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20+ Adventurous Date Ideas in Washington, DC
Throw in a dash of excitement to your DC date
Whether you've journeyed by car, Amtrak train or American Airlines, the nation’s capital is quite the place to have a date night or romantic getaway. From its renowned dining scene to its majestic monuments, memorials and museums to its world-class hotels, Washington, DC has everything that a couple could want in an excursion. Read on for date suggestions that go beyond the standard fare and add a unique element to your outing.
Discover the enthralling world of espionage at one of DC’s most popular museums. The International Spy Museum is not just for kids: Adults will also love embarking on an Operation Spy mission and learning all about James Bond’s foils in Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains. Of course, there’s also the museum’s extensive collection of artifacts, from a lipstick pistol to an Enigma cipher machine. Afterwards, we recommend recapping your espionage adventure while sipping one of the 40 beers and wines on tap at nearby Penn Commons.
Some of the hippest musical acts around come to Echostage, an immense dancehall that has only risen in prominence in the DC music scene over the last several years. The venue plays host to rap, hip-hop, dance, electronica and other genres, with nearly every performance featuring an energetic crowd, plenty of grooves and lots of moving and shaking.
Once the home of heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, this lavish estate in Upper Northwest is home to a comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art, 18th-century French decorative art, incredibly manicured gardens and fascinating special exhibits. These factors make for a romantic setting as you walk through the stunning mansion and scenic gardens, basking in the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
Restaurant Nora, founded by the now-retired Nora Poullion, features a menu of seasonal fare served in historic surroundings, as the building served as a carriage house back in the 19th century. The Dupont Circle eatery was the first to receive the “organic” designation in the entire nation, a fun anecdote to add to your DC adventure.
Watch your love grow like a tree with a trip to the National Arboretum, a 446-acre living museum brimming with gardens, cherry blossom trees and the original columns of the U.S. Capitol building, featured in their own dedicated space and instantly Instagrammable (make sure to use #MyDCcool). One of the most romantic ways to see the Arboretum is during a full moon hike (just make sure to bundle up).
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company regularly presents some of the most critically acclaimed alternative theater productions in the District. These thought-provoking plays make for great date night fodder (and are generally geared towards adults), and there are plenty of dining options nearby.
A dramatic tiered fountain, statues of historic figures like Dante and Joan of Arc and aggregate concrete walls make this early 20th-century park feel like a slice of Europe in the middle of DC, meaning its date credentials are through the roof. On weekends, the greenspace hops with yoga-doing millennials, frisbee-throwing families and, every Sunday afternoon, an African-style drum circle that you can watch, dance to, or join.
As one of four José Andrés restaurants to receive the Bib Gourmand accolade in DC’s first Michelin Guide, Zaytinya stands out as a District dining adventure in the heart of Penn Quarter/Chinatown. The mezze menu winds through Greek, Lebanese and Turkish cuisine, featuring small plates that are meant to be shared. You and your boo can also sip on specialty cocktails and choose from a variety of wines.
Lions, tigers, giraffes and the beloved giant pandas are just some of the 2,000 animals that call the 163-acre Smithsonian National Zoo home. The zoo’s habitats feature animals from 400 different species, certainly enough to fill an afternoon with your sweetie.
Union Market is one of the most buzzworthy spots in DC, filled with outstanding food experiences and artisan-made arts and crafts. There’s also the famous Heart Wall, a mural created by L.A.-based graffiti artist Mr. Brainwash for International Women’s Day in 2015. Hold your boo tight in front of this Instagrammable artwork before or after you explore the wonders of the Market.
Even during the winter, Rock Creek Park serves as a scenic recluse from the city. Put on your winter coat and stroll through the 2,100-acre park, which includes historical attractions like Peirce Mill, as well as a nature center (step in for warmth, if you need to), picnic areas and playing fields. Inside the nature center, there’s also a planetarium, so you and your sweetie can star-gaze.
Located near the White House, Newseum is dedicated to explaining and defending free expression in all its forms, with a heavy focus on impactful journalism. Explore the jaw-dropping interior and many fascinating exhibits that cover a wide swath of national and international history.
The Lincoln Theatre stands as one of the best venues in the District, hosting great comedy acts, notable musicians of the past and present, DJ sets and much more. Just check the schedule; it’s one star after another.
You’ve never had a Mexican food experience like the one at Oyamel, and culinary superstar José Andrés wouldn’t have it any other way. Its tasty grasshopper tacos (yep, you read that right), renowned guacamole and creative margarita concoctions mean your taste buds are in for some surprises (don’t worry, there are plenty of other taco options). The colorful decor makes for a lively vibe that suits an adventurous date night perfectly.
One of the numerous Smithsonian museums located on the National Mall, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden embraces the offbeat in contemporary art. Its sculpture garden and plaza is a work of art itself (and very #MyDCcool-worthy), while a rotating cast of exhibits means you can always expect mind-blowing works on display.
This National Mall locale provides great insight into the African experience through an extensive collection of artifacts that stretches into the thousands. Admission is 100% free and in-depth, docent-led tours are available every week.
Walking around the District is a joy, but adding a little speed to your sightseeing means more adventure. Book a bicycle or Segway tour of the city with Bike and Roll, with a professional guide dishing out info on DC landmarks along the way. You can also rent a couple of bikes from the extremely convenient Capital Bikeshare, which offers 24-hour membership at its litany of DC stations. Last but certainly not least, the DC Circulator can bring you to the scenic National Mall for just $1.
Located just a half-hour south of Washington, DC, National Harbor might as well be called date night adventureland. The star attraction is obviously its Capital Wheel, a towering, 180-foot Ferris wheel with enclosed cabins and awe-inspiring views for your canoodling pleasure.
DC’s hub for the finest comedic talent around, DC Improv is a great Downtown destination for date night. The on-site restaurant means that dinner and laughs are on tap, as numerous local and national comedians pass through the Improv’s two showrooms.
Head to Pinstripes in Georgetown, for a date that’s anything but ordinary. Discover the wonderful world of bocce ball starting at only $5 per hour ($10 on weekends). For the full experience, we recommend ordering the go-to Tuscan vino of choice, Chianti, and the wood oven-cooked margherita pizza.
As you may have heard, DC has become the Culinary Capital, as its dining scene has bred a wealth of nationally renowned eateries. The new crop of restaurants is especially acclaimed, including Rose’s Luxury, The Dabney and Bad Saint, or pay homage to George Washington (and his penchant for spirits) at Farmers & Distillers. Impress your special someone with a night out at one of these locales that turn dinner into an unforgettable experience. Make sure to plan ahead, as tables are not easy to come by.
Looking for more date night revelry in the District? Check out our other date ideas.