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When in New York City, there’s one question you’ll be faced with more than any other.
“What do we have to see?”
This can be difficult to answer because there’s a LOT to see in NYC, and only so many hours in a day.
If you’ve seen any movie about the city in your life, you know a lot of the must-see attractions you can find in Manhattan. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Times Square, The Statue Of Liberty; New York City has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to stunning architecture, bright lights and classic artwork.
However, if you want to get a real feel for what makes New York so special, you need to soak in the culture that comes from some of the best local artists this fine city has to offer. To do that, you need to look no further than The High Line—New York’s finest and most overlooked free attraction.
Let’s start with a brief history lesson.
In the mid-to-late 1900s, there was a freight rail system traveling up the West Side of Manhattan, along 10th Ave. from Gansevoort all the way up to West 34th Street. The rail was regularly used to transport goods for the Meatpacking district, the Post Office as well as several factories along the way.
Sounds boring, right? It is. Don’t worry though, because it’s about to get awesome.
After the railway was decommissioned in 1980, it was expected that the High Line would be demolished entirely. However after another 20-or-so years of disuse and argument over the fate of the old railway, it was eventually decided that the High Line would be converted into a public park.
Today, the High Line stands as a nearly 1.5 mile long park that houses some of the best views the city has to offer, as well as the best artwork. One of the most important aspects of the culture behind the High Line comes in the form of its temporary art installations, which are regularly among the most beautiful and strange pieces of art you’ll find in NYC.
Upon visiting the High Line you’ll find weird and haunting art, such as a water fountain that also happens to be a marble bust of a woman’s head, or a fake vending machine containing drinks made to comment on the pollution regularly found in New York.
One of the most iconic and fantastic pieces, though, is a mural that’s a highly colorized and stylized depiction of the famous “Kissing Sailor” photo from the end of World War 2. It stands at nearly 3 stories tall and remains a must see in terms of the art of Manhattan.
The beauty in the artwork and in the story of the High Line itself is symbolic of what’s beautiful about New York City. Instead of destroying a piece of architecture some found to be outdated and an eyesore, the people decided to create something with what they already had. They decided to find and express the deeper beauty within something initially industrial and mundane—to take the grey and the gritty and to make the world appreciate what made it truly unique.
That’s the very heart of New York City.
Be sure to check it out, should you ever have the chance.