Location: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW
Readers’ pick: Picnic on the National Mall
To avoid awkward back-and-forth about who should front the bill, go on a free date at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.
With more than 1,500 animals in a roughly 160-acre park, you will have plenty to see and talk about on your date. Get away from just hanging out with elephants and donkeys – which can easily be found within political organizations on campus – and spend time with more than 300 different species including lions, kangaroos, cheetahs and giraffes.
As warmer weather becomes consistent in the District, the zoo is an ideal place to spend the day outdoors, and if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the orangutans as they swing from the O-Line, a 50-foot suspended track of cables and towers in the park.
If conversation gets stale, you can take a two-hour guided tour of the zoo with an animal expert. Or if you want to really impress your date, brush up on your animal knowledge during your ride over to the zoo.
Outside food and nonalcoholic beverages are allowed inside the zoo, so you can swing by Whole Foods or Safeway before to grab some snacks and refuel at a picnic table if you get tired after walking around the park.
If you are willing to spend a few bucks on your date, food trucks are situated along Olmstead Walk – the zoo’s main path. You can also head to The Mane Grill, which serves up meals like Mediterranean chicken shawarma ($12) with red onion, tomato, cucumber and tahini dressing wrapped in a pita, chicken tenders ($10.50) or a pulled pork sandwich ($11) with barbecue sauce and coleslaw on a potato roll.
With free admission to see hundreds of animals, the only thing you’ll have to argue about is who is paying for the Uber.