On a drizzly, chilly November afternoon, my husband and I navigated the crowded streets of midtown Manhattan, dodging the pointy parts of umbrellas and, as a kindness to others, trying not to poke out anyone's eyeballs with our umbrella.
But a brisk 35-minute hike later, we had ascended a set of stairs at Gansevoort and Washington streets, in the Meatpacking District, and reached a wide expanse of sidewalk that we pretty much had to ourselves. That's because we were on the High Line, a 1.45-mile linear city park built on a historic elevated freight line that traveled above the streets on Manhattan's West Side.
Make no mistake: The High Line truly is a park, one that includes artwork, creative lighting and abundant plantings.
"The High Line is a four-season garden, and the landscape truly reaches its design peak in winter," said Thomas Smarr, director of horticulture for Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit group actively involved in funding and maintaining the wheelchair-accessible park.
"During this time of year," Smarr said, "the park is dominated by the varied textures, colors and shapes of seed heads and sun-bleached tan grass stems, exposing the structural beauty of the plantings not visible during other seasons."
Bare branches also afford more unobstructed views of the Hudson River and area high-rises. Expansive bump-outs work, in essence, as viewing stands, where visitors can pause and look down on busy New York streets.
In winter, the High Line literally and figuratively chills out, turning more contemplative and offering a chance to relax, even when the elements call for an umbrella.
(The Friends of the High Line website, thehighline.org, is an excellent source of know-before-you-go information, including rules (no dogs or bikes), hours (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily in winter) and a detailed map showing all access points, including elevators. There also is a user-friendly guide to the park's plantings.