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The Best Kid-Friendly Places to go Water Tubing, Rafting, and Kayaking Within 3 Hours of Washington, D.C.

Things to Do DC/MD/VA
Calleva Family-Friendly Rafting Trip Calleva Family-Friendly Rafting Trip

With soaring summer temperatures upon us, this is the perfect time for the family to soak up some Vitamin D while cooling off and having fun in the water in the Washington, D.C. area! Pack up the family van and head to one of these family-friendly locations to rent some water gear. Choose from paddle boarding, tubing, kayaking, pedal boating, and add in some white water rafting for a thrilling family adventure! 

Little ones will be excited to spot fish and birds and the older kids will love racing and splashing each other while on kayaks or tubes. There are plenty of great places to have fun on the water in the Washington, D.C. area, including the Potomac River, Shenandoah River, Chesapeake Bay and more.

Check out our picks for the best kid-approved spots in the D.C. area to cool off while soaking up some more fun in the sun this summer!

Calleva Family Friendly Rafting Trip in D.C.

Potomac River in the Washington, D.C. Area
The whole family will enjoy a day out on the gorgeous Potomac River exploring the waterways, racing kayaks or jumping in for a dip. You'll be able to catch a new side of D.C. from the water, explore the beautiful scenery, and take stops along the sandy beaches right off the Potomac for a picnic or simply to relax.

Check out Mariner Sailing School for a variety of waterway gear rentals on the Potomac River. Choose between renting canoes, stand up paddle boards and kayaks. You can even explore the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, be on the lookout for birds, turtles, fish and more!

For a more adventurous family day on the water, check out Calleva, and enjoy a four-hour, family-friendly rafting trip on the Potomac below Great Falls! You'll take a short hike led by the trip leader to the River and then learn river safety. The rafting trip includes life jackets, helmets, and lunch.  Save 50% off a Family Friendly Rafting Trip with this CertifiKID deal.

Boating in DC operates several boathouses along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers in the D.C. area where you can rent kayaks, stand up paddle boards, canoes, swan boats, pedal boats, and sail boats so you can take in scenic views of the city's iconic landmarks and monuments from the water. You can rent from boathouses in Georgetown, The Wharf, National Harbor, the Tidal Basin, Old Town Alexandria, and more, providing a variety of fun, kid-friendly city locations to explore before or after your journey.

Harpers Ferry Adventure Center

Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
At the convergence of the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River lies Harpers Ferry, making the perfect spot for your choice of either mellow flat water tubing or more adventurous whitewater rafting or tubing.

Check out Harpers Ferry Adventure Center in nearby Purcellville, Virginia. They offer a selection of both whitewater tubing and flat water tubing and whitewater rafting and kayaking on unique and picturesque stretches of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. You can even go tubing on BOTH rivers in the same day! Save up to 25% off a whitewater rafting trip at Harpers Ferry Adventure Center with this CertifiKID deal. 

When the water portion of your journey comes to an end, explore all the fun activities Harpers Ferry Adventure Center has to offer, like ziplining (Save 25% off here) and aerial ropes course (Save 25% off here). Too much fun to pack into just one day? Extend the fun by renting one of Harpers Ferry Adventure Center's cozy cabins. Save 28% off a cabin rental

Before you leave Harpers Ferry, spend some time exploring this charming and historic community with its quaint shops and great restaurants.

Watermelon Park Tubing

Shenandoah River in Berryville, Virginia
If your family needs some time to disconnect from busy summer schedules, take a trip to the Shenandoah River. This is a great spot for a relaxing day floating along the river taking a dip in the calm water or even fishing. The Shenandoah offers gorgeous mountain views, scenic farmland, limestone cliffs, and plenty of wildlife.

If a quiet day floating along the river is what your family needs, then check out Watermelon Park River in Berryville, Virginia. This location offers a three-hour relaxing tubing trip down the scenic Shenandoah. They offer tubes with and without bottoms and tethers and ropes so everyone can float down together. There is also no internet service at Watermelon Park River, making it the perfect summer spot to disconnect, cool off and make memories. Save 12% off a river tubing adventure at Watermelon Park with this CertifiKID deal. After tubing, head to the playground so the kids can shake off any extra energy and enjoy some sno-cones from the nearby snack stand.

Monocacy River in Dickerson, Maryland
The name "Monocacy" is derived from a Native American word that means "river of many bends." While the river does have its fair share of bends and turns, it also offers a breathtaking view of nature and wildlife.

Rent a river tube, water cooler tube or choose a guided tubing tour from River Island Outfitters. All tubes from River Island Outfitters come with a cup holder and headrest, providing the maximum comfort for a lazy day on a lazy river. Be on the lookout for bald eagles, and when it gets too hot, take a dip in the cool river water.

When your trip on the river ends, treat yourselves to Rita's Italian Ice. There are several locations around River Island Outfitters no matter which direction you take to head home. An icy treat is the perfect compliment to a hot day on the river.

Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia
Located an hour south of Washington, D.C. lies the Rappahannock River. Named after the Rappahannock tribe, the river's name means "river of quick, rising water," meaning this river is quite wild and unpredictable. The Rappahannock River is scenic and fast, making it an exciting river to explore, but beware of swimming here, as the current is strong and the river floor uneven.

Check out Virginia Outdoor Center to find rentals for tubing, paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing. They also offer all-day passes for tubing, meaning a never-ending lazy river for the whole family. Or explore a new section of the river, due to the removal of the Emry Dam, by kayak or canoe. This is the most challenging course they offer, but you will be rewarded with beautiful scenery.

End the day at Old Mill Park exploring the trails and playgrounds, or take a quick trip to the Children's Museum in Fredericksburg. If you are done exploring for the day, head to a local diner to reward the family with breakfast for dinner.

Paddle or Pedal on the Chesapeake Bay
Photo Courtesy of Paddle or Pedal

Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland
The Chesapeake Bay is only an hour's drive away from the Washington, D.C. area and is the perfect spot to explore the open water and compete to see which family members are fastest on the water. The Bay offers plenty of fun water activities to choose from like kayaking, canoeing, pedal boat, sailboat, and stand up paddle board.

Check out Paddle or Pedal if your family loves the water, but can't ever agree on the watercraft. At Paddle or Pedal, everyone has an option and you can even team up on the watercraft for racing competitions and water battles. Best of all, you can test your family's teamwork on a five-person stand-up paddle board! We can't guarantee you'll leave the Bay dry, but we can promise a day full of family fun in the sun! 

KidShip Sailing School offers private family sailing lessons, allowing you to explore the Annapolis Harbor and Chesapeake Bay on a 24' Rainbow sailboat with an instructor aboard to teach you the ropes! Your family will learn all the basics of sailing, while spending quality time together having fun. Save 20% off a private family sailing lesson at KidShip Sailing School with this CertifiKID Deal

After your time on the Bay is over, take the fun to dry land by exploring Quiet Waters Park or bring the dog to the Quiet Waters dog beach. 

Occoquan Reservoir at Lake Ridge Park Marina in Woodbridge, Virginia
The beautiful Occoquan Reservoir on Lake Ridge Park Marina is home to many wildlife including ducks, eagles, osprey, heron, reptiles fish, and beavers. With its calm waters and bountiful wildlife, the Occoquan Reservoir is a great spot for your next family kayaking or paddle boarding adventure.

Rent a kayak or paddle board from Penguin Paddling and enjoy an evening spotting the wildlife and looking for the beavers. Parents, this is a great spot for a date night as they offer tours up until an hour before sunset, so you can watch the reservoir glow in the light of the golden hour. After your adventure, head to Madigan's Waterfront Restaurant for dinner, which is located right in front of the reservoir, and then take a walk around Olde Town Occoquan and reminisce about the day's exciting wildlife sightings.

You can also rent from Lake Ridge Golf & Marina, where you can choose between canoes, pedal boats, kayaks, stand up paddle boards and jon boats. Afterward, enjoy a picnic at one of their picnic tables and grills while the kids explore the playground. You can also find hiking trails, horseshoe pits, and enjoy a round of miniature golf.

River Tubing on the James River

James River in Natural Bridge, Virginia
For a true getaway out of the city head to Natural Bridge, Virginia for river tubing on the James River, offering beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Natural Bridge is home to the enormous and breathtaking naturally existing rock bridge, quite a sight to see and definitely worth a family road trip!

Take the family on a river tubing adventure at River Tubing on the James River located in Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park. The whole family will enjoy a day (or two!) on the river. Float along the river and take in the breathtaking views of Natural Bridge for a few hours. Save 40% off your James River tubing outing with this CertifiKID deal. And if your family wishes to stay a little bit longer and have a real getaway experience, you can save on your stay to Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park with this CertifiKID deal!

For more kid-friendly fun in this summer, check out 13 Kid-Friendly Wineries and Breweries in the Washington, D.C. Area.

Tags: Tubing Rafting Kayaking Paddle Boarding DC Area Outdoor Family Fun


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