Thrifty District: Cheap Dates

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’

I love DC, but I really love dating in DC. Yes, dating can be expensive (especially if you’re a guy–sorry, but them’s the facts), but you really can find tons of fun, creative things to do on the cheap in and around DC.

Date idea #1: Go outside

Doing things outdoors is reliably one of my favorite ways to have a great time for very little money. You don’t have to be a star athlete to enjoy a good outdoor date, but it helps if your date is a little adventurous. There are a couple of weeks left to go ice skating in the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden, and then you can warm up with a hot chocolate in their pavilion cafe afterwards and still stay under $30 for the two of you.

Once the weather gets nicer, you can rent a kayak and paddle along the Potomac for about $10 an hour, or paddleboat in the Tidal Basin for $8 an hour. You can also head over to Great Falls Park ($5), Turkey Run (free), or any one of the other parks and trails around and take a little hike or just enjoy the scenery. A picnic also goes well with all of these activities, which can be as simple as peanut butter sandwiches or as fancy as a Dean & Deluca spread, depending on your budget.

Date idea #2: Act like you got some sense

DC is filled with all kinds of ways to nurture (and show off to your date) your intellectual side. You can always check out one of the many exhibitions you’ve been dying to see, but what about visiting after-hours for a lecture? Many are free, but even the ones that make you pay usually won’t set you back too much (especially if you still have your student ID!). It’s much more interesting than a movie, and afterward you can head over to a bar and discuss your reactions over a drink or dessert. Total cost for two: anywhere from $10-$30, depending on what you do.

Date idea #3: Music on the cheap

Even if you can’t quite afford the $300 price tag to take your schnookums to Britney Spears, you can still enjoy some great live music in DC. If jazz is your thing, check out the dark and fairly intimate HR-57. They sometimes have bigger names with corresponding price tags, but you can catch jam sessions on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays that are only $8. If you’re looking to impress an aspiring rockstar or a hipster girl (or boy), check out the schedule at Black Cat or Rock and Roll Hotel for concerts that can be as cheap as under $10. For a grab bag, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage has free concerts every day of the week.

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Bill Jones Jr’

Date idea #4:  Make like Lewis and Clark and explore

I don’t care how long you’ve been living here, there are parts of DC you’ve never seen before–or at least things have changed since the last time you were there. There’s no need to wait until your next out-of-town guests visit to do the tourist thing, so why not finally get over to Takoma Park/National Harbor/Alexandria? If you don’t have a specific place in mind you’ve been waiting to see, a scavenger hunt is a great way to get out and about. Trust me, your date will be delighted by your creativity, and you’ll have tons of fun along the way. Cost: free.

I realize that I have completely skipped over places to eat actual meals in this list, but that’s only because our own KatieT has already done such a good job. Anything else I missed? Post your creative date ideas in the comments!

Jasmine is a Spin magazine contributor who is completely obsessed with music and all things new and different. She’s lived in the DC area since 2006, and still has plenty to discover about this great area! Find out why she loves DC.

8 thoughts on “Thrifty District: Cheap Dates

  1. EXCELLENT thrifty district, SRSLY. I love all your ideas, and think a scavenger hunt would be a very cool date idea, especially if you’re trying to figure out how well the two of you click when accomplishing a goal.

  2. I don’t think its expensive for guys to date in DC – if they date the right kind of women.

    I enjoyed many years of mad single scene craziness and never spent more than $100 in a night. In fact, I think my average was $20-40 max because I went out 4-6 nights a week with successful and confident women who were happy to share the check.

    Just stay away from G-town and/or the shallow, spoiled women who still think men are walking banks and you too can be date-happy on a budget.

  3. The Taco Bell on 14th & U serves a delicious Burrito Supreme for under $2. I mean if your date doesn’t like Taco Bell, what’s the point?

  4. @Wayan: Good point, the right lady definitely does help, but I still think there is some pressure on guys to pick up the tab…at least on the first date.

    @Max: Nothing like grade D meat to show you really care.

  5. HEY NOW, let’s not hate on taco bell, jasmine. Max is so right, if your lady doesn’t like the bell, what IS the point?

  6. Great lineup of thrifty dates Jasmine. A few additional favorites of mine would definitely have to be a picnic at Iwo Jima overlooking all the monuments or at Gravelly Point, cheap concerts at The Red and The Black, jazz in the sculpture gardens during the summer, Smores at Cosi, independent movies at E Street Cinema, and Flamenco dancers at Vinoteca or La Tasca.