Looking for some fun ideas of things to do on a date? The Washington, D.C., area has plenty of exciting and affordable places to explore, indoors and outdoors. With so many cultural activities, live entertainment, festivals, and outdoor recreation, there are endless opportunities for romance. Here are 15 of our favorite date ideas in the nation's capital.
Enjoying the fresh air together is a great way to get to know someone in a casual atmosphere. The Washington, D.C., area offers endless outdoor recreational opportunities, including the East Potomac Park-Hains Point, Great Falls Park, and C & O Canal Historic National Park. D.C. is also just a 75-minute drive from Shenandoah National Park, which has more than 500 miles of hiking trails, as well as opportunities to go horseback riding, fishing, birdwatching, and more.
Rent a canoe or kayak on the Potomac River, or take a kayaking lesson and explore D.C. from the water's edge. For a shorter and easier excursion, you can rent a paddle boat on the Tidal Basin and enjoy terrific views of the Jefferson Memorial and the famous Japanese cherry trees.
Everyone knows that D.C. has no shortage of museums and historic sites. And while you can see the world's most extensive collection of artifacts of history, science, art, space and more, fighting the crowds to do so doesn't sound romantic. Instead, check out some of the District's smaller museums and sites, like the scenic National Arboretum or Dumbarton Oaks, a collection of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art housed in an old mansion.
D.C.'s iconic monuments are always magical, but they are especially romantic at night when they're illuminated. Take an evening stroll around the National Mall and enjoy some of the best views of the city, catching the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Capitol all lit up. As an added bonus, they're much less crowded at night!)
Playing a game of putt-putt is a fun and relaxing date and a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the warmer months of the year. The mini-golf course at East Potomac Park is the oldest continually operating miniature golf course in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 18-hole course has a design and is located just a quarter-mile from the National Mall.
Summertime brings great free concerts to the D.C. area, including romantic options like jazz at the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden. Pack a picnic, grab your lawn chairs and head outdoors to listen to great local music ranging from jazz to blues to reggae to rock and roll. Military bands also perform free concerts throughout Washington, D.C., in the summer months, so if you're feeling a bit patriotic, you can listen to our armed forces proudly play at a national landmark.
Many of the District's outdoor movie screenings are free and pair fantastic scenery with great flicks. There's a reason it's become such a favorite summertime activity! Georgetown's Waterfront Park is one of the best settings and hosts a Sunset Cinema series each year on the banks of the Potomac. Or, try a classic drive-in theater at Union Market. The D.C. hotspot has upgraded the nostalgic experience with artisanal wares and excellent food options. Drive-in parking is just $10 (as of 2019).
Once a naval munitions factory, this visual arts center in Old Town Alexandria is home to 84 working studios, five galleries, and two workshops. Watch artists of all kinds of media at work and ask questions about their creative processes. Visits are free, and artists maintain their own studio hours, so you might see something completely different each time you visit. In addition to constantly-changing exhibitions, Torpedo also hosts lectures, interactive exhibits, even yoga classes.
What's more romantic than marveling over adorable baby animals? D.C.'s renowned National Zoo is set on 163 acres in Rock Creek Park. The beautiful setting makes the institution—one of the country's oldest zoos—feel park-like, adding to the romance. You can observe everything from the world-famous pandas to rare creatures like a Bennett's wallaby or a maned wolf. Visit early in the day or in the early evening when the popular attraction is less busy.
D.C. has no shortage of great ice-skating rinks, with many set against some of the city's most iconic backdrops. The Sculpture Garden Rink, typically open mid-November through mid-March, has perhaps the most romantic setting, as you can glide on the ice in front of priceless works of art by Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg, and more. Other great options include the Canal Park Ice Rink and the Washington Harbour Ice Rink
Visiting a beautiful place sets the stage for romance. The Washington, D.C., area has great places to enjoy the beauty and fresh fragrance of colorful plants and flowers. Some, like the United States Botanic Garden, are well-known, while others, like the Smithsonian's Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, are less-trafficked. The latter is a surprising oasis located just off the National Mall, full of lilies and other fragrant bloom. The garden's lead horticulturist leads an informal tour every Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Bowling can be a fun date, but try not to get too competitive. Invite another couple to join in the fun. In D.C., visit Lucky Strike or Pinstripes. In Maryland and Virginia, visit Bowl America. Check with the alley before going to make sure they have open bowling lanes at the time you wish to go as some may have dedicated lanes for bowling leagues.
Have some old-fashioned fun at Glen Echo Park, which holds a scheduled dance each evening, Thursday through Sunday. Styles range from tango to swing, and a ticket (usually $35, as of 2019) includes a basic class before the fun begins. (Some couples have even met while dancing at Glen Echo!)
D.C. is a great city for comedy, especially if you don't mind poking a bit of at American politics! The Capitol Steps is a political musical satire group (once made up of Senate staffers) that will keep you laughing about events and personalities on Capitol Hill, the Oval Office, and other centers of power around the world. The group performs every Friday and Saturday at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in D.C.
The District has dozens of terrific performance arts venues offering a wide range of live theatrical performances. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is one of the city's most popular venues, with up to four different performances each day, ranging from off-Broadway productions to small chamber music ensembles. If more experimental works are your thing, the quirky Forum offers pay-what-you-can policy, making live theater more affordable for those on a budget.