Navigate the Potomac River

1. Where to Stay

Inside the Hotel Helix.Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Helix

Watch the rivers flow at the Ledge House Bed and Breakfast (from $85), where rooms feature views of both the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and private entrances. There’s no need to rent a car, as Ledge House is near both the Amtrak and MARK stops in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Get in on the party at Hotel Helix (from $99), a former HoJo’s transformed into an oasis of affordable chic in DuPont Circle. Specialty rooms have surfing wallpaper, bunk beds, and red lava lamps, though most accommodations feature comfortable queens and kings with a fresh paint job and funkier bedspreads (fake-fur blankets!) courtesy of what could be the biggest Ikea shopping spree of all time.

The W Hotel (from $299) opened last month near the White House with Phillipe Starck furniture and room names like “Wonderful” and “Marvelous.” Meet the latest crop of the best and the brightest at the POV’s rooftop bar.

2. Where to Eat

Catch a game at Comet Ping Pong.Photo: Courtesy of Comet Ping Pong

Get served at Comet Ping Pong, a hipster-heavy pizza parlor in the Upper Northwest with rough concrete walls, bathrooms hidden behind secret panels, and table tennis galore. Thin-crust pies from the wood-burning oven are as much of an attraction as the regularly scheduled live bands.

Eat haute cookout at Ray’s Hell Burger (1713 Wilson Blvd.; 703-841-0001) in Arlington, the lowbrow addition to Michael Landrum’s meat empire, where burgers are made from farm-raised, house-aged prime beef and come with myriad toppings, from Taleggio cheese to applewood-smoked bacon.

Play drinking games at the H Street Country Club, a Mexican-themed bar and restaurant near the Hill. Lay down quarters to reserve a spot at the pool tables, play shuffleboard, or traverse the nine-hole indoor mini-golf course, complete with giant Lego men.

Eat straight from the river’s bounty at Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant and Crabhouse in Dumfries, Virginia, about an hour’s drive south of D.C. on the widest point of the Potomac. Fill up on crabs, clams, and scallops at the tiki bar or waterside patio.

3. What to Do

Take a hike around the river or go tubing through it. Photo: Courtesy of Capital Hiking Club (left) / Butts Tubes (right)

Revel in laziness at Butts Tubes near Harpers Ferry and rent an inner tube (from $27) and a floating cooler ($15)—score beer and ice at the adjacent general store. A van will transport you to the mouth of the Shenandoah River. For the next two hours, slip under bridges, gaze up at cliffs, and stop to tan on the flat rocks midstream.

Paddle through tony Georgetown in your kayak from the Thompson Boat Center. Get great views of the Watergate complex, Kennedy Center, and Theodore Roosevelt Island Park. If you’ve got the arms for it, you can even paddle right up to the steps of the Jefferson Memorial.

Hit the hills with the Capital Hiking Club, a nonprofit organization that runs weekly guided hikes through the forests and beaches of Appalachia (from $28). Catch a bus from D.C. to your destination, including Shenandoah National Park or Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs.

4. Insider’s Tip

Pre-game at the Bullpen near Nationals Park. Photo: Courtsey of the Bullpen

The Bullpen is the baseball equivalent of Water Taxi Beach, but along the Anacostia River in Washington’s desperate-to-revitalize “Waterfront District.” It’s an abandoned construction site across from Nationals Park that has become the new pre- and postgame scene, with a huge outdoor bar, cheap eats (burgers, hot dogs, and tacos), a family-friendly carnival, and a concert space that features live bands on game nights. There’s no entry fee and the beer is cheaper here than at the stadium, thanks to a Budweiser sponsorship.

5. Oddball Day

Be a spy in D.C., then break for lunch at Café Atlantico. Photo: Courtesy of the International Spy Museum (left) and Café Atlantico (right)

Slip into your best Jack Bauer impression with the International Spy Museum’s Spy in the City program, which launched this year ($14). Participants get earphones and a GPS unit, which beams out instructions, codes, and audio clips as you walk around the city and try to stop a terrorist plot out to destroy D.C.! Celebrate your heroics nearby with lunch at El Bulli alum José Andrés’s Café Atlantico or or snack at the adjoining MiniBar. After lunch, tour the newly renovated Ford’s Theatre Museum, where interactive-media exhibits are presented with artifacts like John Wilkes Booth’s fateful Derringer. The theater’s fall season begins in September, with Frank Higgins’s dramatic musical Black Pearl Sings.

*Correction: The original version of this story suggested that minibar by José Andrés was easily accessible. The restaurant takes reservations one month in advance.

6. Links

Find brunch spots, hotels, and live entertainment listings written in short quips for Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia on Sneaky Sunday.

The well-organized DC City Blog has its pulse on hot spots around the capital. Watch interviews with hot chefs on their DC City Blog TV, or keep informed with their Twitter page.

Ride more rivers, both near and right inside the capital, thanks to’s great guide to kayaking in D.C.

Navigate the Potomac River