Where to Go on a Date in DC This Summer

Get back out there.

Imperfecto | Photo by Jennifer Chase
Imperfecto | Photo by Jennifer Chase

With the rise in temperatures and the drop in COVID-19 cases, this summer gives us reason to celebrate in ways that we haven’t enjoyed in—quite literally—years. As we all breathe a collective sigh of relief, DC is breathing new life into our social scene, so that means that there’s never been a better time to go on a date in our beautiful city. 

Whether you’re celebrating new love or luxuriating in a tried and true relationship, the long days and warm weather provide the perfect backdrop for a wide range of activities. Better still, now that we’re newly unfettered by pandemic restrictions, we no longer have to resign ourselves to awkward virtual date ideas. DC (and the surrounding area) is chock full of unique and engaging dates that you'll both enjoy, so here are the best ways you and your date can celebrate your newfound freedom (not to mention romance) in DC. 

Carriage House Wineworks
Photo courtesy of Carriage House Wineworks

Go on a winery (or brewery) tour 

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Some of the most romantic and delicious wineries on the East Coast are a mere 30- to 45-minute drive away from DC in Virginia. Loudoun County in particular is home to a great many vineyards where you can learn about winemaking, sample some wines, and get to know one another better while exploring the vines. We’re particular fans of Walsh Family Wine and Carriage House Wineworks, both of which are part of the Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold Medal Trail. Truly romantic views can be found at Sunset Hills Vineyard (seriously, go watch a sunset), as well as The Vineyards & Winery at Lost Creek. If wine isn’t your thing, there are also a number of great breweries in DC and just outside the city as well, like Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery or Vanish Farmwoods Brewery.

Grab a brew and a book at Kramer’s 

Dupont Circle
Everyone’s favorite independent bookstore is also a great laid-back date spot. Impress your date with a late afternoon of literary perusal, pointing out your respective faves and maybe each picking up a new one to read. To the back of Kramerbooks is the shop’s Afterwords Cafe if you both get hungry, and on the side of that is a small bar—the perfect little spot for sharing a slice of pie or getting a quick drink. Also make sure to check out the calendar, where they post fun events like live jazz in the cafe and book readings by notable authors.

National Portrait Gallery Library
National Portrait Gallery Library | Flickr/R Boed

Visit the museums

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Museums are open again in DC, which can provide you and your date with hours upon hours of educational, illuminating, and largely free fun. Whether you’re into art history, natural history, or the history of the United States, there’s a museum for you. Taking a stroll around a museum or simply finding a seat in the National Portrait Gallery’s airy atrium can be a great date activity, especially when strolling around outside gets to be a bit too warm. 

Have yourself a staycation 

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If you’re ready to spend a little more time with your date and away from the familiar comforts of your day-to-day home, consider taking your partner on a staycation. There are adventurous Airbnbs in DC and the surrounding area, plus DC’s hospitality industry is revving to host guests again, and a number of hotels offer beautiful escapes from the mundane. Check out the beautiful Kimpton Hotel Monaco, the swanky Rosewood Hotel, or the unique LINE Hotel

Meridian Hill Park fountain
Meridian Hill Park fountain | Flickr/Rudi Riet

Take a stroll around Meridian Hill Park

Columbia Heights
Meridian Hill Park—“a garden fit for an aristocrat, open to the public”—is a picturesque place to stroll around at any time of the year. It has the longest cascading fountain in North America and is always chock-full of (very good) dogs. Take your date to pick up some Ethiopian food from Zenebech nearby, and then go for a leisurely stroll. Bonus: Come on a Sunday for the opportunity to participate in or watch the weekly drum circle.

Grab some time on the river

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What better place to cool off during a hot summer or a hot date than by the water? Luckily, DC has several waterfronts for you to choose from. Rent a kayak and figure out your tandem paddling skills, or grab a drink and watch the sunset over one of the rivers. If you’re at the Wharf, take in the views from La Vie or new sushi joint NaRa-Ya, or if you’re in Georgetown, grab some cupcakes from Baked and Wired for a sweet treat. Navy Yard goers can delight in a glass of wine from District Winery, or a fine dining experience at Albi. No matter which waterfront you choose, you’re sure to find some love in the air or in the water.

Take a hike 

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Get ready to work up a sweat without ever having to head into a workout studio, and head out on a hike with your date to connect over your shared love of the great outdoors. With plenty of scenic options nearby to choose from, we suggest picking the distance and difficulty of the trail based on how many dates you’ve already been on. First dates might want to opt for a walk on the beautiful Theodore Roosevelt Island, a quick stroll across the Key Bridge from Georgetown. There, take in views of the Potomac and picturesque Georgetown across the way. More advanced dates might want to take a quick drive to check out Great Falls Park to view some of its spectacular waterfalls together. Billy Goat is always a popular scramble, and for those really interested in taking the whole day outside, head over to Old Rag in Virginia. 

Learn how to make a mean cocktail

Here’s a chance to impress your date with your bartending skills. A number of bartenders in the city began teaching virtual drink-making classes during the pandemic, and they’re still willing to share their expertise if you ask nicely. Al Thompson of Thip Khao, for example, can show you how to make an awesome Corpse Reviver (both numbers 1 and 2) from the comfort of your own home. It’ll be a chance for you two to test your palette, support bartenders, and enjoy a delicious drink that you’ve crafted yourself.

Check out a sporting event 

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DC is a sports town. That is to say, whether you’re a hockey or horse fan, you and your date can cheer on each other (and of course, your favorite players) while celebrating your love. Equestrians can easily make their way over to the Preakness (it’s never too early to plan ahead), whereas basketball, football, baseball, hockey, and soccer fans can cheer on the home team. During the summer months, head over to Navy Yard to check out the Nationals or DC United, and grab some delicious food to-go from La Famosa or Bammy’s, and a cold brew from Atlas Brew Works or Bluejacket while you’re at it. 

minibar by José Andrés
Photo courtesy of minibar by José Andrés

Go out for a fine dining experience 

Now that we can finally dine without restriction, it’s high time to take advantage of DC’s bustling restaurant scene. Our city is internationally known for its international cuisine, and while you and your partner could enjoy great conversation over any meal, for a truly memorable date, consider checking out any one of DC’s swanky restaurants. There’s Imperfecto by Chef Enrique Limardo; minibar by Jose Andres; Albi by Michael Rafidi; and Moon Rabbit by Kevin Tien, just to name a few. Of course, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great meal in DC either—for example, you could grab pre-dinner drinks at Serenata, then head over to Las Gemelas (all in La Cosecha) for a delicious epicurean experience that won’t break the bank. 

Learn some history at Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon
Drive a quick 30 minutes into Northern Virginia and you’ll get to George and Martha Washington’s old pad, Mount Vernon. There, you and your date will get a chance to learn about American History while taking in some fresh air. There’s plenty to do, from touring the estate and gardens to visiting the farm animals, but booking a tour ahead of time—like a Hamilton the Musical Tour or a Distillery and Gristmill Tour—will make the visit even more memorable.

Treat yourselves to a spa day

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Neither one of you needs to do any work in order to have a massage bring the two of you closer together. For a luxurious and pampered experience, treat yourself and your partner to a delightful spa day at one of DC or the surrounding area’s resorts like the spa at the Mandarin Oriental, as well as at Lansdowne Resort.

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Elsie Yang is a Thrillist contributor. Follow her on Instagram.