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. Visitors should check with attractions and venues directly for the latest operating hours and status as well as COVID-19 mitigation policies that may include proof of vaccination and masking.
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.
Take in the jaw-dropping beauty of the National Mall
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.
Explore modern masterpieces at the National Gallery of Art East Building
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.
Gaze at sparkly gems and wonder at the natural world inside the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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. Make sure to check the museum's website for hours and safety protocols.
Enjoy a free performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage
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. Please note that proof of full vaccination from COVID-19 is required.
Marvel at the immense collections inside the Library of Congress
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. Timed entry tickets are free but must be secured online ahead of your in-person visit.
Visit the Dupont Circle fountain, then wander the neighborhood
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, rendezvous at The Ven at Embassy Row.
Get warm by the fire at The Wharf
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 beloved can crowd around The Torch and marvel at its 14-foot-gas-powered flame.
Get immersed in interactive art at ARTECHOUSE
Using art, science and technology in equal measure, ARTECHOUSE has taken DC by storm. The art space features innovative, large-scale installations filled with interactive elements that are perfect for enjoying with a companion. Exhibitions rotate and tickets are required, so make sure to check the DC location's website as you plan your visit.
Observe the power of language at Planet Word
Planet Word is the world’s first voice-activated museum and brings language and words to life with immersive and interactive exhibits for all ages. Visitors can deliver a famous speech, watch a library book come to life, sing karaoke love songs and much, much more. The museum also offers a variety of virtual programs. Timed entry tickets are free but must be secured online ahead of your in-person visit.
Take a stroll through the outdoor gardens at the U.S. Botanic Garden
Discover natural beauty on the National Mall on the U.S. Botanic Garden grounds, which brim with beautiful flowers and plants year-round. A wide variety of plants from across the world and many different environments live in the outdoor gardens. Enjoy a romantic stroll through the National Garden and Bartholdi Park. Just don’t ask your partner if they’ll accept your rose.
Visit the expansive National Museum of African American History and Culture
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.
Find out about the half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl
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.
Check out the colorful murals that blanket the city's walls
The city’s neighborhood walls are covered with vibrant and unique murals, celebrating everything from hometown heroes to Founding Fathers and even fruit – there are literally hundreds of outdoor artworks and street murals to behold! Grab your significant other and take in these color-popping, popular works. As an added bonus, these murals create an instantly ‘grammable backdrop for a memorable photo of you and your sweetie.
Spend hours exploring the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
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.
Immerse yourself in African culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
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.
Unwind on the roof deck at Hi Lawn
Enjoy the sunset from the Graffiti Cliffs
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