A walk on the West Side: NYC’s High Line Park

April 26, 2013

The smell of freshly baked bagels, the iconic yellow cabs swarming the streets and the relentless sound of police and fire-engine sirens.  These are all features that, to some extent, define the city of New York. Having lived in the neighbouring state of Connecticut for seven years, I would frequently take in these sights and sounds when I headed into the city with my family.

So you might think that, whenever I fly back to the Big Apple, I now seek out New York’s more unusual attractions.  Nope: whenever I’m there, I’m still a sucker for taking in the conventional tourist activities – riding the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, admiring the views from the top of the Rockefeller Centre and reliving my childhood in American Girl Place on Fifth Avenue (a dolls’ apparel and make-over store which, trust me, is as weird and strangely wonderful as it sounds!).

However, on my most recent visit, I was advised to visit a completely new attraction: the High Line Park.  And, having acted on the suggestion, I would definitely pass on the recommendation.

So what is this ‘High Line’, I hear you asking?  Well, the High Line Park is a re-designed and rejuvenated section of a former freight rail line, initially built in the 1930s, which now acts as an aerial greenway.  It runs above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side for almost a mile and a half, from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District up to 30th Street.

The first section of the High Line opened in June 2009 and the second in spring 2011.  It is a particularly attractive and unique park that prides itself on its sustainability: many of the original railway tracks, for instance, have been re-incorporated into the landscape as part of the park’s design.  This public space also blends plant life with long, narrow ‘planks’ that work to form a virtually seamless walking surface.  And the park incorporates water features, viewing platforms, a sun deck and gathering areas that are frequently used for performances and exhibitions; how very New York-esque!

When I visited the High Line it was about 9 o’clock on a very humid, thundery July night. However, this didn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit.  Quite the opposite – the steamy, sultry evening lent an added atmospheric dimension.  The High Line remained well-lit right up to its closing time and offered fabulous panoramas over the illuminated city, including views of the Empire State Building and across to the Statue of Liberty, as well as mother nature’s impromptu lightning show.

And, the icing on the cake?  The High Line is completely free, and therefore perfect for travellers on a slightly restricted budget!

(Charlotte Winter)