Everyone is ready for some water fun to cool off these toasty temps. We’re rounding up the best wharfs, piers and boardwalks to visit this year. All waterfront and all full of fun, these splashing spots are perfect for any hot summer afternoon. The best part? Each one is only a quick road trip away. Pack up the car and save this list of six waterfront DMV destinations.

Ego Alley - Annapolis, MD

City Dock is the historic heart of Annapolis, where it connects with the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and where you can connect with the water, too. Watch the boats parade around the turning basin of "Ego Alley," shake out your sea legs aboard the tour boat Harbor Queen or man the wheel of the graceful Schooner Woodwind. Simply relaxing at City Dock is a significant reason why people visit Annapolis.

Don't forget to stop by Storm Bros. Ice Cream Factory for one of their tasty treats. For over four decades, the brothers that own the shop have become an essential part of the community. In September of 2003, the business was virtually destroyed by the record-setting flood caused by Hurricane Isabel. Within hours of the waters receding, the shop was again flooded, but this time with offers to help rebuild. Due to the efforts of so many people, they reopened in thirteen days.

1 Dock Street
Annapolis, MD

photo: National Harbor

National Harbor

This waterfront spot was founded on George Washington's vision to create a thriving city of trade, culture and government on the banks of the Potomac River. Located just across the water from his Mount Vernon estate, National Harbor is a destination that offers people a place to find a little of everything they want. You and your family can explore this beautiful 10-mile stretch of the Potomac.

Grab tickets to soar 180 feet above the Potomac River waterfront to marvel at the area's most iconic sights and hidden gems on The Capital {ferris} Wheel. Enjoy an Americana-themed carousel featuring whimsical creatures, a newly-built playground, toddler play area and picnic tables. And stop by every Thursday, pack chairs, grab food from one of the delicious restaurants and meet at the Plaza screen for free movie night fun!

Fort Washington, MD

photo: Gabby Cullen

Ocean City, MD Boardwalk

Take a walk on the Ocean City Boardwalk to explore an iconic East Coast pedestrian thruway. The award-winning boardwalk is home to unique hotels, fabulous restaurants, and attractions befitting a world-class seaside resort. The Boardwalk itself is open 24/7. The Ocean City Boardwalk is three miles long and perfect for a morning bike ride or an evening stroll to take in the gorgeous ocean views. Whether during the off-season or at the height of summer, there's always something going on along the boardwalk.

No visit to this famous boardwalk is complete without a stop at Thrasher's French Fries. In 1929, a Georgian known as Mr. J.T. Thrasher proposed a food stand concession specializing in only one product: the noble french fry. His idea? Simply to produce the best tasting french fry ever eaten—past, present, or future. He did! And you don't want to miss it.

Ocean City, MD

Neabsco Creek Boardwalk

For an off-the-beaten-path option, check out this ¾-mile boardwalk that traverses Neabsco Creek, allowing hikers access to wetlands where the tall grasses and marsh filter pollution from the river and provide a rich habitat for a ton of extraordinary wildlife. The walkway is part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, which was established by Congress in 1983, designating an 800-mile trail network stretching from the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania to the Potomac River, winding through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia. The boardwalk is ADA compliant and encompasses educational sites that highlight information on native wildlife and plants.

Check out the weekly activities calendar, and don't miss the Aquatic Explorations adventure class. Your little ones can explore the inhabitants of the wetlands with a net. They'll get up close with a magnifying glass to see who is living in the water and what that tells us about the ecosystem. The nets are provided, so you just have to sign up and show up.

Neabsco Regional Park
15125 Blackburn Road
Woodbridge, VA 22191

The Wharf

Home to the nation's longest continually operating open-air fish market, The Wharf has transformed into one of D.C.'s most exciting waterfront destinations. The accessible riverfront, including four different themed piers, makes for a ton of family fun. The Wharf is conveniently located only four blocks from the National Mall.

The best spot for kids to enjoy is Wharf Kids Water Park, a splash pad with a great picnic spot nearby. You and your crew can cool off and enjoy a few hours of that D.C. summer sunshine. After you dry off, go on a treasure hunt to find all 30 historical markers and plaques (and read about The Wharf history on the District Wharf App). If you want more fun, take the free Wharf Jitney to ferry across the Washington Channel to East Potomac Park.

760 Maine Ave
SW, Washington, DC

photo: istock

Locust Shade Park Pier

Located next to the Marine Corps Heritage Museum and minutes from I-95, Locust Shade park offers much more than scenic beauty, tranquil water, and picturesque trails. Amenities include eight pavilions (available to rent), playgrounds, tennis courts, volleyball courts, 3.2 miles of scenic nature trails, a 15-station fitness trail, batting Cages, a driving range, an 18-hole miniature golf course, fishing in an eight-acre pond and amphitheater that presents family entertainment during the summer season.

With all that, this spot is about the pier. The accessible fishing spot is the perfect place for your little one to reel in their first catch. From on-site clinics to camps, first-timers can learn everything about the basics of pond fishing. Your little angler will learn different ways to fish and how to target different species of fish. They provide the equipment but welcome you to bring along your lucky rod if you choose to.

4701 Locust Shade Dr
Triangle, VA

—Angelica Kajwara


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