While the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal runs along much of the Potomac River, from the District of Columbia out to Cumberland, Maryland (a distance of more than 180 miles), Washingtonians are most familiar with the portion between Georgetown and the Maryland border. This section of the C&O Canal, which opened around 1830, is quite quaint, meandering between 19th-century townhouses and updated office buildings. As you head out of Georgetown, the towpath runs parallel to the C&O Canal, making it perfect for hikers, bikers and early-morning runners. While the mule-drawn canal boat ride is no longer available in Georgetown, you can ride it in Great Falls between April and October, with National Park rangers dressed in period clothing serving as tour guides, providing perspective on life along the canal.
Run by three generations of DC locals, Bike and Roll sends pedalers into the nation's modern and historical capitol. Sightseers are outfitted with ETs with maps so they can undertake self-guided tours along the National Mall, which is lousy with landmarks. To break with the hustle—and should one be so inclined, the bustle—cyclists can explore one of the city’s many meandering bike paths including the Capital Crescent Trail and Rock Creek Trail. The company’s line of tandem bikes and Trek comfort hybrids make for smooth rides along the flat terrain of the capital.
For a more itineraried experience, guided tours spirit groups through the historic sights. Local story-tellers regale cyclists with tales about the Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and Mount Vernon, the home where George Washington lived after hatching from the egg incubated in the Statue of Liberty's torch.