Chesapeake Bay is home to legendary beautiful waters, diverse flora and fauna, and Paddlefest, an annual paddle-sports event organized by the team at Ultimate Watersports. Held on the Gunpowder River, which flows into the bay, the festival shows off the industry's latest toys, allowing attendees to try out brand-new kayaks and paddleboards on the sparkling fresh water. For the rest of the season, Ultimate Watersports brings its know-how to the shores with kayak tours, paddleboard lessons, and sailing trips that have remained a bay fixture for more than 26 years. Waterfront enthusiasts seek out the company's reliably well-maintained and up-to-date watercraft to do everything from gain a windsurfing certification to practice heckling standup paddleboard comics. Additionally, seasonal kids' camps help youngsters to stay active while gaining an appreciation for watersports and the splendor of the outdoors.
Sound Excursions describes their carefully curated group experiences as "field trips for adults." It's easy to see why: every outing takes groups to a new realm of Washington, whether it's the frothy shores of Puget Sound, inland forests and mountains, or tables at Seattle's thriving restaurants. The events held at these diverse locations range from culinary workshops on topics such as sushi-making and moonshine-tasting, to adventurous excursions with whitewater rafting or kayaking, to laid-back themed party cruises. For many outings, luxury transportation is provided.
At Potomac Paddlesports, the first professional kayak school to be endorsed by the American Canoe Association, the team of American Canoe Association– and British Canoe Union–certified instructors patiently lead students through a methodical progression of flat-water paddling skills. The classes cover a variety of watersports, including whitewater rafting, river and sea kayaking, and standup paddling. The small-group classes are designed to keep students engaged, and longer trips down the Potomac challenge their skills with powerful rapids surrounded by lush scenery, interspersed with rare glimpses of bears putting on their bear suits. Outside of class, students can bond with fellow paddlers during weekly sushi meals and occasional movie nights. Further demonstrating their dedication to bodies of water, Potomac Paddlesports works to preserve the nation’s rivers, estuaries, and oceans, sharing this passion with its members through advocacy and donations to conservation programs.
When Pete and Kate Vonderheide moved from Hawaii to Annapolis to live closer to their family, they thought they'd have to give up a career of ocean kayaking to resume responsible office jobs. Soon they recognized the historic city harbor's lack of kayak tours and knew they couldn't stay inside forever. Their shared passion for history spurred them to research and interview the locals until they'd compiled enough historic material to start leading tours. Today, their tours can teach something new even to locals.
The Vonderheides continue to assemble a team of outdoor guides certified in CPR and first aid who all bear a well-researched knowledge of area wildlife and history. These experts lead two-hour scenic tours through the historic harbor. Starting each excursion with a brief paddling lesson, they put first-timers at ease with basic instruction and an amiable demeanor, unlike guides who rely only on their convincing Captain Ahab impressions. Excursions begin at the Spa Creek headwaters in Truxtun Park and lead participants into open-harbor waters to drift in full view of the state capitol building, the US Naval Academy, and historic Eastport. Trips peak at the City Dock, where participants receive a break to take photos and rest. On the return trip, guides field open-ended questions about city history such as presidential visits, the crabbing and oystering trade, and whether George Washington had to swim using floaties.
Terrapin Adventures never fails to live up to its name—even their swing set gets the stomach fluttering with excitement. To be fair, though, the swing in question is anything but the traditional apparatus you'd find at a city park. It seats three people and starts its trajectory 40 feet above the ground, generating 2Gs of force as it swishes riders back and forth over the landscape. The park's other attractions are equally exhilarating. On the high ropes course, visitors attached to sturdy safety harnesses cross 18 traverses situated between lofty platforms; some must be tackled via a rickety bridge, while others require leaps of faith. The 43-foot high climbing tower offers 10 routes up and down, including a head-first downward climb over the Rainbow Serpent. Otherwise, the 330-foot-long zipline sends visitors gliding through the treetops at speeds of up to 20 mph, fast enough to beat the USA track team's star squirrel.
Calleva at National Harbor organizes adventures that traverse land, water, and air, each designed to inspire the intrepid with the bounties of nature. A terra-based encounter, the guided bike ride over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Mount Vernon Trail combines the thrill of physical activity with the wonder of american bald eagle and bald presidential monument sightings. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekends, pedal pumpers are treated to panoramic views of the Potomac River. If the allure of the deep overcomes grounded wanderings, embark on a watery outing in a solo kayak, canoe, or tandem kayak, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. After a mind-stretching lesson on paddling and water safety, boat brethren can drift through the National Harbor in their floating vessels and explore the shores of the District and Alexandria, stopping occasionally to feed breadcrumbs to migrating politicians.