A Guide to Walking the High Line in New York
As a first-time visitor in New York City, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that you need to see as many of the famous top sites as possible.
While it's true that strolling through the gargantuan Central Park, standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building admiring the marvelous views of the skyline, and meandering through hectic Times Square gazing upon the glaring advertisements are all part of the NYC experience, it can feel completely draining to spend the entirety your days at these overly crowded tourist hot spots, and by the end of it all, you may start to wonder why you came to visit the city in the first place.
You could avoid the craziness altogether by setting out to one of the other city boroughs such as Brooklyn or Queens, which would give you a very different perspective of New York, but like most first-time visitors, myself included, you'll likely be spending the majority of your time in Manhattan.
So if you're in need of a breather from the madness of Midtown Manhattan, head on over to the High Line, a 2.3 km long abandoned railway line which was converted into an elevated walkway that now rises above the streets of the West Side. Opened to the public in 2009, this wonderfully wild green pathway is flanked by various plant species (over half of the plants are native to the United States), and features art installations, colorful murals, viewing platforms that jut out over city corners, incredible panoramas of the neighboring architecture, as well as food and drink vendors.
While the High Line certainly won't be entirely devoid of tourists, it's 5 million annual visitor count feels modest compared to the 50 million that visit Times Square each year, and while busy at times, the serenity of the planted areas give the High Line an entirely unique feeling compared to the metal and concrete structures surrounding it.
Accessing the High Line
Running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street (between 10th and 12th Avenues, the High Line is 2.3 km long. The High Line is fully wheelchair accessible, and can be accessed via the following points:
• Elevator access can be found at Gansevoort and Washington Street, 14th Street, 16th Street, 23rd Street, and 30th Street.
• Staircase-only entrances are at 18th Street, 20th Street, 26th Street, 28th Street, and 30th Street at 11th Avenue.
• Ramp access is available at 34th Street and 12th Avenue.
For a full map of access points, head here.
What you'll see on the High Line
The High Line is unlike any other attraction you'll find in New York! Once you're walking on the pathway, you'll pass by plenty of open-air art installations, see incredible views of the Manhattan skyline and Hudson River, and find relaxing nooks where you can grab a seat to do some people-watching.
While the views are certainly worth a visit alone, it's the repurposed design and the vegetation that has been planted on the abandoned railway line that makes the High Line so distinctive.
What you need to know about walking the High Line
There are a few things you should know before you visit the High Line. For one, since visitors are walking on an abandoned railway line, there are sections where there isn't a ton of space width-wise, so if you want to stop for a break or to take a photo, wait until you find a bench or seating area so as not to block the steady stream of pedestrian traffic.
From what I've learned, nothing irritates New Yorkers more than tourists stopping right in the middle of their way (whoops).
The High Line is open every day at 7 am and typically open until 10 or 11 pm, depending on the time of year. If you want to visit without the majority of the crowds, go either first thing in the morning or later in the evening. If you're a photographer, don't miss sunset hour!
The High Line operating hours are as follows:
• December 1 to March 31: 7 am – 7 pm
• April 1 to May 31: 7 am – 10 pm
• June 1 to September 30: 7 am – 11 pm
• October 1 to November 30: 7 am – 10 pm
Note that the entirety of the High Line is a non-smoking environment. Visitors also aren't allowed to bring dogs (whether leashed or not) or ride bicycles on the walkway.
Finally, and this might be a painfully obvious point for most, but I want to mention that picking the flowers or plants on the High Line is not permitted! If you want to take a piece of the High Line home with you, you can purchase a souvenir from one of the market vendors along the walkway.
Points of interest along the High Line
Meandering along this public open space almost 10 meters above the city is of course the major highlight of the High Line. There are however a few stops along the way that are worth checking out.
Gansevoort Overlook / My favorite is the Gansevoort Overlook, where you'll find wooden bleacher-like seating behind a large pane of glass jutting out over the street below giving you a birds eye view of the pedestrians, traffic, and buildings. You can find the Overlook at 10th Avenue Square.
Diller - von Furstenberg Sundeck & Water Feature / Located between West 14th and West 15th Streets, the sundeck is exactly that, a lovely sundeck complete with lounge chairs as well as a modern fountain where you can cool off during the hotter months.
Chelsea Thicket / The two block long Chelsea Thicket section of the High Line features the walkway passing through a small forest full of leafy green trees, dense shrubs, and flowers. Although short, this area gives one the impression of being transported into a different place; the sounds of traffic and city noises are somewhat dimmed. Also, the original railroad tracks here are embedded into the walkway, allowing visitors to walk on them.
Where to eat near the High Line
If you step off the High Line in Chelsea you'll find plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, and eateries close by. For a super delicious lunch spot head to Don Giovanni Ristorante (214 10th Avenue), an Neapolitan-style pizzeria with sunny sidewalk tables perfect for a mid-day break.
Their cappuccinos are a nice pick-me-up also!
Finally, if you're hungry and don't want to leave the walkway, you don't have to. The High Line invites various local gastronomic businesses to set up stalls or carts on the path for visitors to grab something to go. The line ups may be long, but you'll find some of the best coffee and ice cream here!