Speed things up with your date at Allsports Grand Prix (45915 Maries Rd., Dulles; 571-434-9566), the area’s best go-cart track. The indoor course is designed to emulate a professional racetrack. Race suits, gloves, and helmets are mandatory, and lap times are measured to the thousandth of a second and displayed on monitors throughout the arena—allowing for some good-natured teasing with your companion. An eight-minute drive around the track’s tight turns costs $24.50 a person.
Our favorite place to ice-skate is the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink (Seventh Street and Constitution Ave., NW; 202 216-9397). Surrounded by 20th-century artwork, this rink—open through mid-March—is a unique Washington experience. The setting is most magical on weekend nights, when the rink stays open until 11. Warm up with dessert and hot chocolate at the adjacent Pavilion Café (open Sunday through Thursday till 7, Friday and Saturday till 9).
For those looking to make a night of it, the popular Reston Town Center Skating Pavilion (1818 Discovery St., Reston; 703-709-6300) and the skating rink at Pentagon Row (1201 S. Joyce St., Arlington; 703-418-6666) are surrounded by restaurants and stores. At Reston Town Center, you can dine on seafood at PassionFish, sip a winter brew at Clyde’s, or do some window shopping. The Pentagon Row rink is smaller, but there are lots of shops and restaurants, including Lebanese Taverna and, for dessert, MaggieMoo’s Ice Cream and Treatery. On weekends, both rinks have lots of teen skaters.
The area’s most picturesque place to skate is amid the greenery of Annapolis’s Quiet Waters Park (600 Quiet Waters Park Rd.; 410-222-1777). After a glide on the outdoor rink, couples can cozy up by the fire in the visitors’ center, which has a cafe—open most weekends through the winter from noon to dusk—that serves panini and warm drinks.
Moonlit gardens, winding paths, lush meadows—in the city? You can see them all during popular nighttime hikes offered three times a month at the US National Arboretum (3501 New York Ave., NE; 202-245-2726). The four-mile outings are led by a guide. Sign up early because they sell out fast.
For a fun day trip, head to Cunningham Falls State Park (14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd., Thurmont; 301-271-7574) in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains. Seven trails range from easy to moderately difficult, and a waterfall provides a romantic vista.
You’ll find more great views at Blockhouse Point Conservation Park (14750 River Rd., Darnestown). The park has about five miles of trails with points that overlook the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. It’s especially good for winter hikes, as the views are better when there’s little foliage. Bring a picnic and watch the Potomac’s rapids swirling below. Visit the Web site for a trail map.
For a romantic twist on visiting the monuments, hire a pedicab—a bicycle taxi—for a guided nighttime tour, when there are hardly any sightseers and the memorials are lit. You’ll see more than you could on foot, and drivers can keep you entertained with fun facts. Three companies offer tours for around $50 an hour: Capitol Pedicabs (202-232-6086), DC Pedicab (202-345-8065), and National Pedicabs (202-269-9090).
There’s been a proliferation of cooking schools, and the best of the newcomers is CulinAerie (1131 14th St., NW; 202-587-5674), which counts some of Washington’s well-known food experts as teachers, including Top Chef finalist Carla Hall, cocktail whiz Derek Brown, and Michelin-star-winning chef Gerard Pangaud. At least twice a month, three-hour couples classes ($170 a couple) take place from 7 to 10.
Open Kitchen (7115 Leesburg Pike, Suite 107; Falls Church; 703-334-1504) offers cooking and wine classes ($75 to $95 a person) Monday through Wednesday. Courses range from making chocolate truffles with a former Citronelle pastry chef to cooking Thai dishes with a cookbook author. In monthly couples workshops—the next is February 9—the class prepares a meal and then enjoys it together over a glass of wine.
Every Friday from 7 to 9 is Date Night ($59 a person) at Cookology (21100 Dulles Town Cir., Sterling; 703-433-1909), where chef Ian Douglass walks couples through a three-course meal. In February, themes include “new American classics” and “Parisian bistro.”
On most Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 6:30, Zola Wine & Kitchen (505 Ninth St., NW; 202-639-9463) hosts 90-minute hands-on classes ($50 a person) that include a two- or three-course meal and a glass of wine.
Founded in 1976, L’Academie de Cuisine (5021 Wilson La., Bethesda; 301-986-9490) has recreational classes six nights a week, and every Saturday there’s a couples lesson ($150 to $175 a couple). Classes tend to fill up far in advance.
At the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St., Alexandria; 703-838-4565)—Old Town’s art-gallery, workshop, and studio collective—a themed night of exhibition openings and receptions takes place the second Thursday of the month from 6 to 9 with free sweets and beverages. Several of the in-house studios stay open during the event so you can browse. And with everything under one roof, cold weather never gets in the way.
Though still relatively new—and working out a few kinks—the Georgetown Gallery Gaze (202-290-1377) is a fun evening on the third Friday of every month. From 5 to 8, about 15 art galleries tie red balloons to their doors and greet guests with first looks at new collections, wine and Champagne, and gourmet goodies.
First Fridays in Dupont Circle is the longest-running art walk in DC. Galleries offer live music and wine and cheese to a crowd of young professionals, local artists, and neighborhood regulars. Foundry Gallery (1314 18th St., NW; 202-463-0203), Hillyer Art Space (9 Hillyer Ct., NW; 202-338-0680), and Studio Gallery (2108 R St., NW; 202-232-8734) are frequent participants.
Catching a glimpse of the moon, or maybe Jupiter, through a super-powerful telescope is the main attraction of tours at the US Naval Observatory (3450 Massachusetts Ave., NW). Visitors also learn how the observatory keeps precise time as well as take a trip to the library, which holds astronomy books dating to the 1400s. Tours run from 8:30 to 10 pm, usually two Mondays a month. They’re free, but reservations should be submitted four to six weeks in advance.
If it’s Friday and the skies are clear, you can escape the city lights at Observatory Park, located on an old Nike missile site in Great Falls. The Analemma Society, a local astronomy group, hosts free weekly stargazing sessions there starting at sunset. Pack blankets, a picnic dinner, and a telescope if you have one—if not, you can use one provided by the group. Go to the society’s Web site for directions to the park and to check the “clear sky clock” to see if conditions are fit for night-sky viewing. There’s no stargazing if it’s too cloudy, if there’s snow on the ground, or if the temperature falls below 20 degrees.
Forget the daily grind for an hour with a shared spa date. Serenity Day Spa (4000 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-362-2560; 209 Madison St., Alexandria, 703-549-9212; 13037 Worldgate Dr., Herndon, 703-709-6596) has a Romantic Revival package for couples that includes joint aromatherapy massages, manicures, pedicures, and facials for $488. If that’s too much grooming for you, a massage for two in the couples suite is $178, and spa guests get a free workout at the adjacent Sport & Health club.
Relaxation is key at Qi Spa (3106 M St., NW; 202-333-6344), where candles and essential oils help restore balance to weary souls. For a sweet treat, the spa offers a Couples Chocolate Delight package, featuring a cocoa-butter-and-milk-protein body treatment and a chocolate-oil massage, followed by a cup of hot chocolate, all for $380.
At Natural Body Spa and Shop (1104 24th St., NW, 202-775-2070; 4100 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, 703-243-4015; 1081 Seven Locks Rd., Potomac, 301-610-5004), you can soothe your conscience along with the rest of you. The Atlanta-based company uses recycled materials, organic products, and energy-efficient appliances. The instructional couples massage ($135) offers more than just a treatment—practitioners teach couples techniques to use on each other at home.
The Phillips Collection (1600 21st St., NW; 202-387-2151) feels like a private home once again during Phillips After 5 on the first Thursday of the month. With live jazz, a cash bar, and assorted crudités, dips, and desserts—included with museum admission—the ground floor is a lovely place to mingle, while the permanent collection and exhibits are yours to explore upstairs.
DJs, rock bands, and craft cocktails fuel the makeover of the Hirshhorn Museum (Seventh St. and Independence Ave., SW; 202-633-4674) during After Hours, the four-times-a-year blowout where you can view exhibits and party until midnight. Buy tickets in advance; the next event is scheduled for April.
You can unwind after a busy workday at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (500 17th St., NW; 202-639-1700), which offers evening lectures with artists, curators, and others as well as concerts and dance performances. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock gives a talk February 2, and on the 8th there’s a runway show/dance performance featuring Spanish flamenco dancing.
For a special treat, get away for a night without leaving town. At the Willard InterContinental (1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-628-9100), couples can savor the elegance of old Washington amid crystal chandeliers and period furniture. The hotel has hosted nearly every President since Franklin Pierce, and Martin Luther King Jr. finished his “I have a dream” speech here. The White House is two blocks away, and the Mall is a short walk.
Spread across three 19th-century townhouses, the Tabard Inn (1739 N St., NW; 202-785-1277) is a quirky, budget-friendly option near Dupont Circle. Sure, the 40 rooms are shoehorned together and its amenities are minimal (no elevator or televisions, and some rooms have shared baths), but the Tabard’s vintage furnishings and tucked-away setting make it a cozy urban retreat. Rates—$113 to $218 a night—include a simple breakfast, but you may want to save your appetite for the weekend brunch, which features excellent house-made doughnuts. Make brunch reservations well in advance.
Located in the original US General Post Office Building, the Hotel Monaco (700 F St., NW; 202-628-7177) combines modern decor with historic architecture. The location is great for a night out at the Verizon Center, Shakespeare Theatre, and some of the area’s best restaurants, including Poste, on the hotel’s ground floor.
Or try Hotel Monaco’s Alexandria location (480 King St., Alexandria; 703-549-6080), in the center of Old Town. You can stroll to the waterfront, dine at nearby Restaurant Eve, or take a dip in the indoor pool. The Monaco Is for Lovers package (rates vary) includes Champagne, sweets, breakfast in bed, and a late checkout.