For years, a secret, untamed garden hovered above the cityscape of Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. Formed from the wild grass, flower, and weed seeds that randomly blew onto the tracks of a 1 1/2-mile abandoned elevated railway, it became a hidden-in-plain-sight oasis for those New Yorkers brave (and limber) enough to scale the trestles. When the city started planning to tear down the historic rail structure (constructed 1929−34), a movement was born to save it and create a “grand public promenade,” with easy access from the street. Opened in 2009, it's beautifully landscaped (in many places with the “weeds” that once grew there naturally, replanted in areas where they wouldn't destroy the rest of the plants), with benches and gourmet food vendors galore, and a unique vantage for viewing surrounding buildings and the streets below—it’s become THE place to head for a stroll on a balmy summer evening.

Highlights include:

  • Gansevoort Woodland (at the top of the stairsat the Gansevoort Street entry). The foliage changes with the seasons. In autumn, aromatic aster, smoke-bush, and winterberry holly dust the paths in purple and red hues. In spring, walkways are illowed in creamy white serviceberry blossoms. The old track's rusted rails are integrated into the landscaping.
  • 14th Street Passage. You're walking through the only building that shares a support system with the original tracks. This was once a meat storage and packing facility; in fact, architects working on the High Line found 60 vats of animal carcasses in the basement here when they began their work.
  • Diller-Von Furstenberg Sundeck & Water Feature. Grab yourself a wooden chaise and admire the river views. Dip your toes on the scrim of water–a flattened waterfall, if you will–running the length of this sundeck. The bubbling almost drowns out the noise of the traffic. You'll find this section between 14th and 15th streets.
  • Tenth Avenue Square & Viewing Platform. Crowds flock to these tiered wooden bleachers plunked virtually atop Tenth Avenue. You can stare down the traffic on Tenth through big picture windows. At 17th street.
  • Chelsea Grasslands (btw 17th and 19th sts.). Spring ses daffodils and hundreds of pink-and-white Lady Jane tulips. By late summer, prairie grasslands bend in the breeze. To the east, you'll spot the needle spire of the Empire State Building. To the west (btw. 18th and 19th sts.) is Frank Gehry's fanciful IAC office building. Across Eleventh Avenue is the Chelsea Piers sports complex.
  • Chelsea Thicket (btw. 20th and 21st st.). This dense planting of flowering shrubs and small trees includes hollies, winterberry and rosebud.
  • Seating Steps and Lawn (btw 22nd and 23rd sts.). Here, where extra tracks once served as loading decks for adjacent warehouses, is a 4,900-square-foot swath of turf for sunbathing and picnicking. Stepped seating made of reclaimed teak anchors the southern end. At the northern end, a rise in the lawn lifts visitors above the walkway, with views of Brooklyn to the east and the Hudson River to the west.
  • Wildflower Field (btw 26th and 29th sts). A landscape dominated by tough drought-resistant grasses and wildflowers took root on the High Line when the trains stopped running. The moder day landscape is planted with a variety of blooms, abut also with many of the same native species that survived.
  • The Spur. Jutting over Tenth Avenue at 30th street, the plinth here houses monumental contemporary artworks.
  • Pershing Square Beams (at 31st st.). What's a park without a playground? In this section over rail yards, the viaducts original beams were exposed and coated with rubber to create a jungle gym.
  • West Side Rails Extension (btw 31st and 34th sts.). This stretch makes a wide U because locamotives pulling heavy boxcars needed extra room to climb from the street level up to the elevated tracks. One one side you'll get views of still-working train tracks, and on the other side you'll get the closest river views that the High Line affords.