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17 Unique Date Ideas in Washington, DC
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.
Standing as the only major museum in the world strictly dedicated to showcasing the artistry of women, the National Museum of Women in the Arts makes for an enthralling experience. The museum’s collection features art stretching all the way back to the 16th century. A highlight: Frida Kahlo’s stunning self-portrait that she gifted to Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, with whom she had a brief but passionate affair.
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.
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.
Using art, science and technology in equal measure, ARTECHOUSE is a new attraction that 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.
The National Portrait Gallery stands as one of many must-visit museums in the District. The permanent exhibition American Origins 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).
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).
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.
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.
The National Postal Museum doesn't just explain the workings of the U.S. mail: The museum shares many personal American stories, some of which involve the penning of love letters. Explore this fascinating building and before you leave, quit texting, set the phone down and pick up pen, paper and stamps in the gift shop. You never know when the opportunity for your own love letter may arise.
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 tour (given hourly Tuesday – Sunday, ending at 3 p.m.), 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.
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.
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.
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.
DC’s famed indie bookstore has found an exciting spot to open its second brick-and-mortar location: The Wharf. Politics & Prose devotees can expect more of what they would find at the Connecticut Avenue location, including frequent author visits, book signings and an on-site coffeehouse.
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.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History features the Butterfly Pavilion, a tropical habitat that you and your boo can stroll through while taking in the majesty of live butterflies from all over the world. Exotic plants are also featured in this oasis.
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 to surprise your sweet with some sweets from Buttercream Bakeshop, located just around the corner.