Lifestyle

Give a Heart Emoji to the Best Date Ideas in DC

Beyond Valentine's Day, Washington DC offers plenty of super romantic activities.

Photo courtesy of The St. Regis DC
Photo courtesy of The St. Regis DC
Photo courtesy of The St. Regis DC

Whether it’s the holiday you love, or the day you love to hate, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. And there’s no shortage of ways to make it a day to look forward to-and remember-in DC.

From romantic, luxurious dinners to self-care rituals and tea parties to trips out of town or staycations in the city to entirely free late-night trips to museums, here are our favorite DC date ideas for both Valentine’s Day and all year-round. And for even more, consider the All-Time Greatest Things to Do in DC and fun booze-free activities.

Photo credit: Jeff Mauritzen, photo courtesy of RdV Vineyards
Photo credit: Jeff Mauritzen, photo courtesy of RdV Vineyards
Photo credit: Jeff Mauritzen, photo courtesy of RdV Vineyards

Drinking Date Ideas in DC

Romantic Dinners for Two

Various Locations, Prices vary
It’s a tried-and-true classic that never fails: The romantic dinner for two. Georgetown’s cobblestoned streets always provide a timeless backdrop and we love the neighborhood’s Chez Billy Sud. Start with bubbly at their Bar Ă Vin by their wood burning fireplace before moving to the dining room. Nearby is the intimate LuteĚ€ce. As one of the city’s most romantic spots, this petite neo-bistro, and its robust natural wine list, is a welcome antidote to the large-scale restaurants that are ubiquitous in the district. Elsewhere, we love the hidden gem, The Greenhouse, a restaurant in the historic Jefferson Hotel with white tablecloth clad private dining nooks. Also, look to Gravitas, a luxe option housed in an industrial-chic building in hip Ivy City. Lastly, Petite Cerise is new to the scene with a curated and thoughtful menu of French classics designed to charm all the senses, and where you’ll want to start and end the meal with a glass of French (what else?!) bubbles.

Tunnel of Love Pop-Up Bar at Iron Gate

February 5–18
Dupont Circle, Prices vary
One of the city’s most romantic restaurants, a reservation at Iron Gate is always a good idea. But this February, their romantic carriageway bar is transforming into a special cupid bar for lovers, would-be-lovers, and friend-romances. The pop-up will feature a food and cocktail menu designed for love-dishes like white stone oysters, bison carpaccio with caviar, Maine lobster tortellini, and beef striploin served with white truffles, and drinks like the Persephone Kiss (rye, pomegranate, cherry) and the OK Cupid, That Hurt (mezcal, blood orange kicker).

Valentine’s Day Afternoon Teas

February 7–18
Multiple Locations, $95 and up
Valentine’s Day afternoon teas are events to savor and remember. They’re also becoming increasingly popular experiences in the city, so the sooner you book your “tea time,” the better! The Fairmont Hotel’s Valentine’s Afternoon Tea will run February 10–14 and include a glass of G.H. Mumm Champagne. The St. Regis DC’s Valentine’s Day Afternoon Tea will run from February 7–18, so you have some extra time to celebrate with loved ones.

Champagne and Caviar at Apéro

Ongoing
Georgetown, Prices vary
The classic combination of champagne and caviar is an indulgence, yes, but isn’t this a good holiday for a little splurging? ApĂ©ro, located in a small row house on a quiet street in Georgetown is the perfect place to indulge. The intimate space is the ideal setting as there’s a different selection of champagnes on offer each night as well as an ever-changing menu of sustainably farmed caviar.

Local Brews and Spirits Tour

Ongoing
Ivy City, Prices vary
Formerly industrial, now decidedly trendy while still feeling off-the-beaten-path, Ivy City is a minefield of excellent local drinking options. The Northeast neighborhood that was largely wholesale and factory space up until a few years ago, is a microcosm of sleek breweries and distilleries to visit over the course of a languid evening. Start with Other Half Brewing for a wide beer selection and their casual atmosphere with a covered patio for hanging, board games, or order a pizza. For spirits, and something more intimate, sign up for a tasting of the Italian herbal liqueurs at Don Ciccio & Figli or the whiskies at District Made Spirits.

Vineyard Excursions

Ongoing
Multiple Locations, $45
There’s nothing like taking your love on the road and toasting to its future with a nice vintage. Lucky for us in the DMV, we’re surrounded by incredible vineyards. Take advantage of our proximity with a day trip to spots like Crimson Lane Vineyard, with one of the most beautiful tasting rooms around and is still fairly new. Perched high on a hill within a stone’s-throw from the Skyline Drive, it offers breathtaking 360-degree views, an airy modern tasting room complete with blankets and a large fireplace, and, most importantly, top wines. Nearby is RdV, one of the most exclusive tasting rooms in the state where booking a spot can be something of an endurance sport. Take advantage of the quieter, colder months and book yourself a tasting experience ($120 per person) for 90-minutes, which includes a flute of sparkling, three RdV reds, and a cheese and charcuterie board.

“Hearts of Shinjuku: A Party for One” Anti Valentine’s Day Event at Cranes

Ongoing
Penn Quarter, Prices vary
Dining alone this Valentine’s Day? Celebrate what can be a total joy of solo dining at Cranes, which is marking the holiday by embracing the Japanese concept of ohitorisama, or the joy of doing things alone. Crane’s bar will be reserved for those partying for one and running their Spanish-Japanese hybrid menu with happy hour prices all night long. We’ll be sipping the Wagyu Old Fashioned (shiso, Japanese whisky) and the Sunayama Fizz (vodka, yuzu).

Cozy Speakeasies

Ongoing
Various Locations, Prices vary
Few settings are as cozy, romantic, and winter-appropriate than a speakeasy. Hidden from plain sight, the DMV is home to a number of these intimate joints which tend to be tucked between restaurants, revealed behind dark curtains, or even in spots requiring a secret password. Check out The Wells, a moody, gin-forward spot and their special holiday offering of a V-Day-themed cocktail flight (three for $65) that’s bound to pair well with their upscale snacks like caviar and chips. Allegory is an award-winning concept bar at the Eaton, and Captain Gregory’s in Old Town Alexandria offers an effortless combination of the town’s nautical flavor with some Great Gatsby-esque elegance.

Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington
Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington
Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington

Arts and Culture Date Ideas in DC

After Hours at Museums

Ongoing,until 8 pm
Various locations, Prices vary
There’s something very romantic about strolling the halls of a museum after hours. It’s one of those dates that works as well for a time-tested couple as it does for a first date. DC is obviously no stranger to museums (there are 17 Smithsonian Institutions in the city and countless other small gems). Plan a visit after dark to The Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle, which is open late until 8 pm on the third Thursday of every month. The recently reopened National Museum of Women in the Arts is also open late until 8 pm on the third Wednesday of every month. And every Thursday, the Library of Congress stays open until 8 pm with live music performances, poetry readings and book talks. The National Gallery’s popular Gallery Nights will return in the late winter (stay tuned for exact dates).

Awkward Sex… and the City Play

February 9, 8 pm
Cardozo, $20
After a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and tours across the US including New York, Seattle, Chicago, and Nashville, Awkward Sex… and the City is returning to the district. A few days ahead of Cupid’s big day, make your way to Black Cat on 14th Street to listen to comedians deliver tales (all, unfortunately, true) of intimate and often hilarious sexcapades, from IBS flare ups to ropes gone wrong. This is a night for those who can laugh at themselves and the ridiculousness our more intimate encounters can entail. While this might not be an evening to bring your new date too, it’s definitely one to enjoy with friends.

Singles Only Boxing Class

February 13–14
Georgetown, $34
Beat your heart out at Rumble’s singles-only boxing classes on February 13 and 14. The special Valentine’s Day evening workouts (which begin promptly at 7:30 pm) are high-octane, adrenaline-upping, sweat-filled workouts. Cool off afterward with a mingle social hour for all participants. Bring your best wingperson or just solo. The cost includes the use of boxing gloves and refreshments following the sweat-sesh.

Classic Romantic Movie Screenings

February 14, 7pm
Capitol Hill and Union Market, $8–$13
This V-Day, two local theaters will be screening some of cinema’s most beloved classics. Plan for An Affair to Remember playing at The Miracle Theater in Capitol Hill. Starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, the story involves two strangers who meet-cute on a ship bound for Manhattan. Unlike a dinner out, this date won’t burn a hole through your wallet as tickets are just $8. (Tickets for children 12 and under, and adults 65 and over are $6.) Your other (very excellent) option is the Casablanca at The Angelika Pop-Up in Union Market. Starring cinema legends Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, it launched many famous lines-“Here’s looking at you, kid” and “We’ll always have Paris” to name just two. It doesn’t get better or more (tragically) romantic than this, and see it on the big-screen, with a selection of beer and (surprisingly top quality) wine for purchase.

Luxe Staycations

Ongoing
Various locations, Prices vary
DC has some of the most luxurious urban hotels in the country for a couple’s staycation. Look to the Riggs in Penn Quarter, which was formerly an opulent bank and is now a stylish boutique hotel with teller windows still intact and home to the beautiful and elegant restaurant, CafĂ© Riggs. Another favorite, and classically DC option, is the Ritz-Carlton overlooking the Potomac River. The upmarket hotel, which is housed in an historic and formerly industrial building from the 1930s, is known for its rich interiors and who’s who of guests. Begin your stay at their renowned spa which has a dedicated couples’ room, and end with a cocktail by their wood-burning fireplace. And for an ultimate personalized experience, book the Viceroy, where the hotel’s collaboration with Songfinch allows you to create a one-of-a-kind song for your sweetie.

Self-Care Pampering

Ongoing
Various Locations, Prices vary
There’s no love like self-love. Make sure you carve out some time this month to pamper the most important person in your life: yourself. Whether you book a relaxing facial at Silver Mirror Facial Bar (their 30-minute facials are $99), shop for a custom lipstick shade at Lip Lab (custom colors from $45 and up), or sweat it out in the infrared saunas at Pure Sweat + Float Studio (into packs of three visits start at $119), treat yourself like the great love that you are.

Ice Skating and Hot Chocolate at the National Gallery

Ongoing
The National Mall, $12 and up
A sweet V-Day outing might just be ice skating followed by a cup of hot chocolate at the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art. Open during the coldest months, skating with the classic museum in the background is already the ultimate DC experience. Skate during the day or make an evening of it with a post-dinner skate (the rink is open until 9 pm on Sundays–Thursdays and 11 pm Fridays and Saturdays). Warm up afterwards with a cup of hot chocolate at the rink’s Pavilion CafĂ© (the cafĂ© is open until 5 pm Thursday–Sunday and 6 pm Fridays and Saturdays).

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Madeline writes about all things Washington DC for Thrillist. Originally from New York City, she’s called DC home since the start of the pandemic. When she’s not at home in the district, you can find her chasing stories all over the world. Her bylines include The Washington Post, CondĂ© Nast Traveler, and Travel + Leisure. Follow her on IG.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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