New York may be the ultimate concrete jungle, but you can find swaths of actual jungle–or at least some grass, trees, and flowers–in the unlikeliest places. These days, you’ll discover parks along once inaccessible banks of the Hudson and East Rivers, parks sandwiched between skyscrapers, and even parks located on traffic islands. Manhattan’s latest major park, however, is unlike any the city, and the world, has ever seen. Giving new life to a long-abandoned elevated railway platform on the west side, the High Line is the ultimate urban oasis, providing residents and visitors with a much-needed public space while solving a major problem. Since its unveiling in 2009, this 1.45 mile ribbon hovering 30 feet above street level has become a high-design symbol of New York’s resourcefulness and grit, transforming what was once an eyesore that would have cost a fortune to dismantle into one of the city’s top destinations. It’s a fantastic place for friends and romantic couples to visit, but don’t let its sophistication keep you from showing up with the family, especially early in the day before the crowds arrive (it opens at 7am). Your kids will appreciate the countless whimsical touches as you all see the city from an entirely new angle.
Once you step foot onto the platform, you’ll see that what was once a decaying iron-and-steel behemoth is now a floating garden, with meandering paths, scenic lookouts, public art projects, and plenty of benches where you can sit and gaze at the city’s breathtaking skyline. Walk the length of it with your family, stopping to look at a sculpture or read up on the history of the project. Restaurants and cafes are set up along the route, but on hot days you’ll want to guide your brood to People’s Pops, where fresh fruit ice pops take the temperature down a few notches. While the little ones are slurping their ices, mom and dad can enjoy an afternoon pick-me-up from Blue Bottle, whose ice-brewed coffee has been compared to fine merlot. Now that everybody has what they want, relax for a moment and take it all in. You’re enjoying a delicious treat with your family in a picturesque park in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. The stresses of modern life can wait. For now, you’ve found urban bliss.