Think you’ve mastered the perfect date night in the nation’s capital? Spice things up with these off-the-beaten-path date ideas.
Sure, you know about the monuments on the National Mall by moonlight and fireside dining at DC’s coziest restaurants, but do you know about historic mansions and gardens in the city’s northwest quadrant or the only major museum in the world dedicated to women in the arts? Venture off the beaten path, be spontaneous and tap into the unexpected with these unique, under-the-radar date ideas in Washington, DC.
Tee up the perfect date
Discover the wonder of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is situated in the heart of Penn Quarter and does not charge admission. You and your sweetie will be dazzled by the wealth of world-renowned art within its walls. When you’re done exploring the museum, take a seat inside the Kogod Courtyard, which connects the museum to the National Portrait Gallery.
See mind-blowing art at Glenstone Museum
Located in Potomac, Md. (roughly 40 minutes from downtown DC by car), Glenstone Museum presents a holistic experience of art, landscape and architecture, combining indoor and outdoor spaces and a spellbinding collection featuring the work of seminal artists such as Jackson Pollock, Jeff Koons, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol and Barbara Kruger. Make sure to reserve a visit before you go.
Explore the wonders of Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
Once the home of heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, this lavish estate in Upper Northwest is home to a comprehensive collection of Russian imperial and 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. Please note that the estate is currently closed for its annual cleaning and will reopen on Feb. 5.
Immerse yourself 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, so make sure to check their website as you plan your visit.
Play who's who in American history at the National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery stands as one of many must-visit museums in the District. The permanent exhibition Out of Many provides an in-depth view of American history across 17 galleries, while the America’s Presidents exhibit serves as the only complete collection of presidential portraits in the country (outside of the White House).
Picnic and watch airplanes land at Gravelly Point Park
Located just off the George Washington Parkway in Virginia, Gravelly Point is a gorgeous area that features stunning views of DC, a hiking and biking path and plenty of space for you lay out a picnic. You will also see airplanes soaring overhead as they come in for landing at Reagan National Airport.
Traverse the Capitol Hill institution that is Eastern Market
Historic Capitol Hill would not be as historic without Eastern Market, which has attracted shoppers since opening in 1873. Fresh, locally sourced food and drink and arts and crafts are strewn throughout the must-visit community hub. The market is free to enter and peruse, and on weekends you can listen to live music and grab the famous blueberry buckwheat pancakes from Market Lunch. (Heads up: Eastern Market is closed on Mondays).
Tour the historic and beautiful mansion and garden at Tudor Place
Once home to descendants of Martha Washington, the Georgetown abode that is Tudor Place is full of art, furnishings and household items from the past, adding up to more than 200 fascinating artifacts. During a self-guided tour, learn stories both personal and public that stretch across two centuries, revealing insights into American labor, arts, politics and technology. The gorgeously manicured gardens feature outdoor “rooms” that are perfect for an afternoon stroll. Please note that Tudor Place is currently closed, but plans to reopen in February. Visit the estate's website for the latest information.
Explore 'FUTURES' at the Arts & Industries Building
Smithsonian's historic Arts and Industries Building has opened its groundbreaking new experience. On view through July 6, 2022, FUTURES is the Smithsonian’s first major building-wide exploration of the future and temporarily reopens the Smithsonian’s oldest museum for the first time in nearly two decades. The part-exhibition, part-festival celebrates the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary with more than 150 awe-inspiring objects, ideas, prototypes and installations that fuse art, technology, design and history to help visitors imagine many possible futures on the horizon. Make sure to read our guide to the exhibit before you go.
Catch a cutting-edge play at Arena Stage
Arena Stage is a state-of-the-art, Tony Award-winning theater that regularly showcases outstanding productions that frequently feature stars of screen and stage. Located in the happening Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, start your night with dinner at The Wharf before you take in a top-notch show.
Get your game on with your significant other
Date time can also be play time. Many DC bars feature arcade games, board games and indoor and outdoor lawn games. Penn Social is a mecca for competition, offering up indoor cornhole and numerous arcade games. H Street Country Club has mini-golf, shuffleboard and skeeball, while renowned music venue The Black Cat has a Red Room Bar with pool and pinball and Players Club channels the vibes of your parents' basement complete with pool tables, pinball and old-school arcade games.
Take a break inside Kogod Courtyard
Sharing a building with the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Kogod Courtyard makes for a perfect spot for an afternoon chill sesh. There is plenty of space to lounge, an incredible roof that lets in natural light and even a cafe so that you can power up with a snack or drink.
Link up with Lincoln history at Ford’s Theatre
The site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in April of 1865 is now a world-class museum dedicated to our 16th president, as well as a working theater that stages acclaimed shows throughout the year. Dedicate a day to Ford’s Theatre by learning of Lincoln’s fascinating life, then catching a production inside the illustrious playhouse.
Browse through the books at Politics & Prose
Razzle and dazzle your sweetie with jewels and gems
Treat yourself to a nightcap at Calico before you turn in at the historic Morrison-Clark Inn
For your staying-in-DC pleasure, check into the romantic and historic Morrison-Clark Inn, which is situated in a 19th century Victorian mansion and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The full-service hotel is complete with Southern touches, including a courtyard, private balconies and a tranquil veranda. And don't forget cocktail hour with creative concoctions and adult juice boxes at Calico, the urban backyard in nearby Blagden Alley.
Discover DC’s breweries
The nation’s capital features a brewery scene that makes for an ideal day of sampling tasty beers. Check out handcrafted artisanal ales at 3 Stars Brewing Company, which focuses on innovative and unique brews (they've released 100-plus different beers). Red Bear Brewing Co. offers a large collection of board games and a lively events calendar. Enjoy a selection of 25 brews from inside a 1919 naval industrial building at Bluejacket in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.
Treat your date to dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant
For roving gastronomes and travelers who revel in experiences centered on food, it’s time to reserve a table in the nation’s capital. Michelin-starred eateries like minibar, Gravitas, Kinship, Métier, Masseria and many more are all waiting to host you for a special, unforgettable date night.
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