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New York City’s High Line: More than meets the eye

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Flowers, bench, and view of buildings in Chelsea from The High Line, in Manhattan, New York.

Image: Shutterstock/Jon Bilous

The High Line, Manhattan’s elevated linear park, is a fantastic place to people watch, take in views of the city, and simply relax. Stretching from the northern end of Greenwich Village to 34th street in midtown, it has attracted throngs of city residents and tourists alike, ever since its first section opened in 2009.

Fashioned from an abandoned rail bed, the High Line offers a respite from street traffic and noise. The bird’s-eye views of buildings and the Hudson River are intimate rather than panoramic, framed by grasses, wildflowers, and temporary art installations along the paths.

This offbeat park’s visual pleasures and relaxed vibe are special enough to draw crowds. But if you don’t look just beyond the lovely surface, you might miss some experiences that make visiting the High Line even more memorable.

Here are the most rewarding experiences you can partake in when visiting the High Line.

Attend an art event

Friends of the High Line hosts cutting-edge talks, screenings, and performances by contemporary artists whose works have been installed in and around the park. Barbara Kruger, Zoe Leonard, Matthew Jensen, and Spencer Finch are just some of the art world stars whose thought-provoking art has graced the paths and adjacent building walls.

Some artworks jump out at you, but others are subtly integrated into the surroundings. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, follow the Art Map. Make your visit even more memorable by attending one of the High Line’s fascinating and provocative arts events. Plan ahead by consulting the calendar.

Stargaze

Stargazing at the High Line happens on Tuesday evenings from April 5 to October 25. The Amateur Astronomers Association of New York provides high-powered telescopes and guidance to the night sky. In a city whose man-made lights often obliterate celestial sights, this is a rare opportunity!

Exact viewing times and locations vary according to season and weather conditions. The best way to connect with this event is to follow @highlinenyc on Twitter. Check the page on Tuesdays around 3:00pm local time to find out exactly when the event starts.

Learn something new

Guided tours that highlight the High Line’s history, gardens, art, design, and architecture are given on a regular basis. Have you always wanted to learn to do Tai Chi or meditate? They’ve got that covered, too. Most educational tours and activities are free, but it’s always good to check the activities calendar to see whether you need to RSVP.

Explore unique family activities

From interactive activities to theater, the High Line offers family activities you’d never know about if you just show up on a sunny weekend along with thousands of other visitors. Parents who plan ahead can treat their kids to free craft making, nature walks, and other fun family programs.

Haunted Halloween is one of the highlights of the High Line’s family calendar — the ghost tunnel and lots of spooky performances have made this a coveted event, so make sure to RSVP. In fact, this year’s Haunted Halloween was booked far in advance, so be sure to RSVP early so you don’t miss out next Halloween!

Sample the food carts

People's Pops

People’s Pops

If you don’t venture all the way to the High Line’s southern exit, you might just miss the food carts. Rather than dotting the path, they’re all clustered together right above 15th Street. The carts vary from one season to another, but on my last venture, I found People’s Pops, Brooklyn Soda, La Sonrisa Empanadas, Melt Ice Cream Sandwiches, and L’Arte del Gelato. The food carts offer affordable snacking and refreshment. For fuller meals and sit-down fare just adjacent to the High Line, lots of choices await you in this food walking tour of the High Line.

Quick facts for locals and tourists

Smart Tree by Nari Ward

Smart Tree by Nari Ward

Whether you’re visiting New York City or have some time off, you can organize an entire day (or more) around the High Line and the neighborhoods adjacent to it. Grab some views and take a load off your feet while making your way from the Chelsea galleries to the Whitney Museum. Browse the Chelsea Market, enjoy recreation at the Chelsea Piers, and listen to music at the High Line Ballroom. Things to do near the High Line has it all covered.

The High Line is located along 11th Avenue, accessible via staircases every few blocks between 14th and 34th Streets. There are also several elevators serving as wheelchair-accessible entrances. For lots more information, visit Friends of the High Line.

Brooklyn Soda Works

Brooklyn Soda Works

Visiting the High Line on mild, sunny weekend afternoons almost guarantees that you’ll be wading through a dense sea of people. Try timing your visit for mornings (it opens early all year round), or evenings when the days are longer. Weekdays are always less crowded. Consult Visit the High Line for seasonal hours.