From its scenic monuments to its award-winning restaurants, the nation’s capital shines as a date-worthy destination. Whether you’re trying to impress a first date or switch things up with a long time significant other, there is no limit to the amount of places and experiences that you can do, see, and explore.
For romantics to adventure seekers, here are 10 foolproof ideas to make a good impression, brought to you by the experts from datenightsdc.org. Looking for even more ways to wow your s.o.? Surprise them with a staycation, score sweet deals and check out their guides for 100+ date ideas, ranging from budget-friendly activities to tips for uncovering the most romantic spots in DC.
1. Get to Know The Wharf
The Wharf is located along DC’s historic Southwest Waterfront and is one of the city’s newest destinations for dining, shopping, and entertainment. Make your way down by Metro, shuttle bus, or bike and enjoy public piers, parks, locally grown dining concepts, and some of the city’s best waterfront views. There’s an activity for everyone — whether you see a show at The Anthem, a 6,000-seat concert hall featuring popular artists like The Killers and Lorde; dine at one of more than 20 new restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Fabio Trabocchi’s Del Mar and Top Chef Contestant Mike Isabella’s Requin; explore the Maine Avenue Fish Market, which serves up fine seafood like crabs and oysters; or take in the killer views from one of The Wharf’s four piers, you simply can’t go wrong. Check out even more activities here.
2. Hungry? Explore the artisanal feasting ground that is Union Market
Stop by this vibrant culinary haven in NoMa for a plethora of sweet and savory dining options. This revived produce- and meat-selling bazaar features too many mouth-watering spots to list, but a few include Buffalo & Bergen, serving up drool-worthy sandwiches and their famous Lox’d and Loaded, a Ketel One bloody mary garnished with an everything bagel and lox; Rappahannock Oyster Bar, where you can get pristine oysters and clams from nearby Virginia; Takorean, which started as a food truck and is now a Union Market staple; and Red Apron Butchery, offering an overwhelming 80+ artisanal products to choose from in addition to fierce sandwich options like the Red Apron Original. Read about all the other appetizing eateries here.
3. Pose in front of one of DC’s street murals
To add something different to you and your s.o.’s monument-filled Instagram feeds, stop by one of DC’s vibrant street murals — the city’s neighborhood walls are teeming with them in every quadrant. From depictions of our hometown heroes to inspiring quotes to even fruit, there are literally hundreds of photo ops just waiting to be explored. Stop by the “love” mural in Shaw’s Blagden alley, the new Ben’s Chili Bowl mural on U Street, a mural of Ben Franklin, a lotus bloom on the Met Branch Trail, and plenty more that you can check out here and here.
4. Go on a distillery tour and tasting
Touring and doing a tasting at a distillery puts a fun twist on just getting drinks. One of the most unique spots on U Street is District Distilling Co., a homegrown distillery that produces award-winning spirits and offers a $10 tour on weekdays starting at 4pm and on weekends from noon to 8pm. At Union Market’s Cotton & Reed, visitors can get an inside look at how the white and dry spiced rum are made before kicking back in the front bar and tasting room. Ivy City is also filled with cool distilleries to explore — including Republic Restoratives, a woman-owned distillery offering tours on Saturday and Sunday and cocktail tastings in its cocktail bar, The Ivy Room, from Thursday to Sunday; New Columbia Distillers, the makers of Green Hat Gin, offering free tours and tastings on Saturday afternoon; One Eight Distilling, known for their vodka; and Jos. A Magnus & Co., where you can taste the distillery’s gin and bourbon and go on tours Friday to Sunday.
5. Dine at one of DC’s Michelin-Star Rated Restaurants
The century-old French guidebook included more than a dozen DC restaurants on its acclaimed list for 2018, so if you’re trying to really wow your date, dining at one of these hot spots is a surefire way to do so. The restaurants that received two stars are Minibar, Pineapple & Pearls (Washingtonian’s top-rated restaurant of 2017) and the Inn at Little Washington. The list of restaurants that received one-star ratings is more expansive and includes Blue Duck Tavern, The Dabney, Fiola, Kinship, Komi, Masseria, Metier (Washingtonian’s top-rated restaurant of 2018), Plume, Rose’s Luxury, Sushi Taro, and Tail Up Goat.
6. Visit an off-the-Mall museum
There’s no question that DC is a museum town, so for a classic day in the nation’s capital, take your date to one of these off-the-Mall museums and impress them with how much you know. If you love art, the Phillips Collection, which calls itself America’s first museum of modern art, hosts Sunday concerts, staged readings, gallery talks, workshops, and more. To revel in the power of women, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only major museum in the world strictly dedicated to showcasing the artistry of women and features art stretching all the way back to the 16th century. For something techy and cool, Artechouse has a new “Parallel Universe” 3D light-and-projection exhibit that’s inspired by science, math, and technology. For some romance, the National Postal Museum shares many personal American stories, some involving penning love letters, in addition to explaining the workings of the U.S. mail.
7. Play board and arcade games at these local bars
Take your date to Atlas Arcade to geek out on your favorite arcade games — think Mario Kart and Pac Man — and music from the ‘80s and ‘90s, or challenge them to some friendly competition at The Board Room with games like Yahtzee, Battleship, Scrabble, and Operation. It’s almost impossible not to love H Street Country Club, where you can spark some friendly competition over a game of mini golf, shuffleboard, or skee ball, and the same goes for Franklin Hall, offering tabletop games like Uno and giant Jenga.
8. Feel the love at the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden (and ice rink!)
The National Gallery of Art offers some of the world’s finest works of art, while its sculpture garden serves as the ideal romantic rendezvous. Don’t miss Robert Indiana’s famed AMOR and works by Louise Bourgeois, Sol LeWitt, Roxy Paine, Tony Smith, and Roy Lichtenstein. During the winter months, the garden’s fountain turns into a giant ice rink, where you and your s.o. can skate surrounded by large-scale sculptures.
9. Tour the Freer and Sackler galleries
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and neighboring Freer Gallery of Art form the national museum of Asian art in the United States. Both are dedicated to advancing public knowledge about the arts and cultures of Asia through exhibitions, publications, research, and education. The museums offer a ton of events that you and your date can attend, including films, performances, tours, workshops, and more.
10. Get cozy by an outdoor fire pit
When temperatures dip, there’s no better place to be than cozied up by the fire. Take your date to one of the 20+ places in DC that offer roaring fireplaces and outdoor fire pits. You can’t go wrong with Barcelona on 14th Street, where you can sip sangria outdoors with blankets, heat lamps, and a fire place nearby. One of the most romantic restaurants in DC, Iron Gate also offers a fireplace out on its decadent courtyard, transforming the space into the perfect date destination year round. Masseria, one of the city’s Michelin-Star recipients, has fire pits on its furnished patio; grab a signature cocktail and enjoy the outdoors before your dinner reservation. Top of the Gate blends fireside vibes with scenic views of the city’s skyline, complete with an ice skating rink and spiked hot chocolate.