Popular with families looking to get out on the water this time of year, the pedal boats at the Tidal Basin are a favorite tradition. But if you are not quite ready to show off your spin class stamina, or you just want to relinquish the helm for a few hours, tack and jibe with your crew aboard one of these DMV pirate ships, fancy cruises, or floating pontoons.

photo: Don Sampson via flickr

Sail the Bay
Join other visitors to the Calvert Marine Museum for one hour daily cruises around Solomons, Maryland’s  Inner Harbor, aboard the William B. Tennison, one of two traditional Chesapeake Bay vessels moored here. Or check out the Special Cruises schedule, including a July 4th fireworks cruise, Mom’s and Dad’s Day outings, and a Kids’ Pirate Pizza Cruise on May 25. 

Online: calvertmarinemuseum.com

Float on a Pontoon
Both Prince George’s and Montgomery County Parks in Maryland offer pontoon boat tours, open air rides perfectly paced for kids and families.  Head to Bladensburg Waterfront Park on the Anacostia River for an interpretive tour Thursdays through Sundays, or Black Hill Regional Park in Boyds, MD for weekend and holiday launches. See also Black Hill’s Spring activities guide for information about popular evening Bats and Beavers Pontoon Cruises for kids 6 and up, as well as daytime Storytime on the Lake programs for younger water enthusiasts. Burke Lake Park in Fairfax County has regular public launches and programs this Spring like Birding on the Boat for kiddos ages 8 and up, and a Full Moon Boat Tour on May 18 for ages 6 and up. Lake Farifax also offers public boat tours where kids two and under ride free.

PG County Boat Tours- pgparks.com
Black Hill Boats-
Burke Lake Park- fairfaxcounty.gov

photo: Pablo Garcia via Unsplash 

Ride Back in Time
Visit the towns of Dickerson, MD or Leesburg, VA and cross state lines in less than 10 minutes as you and your brood cross the Potomac without exiting the car, or learn about 19th century C&O canal boat traffic aboard a mule drawn ride out of Great Falls. The Jubal A. Early at Whites Ferry is the last surviving cable ferry out of about 100 and dates back as far as 1787, when it linked farmers to markets across the region via the C&O, and later carried Civil War soldiers back and forth. Great Falls Canal Boat Rides are guided by park rangers in period clothing who describe life on the canal, and introduce visitors to the system of locks that kept commerce afloat for almost 100 years between Washington and Cumberland, MD.

White’s Ferry- visitloudoun.org
Great Falls Canal Boat Rides- nps.gov

photo: rubylia via Pixabay 

Cruise the Potomac
For what’s probably the best bargain on the Potomac, Capitol River Cruises’ one hour tour of the city’s iconic memorials makes it perfect for young seafarers. Or, if it is time to walk the plank, get ye to National Harbor for Urban Pirates cruises where families are advised to arrive early for approximately 30 minutes of boarding activities including pirate costuming and naming. Boomerang Pirate Ship’s Family Treasure Hunt cruise departing from Georgetown, features a water cannon battle at sea. Other outfitters, including Odyssey Tours and Alexandria’s Potomac Riverboat Co., offer fancy brunch cruises for most holidays. You can even cruise with Fido, too. The Riverboat Co.’s canine cruise is popular with families, along with water taxi service to Nationals Park, and tours of Mount Vernon, the memorials and The Wharf.

Capitol River Cruises- capitolrivercruises.com
Boomerang Pirate Ship- boomerangpirateship.com
Urban Pirates- urbanpirates.com
Odyssey- odysseycruises.com
Potomac Riverboat Co. potomacriverboatco.com

—Carolyn Ross



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