The High Line

Ever since I moved to Manhattan, a little over a year ago, I’ve been hearing about the High Line. It’s become a common conversation in New York: “What did you do last weekend?” “Oh we got brunch, walked the High Line, it was really nice.” Somehow, though, I had never been. Well on Sunday, after a weekend spent indoors, I decided I was going to go and see what all the fuss was about.

A few postcards I picked up showing the High Line in its various forms – (clockwise from top) prior to opening in 2000, a map showing the entire pathway, people strolling down the boardwalk

A few postcards I picked up showing the High Line in its various forms – (clockwise from top) prior to opening in 2000, a map showing the entire pathway, people strolling down the boardwalk

The High Line is a stretch of old railroad track running along the west side of Manhattan that connects the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and Hudson Yards. Trains ran along its tracks from 1934 to 1980, after which residents in the area (particularly Mr. Peter Obletz) fought for it not to be destroyed. After decades of work, in 2009, the organization “Friends of the High Line” opened the first section to the public. Today the High Line is a mile-and-a-half of walkway surrounded by plants, the city, and quirky pieces of artwork. It’s situated in quite a fancy part of town (ads for $20 million residences and the offices of Giorgio Armani line the walkway) but it’s an area for all New Yorkers (there are free events constantly and even a play area for children).

It was 93 degrees that afternoon in New York, so I probably could have chosen a more comfortable day to visit, but I kind of had that mentality that if I didn’t go then it was never going to happen. Surprisingly, even though it was swelteringly hot, the walkway was crowded almost the whole way through. Luckily, the creators of this little city garden have thoughtfully incorporated water fountains and sitting areas all along the path to help you cool off.

A variety of sitting areas along the High Line, each providing a moment of solace from the bustle of the main walkway.

A variety of sitting areas along the High Line, each providing a moment of solace from the bustle of the main walkway.


On a day as hot as Sunday, it was nice to be able to kick off my sandals and step in some cool, flowing water

On a day as hot as Sunday, it was nice to be able to kick off my sandals and step in some cool, flowing water! (BTW, can you tell I’ve gotten some sun this summer?)


There were a few of these funny amphitheater-like seats along the way. The show playing? Live traffic in the streets below!

There were a few of these funny amphitheater-like seats along the way. The show playing? Live traffic in the streets below!

I had expected the High Line to be another little oasis. However, unlike Washington Sq. Park, the creators of the High Line haven’t made a bubble within the city so much as they’ve made a garden that grows within and among it. As you walk through, the city leaps out at you as much as the plants and artwork do.

Construction and scaffolding are commonly seen along the High Line, but so are more scenic views of the Hudson River and the West Side Highway.

Construction and scaffolding are commonly seen along the High Line, but so are more scenic views of the Hudson River and the West Side Highway.

The High Line has been constructed the way it has very consciously. Rather than tearing the old railroad down completely to build something new, Friends of the High Line focused on an eco-friendly approach by simply repurposing what was already there to create something new. As a result, touches of the old rail system can be seen throughout the walk.

I'll admit I was a bit dismayed by the amount of construction visible surrounding the High Line, but I found scenes like this – with the shrubbery growing all over the old tracks – positively charming.

I’ll admit I was a bit dismayed by the amount of construction visible surrounding the High Line, but I found scenes like this – with the shrubbery growing all over the old tracks – positively charming.


Iron details

Iron details


The end of the line at Hudson Yards

“The End of the Line” at Hudson Yards

The art installations along the pathway incorporate the city and rail themes as well. Embedded amongst the greenery, they’re often easy to miss. Here are a few that stood out to me:

One of the first pieces you'll see are these busts painted in traffic-sign yellow and seated on dark metal shelves.

One of the first pieces you’ll see are these busts painted in traffic-sign yellow and seated in stacked, dark metal crates.


Two visitors find their home on a 3-D recreation of Manhattan

Two visitors find their neighborhood on a 3-D recreation of Manhattan


Did you think it was graffiti? They're actually sculptures made out of bent rebar by artist Damián Ortega – part of his series called "Physical Graffiti".

Did you think it was graffiti? They’re actually sculptures made out of bent rebar by artist Damián Ortega – part of his series called “Physical Graffiti”.


Some of the artwork that can be seen along the High Line isn't actually part of the High Line itself.

Some of the artwork that can be seen along the High Line isn’t actually part of the High Line itself.


A giant mural like a page out of a graphic novel covers the wall of one of the adjoining buildings. This is just one small section of it.

A giant mural like a page out of a graphic novel covers the wall of one of the adjoining buildings. This is just one small section of it.


A remnant of the railroad or an art piece? It's unclear.

A remnant of the railroad or an art piece? It’s unclear.


The Collectivity Project by Olaf Eliasson is one of the coolest installations. It's a community-generated lego-building frenzy. It's always changing, but when I went I saw intricate towers, a tribute to the Ukraine, a profession of love, and much more. Anyone can add to it, so if you come here be sure to stop by and leave your mark!

The Collectivity Project by Olaf Eliasson is one of the coolest installations. It’s a community-generated lego-building frenzy. It’s always changing, but when I went I saw intricate towers, a tribute to the Ukraine, a profession of love, and much more. Anyone can add to it, so if you come here be sure to stop by and leave your mark!


My personal favorite piece (which I think technically isn't even part of the High Line) was this sassy portrait of Einstein, continuing to solve the world's problems.

My personal favorite piece (which, again, I think technically isn’t even part of the High Line) was this sassy portrait of Einstein, continuing to solve the world’s problems.

The High Line is primarily a bit of green space in the city. Various trees, shrubs, self-seeded grasses, and flowers grow all over it. A built-in irrigation system helps the plants retain water (and helps guests cool off like in that picture of my feet above). When I visited, the plants were at the peak of summer vibrancy and already starting to sense the coming change of season.

Bright flowers soak in the sunshine

Bright flowers soak in the sunshine


Dark, berried leaves bring winter to mind

Dark, berried leaves bring winter to mind


A touch of fall has already arrived

A touch of fall has already arrived


Drying summer wild flowers

Drying summer wild flowers

My favorite part of my visit to the High Line actually came on Tuesday night when I went back to look at the night sky. I have a slight obsession with the night sky – it’s one of the things I miss the most from growing up in the suburbs – so I was thrilled to learn that the High Line hosts the Amateur Astronomers Association every Tuesday night from dusk till 11pm. The astronomers bring their telescopes and show whomever is interested what is going on in the sky that night. When I went, there were long lines already formed to see Saturn and the moon.

Crowds gathered to look through telescopes

Crowds gathered to look through telescopes


A cheap view of the night sky – this visit really made me want to get into proper nighttime photography!

A cheap view of the night sky – this visit really made me want to get into proper nighttime photography!


This astronomer – Alric (doesn't that just sound like a stargazer's name?) – preps his telescope for us to look at Saturn. I couldn't believe we could actually see the planet with it's ring around it! Alric told me that the first time he showed his dad the same thing, he was so surprised he fell off the back porch.

This astronomer – Alric (doesn’t that just sound like a stargazer’s name?) – preps his telescope for us to look at Saturn. I couldn’t believe we could actually see the planet with it’s ring around it! Alric told me that the first time he showed his dad the same thing, he was so surprised he fell off the back porch.

All in all, the High Line makes for a nice quick walk in the city. It’s not quite the oasis I thought it would be, but it definitely has lots of interesting things to look at and talk about.

Have you ever been to the High Line? What are your favorite walks in your city or town? Photographers – do any of you do night-sky photography? What equipment do you use and what are your tips and tricks? Let me know in the comments below!

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