Online reservations for the paddle boats on the Tidal Basin opened on March 1. So if you’re hoping to paddle with the cherry blossoms, you can make an advance booking.
The bookings tend to go pretty quickly, so it’s best to get in soon. The catch, of course, is that you have to commit to the scheduling well in advance. So cross your fingers that the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the weather is nice.
Reservations are only available Monday-Friday, for 1-hour blocks at a time, and only for 10am-1pm. There’s no payment necessary to make the reservation–you pay when you turn up.
But if you miss out on an advance reservation, all certainly isn’t lost. They have a total of about 72 boats, and typically 50 of them are kept aside for walk-ups. There aren’t any advance reservations for weekends or afternoons, so all the boats are available for walk-up use during those times. So it’s still very possible to get a boat on a first-come, first-served basis if you’re willing to chance the crowds.
The paddle boats are open 7 days a week from March 15 through the rest of the summer. The first boats go out at 10am and the last boat is let out at 5pm (for 6pm closing).
The prices are $15/hour for a 2-passenger boat and $24/hour for a 4-person boat.
Life vests are mandatory, supplied, and included in the price. At least one paddler has to be at least 16 years old, but kids are welcome. They supply life vests for children over 18 months (or over 25 pounds).