12 Free and Cheap Date Ideas to Try in Washington, D.C.

National Mall | © xiquinhosilva / Flickr
National Mall | © xiquinhosilva / Flickr
Photo of Nicole Hampton
19 September 2017

The cost of living in D.C. may be soaring, but you can still find many places that sympathize with your need to get out there and have some fun. In fact, these low-budget dates are so fun and clever that you’ll be having your date sighing with relief because you aren’t taking them to another snooty restaurant that was the same as the last 10.

Art as an aphrodisiac

The Phillips Collection is a wonderful art museum for a date because it’s one of the few museums that feels intimate. It’s the first museum of modern art in America, comprised of four adjacent buildings, one being the founder’s, Duncan Phillips, own Georgian Revival-style home. The museum also sits in a vibrant location, Dupont Circle. If you both aren’t that into art, this might give you a new appreciation for it, or you can just make fun of a van Gogh together.

The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 387 2151

Get happy at Chef Geoff’s

You can’t go wrong with a happy hour, especially one that has several locations, lasts all weekend from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and all day Monday and Tuesday. Chef Geoff’s offers not only $9.50 super mugs, $1 off pints, and discounted wines, but they also discount their appetizers, burgers ($8), and pizza ($10). As Carl’s Jr.® proved, nothing is sexier than your significant other stuffing their face with fattening goodness.

Chef Geoff’s, 3201 New Mexico Ave NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 237 7800

A better, cheaper version of the movies

Instead of taking your date to the movies (with most tickets going for about $15 and snacks a lot more), check out the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company where for once you get a discount for being young (tickets are $20 if you’re 30 and under). If you’re older or its the day after bills, don’t worry, as there are Pay-What-You-Can performances at the beginning of each run. You’re sure to enjoy yourself and have plenty to agree on and fall in love over—or find out they aren’t your soul mate because they just don’t understand the satirical elements of the protagonist’s costume.

Woolly Mammoth Theater Company | © Ted Eytan / Flickr

Couples who hike together, stay together

Mainly because of coyotes and muggers, but hey, whatever gets someone to stick around long enough to get to know you. Rock Creek Park is an astounding 1,700 acres and one of the most beautiful parks in Washington D.C. It has plenty of trails to explore, a historic site, nature center, horse center, planetarium, and picnic area, which people may use to blast music and play drunk kickball, so you’ll have a picnic and a free show.

Rock Creek Park | © Katja Schulz / Flickr

Music to your heart

The enchanting Luce Foundation Center for American Art hosts a free monthly concert series called Luce Unplugged, and the shows on Fridays see two bands perform. You can listen to local talent while getting to know the local distilleries and breweries that have free drink samples that night as well. There is also a cash bar if you do have a little money to spend now that you saved on the free concert. This locale is a perfect place to play at your special someone’s heartstrings while a professional musician plays their strings.

Luce Foundation Center for American Art, F St NW & 8th St NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 633 1000

A variety of entertainment at The Kennedy Center

You never know what type of entertainment you’ll find on the Millennium Stage, but one thing is certain: it’ll be entertaining. With the mission of making the performing arts accessible to everyone, The Kennedy Center hosts shows—dance, opera, poetry readings, choirs, comedy shows, and more—every evening at 6 p.m. So if your date can only meet on a specific day of the week or is getting back from a business trip a day later than planned, the good old reliable Kennedy Center has you covered.

The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 467 4600

Roses are red

And your date won’t be blue if you take them to see the roses and other flowers at the Enid A. Haupt Garden. This garden is one of the several Smithsonian Gardens, and it expands to an impressive four acres. If you happen to date a lot, or you and your partner just want a thing that’s “your thing,” go and visit the Parterre whenever you go. It changes in color and orientation, so it is something to visit continuously. It sits right across from the Smithsonian Castle, a Victorian-style red stone building that’s also worth a visit—if only to watch the 24-minute video on D.C. attractions.

Enid A. Haupt Garden, 12 Independence Ave SW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 633 2220

Water, the element of love

What do hot tubs, bubble baths, and paddle boats all have in common? Water. And it is this very element that you can find when you visit Tidal Basin. Why this specific body of water might be better than others is simple. You can rent paddle boats for cheap; you get a fantastic view of the Jefferson Memorial, and if you go at the right time, you can see the famous Japanese cherry blossoms. It combines leisure with sightseeing and alone time, which makes it a perfect D.C. date.

Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C., USA

History is hot

And D.C. is the most historic city in America, so you have a lot of options for date night. One of those options is to visit the National Mall at night. When the lights come on to create a glow around the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, the crowd of tourists dwindles, and it’s the time when no one can admonish you for bringing a flask to share. Just don’t get too lit and climb on top of Lincoln, or you’ll be spending the night in a jail cell instead of your date’s apartment.

National Mall, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 426 6841

Laugh the night away

If eyes are the windows to the soul, then laughter must be the voice of it. Find out what’s in your lover’s heart at Dojo Comedy, a different kind of comedy with a rustic atmosphere and hearty character. With the ticket price under $10, it’s a hard bargain to pass up for some lively and witty entertainment. If you and your significant other ends up thinking you can do better than the comics you see that night, they also have workshops available.

Dojo Comedy, 3503 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 844 469 3656

An all-in-one at DC9

This venue hosts a variety of music performances almost every night, with ticket prices usually around $12–15, and if you’re going on a weeknight, you can get there as early as 2:00 p.m. for happy hour. Their Bud and Bud Light are $2.50; Rail Cocktails are $3.00, and the Beer of the Week is $3.00. There’s a rooftop deck that’s free entry and serves food that’s as satisfying and eclectic as the performances, including gluten-free and vegetarian options.

DC9, 1940 9th St NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 483 5000

When we were young

Nothing is more fun than returning to the indulgences of your youth. At Lyman’s Tavern, you can do exactly that. Spend the day in this retro dive bar playing pinball and chowing on some cheap eats. A draft beer can be as low as $3; a pair of hot dogs will only be $6, and their popcorn is free. They’re also pet-friendly, so be sure to bring your dog if you have one. After all, if your best friend likes your date, they must be the one for you.

Lyman’s Tavern, 3720 14th St NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 723 0502

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