Like many native New Yorkers, I get caught up in my daily routine and forget what this amazing city has to offer families. It wasn’t until my gig at Mommy Poppins that I started exploring some of these overlooked, and even mega popular tourist destinations, such as the High Line. The abandoned track of elevated railway, forgotten for decades, but finding new life as a public park, has always intrigued me. It's owned by the city, but maintained by the nonprofit Friends of the High Line in coordination with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.
The truth of the matter is, I was wrong in my first assumption that The High Line was for tourists. It's an amazing site AND a community builder, with wonderful year-round programs for locals. So whether you’re visiting from overseas, the suburbs, or Queens (like myself), The High Line on Manhattan’s west side is a gem—and FREE.
Here, all the must-see spots at this unique outdoor park for children and kid-friendly events to add to your calendar.
We recommend starting at the northern end of the High Line at 34th Street and working your way down to the Meatpacking District where there are a number of great restaurants to fill your belly after your journey. The park runs from West 34th Street to Gansevoort Street, weaving between 10th and 12th avenues. Follow this guide, or choose your own path—you’ll surely have a fun and jam-packed day. So put on some comfortable shoes, grab the camera (or the iPhone), and head for the High Line.
Top Sights for Kids
Kids can walk along exposed track in the Rail Yards section of the park. Photo by Iwan Baan
The basics: The whole park is essentially a planted walking path, but a wide one, with art and murals, small water features, and even vendors mixed in. You'll pass by the upper level windows of apartment buildings close to the tracks, hotels, and even museums. There is plenty of seating, so you're always welcome to take a break for a snack or some of the city's finest people watching. You can look out onto street traffic, too—all while feeling slightly apart from the buzz of the city, slightly above.
The Rail Yards, which stretch from 34th Street to 30th Street, offer panoramic views of the Hudson River. Bonus: the tracks are prominent here, and kids can explore artifacts like the rail “frog” and the rail switches.
Pershing Square Beams at 30th Street is a structure of steel beams and framework specifically revamped for children in mind. Kids will get a kick out of climbing and balancing all over it.
The 10th Avenue Square and overlook at 17th Street is a small amphitheater that faces a wall of glass that you can walk right up to. Below and beyond the glass is a great view of 10th Avenue.
The Diller-von Furstenberg Sundeck and water feature between 14th Street and 15th Street lets you relax in the wooden lounge chairs while they splash (without getting soaked) in the warmer months.
My 5-year-old son got a kick out of being told the High Line’s history. The High Line was once an elevated freight rail line. Pointing out the tracks that still remain became a game for him. Sometimes they are in direct view and sometimes they are tucked within the garden and plants, like the lost ruins of an era long past.
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The High Line is home to many exhibits including Mutations by Various Artists, which will call the High Line home until March 2018. Photo by the author
High Line Art provides the unique exhibitions, performances, and programs at The High Line. Many of the sculptures and exhibits allow children to get up-close-and-personal.
Top Events for Families
The High Line brings families a number of great events and programs year-round. We feature a number of the most kid-friendly ones going on in our NYC event calendar, too.
Since 2016, the MakeIt! summer series has been providing children and their families hands-on experiences. Past events included Make It Grow! (2016) where children helped to plant seeds in the mobile garden and Make It Rusty! (2017) where children designed and constructed garden sculptures from industrial-inspired materials.
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Bring your costume to the Haunted High Line this October. Photo by Liz Ligon
In the fall, look for its annual Halloween event, the Haunted High Line. This year, it falls on Saturday, October 28, 2017 and will bring a day of family-friendly activities like face painting, live performances, music, ghastly decorations, and more.
Stargazing will be a part of the High Line’s calendar through October 2017 every Tuesday. High-powered telescopes will make it easier to reach for the stars.
And there's lots for teens! The High Line provides programs for youth 14-19 where they can participate in horticulture, civic duties, and more.
The calendar at The High Line is always evolving and changing, so be sure to check in.
Along The High Line, mostly in the Chelsea Market Passage, there will be a line of quick and delicious snacks for purchase like People’s Pops and La Sonrisa Empanadas. There is also an open-air café, Terrior, that provides light lunch fare (and wine!).
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Try the delicious pies at Bubby's or stay for brunch. Photo courtesy of the restaurant
Below, on the street, are a number of great eateries like Bubby’s and the many establishments in Chelsea Market. But my son had his heart set on some strawberry ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery.
You’re also welcome to bring your own food into The High Line. There are plenty of tables and chairs in the Chelsea Market Passage. Or you can spread out a picnic on the 23rd Street Lawn.
Top Things To Do Nearby
The Whitney is hard to miss at the southern end of The High Line. If your child is up for some contemporary art, then head to this amazing museum.
Less than a 5 minute walk away is the Pier 51 Playground in Hudson River Park where your kiddos can burn any lingering energy. Photo courtesy of Hudson River Park
If your child is on the younger side and playtime is on the brain, take a stroll over to Chelsea Waterside Park or Hudson River Park, just a few blocks away. My son spent the following few hours at Pier 51 Playground, playing in the sand while I took in the views.
Good to Know Before You Go
The High Line is FREE as are many of its activities, but reservations may be required for certain events, as space can be limited—so always check the site and plan ahead.
Hours of Operation
December 1–March 31: 7am–7pm
April 1–May 31: 7am–10pm
June 1–September 30: 7am–11pm
October 1–November 30: 7am–10pm
The High Line is both stroller and wheelchair accessible with elevators entrances at 30th Street, 23rd Street, 16th Street, 14the Street, and Gansevoort and Washington Streets. Ramp access is available at the 34th Street and 12th Avenue entrances. Check the map for additional stair access.
The High Line may ask for you to temporarily part with your stroller to enter an event or performance area with a high attendance. Stroller parking will be available.
Restrooms are available at 16th Street and at the southern entrance at Gansevoort.
During the warmer months, don’t forget hats and sunscreen. There are a few spots that can get pretty sunny.
And during the winter, be aware that the wind up high can invite a bit of a chill.
Like most public gardens and parks, picking flowers and plants is not permitted. Please stay on designated paths and don’t climb or sit on the railings and ledges. Yikes!
If you’re interested in exploring more of Manhattan’s unique and historical sites, check out our Visitors Guide with reviews and itineraries to all the top spots.
Top photo: Pershing Square Beams. Photo by Rowa Lee. Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of Friends of the Highline