Tag Archives: Activities with Kids in DC

Bike the Anacostia River Trail to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (to see the big bloom!)

On the way to see the bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens


I always make a point of going to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this time of year to see the lotus flowers and water lilies in bloom. It’s absolutely stunning, and definitely my favorite of all the big blooms in the area (yep, I even love it more than the cherry blossoms). As I’ve noted before, that partly has to do with its location in Northeast DC, next to a residential neighborhood and not far from 295. You just don’t expect a fairyland of a park full of ponds covered in lily pads and with gorgeous white and pink flowers sprouting from them to be there.

This year, I decided to bike to KAG for the bloom. It’s not too far from where we live, about a five-mile ride from our house on Capitol Hill, and the Anacostia River Trail leads right to it. I’d never ridden on that stretch of the bike path, and it turned out to be a nice little jaunt. Owen and Sasha are away at camp for a couple of weeks, so this was a solo adventure, but I know they would enjoy it, too. I’d also recommend the ride for younger kids who are comfortable biking several miles at a time (accompanied by adults, of course).

The ride mapped out

The first stretch of the ride

I caught the trail at Benning Road, just past RFK Stadium, then rode along the Anacostia River for a scenic mile or so. That section ends at Lee Street, then you ride on the street for a bit until signs lead you back onto the trail that runs through the Mayfair and Eastland Gardens neighborhoods.

Following the path through a residential area

The turn into the Aquatic Gardens area

Another mile or so on that, and you come to the area of the trail that leads to the Aquatic Gardens. The paved path lined by black-eyed Susans (Maryland’s state flower, for a bit of trivia) and other wildflowers traverses a meadow before winding into the woods, the KAG marshland visible through breaks in the trees.

The trail flanked by wildflowers

There are a few small areas with benches where you can stop and take in the sights. I saw several great blue herons wading, turtles swimming, and what looked like many cardinals flying by. It’s lovely and peaceful, though the trail is somewhat isolated so be sure to stay aware of your surroundings.

Into the woods

Stop and sit for a bit

A heron sighting

Of course, this ride can be done anytime you want to visit Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The locale makes for a nice outing all year round, it’s just especially pretty now during the bloom. However, it does get hot and buggy during the summer, so a water bottle, hat, sunscreen, and insect repellant are recommended!


After crossing a couple of small bridges, there is a dirt path to the right that leads to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens entrance. Sign posts are at the trailhead so you can’t miss it. From there, it’s less than a quarter mile to the bike racks. Lock up, make your way to the ponds, and be ready to be dazzled.

A first look at the bloom

For more about Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, see this post. For more about the lotus flower and water lily bloom, see this one. And note that the annual festival celebrating them will take place July 13-14 this year, and it’s a fantastic event for families. In the meantime, here are more scenes from the ride and bloom — I can’t let photos that capture the beauty of it all go to waste!

From here to there and there to here…


Lotus flower close-up


Stop and take in the marsh views along the way


The plants from another perspective


Pinks!


A lily pad laden pond


Another view from below


A lotus beginning to open


Taking it all in from a footbridge


A pretty and peaceful part of the Anacostia River Trail



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Filed under 2019, All ages, Annual, DC, Free, Nature, Park, Seasonal, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend

Go with the Flow: Recreation on the Water in DC and Beyond

Exploring the Anacostia by canoe

Exploring the Anacostia by canoe



A great way to enjoy a warm weather day is on the water, where you can paddle (or pedal or sail or float or motor) as you take in the scenery and explore. There are a bunch of places around the DC area where you can do all of the above, and if you’ve been reading KFDC for awhile then you probably know we’ve enjoyed many of them. While some are detailed in individual posts, here’s a convenient round-up of them all along with a few more places where you can go with flow around DC.

* Boating in DC now runs many of the boathouses in DC and nearby, including Fletcher’s Boathouse, Ballpark Boathouse, Key Bridge Boathouse, National Harbor, Thompson Boat Center, the Tidal Basin, Washington Sailing Marina, and The Wharf. The website has general info on all of them, and more details are below.
Canoe | $25/hour
Single kayak | $16/hour
Double kayak | $20/hour
Rowboats | $14/hour or $25/day
Stand-Up Paddleboard | $22/hour
2-Person Pedal Boat | $18/hour
4-Person Boat | $30/hour
2-person Swan Boat | $34/hour

Flethcher’s Boathouse
Where: Just off the C&O, 4940 Canal Rd. | Northwest DC
When: Saturday – Monday, April through October
Rates: see above

Our go-to for paddling on the Potomac. Canoes, kayaks, row boats, and stand up paddleboards are available for rent for some fun on the river. Fletcher’s is also a great place to enjoy a picnic and Potomac views — an open grassy area includes grills, tables, and space to toss a Frisbee. If you can, get there by bike — just off the C&O tow path, it’s conveniently located for cyclers. Read more about Fletcher’s here.

Key Bridge Boathouse
Where: Beneath the Key Bridge | Georgetown, DC
When: Saturday – Monday, April through October
Rates: See above

They have canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, plus lessons, fitness classes and special tours. You can paddle, then enjoy even more fun at Georgetown Waterfront Park (play in the sprays!), which is a hop, skip, and jump away.

Tidal Basin Pedal
Where: DC Tidal Basin | National Mall Area, DC
When: Saturday – Monday, April through October
Rates: $18/hour 2-person boat, $30/hour 4-person boat, $34/hour 2-person Swan boat

Get a new view of DC and take in iconic sites as you pedal your way around the Tidal Basin. Pedal boats are for rent next to the Tidal Basin parking lot just off Maine Avenue.

Thompson Boat Center
Where: Washington Harbour | Georgetown, DC
When: Sundays, mid-April through October
Rates: See above

Located right next to the Washington Harbour, it’s a great place to put in for lovely views of the Kennedy Center and Georgetown from the water. Canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddleboards are available.

National Harbor
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: Daily, mid-May through October 7
Rates: See above

Paddling and pedaling on the Potomac are just some of the many activities offered at National Harbor. You can also go for a spin on the Capital Wheel, ride a carousel, romp on the playground, eat at one of many restaurants, shop, and more. You may not want to do this all in one day — but you can if you do! Read more about water activities and more at National Harbor in this KFDC post.

Ballpark Boathouse
Where: Diamond Teague Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Weekends & Wednesdays, May 12 – October
Rates: see above

Canoes and single and double kayaks are available. This paddling excursion on the Anacostia is more about the views from the water than the nature around it, since the area is very developed. You can get fresh perspectives of Nationals Park, Yards Park, and the Navy Yard, places most of us usually just see on land. Read more about Ballpark Boathouse in this KFDC post.

The Wharf Boat House
Where: Southwest DC
When: April – October
Rates: See above

The newest paddling location in DC offers kayak and paddleboard to explore the area from the Potomac River. Of course, before and/or after your water excursion, plan to spend time at the new waterfront hub full of restaurants, music venues, and fun for all ages.

Capital SUP
Where: Yards Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Late May through summer
Rates: Start at $15/hour kayak & $25/hour paddleboard

Just opened next to Yards Park in the Capitol Riverfron, these ambassadors to the sport of stand up paddleboarding offer paddleboard, kayak, and pedalboard rentals, plus guided lessons and tours. Located at the end of the Anacostia Riverwalk right next to the Washington Navy Yard gate, Capital SUP DC is a convenient and beautiful location for a fun, active adventure on the water this summer.

Washington Sailing Marina
Where: Old Town | Alexandria, VA
When: Friday, Sunday, & Monday, May – September
Rates: See above

If you want to set sail on the Potomac, you can rent a small sailing boat at this location. Kayaks and stand up paddleboards are here, too. It’s located right off the GW Parkway near DCA.

Bladensburg Waterfront Park
Where: Bladensburg, MD
When: April through October
Rates: See below

One of the better deals around. For $20/resident and $26/non-resident, you can rent canoes and kayaks to explore the Anacostia (and apparently you can paddle to the National Arboretum) for the whole day! Paddle and row boats are $10/hour, $25/day for residents, and
$13/hour, $33/day for non-residents. They also offer pontoon boat tours on Thursdays & Fridays at 12pm, and Saturdays & Sundays at 5pm ($2/PG resident, $3/non-resident). Read more about Bladensburg Waterfront Park in this KFDC post.

Quiet Waters Park
Where: Annapolis, MD
When: April through October
Rates: $15-20/hourly, $45-60/full day + $6/car admission

Enjoy paddling opportunities on the South River at this beautiful park in Annapolis. Be sure to take advantage of recreation on land too — you can hike, bike, check out art, picnic, and more! Read about a KFDC adventure at Quiet Waters here.

Solomons Boat Rental
Where: Solomons Island, MD
When: April through October
Rates: Start at $89/hour

Rent your own pontoon (or other motor powered boat) for an excursion on the Patuxent River. Located on Solomons Island, this outfitter rents in one, two, four, or eight hour blocks. Boats accommodate many people, so you can share the cost. Bring along food for a picnic on the water, and plan to jump in for some swimming, too! Read more about the experience in this KFDC post.

Seneca Creek State Park
Where: Gaithersburg, MD
When: May through Septeber
Rates: See below

It’s worth the drive from DC, not only because they have great paddling rates, but also because it’s a beautiful park with lots to do along with the on-water fun. Hike, bike, play disc golf, enjoy an awesome tire playground, and so much more. And pontoon boat rides are offered Saturday and Sunday at 2pm and 4pm for $2 per person.
Boat rental rates:
Canoes and Rowboats | $8/hour or $28/4 hours
2 Person Pedal Boats | $8/hour or $28/4 hours
1 or 2 Person Kayaks | $9/hour or $32/4 hours
4 Person Pedal Boats | $12/hour or $40/4 hours

Pohick Bay Regional Park
Where: Lorton, VA
When: March 10 – October 8
Rates: Vary by vessel (see website)

This was first recommended by a KFDC reader, but we’ve been since (though not for paddling yet). They have kayaks, canoes, pedal boats and stand up paddle boards, and jon boats. Rentals are available weekends only until May 25, but daily after that until September 3 (then only weekend again). Other activities at the park include hiking, playground fun, camping, mini and disc golf, and a swimming pool. Read more about Pohick Bay here.

River Riders
Where: Harpers Ferry, WV
When: Memorial Day – Labor Day, 8am – 6pm & Spring/Fall, 9am – 5pm
Rates: Start at $34, but vary by activity

If you want to take your water recreation up a notch, opt for a day trip or overnight out to West Virginia. With actual river rapids, they offer white water rafting and kayaking for exciting guided and self-guided adventure on the water. For more mellow fun, float down the Shenandoah or Potomac on a tubing trip.

* On Thursday evenings during late spring and summer, and the first Saturday of the month May – October, the Anacostia Watershed Society hosts the free Anacostia River Discovery Series. Launching from different area parks from 5:30-7:30pm, paddlers can explore the river by kayaks and canoes, and those joining boat tours can enjoy the ride on an open air boat. Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Anacostia Park, Kenilworth, Diamond Teague Park, and Kingman Island are locations for these adventures. Be sure to check the schedule, as a few of these nights are bike and walking tours.


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Filed under DC, Maryland, Nature, Outdoor, Seasonal, Sports, Spring, Summer, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend