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What to do at Hudson Yards: Climb The Vessel, go shopping, enjoy the open gardens and more

The shops at Hudson Yards are open, but there will be much more to do than just shop.

Half of the new Hudson Yards development opens

Half of the new Hudson Yards development opens Friday, bringing 100 new shops, public gardens and art venues to the west side of Manhattan. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

With 4,000 apartments, 100 shops, office space, a public school and arts space, Hudson Yards represents a massive transformation of Manhattan's far west side.

It bills itself as New York's "next great shopping destination" and "a place for life maximizers" with shops like Neiman Marcus, Athleta, Banana Republic, MAC, Coach and more. With such offerings, it will be a destination for more affluent New Yorkers and tourists, but what benefits does it offer to everyday residents?

Hudson Yards also will feature a public park, a humongous climbable sculpture, gallery space and much more:

The Vessel

It's quite a spectacle to look at from afar, and it will be a marvel to climb, too. 

The steel colossus that rises from the center of Hudson Yards has 2,500 individual steps, 80 landings and 154 interconnecting flights of stairs that together create a mile-long vertical pathway within the public gardens. 

"Our hope is to make a different kind of public experience that is free for everybody that is one of the landmarks we have in our lives," said designer Thomas Heatherwick in a Hudson Yards video. "I can't wait until there are people streaming up it."

It'll be open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and free tickets can be  obtained at hudsonyardsnewyork.com.

Fun fact: The huge platform, designed by Heatherwick Studios in England, was actually created in Italy and traveled by ship to New York.

Public Square and Gardens

With more than 29,000 plants and 200 trees, Hudson Yards will have a total of 14 acres of green space and gardens open to the public. 

Those who want a bit of nature in their lives can expect to see 5 acres of wildflowers like echinacea, monarda and rudbeckia, which attract bees and butterflies, and shrubs and fruiting bushes like serviceberry, spicebush and winterberry between 35th and 36th streets. 

At 10th Avenue and 30th Street, there will be a new birch grove to walk through, as well.

Because of these plantings, there will be sightings of migratory birds, hummingbirds, warblers, sparrows and American redstarts, according to Nelson Byrd Woltz, the firm that designed the space.

"We imagine this urban plaza as the community hub or center; maybe even the living room of the west side," Thomas L. Woltz of Nelson Byrd Woltz said in a Hudson Yards video. "I usually don't call it a park . . . but the amount of people we expect to find here is akin to Piazza San Marco."

Fun fact: Even though it is a green space, it will be powered by technology. Hudson Yards is built atop a train yard,  where the temperature can reach 150 degrees, so designers had to find a way to keep the plantings cool. They installed a ventilation system powered by 15 large fans  of the kind usually used in jet engines and a network of tubing in the concrete to circulate cooling liquids to the roots. The soil is specially engineered to protect the roots and allow them to expand and will be irrigated by rainwater. 

The space will even have an "expansive" WiFi system throughout.

Bella Abzug Park & Boulevard (open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.)

Channeling a leafy Parisian promenade, Bella Abzug Park & Boulevard has open space for public events, big patches of grass and seating areas — all near two entrances to the 7 subway line at 33rd and 36th streets. The boulevard connects 33rd and 34th streets and cuts through 50 and 55 Hudson Yards.

The creators of Hudson Yards say there is a "seamless path" from West 14th to West 42nd streets and direct access to Hudson River Park and the High Line.

Fun fact: When the third phase of The High Line, dubbed the Spur, opens in April, it will have panoramic views up and down 10th Avenue and 30th Street, the largest gardens in the park, 60-foot-tall cathedral ceilings in the "Coach Passage" entranceway, open space for expanded public programming, and the Plinth — a space for showcasing artwork. 

The Shed (Opens Friday)

Going up next to 15 Hudson Yards and the Public Square and Gardens is a new 200,000-square-foot arts center with a telescopic, movable outer shell, opening on April 5 with 25,000 square feet of museum space, a 500-seat black box theater and a flexible hall that can seat 1,250 people or 3,000 standing. 

It'll also have rehearsal space and a creative lab freely accessible to up-and-coming local artists while offering chances to see established musicians and artists like Björk and Agnes Denes. Check out our listing of what's planned for the first half of its opening season.

Fun fact: The shell on the building, which is designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group, moves on a double-wheel track like what is found in shipping ports and railway systems. It can withstand hurricane-force winds, too.

Snark Park

This permanent exhibition space by New York-based design studio Snarkitecture will feature immersive installations with brand collaborations, including cereal bar brand KITH Treats, as well as food, drink and retail. 

Hudson Yards is calling Snark Park a "public outpost [that] aims to make design accessible to an expansive audience" and says it will offer a tri-annual exhibition schedule with "unique, playful design environments" with "unconventional materials and concepts of reduction and monochrome," according to a news release.

Find out more about its first exhibition, "Lost and Found," here.

It officially opens Friday. Tickets are $28 per person and $22 per child at snarkpark.com.

Fun fact: Snark Park is named by Snarkitecture, which takes its name from the Lewis Carroll poem, "The Hunting of the Snark."

  The Shops & Restaurants

Hudson Yards is adding two dozen restaurants, bars, cafes and food shops (check out a full list here) to the city's dining scene, including Mercado Little Spain, Shake Shack, Van Leeuwen, Fuku, Jack's Stir Brew and Citarella.

And in the same stroke, more than 100 stores, galleries and salons will open their doors, including Athleta, BLVD Beauty Salon at Neiman Marcus, Sundays nail salon, H&M, Kiehl's, Lovepop, Muji, Sephora, UNIQLO, Zara and many more.

For the official opening, many of them are having special events, like a tasting at Sugarfina, a weekend giveaway at Kiehl's, taiko drum performances at UNIQLO, and a live performance by Alvin Ailey dancers and more

Observation Deck (opening 2020)

If you're afraid of heights, you may want to stay away from this one. The Observation Deck on the tallest building at Hudson Yards "floats" at 1,100 feet above the ground. As the highest man-made outdoor viewing area in the western hemisphere and the fifth-highest in the world, according to Hudson Yards, it's sure to be breathtaking.

Situated on the 100th floor of 30 Hudson Yards, the Observation Deck will jut out from the building 65 feet and will have a transparent floor that allows guests to "float" over the city (gulp). 

The space will also have a lounge, restaurant and bar by London-based hospitality group, rhubarb for those who may want an unforgettable experience atop one of the highest skyscrapers in the city.

Fun fact: The deck is made of 15 sections of steel and glass that are bolted together and anchored to the sides of the building. 

Ice rink in the Western Yard (opening by 2024)

Manhattan will be getting another ice rink. Within Hudson Yards' Western Yard, from 11th to 12th avenues and between West 30th and West 33rd streets, lies a new school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, residential towers, an office complex and a 1-acre lawn with picnic areas and a skating rink during the winter months. 

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