Washington DC

The Most Fun DC Dates To Go On Right Now

Here's how to warm up this winter.

The Watergate Hotel
The Watergate Hotel
The Watergate Hotel

To state the obvious-the pandemic has shaken up the world of dating as we once knew it. Gone (for now) are the days of the classic dimly lit restaurant dinner, the movie theater meet-up, or the live concert date. 

Plus, choosing a fun, original date activity is hard during frigid cold winter. We also know it can be extremely tempting to just opt out entirely and stay in bed all day and stream TV whilst cocooned inside a blanket. Despite chilly conditions, Washington DC is chock full of unique and engaging date ideas that you’ll both enjoy. Here are the best ways you and your date can stay warm together in DC.

The Watergate Hotel
The Watergate Hotel
The Watergate Hotel

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day dinner in an igloo

Multiple locations
This winter, DC has been looking less like the nation’s capital and more like the North Pole as private dining igloos have continued to pop up at some of our favorite restaurants around town. The Watergate Hotel was perhaps the first to implement the creative idea years ago on their rooftop, but they can now be seen everywhere from Ted’s Bulletin to Del Mar. Already over the igloo craze? Check out the dining yurts at Fiola or the greenhouses at Belga Cafe.

Kramers
Kramers
Kramers

Grab a new book and a brew at Kramer’s

Dupont Circle
Everyone’s favorite independent bookstore is also the best cozy 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 their Afterwords Cafe if you both get hungry, and on the side of that is their small bar-the perfect little spot for grabbing a warming beverage before heading back out into the cold. Also make sure to check out the calendar, where they post fun events like live jazz in the cafe and book readings by some of your favorite authors.
 

Learn about “seductive” wines together on V-day

Multiple locations
You and your date don’t even have to leave the warmth of your apartment to become vino experts this Valentine’s Day-just try not to spill on the couch. The virtual tasting course is courtesy of Capital Wine School, which has put together a lineup of 11 wines and champagne deemed specifically to help set the mood.

Whitetail Resort
Whitetail Resort
Whitetail Resort

Take a day trip to the slopes 

Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
Those looking for a good reason to escape the city for the day can grab their skis and their date and drive just over an hour and a half to Whitetail Lodge, where you two can spend the afternoon tearing up the slopes. Feeling extra adventurous? Take advantage of their night skiing and riding from 3pm until close on Thursday through Sunday nights-the slopes are fully lit and almost guaranteed to be less crowded.

Grab a coffee for a wintry walk 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 to love on. Take your date to pick up some hot coffee or steaming cocoa from Potter House, just a few blocks from the top of the park and then go for a leisurely stroll. Bonus: Come on a Sunday for the opportunity to participate in or watch the weekly drum circle.

Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Watch cute animals from the National Zoo

Online
Currently all Smithsonian museums are closed until further notice, but the National Zoo has us covered with live streams of some of its most adorable animals. Curl up on the couch with your sweetie and watch giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian play in the snow or baby cheetahs Amabala, Jabari, Hasani, and Erindi as they play and purr for the camera. Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island

Go for a winter wonderland hike

Theodore Roosevelt Island
Bundle up 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 depending on how many dates you’ve been on previously. 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.

Cooking Live
Cooking Live
Cooking Live

Take an online cooking class

Online
Here’s a chance to impress your date with your kitchen skills. Try a French cooking class by chef Patrice, a former White House chef, or an Asian meal like Pad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice or Hakka Stir-fry by Kitchen Rodeo. It’ll be a chance for you two to test your teamwork, support struggling chefs, and enjoy a delicious meal at home together.

George Washington's Mount Vernon
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
George Washington’s Mount Vernon

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.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Austa Somvichian-Clausen is an LA native turned DC resident by way of American University. She loves hiking, exploring the city, and traveling. Follow her on Instagram.

Washington DC

The Eight Most Exciting Suburbs Outside DC

You could use a little space.

Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock

When people say Washington, DC, it’s hard to tell if they’re talking about The District proper, or the sprawling metro area that is sometimes nicknamed the DMV: The District, Maryland, and Virginia. The fact is that DC is made whole by its vibrant suburbs, whether you’re looking for a shopping center dedicated almost entirely to Vietnamese cuisine, a rock climbing wall in-you guessed it-Rockville, or a wetland preserve that’s wide open for hiking and fresh air.

The DC suburbs practically have it all, and you can reach many of these neighborhoods by bike, public transit, or a set of four wheels. Here are eight great suburban destinations that you may find yourself visiting soon. We won’t judge you if you want to stay.

Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville

Rockville

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Many people will inevitably cruise Rockville Pike, aka 355, for all of its big-box delights, since this retail corridor has always been a sprawly place to shop for decades. But more recently, Rockville has become something entirely different. It’s walkable and bikeable, thanks to the Pike & Rose development. And it remains a destination for some of the best Chinese soup dumplings in the DMV at A&J Restaurant and Bob’s Shanghai 66. Rockville is also, fittingly, home to the best rock climbing wall attracting serious spelunkers and climbing newbies alike. And it remains a place for family-run restaurants, many of which are run by immigrants. For a small taste of the magic of this Montgomery County suburb, visit Bombay Bistro for Chef K.N.Vinod and Surfy Rahman’s take on Indian fare from the country’s southern region. Like many of the best eateries in Rockville, this restaurant is tucked away in a shopping strip. When you find it, you’ll be rewarded with mouth-watering dosas, biryani, and vindaloo.

Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette

Bethesda

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
Anyone who grew up near Bethesda has probably spent their early teenage years loitering at the Bethesda’s Regal Cinema or by The Barnes & Noble water fountain. Now, both of those legendary spots of yesteryear have been transformed into a suburban-style city with sidewalk cafes, trendy shopping, and an upgraded Capital Crescent Trail-a longtime favorite with joggers and bikers. Bethesda is also home to a world of flavors: Fresh Baguette for Parisian-style pastries, Pesca Deli for Portuguese, Taqueria El Jalapeño for tasty tacos, and Passage to India just to name a few. To reach all of these places, you can hop aboard the Bethesda Circulator, a free shuttle service that picks you up at the Bethesda Metro station and takes you in a loop around town.

Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks

Wheaton

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
There is absolutely no beating Wheaton when a food craving hits, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This Maryland suburb, just north of DC on Metro’s red line, has one of the best diners in the region, Nick’s Diner, owned and operated by Nick Markopoulos and his Greek family. For lunch, Wheaton is home to a handful of pupuserias that are indicative of this neighborhood’s Salvadoran community. Pupuseria La Familiar, Los Chorros, and Irene’s Pupusas are three great options. Finally, for dinner, Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Rico or Bolivian fare, and specifically the beef silpancho, at Kantuta’s are hearty and tasty offerings. Finish your day of dining on a high note with a cannoli or rainbow cookie from Filippo’s Deli. After a day of eating, you’ll need to walk off all those carbs. Go for a leisurely stroll around the pond at Wheaton Regional Park’s Brookside Gardens. The park is a five-minute drive north of Wheaton’s retail corridor, and it’s free and open to the public year-round.

Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.

Hyattsville

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
A brewery tour is a safe bet when visiting Hyattsville, Maryland-a community with a small-town vibe, located in Prince George’s County, just across The District line. A primary reason why beer nerds flock here is Franklins, a brewpub that last year opened a tiki-themed bar in its parking lot to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more than a dozen beers on tap, plus Franklins makes its own root beer if you prefer some nonalcoholic suds. That’s in addition to a historic hardware shop that’s been converted into a bottle shop, with a wide collection of craft beer and local wine. Nearby on Route 1, find a local brewery that specializes in outdoor drinking. Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. opened two years ago and is named in homage to the 82 Streetcar line which ran by the brewery’s site from 1888 to 1957. This converted auto garage now serves hop-forward beers and has bike rack parking and picnic tables, perfect for a Sunday Funday. For more craft beers from around the country paired with wood-fired pizza, Pizzeria Paradiso is a top-notch eater across the street, and cap off your crawl by swinging by Maryland Meadworks, which serves a range of meads from sweet to semi-sweet to dry.

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

Upper Marlboro

Distance from DC: 45 minutes
Fulfill your childhood wonder and delight at the greatest playground in the DMV. Watkins Regional Park is great for kids (or the kid at heart) looking to romp around themed playgrounds. The first is a horse-racing-themed playground, part of Maryland’s legacy as a horse racing capital. Meanwhile, the second option is the stuff of fairy tales-a Wizard of Oz-inspired playground, complete with a yellow brick road, a ruby slippers slide, and an Emerald City climbing wall. Grownups and kids alike will also enjoy the hiking options at nearby Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, an expansive preserve that’s part of the tidal reaches of the Patuxent River. There are more than 1,700 acres of unique freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, creeks, meadows, pines and sand barrens, plus fields and park areas for an afternoon picnic. If you’d rather fuel up than bring-your-own food, Upper Marlboro’s Main Street Coffee & Treats is where the community gathers for coffee, pastries, fresh-pressed juices, and vegan cupcakes at all hours of the day.

Photo Courtesy of Ada's on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River

Old Town Alexandria

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
With waterfront views, historic homes along cobblestone streets, and a trolley that goes up and down King Street for free, it’s hard not to imagine why Old Town Alexandria wouldn’t be on our suburban list. You might come for the charm, but there’s a lot more to this city than just Instagram-worthy streetscapes. The Torpedo Factory is a burgeoning artist enclave for purchasing one-of-a-kind sculptures and artwork. Those who prefer a pleasure cruise down the Potomac can take the Potomac River Water Taxi to or from the city. And outdoor eating by the water offers plenty of space and social distance. The food and outdoor surroundings at Ada’s on the River and King & Rye, two of Alexandria’s latest eatery additions, are great places to book a weekend brunch.

Eden Center
Eden Center
Eden Center

Falls Church

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Most people know Falls Church as the home of Eden Center-a shopping center with dozens of Vietnamese businesses and restaurants. This might be the biggest draw for Falls Church food lovers. However, there are several more reasons to make this Northern Virginia suburb a part of your food bucket list. Start at Takumi, a popular Japanese sushi spot, serving quality grade sashimi, sake, and sushi tastings. Got a craving for cavatelli? Then book it to Thomspon Italian. Chef Gabe Thompson and Pastry Chef Katherine Thompson are a husband and wife team who make this spot feel more like home. While the dining room remains closed, Thompson is offering several of its top dishes, including housemade pasta and gelatos, for pickup.

Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap

Tysons Corner

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
When you visit Tysons Corner, you’re probably here to do one thing-shop until you drop. Tysons is home to two malls, sometimes nicknamed Tysons I (Tysons Corner Center) and Tysons II (Tysons Galleria). The former is pretty typical while the latter leans more upscale. Not surprisingly, Tysons II also has good taste in food. Find the Urbanspace Food Hall, home to Donburi DC and Andy’s Pizza, plus an upscale pastry shop called Lady M. Aside from the shopping and dining, another good reason to visit Tysons this summer might be for a concert. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts recently announced its outdoor summer concert lineup, which could start as soon as the end of May. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

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Tim Ebner is a contributor for Thrillist. 

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