Looking to cool down as the lazy, hazy days of summer heat up? Get ready to take the plunge and enjoy one of the many fun-filled adventures around the region that await boaters and swimmers of all ages. As a city with a long and storied history that centered around the Potomac River, its no wonder you can set sail, make a splash, quack like a duck or aspire to be the next Jack Sparrow all without having to venture very far from home. So welcome aboard and let the adventure begin!
Alexandrias Admiral Tilp
Every hour on the hour, a fun-filled, narrated river tour on the Admiral Tilp departs from the dock behind the Torpedo Factory on Union Street. The Admiral Tilp cruises under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, past National Harbor and down to Jones Point, providing a historical and contemporary narrative tour on the way. The little tour boat then shifts course, heading north towards National Airport. Twice a day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months, the Admiral Tilp is transformed into a pirate ship, much to the delight of those under the age of 8.
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 continues as the boat heads off for the hour-long ride in Annapolis Harbor.
Chesapeake&Ohio Canal Mule-Drawn Barge
For a leisurely, one-hour ride along the Chesapeake and 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 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 all 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.
Belle Haven Marina/Washington Sailing Marina
Located just south of Alexandria on the George Washington Parkway, rental 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 water birds are a common sight during an afternoon sail or paddle.
Belle Haven also offers sailing classes for anyone over the age of 8 and it is possible to become proficient in a weekend or week-long sailing course. Also, Belle Haven Marina 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.
Similarly, the Washington Sailing Marina by National Airport is in its 49th year of renting sailboats as well as offering all sorts of lessons. A full 11-week summer camp features programs from windsurfing to sailing sunfish, flying scots and hobie catamarans. For the true sailing enthusiast, the Washington Sailing Marina teaches racing courses. Sailing School Director Amy Zang was recognized by the U.S. Sailing Association a few weeks ago, when she was named the national Sailor of the Week.
Crew and Sculling
T.C. Williams High School is home to one of the nations finest high school crew programs and their boat house is located at 1 Madison Street. Adults who miss rowing or who would like to learn to row can take individual sculling lessons or crew lessons with the Alexandria Community Rowing Program based at the T.C. Williams boathouse.
In the Water
If you are not inclined to spring for a summer pool membership, there are still fun, affordable options open to those who want to occasionally indulge in a summertime dip. Those options include the indoor facilities at Chinquapin Pool at 3210 King Street, Mt. Vernon Recreational Center, located at 2017 Belle View Boulevard, as well as the outdoor options at the Charles Houston mini-pool at 901 Wythe Street, the John Ewald Pool mini-pool at 4500 Duke Street and the citys Old Town outdoor pool at 1609 Cameron Street. The Cameron Run Great Waves Water Park at 4101 Eisenhower Avenue is also open to the public seven days a week for those who want the wave experience of the ocean, a pool or a race down the giant water slides.
A Means to An End
The Potomac Riverboat Company of Alexandria offers options to get you from one point to another, whether it is from the city waterfront to National Harbor or Mount Vernon or just a leisurely cruise past the world famous monuments of Washington with an optional stop-off in Georgetown. Many people who regularly enjoy the various Potomac Riverboats can purchase an $80 annual pass for unlimited rides on the Washington by Water Monuments Cruise, with its Georgetown stop for those who wish to visit the historic Washington neighborhood, Alexandria-National Harbor Water Taxi, Alexandria Seaport Cruise on the Admiral Tilp, Pirate on the Potomac Cruise, Canine Cruise or the George Washingtons Mount Vernon by Water Cruise.
Landlubbers and water bugs alike will find that there is no shortage of water-related fun in and around Alexandria. So whether you are up for a river journey or in the mood to get wet, take the plunge and enjoy one of the citys wonderful water adventures.
For More Information …
Mule Drawn Barges on the C & O Canal
D.C. Ducks Tours
Canoeing and Sailing at Belle Haven Marina
Potomac Riverboats at 703-684-0580;
Washington Sailing Marina, 703-548-9027;
Alexandria Community Rowing www.rowalexandria.com
Alexandria City Pools 703-519-2160; http://alexandriava.gov/Recreation
Chinquapin Pool at 3210 King Street 703-838-4343
Charles Houston mini-pool at 901 Wythe Street
John Ewald Pool mini-pool at 4500 Duke St. 703-838-4677
Old Town Pool at 1609 Cameron Street 703-838-4671
Mt. Vernon Recreational Center Pool is located at 2017 Belle View Boulevard 703-768-3223
Cameron Run Great Waves Water Park is located at 4001 Eisenhower Avenue, 703-960-0767; www.nvrpa.org/parks/cameronrun/index.php