New Yorkers caught a glimpse of a humpback whale in the Hudson River this week — and the photos and video are incredible.

By Meena Thiruvengadam
December 10, 2020
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Attention New Yorkers, you don’t have to travel to Maine, Hawaii, Alaska, or anywhere else to go whale watching

A humpback whale was spotted off the coast of Manhattan this week, surfacing several times and seemingly posing for photos in front of the Statue of Liberty and near the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Midtown Manhattan.  

Andres Javier caught a glimpse of the whale enjoying a sunset in the Hudson River on Monday evening near Hell's Kitchen. Tuesday, another New Yorker reported spotting a humpback whale near Battery Park. 

Bjoern Kils noticed the whale further south on Tuesday, hanging out off the coast of Lower Manhattan. “As we were passing the Statue of Liberty, it flung its tail out of the water — twice!” Kils, who operates a boat service for media photographers, told Reuters

Whale sightings have become increasingly common around New York City in recent years, thanks in part to a cleaner Hudson River and the water’s vibrant food scene. An abundance of Atlantic menhaden is helping draw humpback whales to the area, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation said

humpback whale
A Humpback whale lunge feeding with the Freedom Tower in the background, seen in off New York City's Rockaway Beach in 2014.
| Credit: Artie Raslich/Getty

Atlantic menhaden is a fish that's part of the herring family and makes its home in a swath of water stretching from Nova Scotia to northern Florida. 

CBS New York counted three whales around the city in 2011. By 2019, that tally was above 300. And in 2016, ABC7 New York tracked a humpback whale that spent about a week hanging out near the Upper West Side of Manhattan. 

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.