16 Top Things to Do at The Wharf in Southwest DC with Kids

Kim Orlando Avatar
Sit for a bit by the first at the Wharf in DC.
The Wharf in DC. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

The Wharf in DC, also known as Southwest Waterfront, is the hot new neighborhood in Washington DC, just a short Metro ride (or a free shuttle bus!) to the National Mall. Opened in late 2017 along the Washington Channel of the Potomac River, The Wharf has great new restaurants, music venues, live theater, a gorgeous riverwalk and plenty of ways to enjoy the water. Here are the 16 top things to do at The Wharf in Southwest DC, including a hip new place to stay in this hip new neighborhood.

The writer was hosted for this trip.

16 Top Things to Do in Southwest DC

1. Wander The Wharf in DC

Cities from Baltimore to New York to London have spiffed up and rebranded their waterfront neighborhoods. Now that list includes Washington DC, with this newly redeveloped waterfront along the Potomac River in Southwest DC. The Wharf includes luxury apartments, boutiques, entertainment and restaurants. Take the time to wander around, enjoy the view and eat some really good food.

2. Hang Out by the Fire

The sculptured firepit on Recreation Pier at the Wharf offers a cozy place for conversation (or to make your own s’mores). Sadly, I didn’t have time to dawdle by the fire this time around. But on my next visit, I will certainly allow time to for awhile by the fire, watching the water and marina as the sun sets.

Wander along the waterfront at The Wharf in DC.
Spend some time wandering along the waterfront.Photo credit: Kim Orlando

3. Stroll Along the Southwest Waterfront Path

Make time along the walk to swing on one of the bench swings facing the water. Next time, I will bring a book and settle in for a lovely afternoon.

4. Walk in the Park

There are three parks here: 7th Street Park, Waterfront Park and Banneker Park. I spent my time in 7th Street Park. It’s made for active travelers with walking trails and – I love this – stand up desks. Next time I visit, I’ll bring my laptop for a little fresh air working break.

Get a free bike loan at Canopy by Hilton at The Wharf in DC.
Bikes are available from Canopy by Hilton, or from DC’s bikeshare program. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

5. Bike the Southwest Waterfront

The Riverwalk Trail System runs alongside the Anacostia River in Southwest DC. It ultimately will be a 20-mile continuous route. The 10-12 foot wide trail accommodates runners, bikers, skaters and walkers. There are seats for resting and relaxing along the way, system maps and bike racks.  This time, I used one of the free bikes available from Canopy by Hilton Washington DC, where I stayed. Bikes are also available through Capital Bikeshare, DC’s public bike program, at rental stations on Main Avenue at 7th and 9th streets.

6. Take a Water Taxi to Alexandria

There are lots of ways to get around, but kids love water taxis, almost as much as they love trains. The water taxi here is seasonal, but during the nicer weather, you can take it from The Wharf to Georgetown and to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. You can transfer at Alexandria to Gaylord and National Harbor in Maryland.

7. Take a Free Shuttle Bus or a Free Water Ferry

The free neighborhood Low Emission CNG shuttle offers daily service to the National Mall and L’Enfant Plaza. The National Mall, of course, is the heart of DC, home to the Washington Monument and several Smithsonian Museums, including the incredible National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The free Water Jitney crosses the Washington Channel from Recreation Pier to East Potomac Park. That’s a man-made island with a public golf course, driving range, and miniature golf course. This is definitely what my husband, the golf nut, would have done if he was with me on this trip. East Potomac Park also has a public swimming pool and tennis courts.

8. Taste Fresh Crawfish at the Nation’s Oldest Fish Market

This is where I learned to eat crawfish. I happened to be walking along the wharf when I noticed Captain White Seafood Market. When I told the woman at the counter I had never eaten crawfish, she offered me one, along with a lesson. Here’s the scoop – you stick your thumbnail in at the base of head, break it, then get a good grip on the tail before sucking the meat out of the shell. It was yummy, but I would rather have the crab legs, which the shop also sells. If I stuck with the crawfish, it would take at least a hundred to fill me up.

9. Let a James Beard-Winning Chef Make You Dinner

Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi is a two-level waterfront Spanish and fresh seafood restaurant run by James Beard-winning chef Fabio Trabocchi and his wife, Maria. There are plenty of other restaurants at The Wharf in DC, including Hank’s Oyster Bar, Jenny’s at The Wharf for Asian cuisine,  Kith and Kin for African food, and Mi Vida for Mexican. And, of course, there’s fast food at the Shake Shack or Cantina Bambina on Transit Pier, which serves to-go items like quesadillas, bagels, and frozen custard. And you’ll find authentic pub experiences at The Brighton, a British pub, and Kirwin’s on the Wharf, an Irish pub.

The Wharf in DC at sunset
The incredible sunset view. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

10. Take in the View From the Rooftop

Head to Canopy by Hilton for a drink at Whiskey Charlie, Canopy’s rooftop bar. This is the first Canopy Hilton in the US, although many more are planned to open in 2018 and 2019. Even if you don’t drink, the rooftop bar is a must-stop just to take in the view.  The bar and the outdoor patio overlook the old and the new. I saw an old boat being renovated into a new restaurant, and the new walking paths and parks that were still under construction during my visit in the fall of 2017.

Take a free water taxi to the National Mall from the Wharf in DC to see the famous cherry blossoms.
Cherry blossoms in Washington DC. Photo by Yvonne Jasinski

11. Cruise the Harbor

Entertainment Cruises offers a bunch of sightseeing and dinner cruises. I would love to come back in the spring to take the special cruise to see Washington’s famed cherry blossoms from the water.

12. Hop on the Metro

No car needed.  Washington DC’s Metro is one of the best subways systems I have used. The Green Line stops at 4th and M streets in Southwest DC.

13. Catch a Special Event

The Wharf in DC has a regular schedule of special events. When I visited, it was “broom ball and brews” or “curling and cocktails” on the ice rink in the winter. The schedule is here.

14. See a Live Performance

The Wharf is all about live performance. There’s an “acoustically advanced” concert hall called The Anthem (and, no, I don’t know what that means since I didn’t get a chance to take in a show while I was there). And, of course, there are several restaurants and bars with what I can only assume is less acoustically advanced live music. There also are street performers. Pearl Street is closed to cars every afternoon to make it easier to stroll along in search of food, drinks and music. And there’s a floating barge stage that offers performances throughout the year.

Things to doat The Wharf in DC with family - walk along the marina.

The marina in Southwest Waterfront DC. Photo credit: Kim Orlando

15. Get on the Water

It wasn’t warm enough when I visited, but I would love to bring my teens back during warmer weather to rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard and get out on the water for a day of fun in the sun.  The marina at The Wharf also offers sailing lessons.

16. Stay at a Hip Hotel

This newly redeveloped Southwest DC neighborhood is home to an innovative new Canopy by Hilton hotel.  The brand debuted in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Wharf location opened in October 2017.  When I arrived, I offered my Hilton Honors rewards number and my gold status landed me a waterfront view suite – an upgrade where I, literally, could see the difference. Watch this video to see what I mean:

My room had floor-to-ceiling glass to take advantage of that view. My suite included a “barn door” separating my bedroom from the dining area, which also helped reduce hallway noise. I loved the local touches; my welcome chocolate made by a local chocolatier, a cocktail tasting involving a local syrup maker and the DC area map that is the wallpaper behind the television.

The hippest hotels are all pet friendly and Canopy by Hilton takes that to the max. Dogs get their own goodie bags, with locally made dog treats, along with a bed, leash and food bowl, and a map highlighting dog friendly businesses nearby.

You can read my full Canopy by Hilton review.

And Canopy by Hilton has several family friendly freebies: free Wi-Fi, artisanal breakfast (think freshly baked flatbread from a wood burning oven) and a daily tasting, featuring local craft brew and local distilleries. My older son is legal now, so we can enjoy this together. Mike Anderson, the “Chief Enthusiast” at Canopy, said he changes the tastings daily, and has even brought in a local syrup company that he uses in craft cocktails.

Kim Orlando, founder of SheBuysTravel, is a lifelong traveler, an entrepreneur and a sought-after social media and marketing consultant. She has made hundreds of appearances on TV and in digital and print media, sharing advice and tips built on decades of travel experiences. Hailing from the hills of Kentucky and taking her story to New York, Los Angeles, and beyond, Kim built an online platform, the original TravelingMom, that has reached millions of moms and empowered them to explore the world with their families. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel. Kim has been featured on “News Nation,” “Today,” “Good Morning America” and on numerous satellite media tours. She has contributed travel guidance to outlets including The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and more. (Read more about Kim’s media appearances here) Her travel mantra is simple: All travel counts. “You don’t have to go far. Leaving your home is travel,” Kim says. “Wherever you go, even just to the next town over, you can learn something new, see someone and something you haven’t seen before. “It’s good for the brain and good for the soul.” An epiphany in early parenthood started Kim on the journey that led to SheBuysTravel. She’d been a fan of a newsletter for women travelers, and she saw an opportunity. “I thought something like that for moms could be extraordinarily helpful,” she said. “I was traveling for work, traveling for fun, and I was looking for support.” That seed grew into the award-winning website TravelingMom, created as a resource for traveling families of all stripes. Today, TravelingMom has evolved into SheBuysTravel, with an expanded mission to serve women travelers at any stage of life. Millions of readers have visited the site for trip planning help, travel secrets, destination information and gear recommendations. What sets SheBuysTravel’s content apart, Kim says, is its foundation in real-world experience. “Our writers and editors have actually gone out there and done this stuff,” she says. “They’ve booked the flights, tried the tour, tested travel clothing, visited that new hot spot to see if it’s worth the hype. It’s all real.” Memorable Adventures A 2022 tour Kim guided to Bhutan was a particularly standout experience. “Bhutan sounds so exotic, of course,” she said. “But the part where my heart just glows and warms is thinking of the people we met – amazing women doing amazing things in Bhutan.” Their ranks included a former police officer whose ventures into food science helped mitigate food insecurity for residents of Bhutan’s highlands. Top Tips Planning for travel can be daunting, Kim acknowledges. “I always say: Go anyway. No trip is going to be perfect. There’s always going to be something you didn’t expect, something that doesn’t go the way you pictured or planned it. And that something is what’s going to make it a great trip.” And on a practical note: “Go early! Getting to the airport or hitting the road just an hour earlier relieves so much stress.” Kim’s Background Kim, a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, holds degrees in finance and entrepreneurship and has deep experience in developing and running businesses. Her previous work includes developing and running communications workshops and overseeing document management for corporations. SheBuysTravel hits a sweet spot where Kim’s two loves of travel and entrepreneurship meet. “The longer I work in this field, I only want to do more,” she says. “I find the travel world so exciting – not just the trips, but the whole online world of travel. There are still so many opportunities.” The World Awaits “The ‘best trip ever’ probably won’t be the same for an empty-nester or mom of three versus a single woman celebrating a bachelorette party with her friends,” Kim says. “We want to keep it real for traveling women, no matter what their age, life stage, where they came from or where they’re going. “We want to inspire women to travel in any shape or form.” In her free time, Kim enjoys visiting her adult kids, creating trips and traveling with her BFFs to explore the world. Her most recent adventures can be found on InstagramFacebook and LinkedIn.
Read full bio

4 responses

  1. Love all the transportation options, especially the water taxi & ferry

  2. We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental around 6 months ago. A lot of the waterfront was still being renovated then. I bet it’s amazing to see it now. We got dinner at the market at least 2 times that trip. I still laugh thinking about all the stares we got cracking open crabs on the cocktail tables in the hotel lobby.

  3. 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *