What To Watch For On The Hudson

What To Watch For On The Hudson

The Hudson River, named after 17th-century explorer Henry Hudson, has always been vital to the people who live and work along its shores. Once named the North River, it continues to serve not only the city of New York, but the entire surrounding region in many areas including the economy, transportation, ecology, and recreation.

As the sun sets on this body of water every evening, each new sunrise holds the promise of something new to see. Here are some of the most popular things to watch for on the Hudson.

Watching Sunsets

Speaking of the sun setting, enjoying a Hudson River sunset is not only one of most magnificent things to see in the city, it also proves that (sometimes) the best things in life really are free.

There are many spots along Manhattan’s western shore that offer great views and a relaxing way to end your day in Manhattan – or get your evening off to a brilliant start.

  • The terraces of The Whitney Museum – Using both indoor and outdoor spaces artfully to exhibit their contemporary pieces, The Whitney Museum is a great place to witness a living landscape. From their terraces, you’ll have a panoramic view of Manhattan and a front-row seat to a brand-new masterpiece being created in front of your eyes every evening.
  • Hudson River Park – This long stretch of green space runs along the Hudson from Battery Park to 59th Street with many great spots to catch a glimmering sunset over Lady Liberty with the lights of Jersey City across the shore. The park’s lush green lawns and 5-mile walking/biking path are great places to take a break for a few minutes to watch the sun go down on another day in the big city. Here are some specific spots in the park:
    • Pier 25 is a favorite location in the park at dusk. As the longest pier in the park, it affords unforgettable views of the sunset. Stick around on Friday nights during the summer for a free concert.
    • Rooftop/Patio Bars – Get a different perspective of a Manhattan sunset from one of the city’s many rooftop bars. Whether you prefer elegant, spacious, or one with a neighborhood feel, you can sip cocktails and have a bite as you enjoy the most picturesque views sky (and skyline) bathed in glorious color.
  • The Highline – Manhattan’s only elevated park runs from the Meatpacking District to 34th street (between 10th and 12th Avenue). Its green pedestrian walkway, open spaces, and observation decks offer great views of the city below and the Hudson River. Although any spot along the Highline will afford great views, here are two favorites:
    • The 23rd street lawn – This is an ideal place to picnic with friends, and then watch the sunset. You can also attend one of the park’s many activities like poetry readings, art shows, and tours, or check out Chelsea Market before heading up top at dusk.
    • The Terroir Wine Bar on the Porch (at 15th Street) is an outdoor café that offers an extensive wine and beer selection and delicious food. Watch the sun go down right from your table.


There is no better way to celebrate our nation’s independence than watching the sky illuminate with explosions of color over the Statue of Liberty, thrilling to the sounds of booms and synchronized patriotic music. Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks show on the Hudson River has delighted millions of people along the shores of both New York City and New Jersey for over 40 years.

During the past several years, Macy’s presentation has taken place on the East River rather than the Hudson, with the intent to alternate between the two. During this time, Jersey City has assumed the mantle of delivering fireworks over the Hudson and Lady Liberty by presenting their Freedom and Fireworks Festival.


The best places to watch our fine feathered friends along the Hudson are within the 10-acre Riverside Park Bird Sanctuary. This area in the park between 116th to 124th Streets has seen over 170 species of birds over the past several decades and features over 30,000 varieties of plants, trees, shrubs, and groundcovers.

The main attraction of the sanctuary is the Bird Drip. This man-made watering hole attracts birds of all kinds between mid-April through October. The most active times at the Drip are from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and then again from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, on warm sunny days when a lack of precipitation attracts the most birds to bathe and drink there. Make sure to get your free checklist of birds to watch out for before you arrive, and keep your eyes peeled.

Note: If you exit the sanctuary at 120th street, look across Riverside Drive to the Riverside Church’s bell tower where you may possibly catch a glimpse of the Falcons that nest behind the gargoyle.

Tugboat Race

Each Fall, on the Sunday preceding Labor Day, you can watch The Great North River Tugboat Race on the Hudson River between 70th and 84th Street. This event is a lively tradition which began in 1991.

The race begins at Pier I – where the parade of tugs takes off after the starting horn blows at 10:30 am – and ends at Pier 84. After the winner’s ceremony, a dockside festival ensues with competitions on land and see where even spectators can participate.

To watch the race from the water, buy a ticket to get on board a spectator boat. Or, for a fee, you can even experience the race as a competitor by watching it from the deck of one of the rivaling tugboats.

Fleet Week’s Parade Of Ships

Each Spring, the city of New York proudly salutes the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps by Fleet Week. Thousands of service members within these branches of our military arrive for a week-long celebration throughout New York City. Kicking off this tradition that began in 1984 is a promenade of a dozen naval vessels on the Hudson River called “The Parade of Ships.” The week’s festivities continue with events and tours aboard some of our nation’s finest ships at various piers and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

Hudson River: A Clean Bill Of Health?

Between the 1960s and into the 1980s, pollution of the Hudson River reached its height, with some 150 million gallons of raw sewage being pumped into it daily. Thankfully, due largely to both the Pure Waters Bond Act and the Clean Water Act, many harmful microorganisms were removed. The water has become cleaner as evidenced by the return of many species of fish and birds, and the opening of several official swimming beaches along its shores.

Yet, more needs to be done to complete the clean-up and deal with new contaminants. Through proper legislation and the work of both citizens and civic leaders, the Hudson River’s natural balance may be restored, allowing it to better serve the beneficiaries of its resources for generations to come.  

Look for next week’s blog, “Fireworks: Reflections on NYC Waterfront.”