It seemed natural for a Sunday morning to go for a walk in New York City. But rather than head to Central Park, I thought that visiting the High Line would be perfect for Mom. It was one thing she hadn’t done on all the prior trips (one day bus tours). So while I would have normally walked to the High Line from the hotel, given Mom’s recent knee surgery, we opted for a cab to the starting point (not far from the Javits Conference Center at 34th street between 10th and 12th Avenues).
If you’ve not heard of the High Line also called the High Line Park, you’re not alone. Many of my friends were unaware and so was Mom. Years ago, someone got the bright idea to convert the abandoned elevated rail track into a horticultural attraction high above the busy streets of New York City. The result is a lovely green space with wooden seating areas (and a few lounge chairs), space to sit and watch the world below. They’ve also added food and shopping carts plus an outdoor café. The success of the High Line has led many other urban cities, like Philadelphia, to reconsider their abandoned rail tracks to see if they can recreate the magic that New York has to attract residents and visitors outside to enjoy nature.
Since the High Line opened, massive gentrification has occurred and old buildings are being replaced by shiny new apartments and condos. One of the first to take a chance on the area and the High Line was The Standard Hotel. With rooms overlooking the High Line, for a while it became a voyeurs dream (imagine hotel room, curtains open, audience below). The Standard is a luxury boutique hotel in the area with a rooftop pool and a street level restaurant/café. So at the end of the walk, you can be among the glamorous folks as well as the baby buggies.
There was a bit of construction ongoing so the High Line was shielded by protective netting and scaffolding in certain parts. After climbing the stairs (there are five elevators at certain points of the park), Mom and I began our stroll. It was Sunday morning before noon so it wasn’t too crowded yet. We walked slowly as Mom was pointing out all the cool things to me (I’ve been many times over the years and still find it fascinating). The concrete benches were designed to come up out of the rail and you would see the rail theme interwoven throughout the walk. They tore out most of the original rail tracks to create accessible walkways and common spaces for people to enjoy.
As we turned into a more narrow section and walked between the buildings, you could see street art, fancy condos and surprisingly two joggers attempting a Sunday run through the ever building crowds. We stopped for a break and a women pointed out the birds above as we sat in the shade (not many shady spots so wear sunscreen or bring a hat if needed).
Further along the path, it split into two options – one side could sit and watch through the plexiglass the urban scene below, the other walked toward the passageway that contained stalls selling food and vendors selling art and local crafts. An outdoor café was on the lower level.
As we neared the end of the walk on the High Line, I pointed up and told Mom to look at all the people up there! It was the new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art. They had installed three levels of outdoor space and I could see many people outside taking in the wonderful views of New York City. At the end of the High Line (Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking district not far from Chelsea Market), you can exit via the stairs or the elevator. The High Line gift shop and restrooms are located here (under shade) if you need to make a stop.
We walked down the stairs and were enveloped by the New York streets of people walking by – some toward the Whitney, others crossing the street for the shops and yet others out for Sunday brunch. Whereas the High Line was peaceful and serene, the streets of New York were full of life – throngs of people, taxis, Ubers and other trappings of urban life. We met a friend at the Whitney to explore their interesting collection and to relax with a coffee before becoming those people above looking down at the High Line with a bird’s eye view.
The High Line is FREE in New York City, you only need to bring good walking shoes, sunscreen and sunglasses. End to end is approximately 1.45 miles so not too far. There are many places to sit to rest, read a paper, enjoy a coffee or catch up with friends.
Mom enjoyed this small slice of New York City. Given her current mobility issues, it was much more doable than Central Park would have been and at the end of the walk, she had a coffee and art reward. Sunday in NYC doesn’t get better than that – coffee, art and visiting the High Line.
Visiting the High Line & NYC? There are FREE public tours scheduled throughout the year – check out the main website for more information.