David Coleman / Alamy

The river scene pops with maritime attractions—a boisterous fish market, social sails, and a Navy museum—and baseball.

Travel + Leisure
January 14, 2014

A few blocks south of the National Mall, Washington swaps its suit and wingtips for Bermuda shorts and Sperry topsiders. In the warmer months, festive tour boats ply the languid waters of the Potomac and the Anacostia rivers, providing passengers with a swan’s-eye view of the city’s monuments. Onshore, merchants at the municipal fish market artfully arrange their daily catches, and landlubbers at waterfront bars tip their cocktails to passing leisure craft. For hundreds of years, the watery highways have supplied the area with abundant commercial and recreational opportunities, even during the bleaker periods. Most recently, the riverside has been a catalyst for change, sparking revitalization projects that stretch from Southwest to Southeast and include sections around the Washington Navy Yard, the military branch’s oldest shore base. One development worth a rousing cheer: the new Washington Nationals stadium, which threw out its inaugural pitch in 2008. And in true river fashion, water taxis transport fans to the baseball games.

Cantina Marina

Opened at Southwest Waterfront’s Gangplank Marina in 2003, this casual eatery is the only marina restaurant located on top of the water. Situated between dinner cruise ships and the U.S.S. Sequoia presidential yacht, Cantina Marina offers unique views of the Washington Monument rising over boats docked on the channel. The restaurant includes a dining room housed in an octagonal tower and a split-level patio, both of which have a beach-inspired atmosphere with fake palm trees, fishing nets, and occasional live music. The menu features an unusual combination of Cajun and Mexican dishes, including the signature fish tacos and crawfish étouffée.

Mandarin Oriental Washington DC

With stunning views of DC's waterfront, the Mandarin Oriental enjoys a well-deserved reputation for tranquility. That status is also thanks to the hotel's 10,500-foot spa with an amethyst steam room, sauna, vitality pool, ice fountain, and cold-plunge pool. Located near the Tidal Basin, this is a perfect place to stay during cherry blossom season.

Washington Nationals Park

When the field is quiet, the Washington Nationals baseball stadium unlocks its gates for a behind-the-scenes peek. Tour stops include the dugouts (home and visitor’s), clubhouse, indoor batting cages, luxury suites, and the Nats’ bullpen, where visitors can throw a fastball in their own imaginary bottom-of-the-ninth, bases-loaded scenario.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater

The Tony award-winning Arena Stage has been presenting new and classic American plays for more than six decades. In 2010, it unveiled the Mead Center for American Theater, which stars three performance spaces and a theatrical lobby with a café and stunning waterfront views—all the more reason to arrive early for the show.

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

The Navy museum, one of only 14 in the country, focuses on the long and thrilling history of the military branch, covering major wars and model ships as well as Arctic expeditions and deep-sea explorations. The Navy Yard is also home to the USS Barry, a Forrest Sherman-class destroyer that served in Beirut, Cuba and Vietnam before retiring as a civilian attraction in 1982.

Westminster Presbyterian Church

The spiritual center describes itself as “not just a church,” an accurate characterization considering its extracurricular activities. Every Friday and Monday nights, the Westminster raises the roof with live jazz and blues jams. And on Wednesdays, the sanctuary fills with oms and giggles during Laughter Yoga.

Washington Design Center

Discover your dream house–or at least your fantasy bathroom and lighting fixtures–at this showcase and shopping center of high-end home décor. The seven floors of decorated spaces illustrate the tastes and creations of more than 50 interior designers.

Maine Avenue Fish Market

Open since 1805, the Maine Avenue Fish Market is something of a local landmark. The market comprises more than 10 seafood vendors selling crabs, oysters, clams, filets, shrimp, Maine lobster and more. Come just to soak up the atmosphere, or buy a bushel of steamed crabs for your own feast.

DC Sail

Sail into the rosy sunset aboard the 65-foot schooner, American Spirit, part of the National Maritime Heritage Foundation’s community sailing program. Boaters with proven sea legs can captain a Flying Scot or Flying Junior, while novice sailors can help crew during Wednesday night social sails.

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