What Does a Deluxe Washington DC Bike & Boat Tour Look Like?
For as long as I can remember, visiting Washington DC during the National Cherry Blossom Festival has been on my bucket list. This year – I finally got to check it off. And let me tell you – it did not disappoint.
Perhaps a lot of that had to do with how I approached this adventure. Being well aware of how crowded it can get during this time of the year in our nation’s capital, I chose to do a few things differently than I normally would while sightseeing in DC.
First, I went on a weekday – which typically means fewer crowds.
Second, knowing that even though it’s a fabulous walking city, I was a bit short on time, so I opted to do a private DC bike tour in the morning so that I could cover more ground – but still get up close and personal with those pretty petals via pedals. (See what I did there?)
And third, I booked a private DC boat tour in the afternoon to not only circumvent the crowd, but to see the city’s blooms from an entirely different perspective.
How did these strategies work out for me? Those three seemingly small decisions made for an amazing experience that I will always cherish. And for the record – I had gathered up a few friends to join me on this private sightseeing adventure and they all wholeheartedly agreed. Check out the following recount of our delightful day in DC to see exactly what I mean.
My posse and I arrived in Washington DC on a chilly Wednesday morning smack dab in the middle of peak cherry blossom season. Now when I say chilly, it’s all relative. It was probably in the low to mid-50’s which constitutes chilly for me. Although if you’re from the south, that might equal freezing to you. And if you are from, say, Canada – you might think that’s rather balmy.
But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that our fabulous tour guide Jeff let us know ahead of time what to expect as far as the climate was concerned, as he suggested we dress in layers due to the fact it was supposed to warm up a bit throughout the day. (Warm-up = mid 60’s in case you’re wondering.) Turns out that was fabulous advice as it did indeed warm up as the day progressed and we were able to shed those layers and stay comfortable all day.
We met up with Jeff at a pre-designated location, which just so happened to be where we arrived in town via train at Union Station. Here we were greeted with bicycles that were pre-selected for us based on our height – which we provided pre-arrival – and were thus the perfect fit. Along with the bike came safety gear in the form of a helmet, a souvenir water bottle – filled with water of course – and some snacks just in case hunger were to strike.
I took note that some of our bikes had pouches where you could store smaller objects – like a phone, sunglasses or wallet – however not all of them did. That being said, I suggest a small backpack just in case your bike is not equipped with “storage,” or you have other items you want to bring along – which is exactly what I did. Another thing worth noting is that there were tandem bikes available (someone in my group requested one) and electric or “E”-bikes are also available upon request – although we all opted for the good old-fashioned ones.
Once we were set up on our bikes our expert tour guide Jeff went over some basic but particularly important details. He detailed the route we were going to take via a map of DC so that we would be familiar with the surroundings as we passed them, did a quick safety review that included basic bike etiquette, did a little Q&A session and then it was time to roll – literally. And I must say – I don’t ever remember being that excited about a bike ride in my 50….umm… in my entire life!
Our journey first took us pedaling on up to the US Capital Building for some history lessons and photo ops – that also included a well-known congressman sighting. Much to my delight the view from behind the Capital was a straight-on view of the National Mall, the Washington Monument, and alllll the way down to the Lincoln Memorial, which – although it looked like all of these landmarks were very close to each other – Jeff informed us that it was actually almost two and a half miles of walking with large areas of land in between – for which we were all thankful for my bike decision.
Let’s see…from there we headed over to the District Warf – the newest “it” spot for dining, drinking and entertainment in DC and then biked over to the Tidal Basin. The Tidal Basin is probably what most of you think of when and if you think about the National Cherry Blossom Festival – as it is probably the most photographed area due to the fact that is literally engulfed by those spectacular cherry blossom trees. As we stopped to take it all in, we were treated to breathtaking views of the Jefferson Memorial, spotted the White House from a distance and also got to see the Floral Library which was currently touting tulips in a rainbow of colors.
From there we pedaled up to the Washington Monument where Jeff had plenty more trivia and tales to relate as well as some interesting photo opportunities – one of which included laying down at the base of the monument with our feet propped against it that made for a very cool perspective. The views from the Washington Monument standing up did not disappoint either, as now we could take in the World War II Memorial and the reflecting pool that sits between it and the Lincoln Memorial – which is the spot of some of DC’s most famous events throughout the years.
Our tour included many other sites along the way – including many of the 21 Smithsonian Museums – among them the striking Smithsonian “Castle,” and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture – which is the newest Smithsonian museum to open in DC (in 2016).
Our four-hour bike ride around DC ended at our starting point where we dismounted from our trusty two-wheelers and said our thank you’s and goodbyes. So – what were my takeaways from my fabulous DC bike tour?
Well, although I was worried about traffic initially – there was really no need. DC has plenty of bike lanes, bike paths and wide enough sidewalks so that maneuvering a bicycle around town is no problem at all. And our tour guide ensured the ride was all that I was expecting – including safe, at a comfortable speed, filled with history lessons, little-known facts, hidden treasures and many impressive views of those beautiful blossoms.
I would also like to note that although I opted to take this tour at this particular time of year, it’s certainly not just a great idea during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Biking in DC is a great way to take in the monuments, memorials, buildings and other landmarks any time of the year thanks to the fact that you can cover a lot more ground via two wheels than you can via your own two feet. Highly recommended by me as well as my travel companions that day!
Next up was our private speedboat experience – or as I like to call it – my amazing aqua adventure! Our particular experience started and ended at Cove Pier in the new District Wharf area due to time constraints, however, it is highly suggested that you opt to depart from one dock and end your tour at a different dock. Let me explain.
To maximize your boating experience, you might choose to ship out from the pier in Georgetown and then disembark at the pier in the District Wharf – or vice versa. This way there is no “backtracking.” But in my case, backtracking be darned – because I had one of the best tourist experiences of my life thanks to Captain Denny!
Ok, where was I? Ah yes – we met our fabulous captain and expert tour guide at the very easy-to-find Cove Pier in the Wharf District. And I am happy to report that there were bathroom facilities prior to boarding that can be found in their beautifully appointed waiting lounge/office area which is conveniently located right next to the dock where you actually board the boat.
The vessel itself was super clean and more spacious than I imagined. There were seats behind the captain’s perch that also had a table to sit around, there was a seat across from the captain and some comfy bench seating surrounding the front of the vessel. That day there were six of us, which is the maximum allowed, and we fit perfectly – and comfortably.
Now, you have the option of bringing your own food and drinks aboard for the ride, or you can get it catered, which we did on this particular day. We chose some super yummy food from nearby Gordon Ramsey’s Fish and Chips – which Captain Denny graciously picked up for us and handed out once we were all aboard.
As we left the dock and headed down the Washington Channel, we were greeted with wonderful views of the blossoms on our right that had made their appearance along the Hains Point Loop Trail which is located in East Potomac Park. On the left we passed by the Titanic Memorial – which was a hidden gem that I had no idea existed, as well as the National War College – which was also new to me, and I learned some interesting facts about both thanks to Captain Denny.
Next comes my personal favorite part of the tour – the airplanes. Yes. Airplanes. You see, as we rounded Hains Point and cruised on into the Potomac River – I immediately noticed – and pointed out quite excitedly – the planes that were landing one after another at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on our left, along the southwest shore of the river.
As I gushed about how cool it was to see them coming in for a landing so close to us, our fabulous captain took the opportunity to steer the boat into an alcove to idle where they were literally descending directly over our heads. We even got to see what they call a “wave off” where the jet had to abort its landing and head back up into the skies due to the presence of another aircraft already on the runway. Let me tell you – the little kid in me that used to love going to the local airport with my dad to watch planes take off and land was in her glory that afternoon!
But I digress. So, from there we headed north up the river where we caught sight of the Pentagon building, the Washington Monument (which I swear you can always see no matter where you are in DC!) and the backside of the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial – all of which were enhanced by the cherry blossoms along the banks of the Potomac that had bloomed in time for our arrival. Shout out to you, cherry trees!
The entire time we were out on the waters, our captain kept us entertained with lots of history – including a few pop quizzes! – as well as plenty of anecdotes and more little-known facts. And as a last hurrah, he even made a “donut” with the boat as we headed back to the dock squealing in delight – so much fun!
My takeaways on part two of my day? An absolute must-do. Again – not just during cherry blossom season – although it’s a great vantage point seeing them from the water. It’s just that I’m a huge proponent of seeing cities from the water that surrounds them when you have the opportunity. The quietness and calmness of being off the streets, along with taking it all in from a completely different perspective, is magical in my opinion. So, all that – along with a fabulous captain, new knowledge of our nation’s capital and lots of laughs – gets two thumbs up from me and my “crew!”
And there you have it – two incredibly fun ways of touring the city of DC that you may not have even known were an option! I also have to add that while these two experiences certainly complement each other – they do not have to be done back-to-back or even on the same day. And of course, the option is always there to just do one or the other. Whether you decide to do both or just opt to partake in one, I promise you that you will not be disappointed.
I can also promise you that you won’t be disappointed if you plan your DC getaway via those amazing Destination Experts at Beyond Times Square. Go ahead – give them a call – they’d love to set you up with these experiences and any other private tours that you might be interested in!