101 Date Ideas In DC: How to Find Cheap Fun Under $25

One thing any local can tell is that D.C. can be expensive. Finding cheap, romantic spots to wander in the nation’s capital on a date nights in D.C. seems next to impossible, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

There are loads of romantic places to explore that won’t cost you a dime, plus hidden gems that you can hit up when looking for cheap date night ideas that are less than $25 for two people.

Best Date Night DC ideas

How to Plan an Inexpensive Washington, D.C. Date Night

When I initially went out looking for date night ideas near me for under $25 per couple, I had to get creative.

What might have felt like a good idea at the right price point, sometimes spiraled out of control as we added more appetizers or ordered another round of drinks at our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant.

Activities, like bowling and mini golf, would soon add up as we paid the main fee, plus rentals, snacks, etc.

So, while you may want to do it all, it’s a good idea to do a little research AND try to only bring cash so you aren’t tempted to splurge when you need to stick to your budget.

I’m serious, you will be surprised how many perfect date nights (mornings and days) you can plan for under $25 in Washington, D.C. in neighborhoods like Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Capital Hill, and even Georgetown.

the best hot chocolate Washington DC

Date Night Restaurants in Washington DC

Comet Ping Pong

If you are looking for food AND fun, head over to Comet Ping Pong for good pizza and ping pong tables to work off all of those carbs.

Empanadas and Cocktails at Colada

I love Colada. On a hot summer day, I want an empanada trio with one of their signature cocktails. In winter, I want their hot chocolate with a homemade toasted marshmallow on top (and empanadas of course).

Pop into their location on The Wharf on Pearl Street, or my favorite, the location on T Street in the U Street NW area of the city. Ice Cream Jubilee is right next door, so you can have a bit of sweet and savory all year round for under $25 per couple.

District The Wharf Christmas Washington DC

Make S’mores at the Wharf

Camp Wharf is where it’s at on the Wharf when you want to snuggle up by a fire, eat s’mores and do some people watching.

It’s a fun first date and an easy date for Valentine’s Day if you are on a budget, but want to do something quirky and fun.

the best hot chocolate Washington DC

Wander the DC Food Halls

We have a lot of food halls in D.C., so why not have a progressive dinner through each one?

Take turns picking out one item from the stalls that interest you, head out to a picnic table and see who snagged the best finds in your DIY tasting menu.

  • Eastern Market
  • Union Market
  • La Cosecha
  • The Block Foodhall DC
  • Tastemakers
  • The Roost
  • Western Market
Washington DC National Mall Looking at the Washington Monument

Picnic Spots in Washington DC

One of the best ways to save money is to make your own food at home to take out on a picnic. This is one of my favorite dates with my husband, even if the kids have to join us, and also one of many perfect double date ideas since it can hit any budget.

There are so many beautiful places to set down a picnic blanket, grab a picnic table or even a bench, to enjoy a meal together.

Just don’t forget to put all of your trash in a designated trash bin. We want to keep our city beautiful so we can continue to have as much fun as our imaginations can come up with.

Things to do in DC Lincoln Memorial

Best Picnic Spots in Washington, D.C.

By no means a comprehensive list, but these are some of our favorite picnic areas in D.C.

  • National Mall
    • Lincoln Memorial
    • WWII Memorial
    • Washington Monument
  • Constitution Park
  • Tidal Basin
    • Jefferson Memorial
  • Rock Creek Park
  • National Harbor
  • Gravelly Point Park (watch the planes land at DCA)
  • National Arboretum
Washington DC Farmers Markets

D.C. Farmers Markets

The D.C. farmers markets are an ideal place to check out up and coming makers. It’s the perfect alternative brunch date too, as there is always a coffee shop nearby if there isn’t any coffee in the market.

Plus, there tends to be at least one pastry stand, so grab some muffins or croissants and a basket of berries for the perfect farmer’s market breakfast.

Washington DC Farmers Markets

Weekend Farmers Markets in D.C.

Most farmer’s markets are open from 9am-1pm on the weekends, with a few earlier/later exceptions.

If you aren’t sure you will make it in time, check the market’s website or Facebook page. They will always have the most up to date information there.

If you are looking for weekday farmer’s markets, there are a few, but not as many as Saturday morning.

Daily Markets
  • Eastern Market (daily)
  • Union Market (daily
Saturday Farmer’s Markets in D.C.
  • 14th and U Street Market
  • Adams Morgan Farmers’ Market
  • Arcadia Mobile Market  in Downtown Anacostia
  • Arcadia Mobile Market @ Deanwood Recreation Center
  • Bertie Backus Farm Stand
  • Cleveland Park
  • C.R.I.S.P Market at THEARC
  • FRESHFARM Cesar Chavez Farm Stand
  • FRESHFARM Columbia Heights Community Market
  • FRESHFARM Glover Park-Burleith Farmers’ Market
  • FRESHFARM Kenilworth Farmers’ Market
  • FRESHFARM Market H St NE
  • FRESHFARM Market at Capitol Riverfront Market 
  • FRESHFARM Monroe Street Farmers’ Market
  • FRESHFARM Uptown Farmers’ Market
  • Maret School
  • Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market
  • New Morning Farm Stand
  • Petworth Farmers’ Market
  • Southwest DC Community Farmers’ Market
  • Van Ness Farmers’ Market (UDC)
  • Ward 8 Farmers Market
  • Williams’ Market @ R.F.K. Stadium
Sunday Farmer’s Markets in D.C.
  • Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market
  • FRESHFARM Market at Dupont Circle
  • FRESHFARM Market at Capitol Riverfront Market 
  • Palisades Farmers’ Market

Where to Grab Drinks in D.C.

Experience a great cup of coffee in D.C.

There are so many coffee shops in D.C. that you could spend a year of date nights (or day dates) searching for your favorite. And don’t worry coffee haters, there are some amazing hot chocolate spots in D.C. too.

The price is write and you may even be able to pick up that chocolate croissant you have been eying in the pastry case, while still staying on budget.

Our favorite D.C. coffee shops can be found HERE.

Boozy shakes at Date Night in DC

Boozy Milkshakes at Ted’s Bulletin

My neighbor LOVES to go to Ted’s Bulletin with her boyfriend for boozy milkshakes. Two shakes will put you right up to the $25 once you factor in tax and tips, but it is worth it.

There are a ton of locations throughout the city, so pick your favorite neighborhood, sip your milkshake (try the Grasshopper or Nutty Professor), and then take a stroll around to soak up the local color of the city.

More ice cream in D.C.

Rooftop bars DC

Drinks at one of D.C.’s Rooftop bars

Grab a drink with an amazing view of the city when you pop into a D.C. rooftop bar. Many have signature cocktails, snacks and a chic ambiance that allows you to show off your style without a crazy price tag.

Happy Hour DC
credit Farmers Restaurant Group

Happy hour Hop!

Want to make your dollar stretch? Check out our favorite D.C. happy hour spots across the city where you will find not only drink specials, but food discounts as well, so you can have a full date at a fraction of the price.

Beer Flight

Brewery Hop in DC

It’s super easy to check out the D.C. brewery scene, whether you want to visit one and savor a flight, or tour a few beer halls (with a ride home of course).

Personally, we like to pick one brewery when we are on a cheap date night. We can share a tasting (or get two different flights) with an appetizer when there is a food menu at the brewery.

Find your favorite Brewery in D.C.

Washington DC Book Shops- Kramer's Books

Breakfast and Books at Kramer’s

Breakfast can be one of the cheapest meals of the day when you are on a budget but still want to have a fun date. Kramer’s Books serves breakfast all day, so you can grab your eggs and browse books anytime of the day, making this a double header date.

After all, you can learn a lot about a person by what they read, so this just might be the best second date out there.

Washington DC distillery tours

Go on a Distillery Tour and Tasting

Washington, D.C. has had an explosion of distilleries over the past decade, especially in Ivy City.

Pop into one of the District’s distilleries for a tasting, but please make sure you save a little cash for an Uber ride home!

D.C. Distilleries

  • Don Ciccio & Figli
  • District Distilling Co.
  • Republic Restoratives
  • Jos. A Magnus & Co
  • New Columbia Distillers
  • One Eight Distilling
  • Cotton & Reed
  • Tiki TNT & Potomac Distilling Company
Washington DC Date Night Ideas - swing dancing

Things to do on a Date Night in DC

Best Place to Go Dancing in Washington DC

Swing Dancing

Step into Swing Dancing in Washington, D.C. with one of the The New Columbia Social nightly dances. Some events are free, while others have a nominal fee.

Classes are also offered so you and your date can learn something new together.

Washington DC Date Night Ideas - salsa dancing

Salsa Dancing

Salsa is another favorite dance for couples who want to shake their hips, whether you are a beginner or seasoned pro. Even if you just want to watch, some of D.C.’s best Latin restaurants and clubs offer live music and dancing at some point during the week.

Check the website before you go to guarantee there will be dancing when you show up with your date. Some have a cover charge while others are available for restaurant patrons.

Drinks and dancing can easily keep you under budget as long as their isn’t a cover charge and you don’t go wild.

  • Café Citron (great happy hour prices too!)
  • Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar
  • Habana Village
  • Tropicalia
  • 9:30 Club
  • Bossa

D.C. Clubs

Of course you can always check out the D.C. club scene, but keep an eye on those cover charges. Sure, you may be able to get into the club under budget, but if you want anything to drink you will quickly go over.

Art DC

Tour a D.C. Museum

Museums are a great way to save money while still being entertained during a date.

Keep in mind that many D.C. museums now require timed tickets, so check each website to make sure you have what you need before you arrive.

For the more popular museums, preplanning is the key to getting in. Check the website for tickets EARLY, even if the museum is free.

Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown Washington DC

Dumbarton Oaks 

Dumbarton Oaks is one of Washington, D.C.’s many grand estates that can be found right in Georgetown. Entry fees are under $10 per person which may just leave you enough money to grab a sundae to share at Thomas Sweet just a few blocks away.

Also in the area is Tudor Place, which is always free, but only open on the weekends.

Glenstone Museum in Potomac Maryland

Glenstone Museum

Hop on a bus to the Montgomery County in the D.C. suburbs to see this insane art museum in Potomac, Maryland that might just be more impressive on the outside than the inside.

Take the bus or drive over, but remember to reserve your FREE tickets ahead of time.

Please note that picnic are NOT allowed on the grounds, but there is a little cafe to indulge your tastebuds if you get hungry.

Butterfly Pavilion National Museum of Natural History

OK, so what could be more romantic than a room filled with stunning butterflies flitting around you? While the National Museum of Natural History is free, going into the Butterfly Pavilion will cost you a few dollars.

Personally, it’s worth it. For people who don’t like critters landing on them, you might want to pass.

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

National Gallery of Art- Sculpture Garden

We love going for a stroll around the National Gallery of Art- Sculpture garden throughout the year to see how the environment changes around the art.

Even if you already took your date to the gardens over the summer, in winter the museum sets up an ice skating rink in the garden with skate rentals for a nominal fee.

Alternatively, you can stroll the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which is more compact, but just as amazing.

National Museum of Women in the Arts Women
credit National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Do a little planning and you can visit the National Museum of Women for FREE on the first and third Sunday of the month for Community Day.

Show your partner how much you value the women in your life with a trip to this impressive art museum celebrating female artists across the globe.

DC Museums

National Zoo

There is nothing more romantic than going to the National Zoo in Rock Creek Park to see the panda bears. Maybe it’s just me, but these rolly-polly, black and white bears give me so much joy (even though I know they could rip my face off if I jumped into their enclosure).

Walk or take the bus to save on parking (closest metro station is the Woodley Park-Zoo Metro Station), unless you are a member who gets free parking with membership.

Parking will instantly put you over your $25 budget.

Save that money for a snack at one of the zoo cafes or happy hour in Adams Morgan or Woodley Park just a few blocks from the zoo.


More Date Night Ideas at D.C. Museums

  • National Museum of American History
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • National Air and Space Museum
  • National Museum of American History
  • National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • National Museum of African Art
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Smithsonian Museum- Arts and Industries Building
  • Smithsonian Institution Information Center in the Castle
  • U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  • National Archives Museum
  • Anacostia Community Museum
  • Freer Gallery of Art
  • Renwick Gallery
  • Phillips Collection
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
  • National Postal Museum
  • Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
  • Smithsonian Institution Building
Arlington Virginia

Stroll Along the Potomac River

Take in the waterfront in Georgetown and Roosevelt Island on foot as you wander along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The Mount Vernon Trail in Northern Virginia brings you through some beautiful green spaces.

Another option- grab a bikeshare bicycle for a romantic experience inspired by the Europeans, and pedal your way along the river to see even more for a small bike rental fee.

Waterfalls near DC

Waterfalls in D.C.

Yes, we have waterfalls in D.C., but even more just a short drive out of the district. These are just two of my favorite, but if you have the time, plan a day trip to our favorite Maryland waterfalls and Virginia waterfalls.

Great Falls National Park

Great Falls Park

Great Falls National Park is one of the most impressive waterfalls near D.C., but it’s not the only one.

Keep in mind that national parks, and state parks in Virginia and Maryland require a pass, but for a day trip it shouldn’t break your budget as long as you pack a few snacks from home.

Meridian Hill Park in Washington DC - Cascading Fountain and Reflecting Pool

Meridian Park

While manmade, Meridian Hill Park is a beautiful spot to wander when the flowers are in bloom and the cascading waterfall is flowing.

Stick to a daytime visit, as the park can get a bit sketchy at night, and walk down U Street for happy hour, coffee or a snack before or after you explore the park.

More waterfalls near D.C.

Walk the Tidal Basin during Cherry Blossom Season

One of the first dates my husband took me on when we moved to D.C. was a walk around the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season during peak bloom.

We parked in the Reagan Building and walked over, although now I park in the Ford’s Theatre parking lot because it’s cheaper and more centrally located. There is a parking lot near the Jefferson memorial, but it is normally full or closed off during cherry blossom season in D.C.

You may have to fight the crowds close to the Jefferson Memorial, but the farther from the National Mall and Jefferson you walk, the less people you will find.

Start at the MLK Jr. Memorial or FDR Memorial and work your way around the Tidal Basin at sunset. For zero dollars you have the perfect spot for the most memorial date (and sunset kisses!).

Christmas at City Center in Washington DC

Window Shopping in CityCenter

Walk the corridors, see the latest installation art floating over your head (it changes with the seasons!) and then window shop at the luxury shops that call CityCenter home.

There are restaurants and coffee shops close by to grab a post-window shopping drink or snack before you head home.

Ice Skating DC

Go ice skating!

We have so many ice rinks in Washington D.C. that pop up over the winter months, you may want to plan a few date nights under the stars where you can glide across the ice.

Read our full guide to every indoor and outdoor ice rink in D.C., and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Find your next favorite comedian

Comedy is a fun way to break the ice on a first or fifth date. Check with your partner to see what kind of humor they enjoy and grab cheap tickets to one of the following comedy clubs in D.C.

Weekdays are the easiest times to find cheep theater tickets in D.C.

  • DC Improv
  • Dojo Comedy
  • Stand Up at Dupont Circle
  • Underground Comedy
Murals DC - 51st State- H Street

Take a self-guided Mural Tour

Washington D.C. is no stranger to public art or murals. Grab a snack to go and walk around any neighborhood in the city and you will find art.

The 51 Murals DC Project that pulled together multiple artists from across the city by the mayor to highlight Washington, D.C. statehood is an easy way to see a lot of the city if you need a little direction to get you started.

Washington Nationals Baseball Game

Grab Cheap Seats to a Nationals Game

Do a little research and you can find tickets to a Nationals baseball game for under $20 per person, sometimes as low as $13 for the cheap seats.

You may have to take it easy on food and beer to stay under $25, but when it comes to America’s favorite pastime, you can just sit back and enjoy hours of entertainment for less than the price of a movie ticket.

Bocce Ball at Pinstripes

While bowling can put you over the $25 mark at Pinstripes, bocce ball will keep you on budget and still having fun.

Check out the location in D.C., as well as at Pike & Rose if you want to get out of the city.

Washington DC Capital Bikeshare

Bike around Washington D.C.

For unique date ideas, you can never go wrong with grabbing Capital Bikeshare bikes and wandering around the city.

Personally, I’d pedal around the National Mall. There is a lot to see and you will see more with a bike than you will on foot before you get tired.

Rent bikes for an hour and then used the leftover money in your budget for a decadent dessert in D.C. You earned those calories!

Washington DC Date night ideas at an arcade with Pac-Man video game

Get Competitive at the Arcade and Game Nights

Grab a beer or cocktail and play a variety of games from skeeball and billards to board games and PacMan at one of the many arcades and game halls in Washington, D.C.

  • Atlas Arcade
  • The Board Room
  • H Street Country Club
  • Franklin Hall
  • Players Club
  • Hook Hall (they have fire pits!)
Blueberry Picking in Virginia

Go Berry Picking Near D.C.

Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, apples, pumpkins– you name it, we got it in the DMV.

Grab your baskets for strawberry picking in Maryland or U-Pick Blueberries in Virginia, or heck, even both. Each berry is on a different ripening schedule so you have loads of opportunities to get out of D.C. and onto the farm.

pick your own strawberries

Everywhere you can pick-your-own in VA and MD

More pick your own produce to look for in the Mid-Atlantic region

  • Blackberries
  • Peaches
  • Raspberries
  • Peaches
  • Grapes
Sunflower Fields in Maryland- Clear Meadow Farm

Wander the Flower Fields Near D.C.

Alternatively, you could go flower picking at one of the many tulip farms and sunflower fields in Virginia and Maryland.

Some of the farms host spring or summer festivals that cost a nominal fee to attend, but are worth the day trip out to wander fields of blooms, enjoy live music and sample regional food.

If you are just looking for pick-your-own flowers, you can easily do that for under $25, and still come home with an arm filled with flowers.

Kennedy Center

Free & Cheap Live Entertainment

We are blessed with a lot of free live entertainment in Washington, D.C.

Luce Foundation Center for American Art

The Luce Foundation hosts a free monthly concert series called Luce Unplugged at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Keep an eye on the website for more details and upcoming performances.

Millenium Stage at The Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center hosts shows, including dance, opera, poetry readings, choirs and comedy shows every evening at 6 p.m, and it’s free!

You can even enjoy a glass of wine at Victura Park at the REACH, an outdoor pop-up wine garden & cafe that is a truly amazing spot at night as you listen to live music all around you.

Traditional Irish Music Sessions

For the cost of a pint, you can enjoy live Irish music performed by local artists all night long. Check out the latest Irish music session lineup and start planning a music-filled date night.

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