falling big time for the elevated parkway that straddles the lower West Side of Manhattan.

Despite dull, mizzy weather the walk lifted my spirits with a blaze of autumn colour and foliage. The leafy colour was a complete contrast to the surroundings of gleaming office blocks, swish apartments and old brick-built warehouses.

The High Line promenades through New York City and ribbons its way between dilapidated warehouses and striking new developments with imaginative planting, reflective spaces and intriguing art installations en-route.

The High Line New York - a photo tour with links to High Line map
The High Line in the Rain
Art Deco Railings on the High Line
Art Deco Railings on the High Line

History of the High Line

Nowadays it’s an urban oasis but New York’s High Line started life in 1934 as a dark, steel structure nearly 30ft above street level. It supported a rail line that transported freight cars and their cargo of produce directly into warehouses and factories and became known as the ‘life line of New York’.

A train carrying frozen turkeys made the 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 natural overgrown landscape until 1999 when it was threatened with complete demolition.

At this point neighbourhood residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond stepped in. They formed a group called Friends of the High Line and they lobbied for the preservation and re-use of the structure. Their aim was to create a unique and unusual public landscape as individual as the High Line itself.

Fall Foliage on the High Line
Fall Foliage on New York’s High Line

Where is the High Line?

The first part of the High Line opened in the summer of 2009 and begins at Gansevoort Street and extends to West 20th Street, crossing Tenth Avenue on the way.

In June 2011 another section opened extending the park another ten blocks, roughly half a mile, to West 30th Street.

The third half-mile-long phase opened in September  2014 ending at the Hudson Rail Yards leaving the park almost complete.

Street View from the High Line
Street View from the High Line

Where to access the High Line

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.

Because of the bad weather, the High Line wasn’t too busy. There are stairs and elevators to access the park at various intervals along the route and ground-level access at West 34th.

See more top attractions in New York

Features of the High Line

The park is interspersed with a series of 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 was one of the wider areas of the park and I loved how the wooden day beds were lined up along the old railway track like rolling freight in a nod to the history of the High Line. There are details like this all along the walkway that reflect a sense of the High Line’s original purpose.

Autumn Colour on the High Line
Autumn Colour

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 mid-town Manhattan. The planting is sympathetic to the structure’s abandoned years.

When David and Hammond first viewed the High Line they were amazed to see 1.5 miles of meadow in mid-town Manhattan and this has been reflected in the planting with an emphasis on reeds, tall grasses and wild flowers.

The Chelsea Grasslands were planted with many of the wild grasses and self-seeding plants found growing on the High Line during the time it lay dormant.

Chelsea Grasslands on the High Line
Chelsea Grasslands

There are places to sit and just watch the world go by, like the point where the High Line crosses Tenth Avenue. Here you’ll find an area suspended over the avenue, where you can sit and watch the traffic glide along beneath you.

At one part there’s a huge frame, like a massive picture window echoing the old billboards, where you can sit and enjoy a classic New York street view and actually become part of the billboard itself.

Billboard on The High Line
The Billboard

High Line Art

Art is prominent along the High Line from graffiti on the walls of neighbouring buildings to installations in the park itself. 

Brazilian muralist Eduardo Kobra has transformed the original black-and-white image of a sailor kissing a nurse into a rainbow of colour which you can see from the High Line at West 25th Street at 10th Avenue.  In fact, it’s hard to miss!

There are installations which change with the seasons along sections of the trail.

Eduardo Kobra Mural High Line
Eduardo Kobra Mural on the High Line
High Line Art
High Line Art

The High Line evolves as you walk it; wide open with views of the city one moment and then you turn a bend, and you’re walking a narrow corridor between two buildings.

A lawn looms up and open space appears offering a more open park-like vibe.

There areas where you’re walking over planting and on a layer beneath you are glimpses of the original art deco steel railings. Always a different view, a different perspective and a different feel to it. There are places to stop a while and soak up the environment, the planting and wildflowers. Sparrows flit through the grasses – a little haven in the city for them too.

The autumn colour was beautiful, especially against the backdrop of a grey day in New York.

Walking the High Line
Walking the High Line

High Line at the Rail Yards

Much of the design in the latest section, known as The High Line at the Rail Yards, mirrors the structure’s history. Raised rail tracks and stretches that remain overgrown are the way they were when the space was abandoned. The design includes sleek wooden benches that reflect the lines of the track. Some of the original train tracks are set into the pavement and landscape.

Clever Planting on the High Line
Clever Planting

The High Line is a unique way to see life in New York from a different perspective. It’s connected yet disconnected from the city. The High Line is immersed in urban life but at the same time surrounded by planting, texture and colour. A meandering ribbon where you can enjoy a little tranquillity amidst the roar of the city.

High Line New York Map

The High Line is open daily from 7 A.M. to 10 P.M. (8 P.M. in winter). You can check out a map of The High Line showing the access points and route.

Read more

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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. Food and service are both excellent.

The Novotel’s sleek, contemporary style is so New York and it’s in a prime location. Central Park and downtown to Times Square are a short walk away.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.

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Wednesday 28th of January 2015

You caught New York in wonderful colours! Beautiful photos !

Suzanne Jones

Wednesday 28th of January 2015

Thank you - it was beautiful autumn weather :)


Tuesday 23rd of December 2014

Interesting post. I did not know a high line existed and it was interesting to look at your pictures of what you see while walking it.

Suzanne Jones

Tuesday 23rd of December 2014

And it was so nearly destroyed - so glad it was reclaimed and turned into an urban oasis. I really enjoyed my walk on the High Line :)


Monday 22nd of December 2014

The High Line looks amazing!! What a cool way to walk around and take in the views. I haven't been to the US as yet but when I visit NY, this will most certainly be one of the things I do. Lovely pictures, Suzanne :)

Suzanne Jones

Monday 22nd of December 2014

Hi Nita - I really liked the High Line - hope you don't have to wait to long before you get to visit. New York is an amazing city :)


Monday 22nd of December 2014

I have read about the High Line before and thought that it looks like a very interesting walk through NYC. I have yet to get there! But I shall definitely head for the High Line! Jude xx

Suzanne Jones

Monday 22nd of December 2014

Thanks for dropping by Jude - hope it's not too long before you get to walk the High Line :)

Johanna Bradley

Sunday 14th of December 2014

I've read about this, Suze, and it does look a fascinating stroll. great photos and info :)

Suzanne Jones

Sunday 14th of December 2014

It was a lovely walk Jo - one I'm sure you'd enjoy ;-)

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