Alexandrians are fortunate to have their lives enhanced by wonderful rivers and the spectacular Chesapeake Bay. If you seek fun or adventure on the high seas, a number of fun-filled activities on the waters within 45 minutes of Alexandria might satisfy your appetite. Regardless of your age, you can find fun on the water, and you do not have to even get wet. Other than canoeing or sailing, virtually no effort and only a little cash is required to enjoy an adventure on the water.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Mule-Drawn Barge
For a leisurely one-hour ride along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, head for the Georgetown Visitor Center and BYOC (or, for the text-message impaired, Bring your own carrots). The mule-drawn canal boat rides are run by the National Park Service. Rangers dressed in historical clothing make it easy for barge riders to imagine that they have been transported back to the 1870s on a reproduction of a 19th-century canal boat. Carrots are a favorite treat of the barge-pulling mules.
If a quiet hour on the C & O Canal is not what you are looking for, seek out the 90-minute tour bus/boats called the D.C. Ducks, where loud quacking is encouraged. This land and water experience on restored 1940s amphibious military personnel carriers (nicknamed ducks) takes visitors past national monuments, the Mall and down to the Potomac River. The tour of Washington departs from D.C.s Union Station and drives into the river at Gravely Point by National Airport. The duck boat issues quackers to blow on at appointed times, but few children (of a range of ages) can resist the temptation to quack whenever the mood strikes. The tour is packed with historical fun-facts and corny, kid-friendly jokes in the commentary.
Canoeing and Sailing at Belle Haven Marina
Just south of Alexandria on the George Washington Parkway, canoes and sailboats at Belle Haven Marina promise hours of fun on the Potomac. Those who know how to sail can rent 19-foot Flying Scots and 14-foot Sunfishes. Canoes and kayaks for hire allow boaters to explore Dyke Marsh Refuge, where osprey and beautiful water birds are a common sight during an afternoon sail or paddle.
Belle Haven also offers sailing classes for anyone over the age of eight. It is possible to become proficient in a weekend or week-long course. The Mariner Sailing School is an authorized American Red Cross provider, which means that students will leave Belle Haven with a Basic Sailing certificate or the optional Red Cross certificate. Belle Haven Marina also gives students a week of unlimited practice time during the week immediately following the completion of any course.
After your week of practice, enjoy sailing with your family and friends at a 50 percent discount off normal weekday rates.
Alexandrias Admiral Tilp
Every hour on the hour, a fun, 45-minute narrated river tour on the Admiral Tilp departs from the dock behind the Torpedo Factory on Union Street in Old Town. The Admiral Tilp cruises under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, past National Harbor and down to Jones Point. The little tour boat then shifts course, heading north towards National Airport. The tour provides an historical overview of Alexandria, and children of all ages seem to enjoy just being on the boat. Twice a day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months, the Admiral Tilp is transformed into a pirate ship, to the delight of those under the age of eight.
Pirates Adventures in Annapolis
Annapolis Harbors family pirate adventure is particularly suited for children ages 3 through 9. The 38-foot Sea Gypsy is staffed by effervescent young adults in swashbuckling wear. A treasure hunt begins from the moment everyone is aboard and the boat heads off for an hour to hunt for treasure in Annapolis Harbor.
There is something for everyone in search of an outing on the water near Alexandria. Regardless of whether a tranquil, mule-drawn barge is just what you need or a swashbuckling pirate cruise is what you are looking for, these aquatic adventures will satisfy everyone.
For more information contact:
Mule Drawn Barges on the C & O Canal – 202-653-5190.
D.C. Ducks Tours – 202-832-9800.
Canoeing and Sailing at Belle Haven Marina – 703-768-0018.
Admiral Tilp – 703-684-0580.