[Note: This post was written a couple of years ago. Some features at The Wharf may not be available right now due to Covid.]
This has been a weird summer for us. We’re doing some house renovations and, while exciting, it also has added a new level of hectic to our everyday. People are working in our space, loud noises are constant, boxes are everywhere, dust is everywhere, and there’s just general disarray (of both our digs and my mind).
Needless to say, we’ve been trying to get out of the house a lot — which isn’t too difficult given all there is to do around the area, not to mention exploring the area is kind of my thing. And one place that’s become somewhat of a new go-to hangout spot for us (on non-rainy days, anyway): The District Wharf.
The area at the southwest waterfront opened last fall after a few years of redevelopment, and it’s a major and much needed asset to DC, in my opinion. Where there used to be several large, unremarkable seafood restaurants dominating that stretch along the Potomac River is now a beautiful, lively riverside locale that really takes advantage of the location on the water and brings an easy-breezy vibe to this city that often feels a bit more buttoned up.
Much of the hype when it first opened was over its restaurant scene and outstanding music venue, The Anthem, but there is so much more to enjoy there — and for all ages. On nice days, you can easily spend a good few hours hanging out there with the kids.
There is a splash pad to play in, complete with rocking toys that are free to use. And it’s not just little ones who use it. Owen and Sasha and their friends have had fun in the sprays of water, plus we’ve seen older kids, adults, and even dogs enjoy them, too.
Large bench swings along the Recreation Pier require a stop. Sit or stand as you rock back and forth and take in the views or do some people watching. In the same area is The Wharf Boathouse, where there are kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for rent.
Further down Wharf Street, which runs nearly the whole length of the area and is driveable (watch out for cars!), you’ll find even more ways to enjoy some riverside recreation. The Transit Pier hosts a variety of activities, some that change with the seasons. There have been life-size games and outdoor concerts in the warm months, and the Wharf Ice Rink in the winter. The Water Taxi also operates from that area — you can catch a boat ride to (or from) Georgetown, Alexandria, and National Harbor.
There is also a big fire pit just off the main street that is great in winter, nice seating and lounging areas, the beautiful District Pier where festivals often take place, great people watching, not to mention the many eateries, shops, and smaller music venues.
The nicer restaurants tend to be the ones we hear about most, but there are a variety of options for a bite, including a few casual, very kid-friendly places. We usually go to Taylor Gourmet (Update: It’s now Grazi Grazi, and it’s still our fave), and Shake Shack and Brighton are good for young diners, too. The Fish Market next to the new development also makes for a fun stop if you want fresh seafood. If you’re looking for something sweet, Ben & Jerry’s, Dolcezza Gelato, and Milk Bar are all good choices. (KFDC Tip: If you want to keep costs down, BYO or buy treats at the CVS there, then find some nice seating by the river where you can enjoy them. I once ran into a friend who was doing just that!)
If you’re planning a visit to The Wharf, definitely check to see if any special events are going on. Along with big festivals, there are often other happenings like free outdoor concerts, sports watching parties, and special performances.
And another KFDC Tip: If you drive, you can park at East Potomac Park, then ride the free jitney over to The Wharf. Not only do you avoid the hassle and cost of finding a spot for your car, you get to enjoy a fun, little cruise over in a boat! (Update: The Jitney operates daily from April through November, but only on weekends December and March, closed January & February. Hours are Monday – Friday 12pm until 30 minutes before sunset, and Saturday/Sunday/holidays 9am until 30 minutes before sunset. If you plan to ride it, be sure to check the status and make sure its operating that day, as it could be out of service for maintenance or repairs.)
Oh, in case it isn’t obvious, this all comes with the gorgeous backdrop of the marina and Potomac River views — and plenty of ways to sit back, relax, and enjoy them.
The District Wharf is located between Maine Avenue and the Potomac River from 6th to 10th Streets SW. Admission is free.