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18 Budget-Friendly Date Ideas 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 your wallet. We’ve laid out some of our favorites so you can do date night right.
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.
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.
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. Amazingly, admission is free.
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 jaw-dropping Carmen Lúcia Ruby, one of the largest ruby gemstones on record, can also be seen in the collection.
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.
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.
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.
When the temps cool down, there's plenty of ways to keep warm at The Wharf. There’s a fire pit for s'mores and 'The Torch,' the official beacon greeting vessels and acting as a lighthouse for DC’s awesome waterfront development. As pier-goers, you and your boo can crowd around The Torch and marvel at its 14-foot-gas-powered flame.
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.
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. Make sure to swing by the Exhibition Hall, which reveals the story of the U.S. Congress and the Capitol.
Discover natural beauty on the National Mall at the free-to-enter U.S. Botanic Garden, which brims with beautiful flowers and plants year-round. Inside the Conservatory, you’ll find orchids, rare plants both tropical and subtropical and much more.
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 and music to slavery and the Civil Rights Movement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Named after DC legend Marvin Gaye, this popular spot on U Street features one of the city’s hottest rooftop hangouts. Enjoy the bar's many happy hour specials and sip on a cocktail with your boo as you cuddle up on the heated roof deck that draws crowds throughout the year.
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.