Walking the Highline in NYC

Having recently written about some of the physical challenges I am beginning to have with walking, it seems odd, even to me, that today’s post is about walking. But this is not about walking just anywhere; its about being on the amazing High Line in the heart of the Meatpacking District of Manhattan.

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The Highline is an amazing architectural accomplishment that you can read about online. It was created by two New Yorkers who had a vision for this abandoned, 30-feet-above-ground train track that once served as transport for the products of the meatpacking industry in mid-Manhattan.

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For me, the Highline ranks right up there with the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Ellis Island as a destination for those seeking the “best” of NY experiences. Created for the public, it now serves millions of visitors annually as it has become one of the most popular attractions in NYC.

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We knew about the Highline very early in its history because my son was involved with a nonprofit arts organization, Creative Time, which offered an art exhibit in an abandoned meatpacking facility located at the site where the Highline begins, at Gansevoort Street. Thanks to my son’s creative endeavors, we have often been privy to information about special events and happenings in NY before they become well known to the public. Thus, in the mid-90s we got to witness the early construction of the Highline and were able to visit it before it became deluged with visitors.

The Highline is a repurposed elevated railroad line that began in the Meatpacking District as a way of moving the goods out of that area, through a once derelict, now gentrified neighborhood in Manhattan, to the other means of transport that would carry the meat products to other parts of the country. It had long been abandoned and was overgrown with weeds and other native species of plants. It was wild and forgotten, but two NYC neighborhood dwellers were clever enough to envision the above-ground, cultivated promenade it would eventually become.

In its earliest stages it was delightful to visit because it was possible to see the changes being wrought by the architects and environmental planners and to appreciate the emerging vision they were trying to accomplish through their work. Back then very few people visited the High Line and you could feel like you and your friends had it almost to yourselves. It was an incredibly powerful feeling to know that this was a reclamation project that was transforming a leftover structure from another era into a lofty perch from which to gaze out over the streets of the West side of Manhattan.

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Despite my recent walking issues, we were able to walk from 14th Street to 30th Street until my back problems kicked in. Some members of our party continue to the end which encircles the Hudson Yards, now the site of a major construction project for new housing adjacent to the railyards.

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It has been several years since we last visited and I was happy to see that it was still as fresh and new as it had been, with some added features like a few food stands and shady spots to sit and rest with friends. The wooden lounges were very much in use by all kinds of loungers, and the water park was a popular area on such a hot day.

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It’s really almost impossible to describe how ingenious the Highline is and how it can make you believe in the power of renewal..so you’ll have to visit to experience its wonders for yourself!image

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30 thoughts on “Walking the Highline in NYC”

  1. I always learn when I read your post. Some New Yorker I am- had no idea about this!! You do the most interesting things!!

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    1. I am a culture vulture…always seeking out what is intriguing and new. This has been around for over ten years…but it’s a long walk for very young kids. Maybe in a year or two you can try it. Or a “romantic” outing with your husband!

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  2. I have walked a part of the Highline and thought it was clever and smart as well. Something similar exists in Paris, too, but it isn’t nearly as long as this one. Glad to hear you were able to walk that distance before trouble set in. Enjoy this beautiful day!

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    1. The Highline is indeed unique and wonderful, but often so crowded it is difficult to appreciate, and at least up near 30th street so filled with the noise of construction and blocked by new building that it can be a bit claustrophobic. At such times I have found the newly renovated parallel parkland stretch along the Hudson a few blocks to the west to be a fantastic alternative.

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      1. We were there on a Saturday so the nearby construction in the Hudson Yards was silent. I agree it can get crowded, but if you can get there during working hours, or cloudy weather, or whatever may keep the crowds away, it’s well worth it. Although I love the Westside promenade, the Highline is pure genius!

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  3. How awesome that your son was involved on the early stages so you were able to witness the growth! If I ever get to NYC, I would love to check this out.

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  4. What a lovely family tradition. And the most wonderful thing about it is that it’s free!!!! Unlike many things in NYC nowadays that have become prohibitively expensive such as museums, sadly.

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    1. You’re going to be amazed and pleased. If it’s a hot day bring plenty of sun lotion and a hat; it can be hot up there! There are places to take refuge in the shade. Glad I got you so excited!

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  5. My research area is cities, city lit and urban spaces so this a real treat. I’d read about the district, featured in several novels set in NYC, and about the Highline Project but not recently. The retired person with walking issues resonated too ~ along with having walked the city years ago. Now I must read the walking posts.

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  6. I have not heard of this but will add it to my list of must sees when I first come to NYC. I love the railway reclamation projects. We also have a great one in Missouri called The Katy Trail, which consists of 237 miles of railway tracks converted to a biking/walking path across the state following the Missouri River. Thank goodness for the genius minds that come up with these innovative ideas. Loved reading your post!

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  7. Your Katy Trail sounds absolutely amazing! If only we could get our act together and do such amazing things in NY State. We have so much natural beauty upstate and in the Adirondacks that goes unused and unseen. Hell, I can’t even get the people in my town to create a bike path devoted to cyclers and walkers…along our beautiful harbor. It’s all about the cars…. Hope you get to visit the Highline one day!

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