Deck of Cards Dates: 52 Free or Cheap Date Ideas in DC!


Several years ago, I saw an idea on Pinterest for creating a deck of cards dates. This is a way to catalog 52 different date ideas from which a couple could choose date night (or day!) activities. I put one together for my husband for Valentine’s Day and it has been a constant reference guide for us when we need to switch things up beyond a meal at a favorite restaurant. Because childcare already costs an arm and a leg, I wanted to focus on free or cheap date ideas (excluding the Smithsonian museums since those are always a given!). Some skew traditional, some are rather unconventional, but they all make for a great outing in DC with your sweetheart!

My deck of card dates I made for my husband.

My Deck of Cards Date Ideas

    1. Make a picnic to enjoy at the National Arboretum. No matter the season, it’s a beautiful place to visit.
    2. Get a strike at The Eleanor‘s bowling lounge in NoMa.
    3. Channel your inner real-estate mogul and visit random open houses in different neighborhoods.
    4. Mini-golf at East Potomac Park. It’s only $7 for adults!
    5. Catch some live music at a coffee shop. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe has lots of free or low-cost concerts. Or visit Tryst for live music to accompany your lattes on Monday – Thursdays from 7:30 – 10 pm.
    6. Triple lutz for love! Visit a local ice skating rink during the winter months. While the one at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is the most iconic, there are plenty to choose from in the city.
    7. Think you know your DC history? Join a pay-what-you-wish DC By Foot tour for a low-cost, highly engaging time. Be sure to check out the haunted DC ghost tours for an extra spooky date.
    8. On a chilly evening, indulge in s’mores over an open fire pit at The Wharf.
    9. Can you spot a shooting star? Grab a blanket and sit out under the starry sky. Join the stargazers in Rock Creek Park on select Saturdays April through November!
    10. Visit a vintage wonderland like Miss Pixie’s and see what treasures you can find. Give each other a budget and see who scores the sweetest deal.
    11. Matinee movies are only $9 at Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market, where you can find some of the best current (and classic!) movies playing. Bonus: they have a bar.
    12. Paint some pottery at All Fired Up in Cleveland Park. This studio is BYOB for both food and drink. Be sure to check their calendar for special events such as monthly trivia nights.
    13. Visit a bookstore and cuddle up together with a new find. At Kramerbooks and AfterwordsThe Potter’s HouseSankofa Video Books & Cafe, or Solid State Books, you can combine book hunting with a great cup of coffee or sweet treat.
    14. Act like a tourist! Viewing the monuments at moonlight (sans kids) is one of our very favorite low key date ideas.
    15. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to see a show at the Kennedy Center! Catch a free performance every Wednesday through Saturday at 6 pm on the Millenium Stage. Also check for free film screenings in the Justice Forum or outside on the REACH Plaza each Sunday.
    16. Join the “world’s largest treasure hunt” with a geocaching adventure.
    17. Listen to authors discuss their works at events at Politics and Prose. Most of these events are free.
    18. Learn about the art of making the perfect cup of coffee. Many local roasters have free or inexpensive coffee tasting/cupping events on weekday mornings, such as Vigilante Coffee Company or Counter Culture Coffee. A great date idea for a pair of coffee lovers.
    19. There are so many options for a nearby scenic hike. For a daytime date, check out the trails in Rock Creek Park or Great Falls.
    20. Channel your inner Marie Kondo together. Blast some motivating music and clear out your clothes closet and donate to a local charity such as Martha’s Table or Suited for Change.
    21. Kite flying isn’t limited to the cherry blossom festival! Dust yours off on a windy day at let it soar.
    22. Lace up some skates at the one and only roller rink in the entire National Park service! The roller skating rink in Anacostia offers free skate rentals spring through October. Just remember to bring a government ID and some socks.
    23. Immerse yourselves in beauty and history at Tudor Place. This Georgetown property, with connections to George and Martha Washington, is free to visit (suggested donation for guided tours). Note that the property closes for all of January each year.
    24. In the summer months, grab a blanket or lawn chair and catch a concert at Fort Dupont. The park just celebrated 50 years of free summer programming in 2022, and there’s something for everyone in their summer lineup.
    25. Hit up H Street Country Club for happy hour 5-7 on Tuesdays and Fridays, or 4-6 pm on Sundays, and play a game of skeeball or shuffleboard while you’re at it.
    26. More into Clue, Scrabble, or Battleship? The Board Room DC has you covered with tons of new and classic games and great drink prices.
    27. Volunteer together! There are countless organizations and causes to support with your time throughout DC.
    28. Admission to one of the most beautiful places in DC, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, is free from November 1 through March 14 each year.
    29. You don’t have to have your kids with you to enjoy the zoo.
    30. On late spring and summer evenings, enjoy an outdoor film at any number of locations throughout the city (most of them are free!). From Union Market to Canal Park to Georgetown, you and your honey can snuggle up together under the stars with a favorite flick.
    31. Get out of your comfort zone (and your quadrant) and explore a new-to-you neighborhood. Local Instagram celebrity and fellow parent Austin Graff has great neighborhood recommendations saved in his highlights.
    32. Take a trip to a local farmer’s market and pick up some goodies from local vendors. If you can swing it, the USDA Farmer’s Market (running May through October on Fridays) is an absolute delight, with live music to boot.
    33. Wake up super early and catch the sunrise over the water (of course this is dependent on a super early bird childcare provider!).
    34. Take a goofy photoshoot around town. With so many amazing new murals to choose from, you will have no shortage of Insta-worthy backgrounds.
    35. Visit an animal shelter and give love to a furry friend. The Human Rescue Alliance even has fun activities like yoga with kittens!
    36. It takes two to tango, so give this dance class a try. For just $15, you get an hour lesson and three hours of dancing. Located at popular Latin market La Cosecha, you’ll also have plenty of options for dining afterwards.
    37. Have a swim and a soak in the pool and hot tubs at a DPR aquatic facility (we love Turkey Thicket!).
    38. Cheer on the home team at a sports game. If tickets are too much, watch the Nats for free at The Bullpen, or catch a Caps game at a local bar.
    39. Check out local favorite metro bar in NE DC for weekly events, including live music every Friday.
    40. Make it a group date: grab some friends and test your collective knowledge at trivia night at any number of local bars.
    41. Combine a leisurely stroll around Georgetown with coffee and cupcakes from Baked and Wired.
    42. Want an incredible view of the city? Head up to the Old Post Office Tower for 360-degree views. This is run by the National Parks Service, so admission is free!
    43. Another stunning view of the city can be seen across the Anacostia from Frederick Douglass’ home on Cedar Hill. Get a free tour, too.
    44. Brush up on your DC history by visiting the DC History Center inside of the stunning newly renovated Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square.
    45. In warmer weather, get out and on the water at any number of boating spots. Rent a kayak, paddleboard, sailboat, or more.
    46. Grab your bikes and explore the Metropolitan Branch Trail!
    47. The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are a truly hidden gem that is a must-see in the summer peak bloom. But it is also a lovely spot for a romantic stroll anytime throughout the year.
    48. Want to learn a new hobby together? Check out free offerings from your local public library. From film showings and book clubs to yoga and meditation classes to craft activities, you’ll find something you and your better half will love together!
    49. You don’t need to pay big bucks to get in some laughs. There are free comedy acts throughout the city! Our favorite neighborhood spot for cider, Capitol Cider House, has free comedy shows each Friday evening.
    50. When I first moved to DC, my husband (then boyfriend!) and I would spend many lazy Saturday mornings strolling around Eastern Market. It remains one of our favorite date ideas if we ever find ourselves kid-free on a weekend morning.
    51. The largest (and one of the most beautiful) libraries in the world is right here in DC. Stroll through the truly gorgeous Library of Congress and discover history through their ongoing exhibits.
    52. Visit the interactive language museum, Planet Word. This is the world’s first voice-activated museum and will leave you and your date in awe. While free to enter, you must reserve passes in advance. Afterwards, grab a drink or bite to eat at Immigrant Food, located below the museum.

Feel free to comment where YOU like to go in the city for an inexpensive date!

*This post has not been sponsored by any of the linked businesses! These are just date night ideas at places my husband and I truly love.