Things to Do

Dry January Date Ideas Around DC

Going without booze this month? Board games, museums, and planetariums are still fun.

Washington's highest-elevation ice rink sits on the top of the Watergate hotel. Photograph courtesy of the Watergate.

Dark times are upon us, folks: It’s Dry January.

This long month can be especially painful when you’re dating. Someone asks you to drinks, you go through the whole no-alcohol-for-now spiel, then awkwardly reschedule for February.

Maybe it’s time to try the unthinkable: Go on a date…while sober. Not every outing has to follow the dinner-and-drinks routine–there are plenty of things to do without alcohol (and many are cheaper). Plus, speaking from experience, you’re more likely to find the ideal cuffing season partner when you’re not blinded by beer goggles.

Do the whole cute-winter-activity thing and invite your date to go ice skating. The National Gallery of Art has an ice rink in its sculpture garden. Impress your plus-one and look up some facts about the sculptures before – there’s nothing like a casual Roy Lichtenstein or Louise Bourgeois name drop to score some points.

There are also the rinks at the Georgetown waterfront and The Wharf (which has a live DJ on Friday nights). Or book a spot in advance to skate on the Watergate Hotel’s roof; its Top of the Gate bar has been transformed into an ice rink, with impressive views across the Potomac.

If you’d rather stay indoors, plenty of local museums have after-hours events: The Phillips Collection hosts gallery talks, Sunday concerts, staged readings, workshops, and more. The National Gallery has a robust events program, too–take a date by this month to check out a classical concert, a gallery talk about Edvard Munch, or a film screening.

The interactive digital art gallery Artechouse opens a new exhibit this month, as well. Called “Parallel Universe,” it’s a 3D light-and-projection exhibit inspired by astrology, math, and science, so it’ll leave you with plenty to chat about.

If you’re a gamer, head to Dupont’s The Board Room to choose from over 30 in-house games. For $2, you can rent Battleship, Scrabble, Hungry Hungry Hippos, or a plethora of other games both nostalgic and new. While it’s a bar, you don’t have to order anything to drink, and The Board Room allows you to bring in your own food or order takeout. Hit up nearby Glen’s Garden Market or Bethesda Bagels for sustenance before your five-hour-long Risk game.

Crosswords are a good option, too: You can learn a lot about someone based on their approach. Do they do it in pen? Know an insane amount about obscure Latin phrases? Have serial-killer handwriting? All good things to find out. Be sure to plan your method of attack beforehand for an impressive performance.

While it may seem romantic to go stargazing, just don’t–nobody wants to sit in the cold (especially while sober). One-on-one time in the dark is still attainable at Air and Space’s planetarium, where you can choose from programs about space exploration, the birth and death of stars, or dark matter. Rock Creek Park has a planetarium, as well, plus tickets are free.

If you can’t wiggle your way out of grabbing a drink, suggest a place that makes mocktails. Kinship, Rose’s Luxury, Tico, and Kyirisan all have alcohol-free options, and they’re served in a glass just like a regular cocktail. Most place are accommodating – just ask.

Or you could always, you know, drink water.

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.