DC Free Date Ideas

Following up on the list I created for London Free Date Ideas, I crafted a list of some unique things to fo in the District. Let’s face it, DC is expensive, we enjoy paying 10% sales tax and $4 for a single taco. Lots of people get stumped on free things to do beyond going to Smithsonian Museums and cherry blossoms at the monuments so hopefully, this list can help you out.

*A side note on this is that it is not unreasonable to expect both parties on a date to foot the bill. However, I really do see the value in the desire to treat someone to a good time. I don’t think it is at all unequal or sexist to feel this way. Also, it goes without saying that these suggestions are not limited to dates–they can include platonic dates, family visits, solo adventures, whatever your heart tells you!*

1. Museums, there are more museums out there than the Smithsonian’s it’s true I promise! However, starting with the gems so generously run by the government my favorites that are a little lesser known and might woo a potential interest are the Hirshhorn, Sackler Gallery, Renwick, and the National Building Museum.  Currently, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibition is about to open at the Hirshhorn and it is going to be an incredible interactive exhibit. Beyond the Smithsonians are the donation based private collections and gardens that can be tricky to find but worth the research. I recently just learned about the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens which can dazzle with their manicured, beautiful landscaping and quirky art collection. The Phillips Collection also likes to sprinkle surprise free days throughout the year so keep alert for those.


2. Art Galleries, on top of all the museums and art collections, commercial art galleries can be a great place to score some free food, wine, and see not priceless but very pricey works of art. You and your date can pretend to peruse for your humble DC shack which can add to all the fun. Some great galleries that consistently hold receptions are Longview Gallery, Morton Fine Art, Foundry Gallery and Transformer.

3. Franciscan Monastery, way out in Brookland, not Brooklyn (see entire post here), is the Franciscan Monastery. You can meander through the beautiful buildings and wooded gardens for hours. The roses are absolutely beautiful when in bloom and the monastery is so serene and peaceful. It is the perfect location for a calm stroll.

4.  Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, while out in Brookland make it a catholic themed date and head to the basilica which boasts a less humble gorgeous church with a very interesting crypt free for exploring underneath.

5. Washington National Cathedral, I know these three locales are feeling very religious for dates I think most people are comfortable absorbing beautiful architecture and buildings rich in history. Even though I am not Christian, I find churches very spiritual and impressive in their holy stature. Nearer to downtown resides the National Cathedral, a gothic inspired cathedral that really rounds out the entire church tour of the District. It is best to catch the cathedral at sunrise or sunset because the arches cast the most beautiful shadows on the small passageways.You can splurlge on a cup of coffee at the Open City at the National Cathedral and wonder around the petite Bishop’s Garden.

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6. National Arboretum, this not-so-obscure spot is classic first date material. There is just enough nature, history, and bonsai serenity. The arboretum can get crowded on the weekends so try to pick a weekday to visit or arrive nice and early. The fields and paths are perfect for ambling and the columns from the original capitol building are especially photogenic when the wildflowers are in bloom in front of them. For an arboretum, there is not an overly impressive amount of tree species but the bonsai collection is quite divine.

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7. Capitol Tour, as I mentioned in my previous date guide there is nothing wrong with geeking out a little bit when going out, in fact, it’s highly encouraged. You can make arrangments with your state’s representative to go on a guided tour of the capitol with a political savvy intern and see the impressive Capitol in all it’s splendor A capitol tour is a nice alternative to the tired old stroll around the mall–looking at monuments you and your friend have probably visited on numerous occasions.


8. Meridian Hill Park, one of my favorite parks in DC is a great place to have a picnic or rendezvous. The fountains (when on) are spectacular. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore and intimate places to find around the park. Meridian Hill is also a hotspot for dog watching and who doesn’t love a cute pup to cuddle with?



9. Roosevelt IsIland, a naturally romantic spot and a romatic nature spot. Roosevelt Island is a hidden gem that is great for trail runs and walks. You can access it via a jaunt along the waterfront and over the Key Bridge or by weaving past the Kennedy Center. The Georgetown Waterfront way is more picturesque but there is something a little thrilling about the narrow walkway on the Memorial Bridge. There are so many cool views of DC and Rosslyn that you can’t get from anywhere else and the dense thicket of trees makes you feel for a moment that you have escaped the slabs of marble and concrete that envelope DC. Bring a snack and sit on the wooden boardwalk in warm weather for an added bonus.

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10. Thrifting at Georgia Avenue Thrift Shop, not entirely, but always free to look is some antiquing and thrifting. Georgia Avenue has racks and racks of clothes that are perfect for a little game of dress up and laughs about bad fashion over the decades. You might also venture to the back to see what odds and ends are for sale including random bits of furniture, parts of china sets, lamp shades and other wonderful artifacts. Try hunting for the strangest items you can find or relics of childhood–these are great conversation starters.

11. Union Market Sampling, it’s like going to a farmer’s market that you can enjoy year round. Union market has dozens of vendors (68 to be exact)  hawking their food and wares each day and offering up tasty samples of everything from olive oil to chocolate and soap to cheese. There are so many interesting things to try and it’s a great spot for intriguing people watching. It is quite possible if you hit the sampling right to not spend any money and get a decent meal in, or at least get some creative ideas for your own cooking. Union Market makes for a colorful culinary adventure and they market also has pop-up events such as live music or painting classes.

12. Dolcezza Factory Tour, like gelato? Enjoy seeing the mechanics behind how food is made? Crave fresh made soft serve? Well all your dreams can come true with a tour of the Dolcezza Gelato Factory. Located right behind Union Market, the factory holds tours on the weekend so you can make the most of your NoMa adventure and do Union Market sampling in the morning and gelato in the afternoon. It’s always a treat to have those cool how it’s made moments and witness them with someone else who has a sweet tooth or is an avid fan of production processes.

13. Brewery Tours, since I am from Boulder, the land of microbreweries I can’t say that DC is a beer town but the District is no slouch when it comes to having enough breweries for a create your own brewery tour. My favorites are 3 Stars, Right Proper and DC Brau. 3 Stars has beautiful large format beers in a cute small space with bright exposed lightbulbs and a no-frills atmosphere. Tours are Saturday at 2pm, 3pm, & 4pmTours and are free and open to the public c with valid 21+ ID. Right Proper has a very great date spot in their Brew Pub and Kitchen in Shaw but you can go see where the magic happens for free at their Brookland Production House and Tasting Room. Tours of the brewery are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm, 4pm, and 6pm and are completely free with tastes. They describe their tasting space so aptly that I am going to leave the quote to them, “our tasting room offers a view of the brewery in a cozy space filled with reclaimed cherry wood and a slightly disturbing chalk art mural.” Who can say no to disturbing chalk art? It is sure to make anyone at least more interested in you. Tour of DC Brau (not my favorite beer but local and fun) are free and on Saturday at 1, 2. 3 and 4pm. Their brewery space is awesome and filled with great merch, decals and has rotating guest food trucks in the back.

14. Congressional Cemetery, it may sound morbid to go to a cemetery on a date but I actually find graveyards so peaceful and relaxing. You can have your own Harold and Maude moment while learning about some interesting history. The grounds are very well-maintained and sometimes they host movie nights with spooky classics. For a first date or excursion best to visit in the day time but if you want to go at dawn or dusk that adds to the mystery and quiet solemness.

15. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, see full post here. The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are a rare nature retreat within the city limits. When the lilypads are in bloom, the swampy wetlands are incredible. The gardens show an adventurous, sensitive side all wrapped into one.

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Crazy for you, crazy in love, crazy, stupid, love, does that make me crazy? Chime, chime, chime, crazy, crazy, crazy. Why is love always associated with this word? Are feelings meant to be crazy, out of control and off the wall? Or are they meant to be calm, cool, and collected? The latter is associated with calculating and hardness—two words that don’t often mesh well with relationships but maybe those words are not such a bad thing. Maybe we need a little more balance, a little more thought and a little less wild and out of control. But perhaps loosing control is falling in love, tripping over your own feet just to meet someone else. Are we not soundly involved if we are not driving ourselves mad? Lots of questions, and I know, very few answers. The answer could lie in this swirl of chaos, maybe the chaos leads to clarity and we can’t delve into our deepest selves without going a little mad. Relationships shouldn’t push us to the edge but they somehow do. We stew in our thoughts, act irrationally, say and do insane things that we would never ordinarily do. This could prove that love is extra-ordinary, when we can’t contain ourselves to think and act straight.

Is it wrong to want to stay comfortable? Comfortable in our constructed limits, this seems healthy. However, we don’t want to come off as cold, emotionless—an empty vessel. I wonder when did thoughtfulness become a bad thing? When was it decided that outrageous and over-the-top where acceptable and even desirable? I don’t want to lose my breath around someone, sounds like a recipe for hyperventilation. I don’t want to be emotional and relinquish control. This is not saying I don’t want to try new things. I push myself all the time and even embrace change but not when change is so mentally straining that we forget ourselves. Forget all the reasoning and purpose we created for our life. Crazy, fickle feelings are not my friends—they are not my enemies either, but not the first feelings I want attached to romance.


I am going to start aiming for a little less crazy and a little saner. I want less confusion and hurling fistfuls of emotions at someone else. This doesn’t seem like a task too great but when relationships have pushed you so far from normalcy it is had to know what to go back to. It might be good to return to a more controlled side, more knowledgeable and less outrageous, less over-analyzing, and fewer unrealistic expectations. Let’s all be calm for a moment, still and restorative. This may take us to better relationships with longevity and phase out those disjointed moments of passion.


The Friend Zone

My girlfriends and I have been talking a lot about being “friend zoned” lately. Maybe it’s listening to too many new Adele songs but it got me in the mood to mull over this topic. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the concept of falling for someone only to find they see you in a purely platonic way. It’s rather disappointing isn’t it? However, the writings may have been written on the wall all along and you were just too into your crush to see them. I think this brings up the salient topic of whether girls and guys can be strictly friends. This is a polarizing subject that I have only broached with a few people but the occurrence of “friend zoning” is directly linked to this topic. All the signs you mistook for affection may just have been gestures of an endearing friend. So, how do we distinguish the difference? Should we first assume attraction or friendship? I’d like to think men and women can be friends as one of my dearest friends is a guy. However, I have heard some differing views. One hypothesis I like is the “missed connections” theory in which both people in the relationship will ultimately like one another but this will occur at different times. The only intersection of romantic feelings between friends would thusly happen in movies and very few real life circumstances where the lines of liking cross. There is an instinctual reaction to say that girls and guys can’t be friends because we are driven to couple up but this argument seems rather ridiculousness in modern society because we are not driven to mate per say. I am intensely curious about thoughts on this subject, as there are sure to be more opinions out there.

But back to the friend zone, sometimes we mistake kindness for sweetness, affection for attraction etc. This is not to say these things can jive together as they often do but one should be wary of lumping all actions to one side or the other of the balance. There are very sweet people out there and very touchy people out there and weirdly enough that’s just who they are. It’s probably best to think rationally about actions and never forget context. Say someone asks you to get coffee and study. Jumping to the immediate conclusion of “this is a coffee date and he/she loves me” may not be the most thoughtful conclusion. Think outside the current situation i.e. do you have a test coming up? Does this person suck at calculus and you are really apt? This process might help to draw reasoned conclusions. It’s true that some situations are downright confusing and make no sense. Maybe think of them as irregular variables in an experiment or correlation versus causation in statistics. Okay, that’s a lot of mathematics talk but the point is in there somewhere.


To be completely honest I’ve seen my friends and even myself burnt by misconceptions of the truth way too many times. Therefore, I am a bit more on the cautious skeptic side. Erring on the side of caution is not necessarily a bad thing because it allows you to be surprised when someone ends up expressing romantic feelings towards you. My ultimate argument would be that people should be explicitly clear about their feelings but I guess where’s the fun in that? Dropping hints and misreading signs are all part of the endless love game that we love to play.


Strikes and Spares

When meeting people the “get to know you process” can be clunky and awkward or smooth and steady. But as we learn more about someone we tend to assess them as potential dates or friends through a strange weeding out process. For me, if someone is not comfortable sharing food or eating family style this is an automatic strike against him or her. I make a grand assumption based on a very specific culinary quality and bam! Strike one. While many say we are in this proverbial game of life and love is there really a need for a strict strikeout policy? Why do we treat potential candidates for companionship as vessels who must fit into the rules of regulation play? If a baseball reference is not something you lean on there are many other similar examples in which we rate each other. “She/He’s a real knockout,” what does boxing have to do with anything? Why am I trying to get a KO out of this when really there are a lot more than 12 rounds to go? Strikeouts, knockouts, home runs first base, second base, blindsided and many other words are all tossed around like we are in a huge competition to meet people and create lasting relationships. While we all have automatic prejudices that affect our response to one another it might be time to soften the criteria. People are always saying, “do not lower your standards” and they say it quite fiercely as if there are major consequences if we disobey. Yet, phrases like “he’s out of my league” continue the dreary sports analogies as well as perpetuate a sort of caste system of dating and friendship. Perhaps what you are looking for may be nowhere in sight of the club you usually associate with. Whatever age you are I think it is pretty difficult to pin down exactly what your standards should be. If we ease up on our rules, dole out less strikes, and venture off the reservation a little bit, we’ll find a host of enticing and interesting individuals we never thought garnered consideration.IMG_1724