Updated July 7, 2020.
Is it time for date night? Are you in D.C. for a weekend getaway with your loved one? Here are my top 18 date night picks for every budget in Washington, D.C.!
1. Bike the Mount Vernon Trail
(FREE with your own bike; Price varies with bike rentals from Georgetown or Alexandria’s Old Town)
Are you the active types? This 18-mile, paved trail runs from George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia all the way to Georgetown, D.C. Along the way you’ll wonder how you found yourself in the woods, marvel at the riverside wildlife, make a pitstop in Old Town Alexandria, take in stunning views of the D.C. skyline, and have an opportunity to pay your respects to the fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery. It’s a wonderful way to get a taste of the original D.C. (Alexandria and Arlington were part of the original D.C. plan), and the best part is you’ll get to enjoy it together!
2. Visit Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens
($18-20 Estate admission; $42-$50 with cruise)
Speaking of the Mount Vernon Trail, the first President’s home is a wonderful date destination in itself! Just a few miles south of the District (what the locals call D.C.), you can spend the day touring his home, sitting on his veranda, exploring his farm, and even dining at the charming Mount Vernon Inn. If one of you is a history buff or just proud to be an American, this is the date for you! Want to make your visit extra special, or perhaps you’re in town without a car? You can cruise there from the docks in Old Town Alexandria, VA; Washington, D.C.; or National Harbor, MD!
3. Splurge on Fine Dining at a Hotel
($50 and up, per couple)
Whether your budget allows for breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, dinner (the most expensive), or only dessert, it can be tons of fun to let your lady dress up and take her out for excellent food and service in a beautiful setting. Breakfast and lunch are certainly less expensive than dinner, but if sweets are your thing, dessert may be just the thing for the two of you! When you finish your meal, linger in the hotel’s lobby and talk for a while–that’s a great way for your relationship to grow! Check out the menus for the restaurants at the Trump International Hotel, W Hotel, the InterContinental, the Mayflower, or any beautiful hotel that tickles your fancy!
4. Historic Home Tour
(Prices vary, some are FREE)
If you liked Mount Vernon Estate, you’ll love some of the historic homes in and around D.C. You can tour Arlington House, Anderson House, Dumbarton House, the Old Stone House, Tudor Place, and more! If you or your date love history, this is definitely for you. I like to learn how people lived through the years. They really were smarter and had more technology than we tend to think these days! If you’re not into history but your date is, you will earn some serious points (and maybe find out more about why they like the things they like) if you’re willing to take them on one or more of these tours while in D.C.!
5. Show at One of the Many Theaters
(Prices vary from FREE to hundreds of dollars)
Looking for a FREE show that will still impress? The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage has 100% free show every night of the year! Check their website for the schedule. Looking for something a little more formal? You can get very affordable tickets (or super expensive tickets!) for plays, ballet, concerts, comedian performances, musicals, etc., at the Kennedy Center, Ford’s Theater (combine this with a visit to their in-house museum and the Petersen House), Warner Theater, National Theater, Shakespeare Theater, or The Little Theater in Alexandria. You won’t be disappointed, and neither will your date!
More here: D.C. Date Night at the Ballet
6. Movie at a Smithsonian IMAX Theater
($15 per person)
Live theater not in your budget? Take a movie date up a notch at one of the Smithsonian’s IMAX Theaters! I got to see Night at the Museum II at the Natural History Museum after hours when the movie first came out, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in D.C.!
7. Botanic Gardens
Did your date day turn into a rainy day? Don’t let it get you down! You can still walk through beautiful gardens with exotic plant life while holding hands at the Botanic Gardens, just down the hill from the U.S. Capitol. It’s a romantic way to spend an afternoon, and one of my favorite date destinations!
8. Day at the Zoo
What’s one thing that melts any girl’s heart? Cute, cuddly animals! A walk around the Smithsonian Zoo will reveal elephants, sea lions, flamingoes, pandas, and more! Find out your date’s favorite animal and try to find it together. Grab a quick meal at the Starbucks across the street or one of the nearby restaurants or at the zoo itself, and make a day of it!
9. Date Night in Old Town
It’s no secret that I love Old Town Alexandria. Its old world charm is sure to make for a magical night! My recommended Old Town date night is a walk down by the waterfront; dinner at the Fish Market (seafood) or Mai Thai (Thai) for budget dates, or The Wharf (seafood) or Il Porto (Italian) for something a little fancier; and ending with a ghost tour (bring some flats!) with Alexandria Colonial Tours. Who wouldn’t want to end their date night in the comforting arms of someone special, right?
10. Romantic Sunset (or Sunrise) Walk Around the Monuments
This is #1 for a reason: it’s the classic romantic date. A long walk at sunset (or sunrise for morning people like my husband and me), is sure to be a romantic experience. Stroll arm in arm, take in the monuments and memorials against the dramatic colors of the sun in transition, and if you happen to be there within the opening hours, you can explore the museums and bookstores some of the monuments have. Check out DC’s Monuments and Memorials for my recommended route so you don’t miss a thing!
Bonus: Seasonal Dates!
But wait! There’s more! There are some seasonal events in D.C. that really shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the District at the right time. I’ve come up with 8 more dates for that special occasion in any season!
11. Cherry Blossom Festivities
(FREE; Some events require tickets with admission cost)
Cherry blossoms are finicky, but if you can catch them at the right time, it will be one of the most beautiful sights you’ve ever seen! Plan to be in town between late March and early April, and you’re sure to see some, even if not at peak bloom. During the Cherry Blossom Festival, there will be live performances, street food, a day of kite flying, and more! See who can capture the best photos, do a little photo shoot of your own, or take the opportunity to see the monuments and memorials at their most beautiful. New cherry blossom blooms, new relationships, budding romance… it’s a romantic time to be in D.C.!
12. Embassy Open House Tours
In town the first two weekends in May? Head to Embassy Row in Georgetown! Most of the embassies are there, but a few others are scattered throughout D.C. The Around the World Embassy Tour is the first weekend in May each year, and this program allows the general public into the participating embassies. The embassies of the European Union have their own open houses the following weekend. Can’t afford a trip out of the country? Looking for a honeymoon destination? This is your chance to get a taste of the world!
Want more? Check out D.C. in Spring!
13. Outdoor Movies and Concerts
Summer is one of the best times of year for FREE things to do in D.C.! There are free concerts almost every night of the week both at the Kennedy Center and around D.C., usually performed by military bands. My favorite is the Silent Drill Team at the Marine Corps Memorial. Take the Metro to Rosslyn (Blue, Silver, and Orange lines), and grab a quick picnic meal at Chop’t, Starbucks, Potbelly’s, or Chipotle, walk over to the Marine Corps Memorial, and enjoy the show on Tuesday evenings.
14. Kayaking or Stand-up Paddle Boarding on the Potomac
This is another one for the active couple! Several companies in Georgetown rent out one- and two-person kayaks, canoes, and more recently stand-up paddle boards, so you can take in views of Georgetown, Arlington, and D.C. from the Potomac. This is a great way to see how you work together as a team! Just be careful not to fall in.
For more ideas, check out D.C. in Summer!
15. Apple Picking Day Trip
This is a fun one for you! This day trip activity will get you out of the hustle and bustle of the District and take you back to the way D.C. was before it was the Nation’s Capital city: farmland! Many orchards operate corn mazes and other fruit orchards as well at the appropriate times of year, and it’s always a good time. Typically you’ll be able to eat as many apples in the orchards as you can, and pay for the rest by the pound. It’s a little bit of childlike fun, a little bit of enjoying the fruits of your labor, and a little bit damsel in distress-like. One of you will have to be hefting the bushels!
16. Foliage Hiking
Think D.C. is all museums and stodgy politics? You might want to take a hike through Rock Creek Park, around Teddy Roosevelt Island, or perhaps take a little road trip to the Shenandoah Valley! The fall colors in and around D.C. can rival those of New England any year–only a little later in the season! If you and your date of choice are the type of couple who like holding hands in beautiful scenery, this might just be a winner for you in the fall.
Want more? Check out D.C. in Fall!
17. Ice Skating
Is one of you an accomplished skater? A first-timer? A terrible skater? Ice skating is such a fun date idea because you get to help each other, laugh with each other, hold hands, learn together, or let the better skater of the two of you really shine. The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden has a phenomenal ice rink, and Washington Harbor in Georgetown offers river view skating with several restaurant options around for a full day of romance and fun!
18. Day Trip to Monticello, Montpelier, or Highland Estates
Sure, there are plenty of things to do and see in the District, but sometimes a day trip away from the hustle and bustle is just what you both need to focus on each other and get meaningful conversations going… or sing together at the top of your lungs driving down the road! My sweet husband’s and my first all-day date was a little road trip to Monticello on a cold January day, and it’s one of my favorite dates ever! Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Madison’s Montpelier, and James Monroe’s Highland are all just a couple of hours from D.C., and just an hour or less from each other, so you can choose one, two, or go all-out ambitious and try all three! In my opinion, winter is the best time to go, as long as it’s not actively snowing, because there will be far fewer people. You might even have the estate to yourself!
For more ideas, check out D.C. in Winter!
I hope some of these date ideas appeal to you! If nothing really tickles your fancy, comment below with something you think you’d enjoy, or list a few things you like so I can come up with something fun for you in an upcoming post!