Not Just the High Line: 10 Great Elevated Parks You Should Visit
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Cities grow and change in ways original architects might not have known, as the ebb and flow of people changes the landscape naturally over the years. Sometimes, roads were built without thought for how they would bisect neighborhoods and cut off pedestrians, while other infrastructure, like rail lines, simply falls out of use. These public projects took proverbial lemons, the underused areas of cities, and made lemonade with parks that are now drawing locals and tourists alike. Here are 10 you should visit:
1. The High Line, New York, New York
While it’s not the first elevated park in the world, it’s definitely the most famous, becoming a benchmark for how to transform an abandoned railway into a city attraction. The park opened in phases crawling up the west side of Manhattan from Gansevoort Street downtown to the Hudson Yards in Midtown. The park hosts public art installations and cultural programming, like concerts, dance classes and meditation sessions. Features and the look of the park change as you stroll along, but highlights include the Diller-von Fürstenberg sundeck with rolling wooden chaise longues at 14th and 15th Streets and amphitheater-style seating to watch the traffic go by at 10th Avenue near 17th Street. Kids can explore the nooks and crannies at the Pershing Square Beams, a section where the concrete has been stripped away and the beams coated with silicone for safety.
2. The Bentway, Toronto, Canada
This newcomer is actually under a highway — the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, which had become a sort of no-go zone for pedestrians, and in effect, cutting off the waterfront from adjoining neighborhoods. It opened its first phase in January 2018, which includes a 240-yard free public ice skating trail in cooler months. The park will eventually stretch about two-thirds of a mile and connect to several outdoor “rooms,” which will have farmers’ markets, gardens, performance spaces and art exhibitions.
3. The Bloomingdale Trail, Chicago, Illinois
The Bloomingdale Trail is nearly 3-mile section of the former Bloomingdale Rail Line, connecting ground-level green spaces that comprise the larger 606, named for the zip code prefix of Chicago. It opened on June 6, 2015 (6/06 – get it??) and is still in progress. Since cyclists, rollerbladers and runners are allowed on the trail, it’s not always the best for small children, but connecting ground level parks have playgrounds and space for them to run around, including Julia de Burgos Park, which also has a flower garden and hosts poetry readings. Other highlights to check out include the Humboldt Overlook, which provides stadium seating and views of the neighborhood, as well as the cochlea-shaped Ridgeway Trailhead on the Western end.
4. Promenade Plantée, Paris, France
This is the OG elevated park, converted in 1993 from a 1800s viaduct, and stretches three miles between the Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes. The Western end of the “Green Course” is accessible by stairs and about three stories above the street level, and the Eastern portion is lower and is accessible to cyclists and rollerblades. The views vary as you wind down the path — there are portions enclosed in tunnels, cut through buildings, and have sweeping views of the city. Highlights include the Viaduc des Arts, artisan and designer shops set into the old arches of the viaduct, and a cable footbridge that sways over the Jardin de Reuilly.
5. Seoullo 7017, Seoul, South Korea
This former highway overpass over Seoul Station now helps pedestrians cross the city. Seoullo means “sky garden” and the 7017 stands for the year the original overpass was built (1970) and for when the new version opened (2017) as well as the 17 walkways connected to the project. The elevated park is full of trees and plants that will eventually serve as an “urban nursery” for other areas of the city. The park is packed with activities for kids, including a trampoline playground, glass potholes for looking at the street below, and footbaths for hot months.
6. Log Road Daikanyama, Tokyo, Japan
Old Tokyo Line train tracks have been converted to a shopping complex with sleek wooden cottage shops and lots of benches and greenery. There’s a Kirin-run brewery along with a café and deli to grab take out to sit at the picnic tables at the end the walkway, which has an elevated platform.
7. Luchtsingel, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
This yellow pedestrian bridge is said to be the world’s first public infrastructure project paid for mostly by crowdfunding — anyone that donated 25 euros to the cause got a plank on the bridge with their name on it. The resulting 425-yard structure opened in 2015, and connects three parts of Rotterdam that were impossible to travel by foot, going across railways and roads and through a building. It also connects to a park with a playground, a rooftop garden, and an old train station that is now used for events.
8. The Goods Line, Sydney, Australia
This “baby High Line” stretches only about a third of a mile in the densely-populated Ultimo neighborhood of Sydney, but boasts a lot of features, including an amphitheater for performances, an outdoor gym, ping pong tables, and a water play area for children. To attract nearby students, there are tables with power outlets and WiFi, “study pods” among fig trees, and grassy areas to relax.
9. The Atlanta Beltline, Atlanta, Georgia
The idea for this 22-mile loop around the core of Atlanta originally came from a student’s graduate thesis in 1999, and the first trails opened in 2008. Since then, the project has become a network of 33 miles’ worth of multi-use trails and interconnected parks, expected to be completed in 2030. A favorite current offering is the Eastside Trail, a three-mile long stretch where street performers, musicians and visual artists gather. If you want to travel in September to Atlanta, it’d be worth it to time your trip to the Lantern Parade, where thousands congregate for light-filled festivities.
10. Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas
This Dallas attraction was built over a recessed portion of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, which had cut off Downtown Dallas from the Uptown neighborhood for pedestrians. The five-acre park, which opened in 2012, offers a host of activities, including several exercise classes during the week, music performances during lunch, and a rotating selection of food trucks. There’s also a children’s park, an off-leash dog park, and a reading and game area with a lending library and game cart with chess, checkers and backgammon.
Feature photo by Boogich via Getty Images.
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