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17 Things to See & Do at The Wharf in Washington, DC
The revitalization of DC’s historic Southwest Waterfront community has led to one of the city’s newest destinations for dining, shopping and entertainment – all on the water
Home to the nation’s longest continually operating open-air fish market, The Wharf has transformed into DC’s most exciting waterfront destination. Phase one of the sustainable neighborhood development opened to the public in mid-October 2017, with retail, restaurant and other openings continuing over the next year. Reconnecting the rest of the District to the Southwest Waterfront, The Wharf features DC's most accessible riverfront, including four different piers, each with their own theme.
Make your way down by water, shuttle bus or bike and enjoy public piers and parks, locally grown dining concepts and a show at the city’s newest music venues. The Wharf is located only four blocks from the National Mall.
The Anthem solves the age-old problem prominent rockers and hot hip-hop stars face when performing in DC: What’s bigger than the legendary 9:30 Club but more intimate than an arena? The answer is the acoustically optimized, 6,000-seat concert hall operated by I.M.P. (of 9:30 Club fame). We urge you to find tickets early, as the venue’s first show, Foo Fighters, sold out in about three minutes. See who’s coming soon.
The Wharf’s phase one will bring more than 20 new restaurants and bars to DC opening now through spring 2018, including new concepts from award-winning and Michelin-starred chefs, fast-casual favorites and even a distillery. The culinary creations of Fabio Trabocchi are no secret, but the Michelin-starred toque behind Fiola brings Spanish fare – specifically coastal dishes native to Mallorca – to DC’s waterfront with Del Mar. Former Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella’s French brasserie, Requin, can be found in the heart of The Wharf’s District Square. Expect epic waterfront views from indoors or the large outdoor patio and an array of new dishes from executive chef Michael Rafidi. And what would waterfront dining be without oysters? Slurp down bivalves at local favorites Hank’s Oyster Bar and Rappahannock Oyster Bar. But that’s not all – there are plenty more dining destinations you can expect to find at The Wharf.
Without the Maine Avenue Fish Market, there would be no Wharf. Crab- and oyster-stocked barges have been serving up fine seafood here since 1805, making it one of the Southwest quadrant’s most revered landmarks. Make your way to Jessie Taylor Seafood, The Virgo Fish House or Captain White’s Seafood City for ready-to-eat delights. All vendors are open while their spaces are being upgraded with modern fish-cleaning facilities and a restored oyster shed, plus the new Market Square, rum distillery, coffee and doughnut shops, and more – all opening in spring 2018.
A stroll down the cobblestone-lined Pearl Street will lead you straight to Pearl Street Warehouse, The Wharf’s cozy venue channeling the Americana vibes of legendary music halls around the country. Get up close and personal with your favorite rock, country or blues artist, where every seat is a front-row seat and you’re never more 25 feet from the stage. The harmonious pairings of classic all-American diner fare, craft brews and cocktails make a trip to The Pearl a musical experience you won’t soon forget. Check out the lineup and plan your visit.
On Recreation Pier you can catch some rays in lounge chairs, take a seat at any of the outdoor desks or swoop back and forth on a modern swing sets, all while marveling at gorgeous views of the Washington Channel. For even more adventure, head over to the boathouse and rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard to get out on the water.
In addition to a cadre of dining destinations, The Wharf is home to a wide variety of shopping options, from local artisans to global name brands. Head to Ligne Roset for contemporary home designs, Harper Macaw for delectable chocolates with a mission to assist in tropical reforestation or Anchor, a boaters’ one-stop-shop for everything from snacks and gear to sailing advice. Then continue your shopping excursion at these shops at The Wharf.
Water taxis pull up to this pier, but it’s also got plenty of fun and games. In summertime, the pier features a mini-golf course, which becomes a skating rink in winter. Grab a seat in the built-in steps of the pier and rock out to entertainment on the Floating Barge. If you’re looking for even more great tunes, Transit Pier leads right to The Anthem, DC’s newest music venue.
The Southwest Waterfront has a track record for hosting unique, one-of-a-kind events. Well, The Wharf enhances the calendar with everything from Pumpkin Palooza and Zombie Rides to the District’s Holiday Boat Parade and the Running of the Chihuahuas on Cinco de Mayo. Check out the latest upcoming events at The Wharf.
The Wharf’s official beacon greets vessels slowly passing through the no-wake zone. But it’s also good for pier-goers, too, who can crowd around The Torch and marvel at the 14-foot gas-powered flame.
DC’s famed indie bookstore couldn’t have found a more exciting spot to open its second brick-and-mortar location. P&P devotees can expect more of the same from this on-the-water locale, including frequent author visits, book signings and an on-site coffeehouse.
Jutting out 450 feet, The Wharf’s largest pier was designed to be a photo-friendly, awe-inspiring open space for hosting events. Driving this point home is its Dockmaster Building found at the end of the pier, which boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and hosts weddings and other private functions. The pier serves as The Wharf’s most brilliant backdrop for public festivals and private events, and it hosts large galas as well as outdoor performances.
Kick back in the verdant environs of this natural riverside park. Walking trails and picnic-friendly plots are some of the features at 7th Street Park, but the coolest thing might be the waterworks: an interactive fountain features spouts, cooling misters and multi-color LED lights.
Set to run daily every 10 minutes, the free, open-to-the-public shuttle bus seats 50+ passengers and makes four stops. The bus is outfitted in a sleek, all-water wrap, and picks up and drops off at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro/VRE station, the National Mall at 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW, L’Enfant Plaza on 10th Street SW and The Wharf.
What’s cooler than a free shuttle? Rolling up to Transit Pier in a water taxi. The Wharf currently services water taxis from Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria in Virginia with one-way fares of $10 for adults, $7 for children (ages 2-11); round-trip fares are $18 for adults and $12.60 for children. Service to and from National Harbor in Maryland will also begin soon.
Hop aboard the dog-friendly, 12-seat motorized ferry and marvel at natural wonders – such as the cherry blossom trees lining the water’s edge. You can catch the Jitney from Recreation Pier and end up in wide-open East Potomac Park, where you can make a day of it golfing any of three ways: regular golf, mini-golf or foot-golf (think: soccer, but on a golf course with huge holes). Tennis, bicycling, running and swimming round out the array of activities you can have before its time to voyage back to The Wharf – for free.
Post up at Canopy by Hilton Washington DC The Wharf, Hyatt House Washington DC / The Wharf or InterContinental Washington DC – The Wharf. Sweeping water views in nearly every room, a rooftop bar named Whiskey Charlie and an all-day euro-style cafe can be found at Canopy. Planning on staying for a while? Then consider Hyatt House, where the nearly 150 suites come with a full kitchenette – perfect for cooking up the catch of the day from the historic fish market. The luxurious InterContinental hotel features 278 elegantly designed guestrooms and suites, as well as former Top Chef contestant Kwame Onwuachi’s Kith and Kin specializing in Afro-Caribbean fare.
When the weather is nice, look for outdoor yoga classes on Recreation Pier. So bring your mat and take in the vibes at this scenic waterfront spot.
The Wharf is one of many major development projects breathing new life into the Southwest Waterfront. Discover all of the activities, arts and local history in this historic neighborhood.