New York, New York, the place where many come to pursue their American dreams.
In popular culture, New York City is home base for many television shows and movies such as Annie Hall, X Men, Friends, How I Met Your Mother and Sex and the City. Most of the action (in movies and otherwise) occurs in the downtown Manhattan core near the shops, but on my recent trip, one of my favourite discoveries was the High Line in Chelsea.
The High Line is a 2.33 km urban oasis disguised as a walkway above the city. The original concrete infrastructure used to be a railway for transporting goods throughout the city back in 1934 but by 1980, the growth of the trucking industry had made the tracks redundant and the High Line was converted into an urban park in 2006. The walkway runs from Gansevoort street to 34th and will be extended with completed construction later this year. The original train tracks that were used to transport goods can still be seen by visitors of the High Line, right on the walkway.
We started our walk on the High Line at Chelsea Market, an upscale and cultural food hall with trendy cuisine and a blend of artisan stores. Chelsea Market is housed in an old brick building which used to be home to the National Biscuit Company. The market is one of my favourite places in New York because of its contemporary, open design and because it is filled with so many different culinary choices – but also because it is a starting entrance for the high line.
The thing I love about the high line is that it’s one of the few free things you can do around the city besides Central Park. Another benefit is getting out of the constant chaos that is New York City. It is the perfect place to watch the sun set over the Hudson River or read a book as there are tables and chairs for the public. You can even bring a small picnic of food from any of the nearby markets or groceries, or just spend a day watching the cars below drive by. Along the way, there is a huge glass partition on a bridge where you can sit and watch people carry on with their busy New York lives.
For young children or the young at heart, there is a playground of tunnels and beams one can crawl through and walk on in phase two of the high line. And of course, throughout the walkway, there are plenty of photographic opportunities of the city as well.
During different times of the year, there are music and art performances organized for visitors at the park. For a unique travel experience, there are also Tai Chi, meditation and stargazing workshops. Visitors can take a look at the schedule on the High Line’s website.
Sustainability and gardening is also a huge part of the High Line’s overall vision. The gardening concept is inspired by the self-seeding that took place between the rail tracks after the trains stopped in 1980. There are over 300 species of plants, grasses, shrubs and trees in the park landscape that were selected based on their texture, look and susceptibility to the environment. Visitors can learn about the different plants and flowers through tours run by Friends of the High Line, a non-profit that takes care of the park.
While walking through the high line, it was also interesting to take a look at the different condo developments around the area. Chelsea used to be a “gritty” area in New York, but the recent reconstruction of turning the former railroad tracks into a trail has prompted real estate developers to build gorgeous, architecturally innovative apartments around the neighbourhood, turning Chelsea into a desirable place to live because of the added greenery and gentrification.
All in all, visiting the High Line is a great way to change the pace and unwind after an energetic day of running around New York City. The elevated concrete platform over the city provides a beautiful setting for late night strolls or a mid-afternoon catch-up with friends.
Yet, the project is not done. Phase three of the high line is still under construction currently and is set to open to the public in later 2015. If phase one and phase two are any indication, the newest addition to the high line should be just as awe-inspiring. I can’t wait!