Take a River Cruise for Sightseeing in Washington, D.C.

River cruise boat waiting alone the boardwork

Rachel Cooper

It can be fun to walk the same cobblestone streets of America's founding fathers, but sometimes your feet just need a rest. A river cruise along the Potomac River can be a fun and family-friendly way to see the spectacular views and iconic sights of Washington, D.C.

One tour company that has been operating for more than 20 years, Capitol River Cruises, offers a 45-minute historical narrative sightseeing tour of the district aboard smaller-sized, semi-open river boats, the Nightingale and Nightingale II.

The Sights

If you fancy yourself as more of a passive sightseer or you have limited time to visit Washington, then a river boat cruise might be right for you. On their boats, you can see well-known sights such as the Kennedy Center, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, and the Lincoln Memorial—all in under an hour.

In addition, the cruise narrator will point out Key Bridge, Memorial Bridge, Roosevelt Island, Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove, the Watergate Complex, Maritime Memorial, and the Custis-Lee Mansion. 

During Cherry Blossom season, the river provides a picturesque vantage point of the blooms. The Cherry Blossom season can start anywhere from mid-March to mid-April and last for about two weeks.

Washington at Night

Taking in the sights of Washington at night from the Potomac can be breathtaking. If you are a night owl or want a slight change of scenery, then the Capitol River Cruises night cruise option might appeal to you during the summer months. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the cruise company has an evening sailing.

Cruise Details

Capitol River Cruises depart from Georgetown at Washington Harbour at 31st & K Streets, NW, Washington, D.C. Cruises run hourly, every day, from April through October and during the warmer months there is an additional evening cruise.

Tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the dock. Cash, check, and credit card options are available. Snacks and beverages, including alcoholic selections, are for sale. If you have a private group or plan to have a party, you can charter a cruise.

The Capitol River Cruise Crab Boat is another option offered by the same company, which can be chartered for your own crab feast on the Potomac. You can charter this boat for 10 to 40 people for all the Maryland blue crabs you can eat for three or more hours. The per-person cost includes an open bar of beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages, as well as all-you-can-eat corn, hush puppies, and coleslaw.

More Options

If you are interested in a more leisurely or lengthier cruise and would prefer more amenities or a more luxurious experience, there are a multitude of other sightseeing cruise options. For a higher price, the following boat tour operators offer Potomac cruises with buffet or multi-course dining and entertainment options: Spirit Cruises and Odyssey Cruises.