We hope you will give us the opportunity to show you this most unusual and fascinating city park on one of our High Line Park Walking Tours. We know that our scheduled tours may not fit your schedule, but we wouldn’t want you to miss out on a guided visit to this unique New York urban landscape. A visit to the High Line is a richer experience when accompanied by stories of its history, its creation and the architecture of the surrounding buildings. To make your High Line walk more than just a pretty stroll, we’ve created 3 different ways for you to access information to use during your visit, or at any other time. (en español)
A self-guided tour with a map which is located below in this post. You can use this tour right on your smartphone or if you want to save battery power and not use up data minutes, you can download the PDF file here: High Line Self Guided Tour. This tour should take you between 60 to 90 minutes to complete.
A GPS-enabled audio tour of the High Line narrated by one of our professional guides where you can hear some of the same great stories and historical facts you would on our live tour. If you like the tour, then consider a small donation to help us develop more of these great resources.
The Manhattan Refrigeration Company built the building you see before you in 1898. The building totaled 1.6 million cubic feet of insulated storage space and held four 150 ton refrigeration machines. The company carried brine-cooled water supplied from the Hudson River in pipes under West Street to this building. Kept cool inside was everything from fruits and vegetables, furs and of course, meat. Buildings such as these were common before home refrigeration became the standard.
Today, the high line starts here, but when the rails above grade rail system were first set up, the Manhattan Refrigeration Company built the section of their complex to allow the trains to stop and continue through down 5 more blocks. Today, the building is closed up with green and gray tiles. The circle shows you where the trains once passed through the building.
Stop B – Standard Hotel
As you are walking up the stairs to the High Line, you can’t help but notice the large concrete hotel directly in front of you. The high-end hotel boasts 338 rooms, all with stunning views of the city and the beautiful park below. If you want to satisfy the voyeuristic side, then look closely inside some of the open windows. The Standard Hotel was a topic of controversy when it first opened when word got out that the hotel might be encouraging its curvy employees and guests to put on peep shows in its ceiling high windows. To read about it, check out this New York Magazine article. Read the hotel’s TripAdvisor reviews.
Stop C – Whitney Museum of American Art
Slated to open in 2015, the construction you see on the west side of the High Line is the future location of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Whitney has dedicated the collection and display of 20th century and contemporary American Art. Its new location will be 9 floors and 200,000 sq. ft of floor space, including 50,000 sq. ft of exhibit space, a 170 seat theater, a restaurant, retail space and much more. The building was designed by Renzo Piano. The finished product is on the right. This was also the location for Fort Gansevoort, a defensive structure built in preparation for the War of 1812 as well as the customs building where Herman Melville once worked.
Continue along the High Line and look to your left. You should be looking at refrigerated trucks (lorries) backed onto low-lying buildings.
Stop D – Gansevoort Market Meat Center
This is the location of Fort Gansevoort, a defensive fort built during the War of 1812. There are still 9 meatpacking companies still located in the Meatpacking District, a far cry from the approximately 200 there were decades earlier. The Meat Center used to be larger, but it gave up the space now being used for the new Whitney Museum building in exchange for an extension of its lease. So, at least until 2014, American art will sit astride American meat.
Continue along the High Line on a narrow passage through a thicket of small birch and serviceberry trees (known as the Gansevort Woodland) until you pass underneath the Standard Hotel and reach the intersection of West 13th St. There are over 200 species of plants and trees on the High Line. They were designed to mimic the natural growth that occurred on the tracks during the High Line’s period of abandonment.
Stop E – Hogs and Heifers
Just before you walk underneath another building straddling the High Line, look down to the street on your right. Opened in the early 1990s, when rent in the Meatpacking was still very low, Hogs and Heifers (hogs as in Harley motorcycles and heifers, which means virgin cows) is a neighborhood institution almost guaranteed to smell like stale beer and something worse, relatively cheap beer, attractive and lightly dressed bartenders, who along with patrons, are known for dancing on the bar. Walk inside to see the mountainous collection of bras donated over the years by female patrons, including Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts.
Paul McCartney is believed to have danced on the bar. The movie Coyote Ugly was filmed right down the street and many credit Hogs and Heifers with inspiring the rather forgetful flick. The owners of Coyote Ugly in the East Village would disagree. Apparently, the filmmakers weren’t impressed with the actual Coyote bar and wanted to use Hogs and Heifers. The filmmakers were refused permission to film there when they refused to change the name of the film. Instead, they set up a fake bar to look like Hogs and Heifers down the street.
Now cross to the other side of the High Line and look out at the view from West 13th Street out to the Hudson River, where you should see the cast iron shell of what was once Pier 54’s gateway.
Stop F – Pier 54 – Over a century ago, Pier 54 (image on Google map) was a part of the Chelsea Piers. Imagine the great trans-Atlantic passenger ships docked here in southern Manhattan on the Hudson. Pier 54 belonged to the Cunard Line and it’s from this pier in 1915 that the RMS Lusitania disembarked before being sunk by a German U boat, precipitating U.S. entry into WW1. When the RMS Carpathia rescued the survivors of the Titanic in 1912 they brought them here to Pier 54, but only after they had made a stop at Pier 59 to drop off the Titanic’s lifeboats.
Now stroll underneath this second building until you reach the intersection of West 14th Street. Look to your left out to the Hudson River, out to a large beige structure.
Stop G – Pier 57 – Pier 57, built in the early 50’s, is remarkable in that it is built on floating concrete caissons, or boxes. Constructed up the Hudson River, it was then floated down to its Chelsea location. It once housed the City’s Department of Marine and Aviation. In April 2013, the city decided to transform Pier 57 into an integrated retail and cultural space, featuring over 100,000 square feet of park space, retail, film and food spaces. One of the most interesting plans includes re-purposing used shipping containers as pop up food and clothing stalls.
Continue north on the Highline past a few benches to your right and to a playful water arrangement on your left until you reach the intersection of West 15th Street. You are walking through the Diller-Von Furstenberg Sundeck, which contains grasses, perennials, and shrubs, including several wetland species.
Stop H – Chelsea Market – Most of the 22 buildings you see around 14th and 15th Streets were built for the National Biscuit Company. This is where trains brought butter, flour, sugar and shortening to create the Saltines, Oreos, Fig Newtons, Vanilla Wafers, Barnum’s Animal Crackers and Mallomars. According to legend, the Oreo was invented right here. In 1959, Nabisco moved operations to Fair Lawn NJ, precipitating a decline in the area’s commercial real estate. Today, the complex, anchored by Chelsea Market, features a shopping mall, an urban food outlet, television productions facilities and office shopping mall, urban food outlet, television production facilities and offices, including Oxygen and the Food Network (Emeril Live) as well as offices for Major League Baseball (MLB) and Google. Get more information from our Chelsea Market post.
Now walk underneath the main Nabisco building and look to your left.
Stop I – Southern Spur
The “spurs” of the High Line are curved tracks that veer off of the main track. The Southern Spur connected the tracks with the Nabisco Warehouse and the rail cars could go right into the building. You can still see “NBC” written on the Southern Spur, which stood for National Biscuit Company (aka Nabisco.)
Once you come out from underneath, you shall have reached West 16th Street. Stand on the left side of the High Line.
Stop – J – Merchants Refrigerating Company Warehouse
The railroad tracks that make up the High Line led directly inside this building, which opened in 1918. At that time, merchants and businesses did not have personal refrigeration systems. Instead, they rented out space in building such as this one to keep things cold or frozen. This is also known as the Northern Spur, designed to evoke the wild landscape that once was common on the High Line.
Continue north along the High Line until your reach a seating area overlooking 10th Avenue.
Stop K – 10th Avenue Overlook
This seating area allows for a rare view of a busy avenue. Pedestrians can sit and rest while looking out at the madness of 10th Avenue. No matter how bad the traffic looks while you sit there; remember that it doesn’t even come close to being as bad as it once was! Tenth Avenue in the late 19th century was known as “Avenue Death.” The streets were so clogged with wagons and pushcarts, not to mention freight trains being hauled down the tracks, that pedestrians didn’t stand much of a chance. Hundreds of people were killed on this avenue between 1880 and 1920. The danger and congestion of 10th and 11th Avenues were a key factor in the decision to elevate the railroad tracks.
As you walk back up to the High Line from the overlook, you should notice a grove a 3 flower maple trees known as the 10th Ave Square. Look south in the distance and you can see the Statue of Liberty. Continue north until you reach West 17th Street and look out toward the Hudson River on your left.
Stop L – Pier 59
It is hard to picture what the Chelsea Piers used to look like while gazing at the modern complex that it is today. But the piers on the west side of Manhattan used to accommodate massive ocean liners from lines such as the Cunard and White Star lines. Though Pier 59 today is the location of the Chelsea Brewing Company, it was once the intended destination for an eagerly anticipated arrival in New York: the Titanic. After the tragic sinking of the ship, survivors were brought to New York on the R.M.S. Carpathia. While the Carpathia unloaded the survivors further down at Pier 54, the ship first made a brief stop at Pier 59 to unload the lifeboats from the Titanic. They then continued back to Pier 54, where thousands of grief-stricken people awaited the survivors. The white building that looks strangely like an iceberg is the IAC Building, designed by Frank Gehry in 2007. IAC is the parent company that owns and Newsweek and Match.com.
Now continue north until you reach West 18th Street and look to the low-lying building on your left side.
Stop M – Site of the Roxy Nightclub
The Roxy Nightclub opened as a roller disco in 1978 and was described as “the Studio 54 of roller rinks.” In the 1980’s the club became a venue for hip-hop music and sponsored break-dancing competitions. The Roxy continued to change with each decade and hosted one of the city’s largest weekly gay dance nights in the 1990’s, called “Roxy Saturday.” Artists that graced the Roxy during this time period included Cher, Madonna, Bette Midler and Cyndi Lauper. Sadly, this legendary venue closed its doors for the very last time in 2007.
Continue north again through a series of narrow passageways until you get to West 19th Street.
However, along the way, see if you can line the Empire State Building up with a tower at the Theological Seminary.
You are now walking through an area known as the Chelsea Grasslands, an area with a mix of colorful meadow grasses and perennials, all chosen to add color and texture throughout the year.
Stop N – The Kitchen
The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, the first building on your left on the south side of the street, is a non-profit art and performance space. The organization began in 1971 and takes its name from its original location: the kitchen of the Mercer Arts Center, where video artists showed their work. Though the organization was originally established to display the work of video artists, it expanded to include all kinds of art and performance. They focus primarily on local and emerging artists whose work is experimental in nature. Alumni of The Kitchen include Phillip Glass and Brian Eno, and The Beastie Boys gave an early performance there in 1983. When the organization moved to its current location in 1986 it was considered a bold and slightly odd choice, given that the neighborhood at the time was primarily auto repair shops. The New York Times said of the move, “This neighborhood will be the next SoHo.” (Prophetic, NY Times!)
Continue till you reach West 20th Street and look out to the large red complex to your right.
Stop O – The General Theological Seminary and Clement Clark Moore
This entire neighborhood was once a large family estate called “Chelsea.” The estate was named after its original owner, Maj. Thomas Clark. Major Clark was a British veteran of the French and Indian War, and he named his estate after a London hospital that served war veterans. His estate was passed down through the family and eventually came into the possession of his grandson, Clement Clark Moore. When the Commissioners Plan of 1811 was laid out Clark Moore was extremely opposed to it. The plan called for 9th Avenue to cut directly through his estate. Eventually, he realized that he couldn’t fight the growing city and he sold off his land in lots to moneyed New Yorkers. He set aside his apple orchard, however. This was donated to the Episcopal diocese so that a seminary could be built there. The Neo Gothic structure was built in 1927. It is still standing and takes up most of 20th and 21st streets in between 9th and 10th Avenues. Clement Clark Moore’s legacy isn’t limited to the seminary, however. He composed the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for his children. Today it is known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Stop P – Manhattan Project Testing
These warehouses off to the left of the High Line on West 20th Street held several tons of uranium during the 1940s. This was done as a part of the Manhattan Project, which was the name given to the research and development project that created the first atomic bomb.
Continue north until you reach West 21st Street and look to the church on your right side.
Stop Q – Catholic Church of the Guardian Angels
This seems like an odd spot for a church. The Church of the Guardian Angels was built specifically in conjunction with the elevated railroad. The congregation had been meeting at a church located further uptown, directly in the path of the coming rail lines, so they were forced to demolish their building and relocate. The new church was built in 1930, right up against the new High Line. Sunday mass was often accompanied by the rattling of trains going by.
Today, West 22nd Street is in the heart of the Chelsea art gallery district. When the renowned Dia Foundation opened a four-story converted warehouse in 1987 called Dia: Chelsea, it was just the beginning. At its height, Dia: Chelsea had 60,000 visitors per year. It closed for renovations in February 2004, but the repairs needed for the building were so vast that the organization sold the building for $38.55 million in February 2007. The Dia Foundation considered opening a museum at the entrance to the High Line, but in 2009 they announced that they would be back on W 22nd Street. The new Dia will have 15,670 square feet of gallery space and 3625 square feet of rooftop space.
Now continue north one block to West 23rd Street, where you will reach a futuristic looking steel and glass apartment building adjacent to the High Line called HL-23, designed by Neil Denari. The creating of the High Line Park has been the catalyst for the construction of many new apartment buildings with multi-million dollar units.
This massive apartment complex to your right on the other side of 10th Avenue was once the largest in the world. Construction began in 1929 on this complex, which includes about 1700 apartments and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The project was headed by Henry Mandel, and he selected the location for its proximity to Midtown Manhattan. He wanted to create modestly priced housing for white collar workers. He met resistance, however, in the form of Tillie Hart.
Image courtesy of www.livinthehighline.com
Tillie was living in a subleased house that she insisted she had the right to be in until May of 1930. The underlying lease for the house has expired, so Mandel has legal rights to the property. Still, Tillie Hart refused to budge. The construction advanced and all of the houses around hers were demolished. Tillie held firm. She barricaded herself inside and fended off intruders by throwing bricks and stones at them. In October of 1929 the police entered her house and moved all of her possessions to the sidewalk out front. She slept inside on the bare floor. The next day she gave in and moved out. Her house was demolished and the cornerstone for the London Terrace Apartments was laid. Tillie Hart maybe got a moment of satisfaction, however, when Henry Mandel, the man who had torn down her house, ended up ruined by his building project. The building, which had cost $25,000,000 to build, fell into default by 1933. Mandel declared personal bankruptcy with debts of $14,000,000 (about $220 million adjusted for today’s inflation.)
Stop T – Cass Gilbert Building
On the north side of W 25th St is a somewhat nondescript building that was built for the RC Williams Wholesale Grocery Company. RC Williams had started off as a small family store on Maiden Lane in 1809, but by the time this building was constructed in 1927-28 they were prosperous enough to employ one of America’s top architects: Cass Gilbert. People who are familiar with Gilbert’s other work, such as the Woolworth Building, the US Supreme Court in Washington DC or the Alexander Hamilton Custom House, are surprised when they see this plain building. It has none of the ornamentation of Gilbert’s better-known works. This was entirely on purpose- simplicity was the goal here. Gilbert said, “There is something very fine about a great, gray mass of the building. All one color, all one tone, yet modified by the sunlight or shadow to pearly grey of wonderful delicacy.” That’s a good enough explanation for me!
Now walk north to West 26th Street and look left (west) to the end of the block to 11th Avenue.
Stop U – Starrett Lehigh Building
This block-long building was a warehouse and freight terminal that opened in 1932. Trains could be driven directly into a space on the ground floor of the building. This massive structure was a joint venture of Starrett real-estate ventures and the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and the building has 26 million cubic feet of space. Its lines and rounded edges make it a relatively graceful-looking building, particularly for a warehouse. It is beauty meets function. The lot that it is built on was also the site of the former Lehigh Valley Railroad freight terminal. The building hit hard times during the Great Depression. Starrett was bought out, and the Lehigh Valley Railroad held on until 1944, when they too disassociated themselves from the building. The rail tracks were removed in 1966, and the Helmsley real estate concern bought the building in 1998. Ownership has changed hands a few more times, but current tenants of the building include Martha Stewart Omnimedia and Tommy Hilfiger USA.
Stop V – US Mail Distribution Center
This is where most of New York’s mail is processed. In 2001 this center had a serious scare when it processed mail that had been laced with anthrax, causing a panic in New York. Though the building is a little worse for wear on the outside, the rooftop has had quite a makeover and is one of the largest green rooftops in New York City. The Distribution Center sits where the Hudson Railroad Depot used to be. The Hudson Railroad controlled the lines that went down the west side of Manhattan, and the west side tracks used to be used for both passenger and freight trains.
When Cornelius Vanderbilt bought all of the rail lines in New York, including the Hudson, the west side tracks were designated as “freight only.” This was because he wanted all passenger lines to go through the new terminal at 42nd St: Grand Central Depot. Before this switch, however, the Hudson Railroad Depot at 30th Street had a very famous visitor. On February 15, 1861, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln disembarked at the Hudson Depot for his first visit to New York City as the President of the United States. He was greeted by cheering crowds. Four years later, on April 25, 1865, mourners accompanied Lincoln’s body, which has lain in state at City Hall the day before, to the 30th Street Depot for the beginning of a cross-country trip that would bring Lincoln back to his hometown of Springfield, IL.
This is the end of the High Line as it stands now. The coming years will be exciting, as the final phase of this beautiful elevated park is completed! Enjoy exploring both the High Line and the surrounding neighborhood. The High Line is beautiful in all seasons and at all times of day, but try to make it for a sunset if you can!
Every entrance has a staircase but only a few have elevators. We have made note of those with elevators. Also note that the High Line is fully wheelchair accessible. The Southern entrance/exit point is at Gansevoort St. & Washington St. (elevator). The other entrance/exits are all located on 10th Ave. at the following streets: 14th St. (elevator), 16th St. (elevator), 18th St., 20th St., 23rd St. (elevator), 26th St. and 28th St.
If you can’t take one of our High Line tours, the Friends of the High Line offer tours. If you are considering purchasing a tourist pass, keep in mind that a daily tour of the High Line is included with both the Explorer Pass and New York Pass. If you aren’t sure if a pass is for you, we have some advice on our blog about tourist pass options.
Accommodations near the High Line range from luxury exclusive hotels, chain hotels like Hiltons and Holiday Inns, and cozy bed & breakfast type inns. Prices can range from $125 to $400. Be sure to look at our post on finding affordable accommodations in New York City. Below are three hotels we think are affordable, comfortable places to stay close to the High Line.
Chelsea Lodge 318 W. 20th St., between 8th and 9th Aves. 212-243–4499. Perfect for those on a budget and who don’t need a lot of amenities. Restrooms are but each room has its own shower and sink. If you plan to be out a lot, this is a great choice. – Just a block away from the High Line, Chelsea art galleries, Chelsea Market, the lodge’s location cannot be beat.
The Jane 113 Jane St. near West St. 212- 924-6700. An affordable boutique hotel near the southern end of the High Line. During the early to mid-1900s, this small, maritime hotel housed sailors arriving in the ports just across the street. In 1912, many Titanic survivors were put up here. Today the rooms are modern, but pod-like, with single twin beds. An unusual but highly-praised hotel.
Near the High Line and neighboring Chelsea, you can find amazing food from under $5 per person to as much as $125 a person! We’re all for eating well at a much more reasonable cost. One of the best and easiest choices for food is the Chelsea Market at 9th Avenue bet. 15th and 16th Sts. It’s just a block away from the High Line, and has a vast array of cuisines and price ranges. See our Chelsea Market post for information.
Artichoke Basille Pizza 114 10th Ave. bet. 17th and 18th Sts. This is one of the best pizza places in New York City, with other locations in Greenwich Village and the East Village. Grab a slice of their rich, creamy signature artichoke slice or their traditional red sauce Margherita slice. You cannot go wrong!
Empire Diner 210 10th Ave. at 21st St. A local favorite housed in a historic train dining-car serving up American diner classics.
Around the High Line and Chelsea area there are more than 300 galleries most of which are located along the side streets (from 20th to 27th streets) between 10th and 11th Avenues. You can find every style and medium of art, from paintings, installation art, sculpture, and more. The most well-known galleries, all on streets between the High Line and 11th Ave. are the David Zwirner Gallery 525 W. 19th St., Hauser Wirth 511 W.18th St. and Robert Miller Gallery 524 W. 26th St. For a comprehensive listing see this directory of Chelsea art galleries.