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High Line NYC: 15 things to see on your next visit

Spend a summer afternoon in NYC at the High Line, where you can take in waterfront views, stroll a pop-up market, try new eats and more.  (Credit: Noëlle Lilley)

Since it opened in 2009, the High Line has become a destination for locals and tourists alike thanks to its appealing blend of old and new New York, along with its unique viewpoint of the city. But between the vast vegetation and historical remnants upon it and the storied sites below, there's something new to see every time you stroll the elevated rail line turned park's one-mile stretch.

"On the High Line," a book by Annik La Farge that touts it as "America's most original urban park," gives an in-depth tour of the spot's history, culture and innovation. We've pulled some of La Farge's suggestions for our own guide of what to see when you visit, walking north from the Gansevoort Street entrance, all the way to 34th Street.

If you plan on going, it's open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the summer, through Sept. 30, and closes at 7 p.m. during the winter and at 10 p.m. the rest of the year.

The slow stairs

There are plenty of entrances to the High
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

There are plenty of entrances to the High Line, but none quite so grand as the Gansevoort Street entrance, where crews worked to preserve as much of the original railroad's steel beam structure as possible. This isn't the quickest route up, but as you climb the 45 sturdy steps, you'll have plenty of time to ponder the infrastructure that made an elevated railroad possible.

Thirteenth Avenue?!

It doesn't exist on a map, but a
Photo Credit: Juan Valentin

It doesn't exist on a map, but a portion of this tiny avenue, which goes by the name "Gansevoort Peninsula," does remain -- and the High Line is your best bet for a prime view of it. Thirteen has not exactly been a lucky number for the spot -- since its creation on a landfill in the 1830s, it has been reduced in favor of more profitable shoreline space, has seen many a building ravaged by fire, and was the site of the burning of Wilhelm Reich's books in 1956 by the Food and Drug Administration. Reich claimed to discover a device that could cure cancer, and he ended up in prison. Today, Thirteenth Avenue is the site of Pier 52, which holds a not-so-glamorous salt shed and garage, but it's an interesting piece of history nonetheless.

DVF's 'Diamond in the Sky'

If the colorful painted lips on the brick
Photo Credit: Juan Valentin

If the colorful painted lips on the brick wall of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg's headquarters don't distract you, you'll get a view of a giant geometric figure made of glass that almost blends in with the sky on a clear day. Known as the "diamond in the sky," this is DVF's private penthouse, constructed in Spain from more than 3,000 Swarovski crystal prisms and computerized heliostat mirrors to optimize the amount of light reflected down its luxurious staircase.

Zaha Hadid's curvy apartment building

You will come across this futuristic-looking building right
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

You will come across this futuristic-looking building right on the High Line. Designed by Zaha Hadid, 520 W. 28th St. is a residential building that incorporates a chevron pattern into its terraces. It's one of the newer buildings that came with a surge of development in recent years along the park.

The tenement houses

During the 19th century, immigrants flooded the area
Photo Credit: Annik LaFarge

During the 19th century, immigrants flooded the area surrounding the High Line to work at the riverfront's bustling docks, factories and warehouses, and several of the buildings they lived in are still standing. The High Line is the ideal place to browse their classic architectural details, since you're standing above street level without being at the soaring heights of a skyscraper. Look for one pair across from each other on 17th Street, and another on 28th and 29th streets.

Little wildlife

Wildlife may not be the first thing that
Photo Credit: iStockphoto

Wildlife may not be the first thing that comes to mind in this urban park, but the area along the Hudson River is a thruway for about 300 species of birds each year, and woodpeckers, finches and even a peregrine falcon have been spotted checking out the High Line. Look out in the spring and summer months for bees -- NYC has more than 200 species of them, and many enjoy the park's plentiful flowers.

River reflections

The first piece of artwork that was installed
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The first piece of artwork that was installed in the High Line's Chelsea Passage, Spencer Finch's "River That Flows Both Ways" may look simple, but don't be fooled. Finch spent about 12 hours in one day photographing the Hudson River, and translated the 700 colors he spotted in the water's surface to these panes of glass.

Rotating art

The High Line always has art on display
Photo Credit: Timothy Schenck

The High Line always has art on display throughout the park, from Dorothy Iannone's "I Lift My Lamp Beside the Golden Door" (pictured) to Phyllida Barlow's "Prop." High Line Art, the park's public art program, commissions and produces public art projects, including performances.

The Tenth Avenue Cowboy

Ok, so you won't actually spot a
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Kalmbach Publishing Co.

Ok, so you won't actually spot a "West Side Cowboy" when you peer down at Tenth Avenue from the High Line today, but you will enjoy transporting yourself back to March 29, 1941, the day the last man on horseback led a freight train down the street. An ordinance in 1850 decreed that the freights could run along Tenth Avenue, but only at a maximum speed of six miles per hour, and with a human guide to warn approaching traffic. So many accidents occurred regardless that the avenue became known as "Death Avenue."

The Art Deco prison

The art deco engravings and stained glass windows
Photo Credit: Juan Valentin

The art deco engravings and stained glass windows on the building along the High Line at Eleventh Avenue and 20th Street are a sight to see, and before it was covered by the apartment building next door, a beloved mural brightened the south side of it. Once a place for sailors to stay, this venue became a drug treatment facility in the '60s and a women's prison, Bayview Correctional Facilities, in the '70s. The prison evacuated just before superstorm Sandy, and it never reopened. It will have new life as The Women's Building, which now belongs to the NoVo Foundation, and will have offices, terraces and an art gallery for the organizations fighting for women and children's rights, according to The New York Times.

Vestiges of the old railroad

While the High Line's modern conveniences -- food
Photo Credit: Juan Valentin

While the High Line's modern conveniences -- food stands, fountains, lounge chairs -- make it a go-to warm weather spot, its traces of history are what set it apart. On the west side of the park near the Standard Hotel are rusting meat hooks, once used by a warehouse loading dock to transport cargo. One pair of signal lights used to regulate the former railroad's traffic still remains at the northern entrance to the Chelsea Passage at 17th Street, and many rail ties can be found at their original locations throughout the park.

Perfect resting places

There's a reason the park is a go-to
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

There's a reason the park is a go-to when there's nice weather. Sitting on any one of the park's peel-up benches or riverview sun deck chaise lounges is relaxing and offers a respite you can't find down below. Some of the seating has overlooks, where you can view the busy street, which is framed like a picture by the structure of the High Line.

Dining

There are nine seasonal food vendors, from tacos
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

There are nine seasonal food vendors, from tacos to gelato, including Santina, Terroir (pictured), L'Arte del Gelato, La Sonrisa Empanadas, La Newyorkina, Melt Bakery and more. Dining on the High Line can be a unique alternative to your usual brunch spot.

Pharmacy in the sky

Have an ailment? Many of the plants along
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Have an ailment? Many of the plants along the High Line have been trusted herbal remedies since Native Americans roamed the island, including echinacea, used to strengthen immunity and fight colds and the flu. There are even plants in the park that were used to treat typhoid fever and fight rattlesnake venom.

The wild west

The third and final section, High Line at
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The third and final section, High Line at the Rail Yards, is now open, extending the park all the way to 34th Street.

One of the first things you notice may be the trains below (a fitting sight, given the park's history), but as you walk along the frontier, be sure to look to the west, where you'll get the most accurate glimpse of the natural state the rail line was left in after the trains stopped running in 1980, full of wild plant life.

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