Washington, D.C. Live Cam

Several views showing Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C.


A compact and beautiful city on the Potomac River

Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. The District of Columbia (D.C.) was created largely out of wilderness to be the seat of the federal government, which moved from Philadelphia to the unfinished city of Washington in 1800. Today, Washington is best known as a spacious, handsome city of stately public buildings, imposing monuments, and wide, tree-lined thoroughfares. Over the years the city of Washington became coextensive with the District of Columbia, a federal territory set aside in 1791 as the site of the new capital.

Washington is the home of hundreds of thousands of people and is the central city of a metropolitan area that includes parts of the states of Maryland and Virginia. Washington, D.C., has an area of 68 square miles (177 sq km). However, the original cession of land from the states of Maryland and Virginia was 100 square miles (259 sq km), or 10 miles square. The original shape was that of a diamond, with the top point of the diamond forming the northern corner of the district. Washington is one of the few planned cities in the United States.

Named for George Washington, it is in a very real sense his child. After Congress authorized the acquisition of a ten-mile square on the Potomac River for the federal district, the first president is said to have ridden on horseback in selecting the specific site, which lay only a few miles upstream from his own estate at Mount Vernon. The site included the towns of Georgetown and Alexandria and a small settlement in what later became the city of Washington. Thus, the original district included the cities of Georgetown, Alexandria, and Washington and two rural areas: the county of Washington, adjacent to the city of Washington on the Maryland side of the Potomac, and the county of Alexandria, adjacent to the city of Alexandria on the Virginia side of the river.

President Washington chose Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French military engineer who had served in the American Revolution, to lay out the new federal city. In 1791 L'Enfant, focusing on one section of the city of Washington, drew great ceremonial open spaces, later to be identified as the east-west axis and the lesser north-south axis, and thus set focal points that created magnificent vistas.

L'Enfant superimposed on a grid pattern of streets several broad diagonal avenues intersecting the streets and other avenues at squares and circles. L'Enfant provided no planning for the large tracts of land beyond the "monument core" and the layout of avenues and streets, circles and squaresžthat is, no planning for the county of Washington and the Virginia portion of the district. In fact, L'Enfant was dismissed in 1793, and the completion of his original design fell to Andrew Ellicott and Benjamin Banneker (the grandson of a freed slave).

Since L'Enfant's day, Congress, the president, and various citizens having responsibilities for the nation's capital have altered and added to his original design; since 1924 a major responsibility has been assigned to the National Capital Planning Commission.

Washington DC offers ample opportunity for sight seers to take to the water and view its historical monuments from boats

Heat and humidity are constant culprits when it comes to indulging in summer festivities in the nation’s capital. Sightseeing, picnics on the National Mall and selfies at monuments become downright unpleasant when paired with the scorching sun and sticky air.

But thanks to the ingenious city planning of our founding fathers, the beauty of Washington DC can be relished from a cooler vantage point (literally and metaphorically speaking); the water. A picturesque waterfront flowing through the city provides a myriad of boating experiences for all ages. Whether you’re an athlete that prefers to kayak and get wet, a you’re a tourist looking for a relaxing cruise along the cityscape, or somewhere in between, there’s no better or cooler way to see “America’s hometown” than from the ebb and flow of a boat.

Kayaking, Canoeing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding

For those that enjoy a side of physical exercise with their sightseeing, the Key Bridge Boathouse is just the place to begin your waterway adventure. Options for renting range from kayaks and canoes to stand up paddle boards. After visitors fill out a quick form and grab a life jacket, they can be on their way paddling past the Kennedy Center and enjoying views of some of the city’s most notable monuments. The boathouse is conveniently located on the edge of Georgetown, giving you the perfect activity for burning all those calories you may have consumed at one of DC’s best dining destinations in the area. Friendly staff accompanied with rates as low as $20 an hour makes the Key Bridge Boathouse an ideal outing for both first time tourists and longtime DC residents looking for a fresh view of the city.

Paddle Boatin

Paddle boating is another active boating experience that offers fun for the whole family. Tidal Basin Paddle Boats is one of the most well-known paddle boating companies in DC due to its postcard perfect view of the Jefferson Memorial. Prices range from $15 per an hour for a two passenger boat versus $24 per an hour for a four passenger boat. The hours of operation run from 10 am to 6 pm, with the last rental being sold at 6 p.m. Families with young children will especially appreciate this visit as most youngsters prefer to release some of that extra energy by pedaling, giving many parents a chance to sit back and relish the city’s skyline.

Sail Boating

One step below a yacht and a whole staircase above a canoe and you have yourself a sail boat. These elegant vessels combine sophistication with adventure and pepper DC’s waterways during the summer months. But don’t let the sail boat’s upper-crest reputation detour you or your wallet from experiencing the flap of a sail when it catches that perfect gust. Whether you’re an experienced sea goer or a novice looking to learn a new skill, Mariner Sailing School is your one stop shop for sail boating. Located in the Alexandria, Virginia and just a hop, skip and a jump from DC proper, this sailing school offers 19 foot ‘Flying Scots’ rentals and 14 foot ‘Sunfish’ rentals alongside kayak and canoe rentals. Reservations are accepted and the hourly rate is as cheap as $35 per two hours depending on the day and type of boat you choose. Locals looking for a unique hobby can sign up for instructional classes.

Riverboat Cruises

If relaxation is your primary goal for an outing on the town than Potomac Riverboat Company offers just the experience you’re looking for. The company offers sightseeing tours past Mount Vernon, the Washington Monument or Georgetown and Alexandria. Water taxi services are also offered to Washington’s National Mall and to DC’s beloved baseball stadium and home of the Nationals. Prices vary according to your tour and the date of your adventure and it is recommended that you purchase the tickets beforehand.