The Wharf: 25 Epic Adventures by the Water

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The Wharf has earned a reputation as one of DC’s best playgrounds… for adults. But there is plenty to see and do with little ones in tow. And the best part? Most of these family-friendly activities are cheap or free! We’ve sussed out the top 25 ways to have fun in DC’s hottest new neighborhood because, really, who doesn’t love to spend a day by the water?


photo: Wharf Jitney via Yelp

1. Cruise the Potomac River for free on the Water Jitney from March to December. The boat shuttles 6 passengers at a time from the floating dock at East Potomac Park to Recreation Pier. Check the schedule for daily hours.

photo: Gail B. via Yelp

2. Grab a rocking horse (yes, rocking horse) and enjoy a child-like moment with your kids at 7th Street Park.

3. Skip the playground and snuggle up on the family-sized swings that overlook the water.

4. Snap a selfie or take a family fall photo in front of Blair Alley’s picture-perfect fountain. Get in on the fun and tag your image #wharfdc.

5. Go for a waterfront tour by bike. BYOT (bring-your-own-tricycle) or rent a two-wheeler at Capital Bikeshare. (A single, 30-minute trip costs $2).

6. Pack a picnic (or stop in Shake Shack) for cheap, river-side dining. There are over 10 acres of public space, so take your time finding the perfect picnic spot!

photo: Sarah Warren via Willow Warren Photography

7. Head to the oldest fish market in the United States for a fresh caught dinner or grab some cooked crabs or shrimp for a picnic on the pier. The seafood isn’t the only steal here; patrons of Maine Avenue Fish Market get $2 parking for the first hour (with a valid receipt).

8. Bring family game night to the next level at Recreation Pier with oversized games like Connect 4 and Scrabble.

photo: Teresa C. via Yelp

9. Camp out with Camp Wharf. Or at least get your s’mores on. Try gourmet flavors, like Peanut Butter Cup or Cookies and Cream, or bring your own kit for some fireside fun. S’mores happen nightly at the District Pier Firepit.

photo: Chris H. via Yelp

10. Go restaurant hopping at nearly 35 eateries — from quick service to fine dining, even picky eaters will find their fill. Save time to stand in the line at Milk Bar; Cereal Milk is worth the wait!

11. Kids 8 & up will enjoy exploring the Washington Channel by paddle board or kayak. Rentals at The Wharf Boathouse start at $16/hr.

photo: Fire by Design

12. Spend an iconic evening around Torch, a 14 foot outdoor firepit. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset.

13. Buy a book at indie institution Politics and Prose. Crack the spine at the near-by fountain and waterfall.

14. Bend and stretch every Saturday morning from 9 to 10 a.m at a free, all-age yoga class at Transit Pier. Be sure to bring your own mat. Refreshments are complimentary after the class.

photo: Norah C. via Yelp

15. Go birding by the water. Don’t forget the kid-friendly binocular, Kidnoculars, for close-up views.

photo: Hyatt House Washington DC

16. Hop on the Potomac Water Taxi to discover more waterfront fun at National Harbor, Alexandria Marina and Georgetown.

17. Play tourist in your own town and explore the National Mall before or after a trip to The Wharf. Burn off end-of-the-day energy on this 20 minute walk or hop the free shuttle to points of interest downtown.

photo: Mohammed H. via Yelp

18. Challenge your kids to a photo scavenger hunt—How many boats can you get in one picture? Who can find a bald eagle? The water’s edge provides endless opportunities for budding photographers.

photo: DC Scooter

19. On your mark, get set…. Scoot! Kids 6 & up can zip and zag around The Wharf for an epic adventure. Four riders can race around the water’s edge for $70/hr.

20. Enjoy the four seasons at Transit Pier. Summers bring free shows at 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday. In the winter, break out the skates: From Nov. 20 to late Feb., enjoy ice skating at the pier.

photo: Blak B. via Yelp

21. Skip the adult-focused concert venues and catch a free live show on the pier by one of the curated street performers.

photo: Hyatt House Washington DC 

22. Take a staycation and dive into a heated rooftop pool (open Memorial Day-Labor Day) at the Hyatt House Washington DC. The whole family can stay the night; pets are welcome here, too!

photo: Mohammed H. via Yelp

23. Throw some jammies on the kids and go for an evening stroll under the twinkling lights at Pearl Street.

photo: Rosanna C. via Yelp

24. Get festive at the waterfront. If there is a holiday, there is a celebration at The Wharf. From the district’s Holiday Boat Parade to a Mardi Gras extravaganza, you’ll find seasonal fun by the Potomac River year round.

photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival

25. Let your night shimmer and sparkle with one of DC’s best displays of fireworks.  Pyrotechnics illuminate the waterfront on July 4th, at the start of the winter holiday season and at the end of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

—Meghan Yudes Meyers


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