Paddle Boating in DC

paddleboating on tidal basin washington dc

Kara and Natalie ready to head out

I’m just going to put it out there right now—I’m not a huge paddle boating fan. But sadly, my kids are, so whenever they see paddleboats they want to go. Paddleboats are just so much work to keep moving—give me a kayak instead. So for years I have avoided the paddleboats on the Tidal Basin, using many excuses—“We don’t have time”, “I don’t have money with me.”, “The line is too long.” or whatever I could come up with. Continue reading

Kayaking in DC

DC-Kayaking on the Potomac Sterling Nat-2012

Kayaking on the Potomac River

For Natalie’s 11th birthday she decided she wanted to go kayaking in DC. (Ok, so maybe I strongly recommended it, and luckily she really liked the idea) I’d see people kayaking in the river as we’d drive into DC, and I really wanted to try it.

Her birthday is in early September, so it’s on a school day, but we picked her up early and headed into Georgetown. There are a couple of options for kayaking places, and for this trip we decided to go to Thompson Boat Center. We found parking in the metered lot nearby—luckily it wasn’t full, probably because it was a weekday in the early afternoon.

We headed to the boathouse to rent our kayaks. The rental part went pretty quickly, and we were soon on the river. The river was calm, so paddling wasn’t a problem. We first headed down the river a ways toward the Memorial Bridge, Natalie was actually a little sick, but at one point, someone decided to start a race and quickly our competitive family was paddling as fast as we could, even Natalie, who wasn’t feeling too good.

DC-Kayaking on the Potomac-Kara-2012

Kara stroking it through the water.

As we caught our breath and paddled at a more normal pace, we turned and headed around Roosevelt Island. The water was fairly low there, so some rocks were poking out of the water. Natalie and Kara got out of the kayaks onto the rocks for a bit.

DC-Kayaking on the Potomac-Nat on Rocks-2012

Natalie, out of her kayak standing on the rocks in the Potomac River

The rocks weren’t too big, so we had this idea to move the kayaks away to take pictures of them standing on the rocks in the middle of the water. Fortunately, no one fell in. It was really fun to be experiencing DC from such a different perspective—away from tourists, buildings and traffic, yet within sight of the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center.

Then we kept paddling and made our way up to the Key Bridge. (We were only allowed to kayak between the Memorial Bridge and the Key Bridge.) We then returned to the dock and ended our trip. I can’t wait to go again now!

Here are some of the rental places in DC:

Key Bridge Boathouse:

For years this was know as Jack’s Boathouse. It’s located right under the Key Bridge in Georgetown. There is a small, free 3-hour parking lot for renters, but if that’s full you’re on your own to find someplace else—metered spots or paid lots. Early mornings or late afternoons are the best time to find parking.

Thompson Boat Center:

Also in Georgetown, at the intersection of Rock Creek Parkway and Virginia Ave. There is a parking lot that has limited, metered spots.
Directions to TBC:

Fletcher’s Boathouse:

This boathouse is between Chain and Key Bridges, on the Potomac river and C & O Canal. We’ve passed it on our bikes as we’ve biked on the Capital Crescent Trail or the C & O Canal—so if you’re adventuresome, you could park in Bethesda and bike here to rent a boat. Parking is available along the canal—but also fills up fast on nice weekends.

DC-Kayaing on the Potomac-Sterling Nat Ducks-2012

Encounter with other kayakers or are those ducks?

Biking in DC

biking in DC Lincoln Memorial

On our bikes in front on the Lincoln Memorial

If you ask any of my kids what their favorite activity to do in DC is, they would all probably answer—biking. Several years ago I thought it would be fun to take our bikes into DC. I didn’t have a bike rack for my car, so I called the metro, and found out that during non-rush hours, you can take your bike on the metro. (For a full set of rules, see this website: I thought that would be a great way to spend a day in DC. At the time, Natalie, my youngest, was probably about 3 or 4 years old, and rode a trail-a-bike behind my bike. We got us and our bikes to the metro station, where we had to take several trips down the elevators (there were five of us—my four girls and me—with our bikes and only two could fit on the elevator at a time). After a number of elevator rides, we all boarded the metro. The metro was quite an adventure with five bikes and us. At one point Natalie fell asleep on me, and I had to carry two bikes and her off the metro. But we made it! And I’m not trying to scare anyone off from taking the metro. It’s a great option, and for me would have been much easier if my kids had been older, or another adult had been with us. One thing that I came to realize that day was that there are so many kind people who will reach out to help when they see a need. And I had lots of needs that day! (It was that very afternoon that I bought a five-person bike rack when I got home.) Other than the tricky metro trip, we had the best day biking through DC. We visited the monuments and biked along the Mall. It was so much fun, that we all caught the bike bug. We’ve been biking in DC ever since. Now that I have my trusty bike rack, and drive in with bikes in tow, I’ll either park along Constitution Ave. or out at Haines Point (on Ohio Ave). Lately Haines Point is our first choice for parking, as we can park there all day with an added bonus of a little bit longer bike ride! Places we’ll bike in DC: 1. Around the monuments. Remember to walk your bikes through all of the monuments to show respect. 2. Tidal Basin—except while the cherry blossoms are in bloom. It’s too crowded then! 3. North of the Capitol. Around Eastern Market and around the shops and restaurants up there. 4. The Mall. Since the Mall is about two miles long, besides just being fun, biking the Mall saves a lot of time. 5. Along Constitution Ave.—mainly to get to the Einstein Statue. 6. Down Mass Ave past some of the Embassies. (We park around the National Cathedral) 7. Rock Creek Park. One of my favorite bike trails. Bike it on the weekend, as the road is closed to cars and open then for bikes only. Don’t be afraid of what seems to be a very long (although mildly sloped) hill. The first time we biked it, Natalie and I were worried the whole way down because we knew we’d have to come back up what we were going down. But the hill is very gradual, making it not hard at all. (We park and start up in Kensington, MD, but there are lots of other points you could get on the trail) If you don’t have bikes with you and want to bike, you can still do it! Here are a couple of links for bike rental information in DC: We’ve rented bikes a bit as we’ve traveled to other places, and it seems like the bike portion of our trip becomes the highlight of our trip. I think it’s well worth the money!

Bike Trip to DC

Years ago on our very first bike trip into DC