my journey through the pursuit of love & happiness

fun, cheap dating ideas

Posted on: May 17, 2010

This is geared towards all those grad school boys,  young professionals paying off loans, or anyone on a budget. I know our generation has a thing about dating in school being equated to group dates, mostly in party-like settings. Pretty much I think that’s lame. Although I enjoy hanging out with good people and a bottle of wine (or in same cases a 6 pack) I’m an old fashioned gal and if a guy wants to actually court me (i.e. seduce me) we are going to need to spend some time alone together (and I’m not talking in the bedroom). This is necessary for any relationship to progress and for me to know if I’m really attracted to someone. Of course, guys usually complain about not having any money to spend; this is a legitimate argument. So I’ve decided to compile a list of fun, cheap dates so there are no more excuses for men. Take your best girl out and maker her feel special. Some of these are specific to d.c. but will hopefully give you a base to plan a date around for your area.

Here’s to no more excuses…

1. barnes and nobles

I always thought this would be the cutest date ever! I’d love if a guy took me to barnes and nobles, than maybe baked & wired down the street for some dessert. Either on a snowy winter day or warmer spring weekend, this is a fun, cheap date. Reading history and interest can provide for great, stimulating conversation and maybe some fun debate.

2. pet store & then ice-cream

Of course many of these dates are going to involve dessert! I have the BIGGEST sweet tooth ever. Who doesn’t love kittens and/or puppies? You know pretty much have her transfer all those warm fuzzies to you. A nice spring or summer day trip to the pet store, then stroll around down-town or the mall for a nice walk finished off by some ben-n-jerry’s or coldstone. Sounds like a nice little Saturday to me.

3. the mall

This one is for all you d.c.’ers. I recommend this trip later in the afternoon or even at night. Checking out the Washington Monument and the WWII museum at night under the few stars that break through the pollution and ambient light is really very nice. A nice walk along the momuments offers you a chance to offer her your coat if it gets chilly. Of course, there’s the go-to finisher of dessert. Or what about happy hour? Hukka? Or some Sushi? Have a list of a few places you think might interest her that are in the area.

4. drive-in/ dc’ers: weekly summer movies on the mall

Bring some treats and throw down a blanket to snuggle with your best gal. “Screen on the Green” info can be found here. For the best viewing seats plan on arriving by 5pm.

5. kayaking/canoeing/paddle boating

This used to be a great past time when I was younger. For a first date I would prefer paddle boating, that way you are sitting side by side and it’s easier to have a nice conversation. In d.c. check out the Patomac for kayaking and canoeing; for paddle boating head over to Tidal Basin. And why not a picnic, too? Pick up your favorite to-go food or toss a six-pack/bottle of wine with sandwiches, fruit, cheese or something sweet.

6. spanish steps

I’m told this is one of the most romantic places in d.c. Located at S & 22nd St, NW in the Kalorama neighborhood, take your date to the Spanish Steps for a quiet romantic area.

Photo Courtesy of Kristopher Anderson

7. eastern market

Check out eastern market on the weekend and hand pick the food you’re going to cook for that evening. Have a great time working in the kitchen together. In summer make it a grill out. Why not throw in a movie with dinner at home?

8. the national zoo

Not only is admission free but the National Zoo has other events throughout the year like galas and foodie events. Check out their website here.

9. picnic at rock creek park

Whether your idea of a picnic involves a 6-pack of Samuel Adams or a bottle of $3-buck-chuck from Trader Joe’s nothing beats an afternoon picnic. Entrance if free but reservations for group picnics should be made with a fee of $7.

10. hike in great falls

If you’re more adventorous and enjoy the outside you should think about taking your date for a hike in Great Falls. Fifteen miles from the capital you’ll need a car. Pack for the season and make sure to bring lots of water.

11. sunset over tyson’s corner

Go to the top of Ft. Reno park in Tenleytown and catch the sunset over Tyson’s Corner. This makes a great pre/post dinner/happy hour cocktails combo.

12. tour a piece of d.c. history at reagan’s assasination attempt

Drive/Walk by the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue and look at the carport where Reagan was shot. This is sure to be a look into American history that will spark great conversation. Finish if off by cocktails and happy hour hor dourves.

13. kite flying date

Purchase and fly a kite together on the mall. Then of course, give it to your lady friend as a souvenir. If you really want to impress her with your skills I suggest researching some kite flying moves hand.

14. botanical gardens

Make sure to take your allergy medication! The National Garden includes a First Ladies’ water garden, an extensive rose garden, a butterfly garden, and a display of a variety of regional trees, shrubs and perennials. On the National Mall, next to the Capitol Building, 245 First St., SW Washington, DC. (202) 225-8333.

Photo courtesy of United States Botanic Garden

For a full list on gardens in d.c. click here.

15. museums

Nearly all of the museums in d.c are free. You can search their events page for things to do after 5pm, celebrations, exhibits, culinary arts, discussions and lectures, book signing and performances. Check out their website for extended hours and special events.

16. free summer concerts

Check out cool new music for free! Grab your best gal and a blanket. Click here for more information about free concerts in d.c. this summer.

17. wine tasting

Wine tasting speaks a great early-on date. Often sampiling a variety of wines can be pricey. I have two suggestions:  ACKC, where they have chocolate and wine pairings. Although generally pricey, Monday-Friday at Vidalia’s allows you to try free samples from two or three different bottles chosen by the sommelier.

18. gallery opening

Take that special someone out on a Friday or Saturday night for a gallery opening. You get to check the art out for free and there are usually free snacks and drinks on hand.


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