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From December to March, Virginia Beach Whale-Watching packages allow visitors to view fin and humpback whales up close.

Packages include three days, two night's accommodations (breakfast included at some hotels) and a two to 2 1/2 hour Virginia Aquarium whale-watching boat trip. Participants also receive admission to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and its 3-D IMAX® Theater.

For more than a decade, humpback whales have been sighted along the shores of Virginia Beach. Humpback whales weigh up to 40 tons and measure up to 52 feet long. Beginning in late December, the mammals take a respite from their annual migration in the food-rich mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The second largest animals in the world, after blue whales, are fin whales. They weigh up to 70 tons, measure up to 79 feet long, and also swim near the Virginia Beach coast.

On whale-watching cruises, passengers can see whales blowing 10-foot-high clouds of white mist. They also hear eerie puffing noises, as humpback whales approach as close as 50 feet.

The whales spout, breach, spume and eat. To feed, the mammals circle beneath a school of fish and push air upward through their blowholes, forcing the fish into a tight space, so they can swallow them in big gulps. Whales also eat plankton, squid and krill. When they winter in southern waters, the whales live off their accumulated blubber.

Besides packages, whale-watching gift certificates are also available.