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19 Budget-Friendly Date Ideas in Washington, DC

Couple viewing the Lincoln Memorial at night on the National Mall - Budget-friendly date idea in Washington, DC

Make that special someone’s heart sing without breaking the bank with these only-in-DC affordable date ideas.

The nation’s capital is quite the place to have a low-cost date night or romantic getaway. From its majestic monuments, memorials and museums to its world-class venues and attractions, Washington, DC has everything that a couple could want in the perfect date night – including a wealth of experiences that won't put a dent in the wallet. We’ve laid out some of our favorites so you can do date night right.

1 Journey to the Renwick Gallery

Located just steps from the White House, the Renwick Gallery is the Smithsonian American Art Museum's free-to-enter home for contemporary craft and decorative art, displaying the finest in American craft and decorative art. Step inside the museum’s incredible interior and admire vaulted ceilings and, of course, the kind of fascinating and pristine art that can only be found at a Smithsonian museum.

2 Take in the jaw-dropping beauty of the National Mall

@pixels.sh - Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall at night - Memorials in Washington, DC

From the glistening Reflecting Pool to the towering Washington Monument to numerous memorials dedicated to our American forefathers and heroes, the National Mall is the jewel in DC’s crown. Witnessing its power with your love by your side is as romantic as it gets in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You can also observe its majesty from a unique view on a Big Bus Tour, which allows you to hop-on and hop-off across a 24-hour period.

3 Gaze at sparkly gems and wonder at the natural world inside the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

@ray.payys - Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on the National Mall - Free Museum in Washington, DC

Two of the world’s most incredible stones live at the National Museum of Natural History, which is located on the National Mall and is admission-free. The Hope Diamond, which has historical roots dating back to the late 1600s, is on display at the museum’s National Gem and Mineral collection. The Carmen Lúcia Ruby, one of the largest ruby gemstones on record, can also be seen in the collection. The jaw-dropping stone was donated by philanthropist Peter Buck in honor of his wife.

4 Unwind on the roof deck at Marvin

Group of friends at Marvin Restaurant rooftop on U Street - Rooftop bars in Washington, DC

Named after DC legend Marvin Gaye, this popular spot on U Street features one of the city’s hottest rooftop hangouts. Sip on a cocktail or a mimosa with your boo as you cuddle up on the heated roof deck that draws crowds throughout the year.

5 Visit the Dupont Circle fountain, then wander the neighborhood

Dupont Circle Fountain - Romantic Spots in Washington, DC

One of the signature landmarks in DC is the Dupont Circle Fountain, dedicated to American naval hero Samuel Francis Du Pont, made of marble and adorned with three sculptures. The gorgeous fountain serves as the epicenter of one of DC’s most exciting neighborhoods, with a surrounding plaza that frequently features locals playing chess or lounging on benches. Stroll through, take in the atmosphere, then adventure in one of the city’s most prominent areas. After a long day of exploring, rendez-vous at the boutique Embassy Row Hotel.

6 Explore modern masterpieces at the National Gallery of Art East Building

@leanilaphotos - Couple at the National Gallery of Art East Building on the National Mall - Free Modern Art Museum in Washington, DC

The National Gallery of Art wing closest to the Capitol is home to two sky-lit tower galleries, Instagram-worthy staircases connecting all levels of the museum, a rooftop terrace with a blue rooster sculpture and, best of all, more than 500 works of art, including pieces by Alexander Calder, Barbara Kruger, Jasper Johns, Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko. Admission is amazingly free.

7 Marvel at the immense collections inside the Library of Congress

@misstomrsp - Couple at the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill - Free attractions in Washington, DC

Dig deeper into American lore when you and your special someone make your way to the Library of Congress, another of DC’s many historical landmarks. The nation’s largest library holds 28 million cataloged books and 58 million manuscripts. You’ll also be wowed by the stunning Gilded Age architecture. Free guided tours are offered Monday through Saturday.

8 Stand next to pop culture royalty and U.S. presidents at Madame Tussauds

Visitors taking photo with Taylor Swift figure at Madame Tussauds Washington, DC - Kid-friendly museum in Washington, DC

Why not hang with lifelike wax figures of pop culture superstars at one of DC’s most popular museums – all without putting a dent in your wallet? Visit Madame Tussauds Washington, DC and you and your sweetie can have your own fist-bumps with the wax-figure likenesses of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, George Clooney, all of the U.S. presidents and many, many more.

9 Tour the U.S. Capitol, one of the country’s most renowned buildings

@boughsofholly - Visitors at United States Capitol Rotunda - How to tour the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC

If there’s a history buff on your DC date team, start the day off by visiting the U.S. Capitol. Find out how to book a guided tour in advance or check out the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center for a same-day pass. These tours are available from Monday through Saturday, 8:50 a.m. – 3:20 p.m. Make sure to swing by the Exhibition Hall, which reveals the story of the U.S. Congress and the Capitol.

10 Admire the flora and fauna inside the flower-strewn U.S. Botanic Garden
 

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Located on the National Mall, the U.S. Botanic Garden brims with beautiful flowers and plants year-round. Inside the Conservatory, you’ll find orchids and rare plants both tropical and subtropical.

11 Visit the expansive National Museum of African American History and Culture

@h.i.o - Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture - Washington, DC

The most recent addition to DC’s incredible lineup of Smithsonian museums is the only national museum solely dedicated to the documentation of African American life, history and culture. You’ll want to secure timed passes before your trip, but once inside, you can marvel at visually stunning exhibits that cover the African American experience, from culture to music to slavery to the Civil Rights Movement.

12 Find out about the half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl

Ben's Chili Bowl - Places to Eat on U Street - Washington, DC

No trip to the nation’s capital is complete without at least one half-smoke consumed per person. Ben’s Chili Bowl, a late-night grub destination since the Eisenhower era, features the most famous half smoke in town (and it only costs $5.95). The original U Street location is situated in one of the more vibrant and historic locations in town, so neighborhood exploration after fueling up is a must.

13 Enjoy a free performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage

Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - Washington, DC

If you’re dating on a budget and want to enjoy a show, head to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, which hosts free performances every evening at 6 p.m. Acts are wide-ranging; one night, you can catch the National Symphony Orchestra; the other, a poetry slam. The Kennedy Center also offers deep discounts to patrons ages 18-30 and members of the armed services through its MyTix program.

14 Investigate the power of journalism at Newseum

Newseum - Berlin Wall Exhibit - Museums in Washington, DC

Located in the thriving Penn Quarter neighborhood, the 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.

15 Spend hours exploring the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

@pootie_ting - Women at Mark Bradford's installation at Hirshhorn Museum - Free art museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC

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, while a rotating cast of exhibits means you can always expect mind-blowing works on display.

16 Immerse yourself in African culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art on the National Mall - Free Museum in Washington, DC

This locale on the National Mall provides great insight into the African experience through an extensive collection of artifacts that stretches into the thousands. Admission is always free and in-depth, docent-led tours are available every week.

17 Get warm by The Torch at The Wharf
 

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The Wharf’s official beacon greets vessels slowly passing through the no-wake zone, acting as a lighthouse for DC’s awesome new waterfront development. As pier-goers, you and your boo can crowd around The Torch and marvel at its 14-foot-gas-powered flame.

18 Gaze at the stars in high definition

Einstein Planetarium at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum - Things to do in Washington, DC

Looking up at the stars in the night sky is always romantic. However, in colder months, you would prefer to be indoors. Enter the Albert Einstein Planetarium at the National Air and Space Museum, a state-of-the-art facility that uses ultra high-def visuals that are 16 times the resolution of your HDTV at home. You can also check out the planetarium at Rock Creek Park, which is free to enter and holds special programs every Saturday and Sunday.

19 Forget sweet nothings, woo your boo by messaging them with DC-themed emoji

Emoji DC - A Free iOS & Android App

Having trouble finding the right words to tell your crush just how you feel? Download the free Emoji DC app, which now includes six new emoji and animations all meant to help you step your text game up. From an Abe cartoon blowing a kiss to a digital box of DC chocolates, at the end of the day, the Capital Dome is where the heart is.