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Washington DC Boat Tours + Cruises

comprehensive comparison of the boat tours and cruises offered in Washington DC.

Updated: October 28, 2023

Boat tours offer you a unique perspective of Washington, D.C and Virginia. During a Potomac River cruise, you can enjoy unique views of some of the city's famous landmarks including the memorials on the National Mall, Old Town Alexandria, and National Harbor.

Rather than providing an interesting account of our nation’s history, these services often include meals and entertainment.

While some companies offer cruising options during the day, others focus their attention primarily on night tours.

With so many different options, it can be difficult to pick the right excursion for your schedule.

Taking this into account, we’ve decided to offer a comprehensive comparison of the boat tours and cruises offered in Washington DC.

Prices range from $25-$40 for a boat tour and $80-$100 for dinner cruises.

Guests in our Washington DC Travel Tips Facebook Group often ask about boat tours!

A few Frequently Asked Questions about Potomac River cruises:

Q: Can you see the White House from a DC boat tour?

A: No! You won't be able to see the White House at all. We have a list of the best views of the White House, though.

Q: So what CAN you see from a Potomac Cruise?

You'll be able to see Kennedy Center, Georgetown, Memorial Bridge, Teddy Roosevelt Island, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, the Watergate, and Lincoln Memorial.

During the Cherry Blossom season, you'll be able to see the blooms from the river.

Some routes you can also see Old Town Alexandria, Arlington House and possibly JFK's eternal flame depending on weather and time.

Q: What should you wear on a boat tour?

A: There are not always dress codes, though some of the nicer meal (dinner and lunch) cruises could do with a freshen up if you've been touring all day! Some of the lunch and dinner cruises do not allow sneakers or ripped jeans.

Also keep in mind that on the water it is usually cooler so if you're taking a tour outside of the peak heat of summer, you may want a shawl or jacket.



There are several different riverboats that will take you down the Potomac River and provide a wonderful view of Washington DC’s greatest monuments from the water.

While some will offer commentary about the various monuments you can see from the river, others will play music and give you the opportunity to take some fantastic photographs.

If you’re looking for an affordable and fun boat tour of the nation’s capital, consider one of the following services.

City Cruises

This company offers a large variety of cruises that depart from multiple docks around the city, Alexandria, VA, and the National Harbor in Maryland.

Potomac Riverboat Company DC

Ticket prices for all of their tours are between $25-$45 for adult round-trip fares, which is pretty reasonable.

Pricing for water taxis and transportation services are similarly structured.  

Washington Monuments Cruise

See many of the most notable monuments and memorials in DC from the water. Operates from late March through October.

Departing from Alexandria, VA, and Georgetown in Washington, DC.

Friday - Sunday

  • Adults: $22 One Way | $35 Round Trip
  • Children: $16 One Way | $23 Round Trip
  • Free for kids under 3

Note: This tour is currently unavailable as of July 2023.

Cruise length is 45 minutes for a one-way trip and 90 minutes for a round trip.


Reviews and ratings for the Potomac Riverboat Company are typically very good. The company has received a 4 out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor.

Some services have better or worse review profiles, so we link to each one below.  

Capitol River Cruises

If you’re looking for a short cruise on the river, this is probably one of the most affordable options.

In addition to historical narration, they also provide a refreshment bar with spirits, soda, and snacks.

This cruise is included for free with USA Guided Tour's Discover DC Tour.

Tour Schedule and Pricing

Capitol River Cruises provides service from Spring-Fall. Tours are offered daily starting at 12 pm and every hour on the hour afterward.

The last tour is at either 7 pm or 8 pm depending on the season. This is their sunset cruise!

Ticket Price:

  • $25 for Adults
  • $15 for Children
  • $21 for Seniors/Military
  • Taxes not included
  • Book here.

Tour Length:

  • 45 minutes


Although this service is perhaps the most economical in Washington DC, reviews on TripAdvisor (read the reviews) indicate that it may not be the best experience you could have on the river.

Customers complained about poor service and unimpressive narration.

This service seems to be best for saving money and to enjoy a short cruise on the water.

Those who enjoyed their trip recommended a sunset tour in order to see the monuments and memorials in an entirely new light. 


See the sights in Washington DC as you enjoy a wonderful meal while cruising down the Potomac.

Several different companies offer dining cruises in our nation’s capital, and most of them are highly rated.

Although you can expect music on many of these trips, some cruise ships simply play pre-recorded classics while others hire live musicians to play onboard.

Services range from 3-course meals to buffet style dining. Prices range from $50-$60 for a lunch or brunch cruise and $80-$100 for a dinner cruise.

Odyssey Cruise

More elegant than many of the other cruises, the Odyssey is appropriate for those hoping to dress up and enjoy a leisurely evening cruise along the river.

Alternatively, the Odyssey is also available for corporate events, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and school outings.

This ship is larger than most, with the potential to provide comfort and luxury to hundreds of guests.

Each cruise includes a three-course meal and live music.

For around $100-$130 per person, you can experience everything that the Odyssey has to offer during one of their dinner cruises.

They also offer Brunch and Lunch cruises at a much lower price.


Odyssey Cruises has earned a 4-star rating on TripAdvisor, with most guests reporting that they had an excellent time.

Some reviewers were displeased with both the food and the service, stating that it was not worth the money.

Considering that they offer live music in addition to the cruise and the dinner, the ticket prices for an Odyssey Cruise are actually quite fair.

Although some passengers have reported an unimpressive experience, it would appear that this doesn’t happen very often.

All of these trips are offered pretty much year round. As long as they have enough passengers, the boat will disembark.

Prices will fluctuate depending on when you book your ticket.

Dinner Cruise Ticket Prices: $219+ per person

Brunch Cruise Ticket Prices: $159+ per person

Spirit Cruises

This cruise line is run by the same company that owns and operates Odyssey Cruises. However, there is actually a notable difference between the services.

While Odyssey is more of a premium experience, Spirit Cruises focuses on providing a fun trip for all types of audiences.

Instead of a three-course meal, you can expect a buffet with freshly prepared food.

Live music is replaced with DJ music and interactive games.

Tickets are much more affordable than some of the other dining cruises on our list.

Sunset Dinner Cruise Ticket Prices: from $166 per person

Lunch Cruise Ticket Prices: $124+ per person


In comparison to their sister company, Spirit has a slightly less impressive rating of 3 ½ stars on TripAdvisor.

While some have complained about a lack of servers, others have indicated that they received excellent service.

Even those who didn’t enjoy the trip or the food had to admit that the view was quite spectacular.

Guests who enjoyed their experience seem to disagree entirely with those who didn’t like the food or atmosphere.

Families, couples and people on business trips were most likely to leave positive reviews.

Disembarkment depends upon how many people book tickets for a cruise.

Prices fluctuate depending on when you purchase your ticket.


Taking a cruise to and from Mount Vernon is a great alternative to the typical tours of our nation’s capital.

Rather than bothering with a rental car or public transportation, a cruise will transport you directly to the plantation’s wharf, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of the Potomac River along the way.

There are two different companies that offer tours to Mount Vernon.

One company's service, the Spirit of Mount Vernon Cruise, is already included for free with the DC Sightseeing Pass.

If a boat cruise isn't for you, then consider an organized bus tour or taking mass transit to the estate, and be sure to read our guide to Mount Vernon Estate before you go.

Spirit of Mount Vernon Cruise

Note: Tour is currently unavailable as of July 2023.

In addition to transportation to and from Mount Vernon (admission included), you’ll also learn a lot about the history of this area while on your cruise.

The Spirit leaves from Pier 4 at 6th and Water St. SW, which is about a mile from the National Mall in Washington DC.

The trip lasts approximately 1 ½ hours and departs from D.C. at 8:30 am. You will arrive at Mount Vernon at 10 AM and spend about 3 hours at this historic location.

The return cruise boards at1:15 pm and will make its way back to Washington D.C. at 3 pm (15:00). The cruises take place from March through October.

Ticket Prices

  • $55.95 for Adults
  • $49.95 for Children
  • Kids under 2 ride free
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

This excursion is already included for free with the DC Sightseeing Pass.


Reviews for The Spirit of Mount Vernon are actually pretty good, averaging almost 5 out of 5-stars on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read the reviews).

Potomac Riverboat Company

This company offers a similar cruise that departs from Alexandria and National Harbor, making stops at the Gaylord Hotel and National Harbor before arriving at 12:00 pm at Mt. Vernon Estate.

The return trip boards at 4 pm (16:00), affording you up to 4 hours at this historic plantation.

As with the Spirit cruise, roundtrip fare includes the price of admission to Mount Vernon.

Ticket Prices

  • $61.55 for Adults
  • $54.95 for Children
  • Kids under 2 ride free

NOTE: This company is no longer in service as of July 2023.

Prices increase by $2 per ticket during weekends and $4 per ticket during holidays.


Reviews for their Mount Vernon service are very favorable, averaging almost 5 out of 5-stars rating on TripAdvisor and Viator (read the reviews).


Water taxis are an excellent and relaxing mode of transportation, especially if you need to get to and from Washington, DC to Old Town Alexandria or National Harbor. or from the Wharf to Georgetown.

However, water taxis are not a good method of transportation for getting around Washington, DC and the memorials and monuments of the National Mall.   

There is no water taxi stop on the National Mall, though you will pass by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial between the Wharf and Georgetown.

Currently, there are two different companies offering this service. Expect ticket prices to range from $10-$30 per passenger.  

Sometimes, a water taxi is also a tour and vice-versa.

Potomac Water Taxi

This is the only company currently offering water taxis in Washington DC.

Thankfully, unlike other competitors in the past, this service daily operates all year long.

Currently, the Potomac Water Taxi offers service to the National Harbor, the Wharf, Alexandria, and Georgetown.

Their water taxis are available from 11:25 am - 9:25 am, so they are not ideal for early morning travel.

However, if you're in need of transportation across DC in the afternoon or early evening, this is an excellent option.

If you're interested, they also offer a free audio tour you can use on the water taxi. They have three separate audio tours to use depending on which direction you're traveling and what you want to learn about.

One Way Ticket Prices

  • $22 for Adults
  • $16 for Children (2-11)
  • $20 for Seniors/Students/Government Workers
  • Children under 2 ride for free

Return Ticket Prices

  • $35 for Adults
  • $23 for Children (2-11)
  • $33 for Seniors/Students/Government Workers
  • Children under 2 ride for free

Potomac Riverboat Company

NOTE: This company is out our service as of July 2023

In addition to their boat tours and service to Mount Vernon Estate, Potomac Riverboat Company is also the main water taxi company in the Washington DC area.

They offer ferries to and from the Wharf in the southwest of DC, Alexandria, and the National Harbor, making it fairly easy to get around our nation’s capital region.

During baseball season, they also provide transportation to and from Nationals Park.

Ticket prices are comparable to their boat tours so you might want to consider that instead if you have the opportunity.  


A majority of reviews for this water taxi service are very good.

Although there were a couple of negative comments, they didn’t indicate any recurring issues.

Most passengers feel that this is an excellent method for getting around town.

Others enjoyed the break from driving around and getting stuck in traffic.

Even though some customers weren’t necessarily interested in a boat tour or sightseeing cruise, there were many comments about the beauty of a calm, quiet trip along the Potomac.


One of the most common ways to save money on various tours is by combining more than one ticket purchase.

Some companies offer their own combo deals, while others provide tour passes at a discount.

You can typically save between 20-40% on the cost of certain tickets, keeping room in your budget for other activities.

Avoid paying full price by taking advantage of the following bargains.  

If you want to learn more about this and other opportunities to save money on tours and fun activities in our nation’s capital, please visit our comparison of Washington DC tourist passes.

Washington DC Sightseeing Pass

This service currently offers the Spirit of Mount Vernon Cruise at no additional cost.

Depending on how you use the pass, you could easily save 50% or more on popular activities in Washington DC.

Here are a few of the other popular attractions included with this pass:

  • Big Bus Tours Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
  • George Washington's Mount Vernon
  • DC Monuments & Memorials Bike Tour
  • International Spy Museum
  • Big Bus Night Tour
  • DC Bike Rental
  • And more!

Click here to find out more about the Washington DC Sightseeing Pass.

Go City Washington DC Card

This is one of the most popular tourist passes, offering deals and discounts on various activities in major cities across the country.

Although most of the options available through the Go City Washington DC Card are not boat tours, they do offer one cruise from the Potomac Riverboat Company.

If you’re interested in taking their Washington Monuments Cruise, this could be a great way to save money on tickets.

With the Explorer Pass, you can choose this as one of either 3 or 5 activities for one flat price.

Go City Washington DC is currently closed as of Jan 2023 - but check their site to see if they are back online.

DC Sail

For those looking for a more unique experience, consider exploring the Potomac on a sailboat rather than a cruise!

DC Sail, which also offers adult sailing lessons throughout the summer, offers a handful of sailboat tours every month.

These do not run nearly as often as most of the other cruise companies, so if you are interested, be sure to check the calendar and book in advance.

How to Get to Georgetown Waterfront

The Georgetown Waterfront is easily accessible on foot or public transportation.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 19.19.31

If you're taking the Metro, it's an 18-minute walk from Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro Station (Blue/Orange/Silver).

Many of the major bus routes through Georgetown will take you down M Street NW, the main street of the neighborhood.

Exit the bus/Circulator at one of the M Street stops and head south towards the river.

How to get to Georgetown Waterfront

Along the Georgetown Waterfront, you can find many of the river cruise companies as well as the Key Bridge Boathouse.

The boathouse is on the far end and also easily accessible from Rosslyn Metro by crossing the Key Bridge and Thomas Boat Center, which is on the closer end of the Waterfront to Foggy Bottom Metro Station.

As one of the older and more established waterfronts, you'll find this a very popular option with many private boats in addition to cruise tours.

How to get to Alexandria Waterfront

Old Town Alexandria's waterfront can be found at the end of King Street.

While the King Street Station is at the other end of the historic downtown, there is a free trolley that runs the length of King Street.

How to get to Alexandria Waterfront

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Follow On Instagram | Canden is a historian & tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of the podcast, Tour Guide Tell All. She is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city since 2011. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has traveled to over 28 countries and every US State but Hawaii. She homeschools her 2 children by exploring the plethora of museums in DC.
Updated: October 28th, 2023
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