Ashlee Keown, events planner
Dating apps always felt impractical to Ashlee Keown. “They lack the opportunity to truly connect with people that you might not otherwise connect with,” the Eckington resident says. In 2016, Keown started LezLink, a D.C. event series that embraces a traditional approach to dating. Rather than asking users to aimlessly swipe photos, LezLink sets up monthly meetups where queer women can find “their boo or their crew,” says Keown, 31. When it comes to planning a Valentine’s Day excursion in D.C., finding places where she can have meaningful conversations with a date is everything. — Stephanie Williams
I would start by doing something breakfast-related that involves some type of champagne. My date and I would go to Commissary in Logan Circle. I’m a big fan of their potato pancakes with sour cream.
I’m a big fan of playing games — I love board games and card games. I think competition is healthy, and actually, I also think it’s sexy. So I would imagine myself being at Dave & Buster’s and my date and I going best-of-five with the games there.
Then we’d take a walk around the National Mall and check out one of the Smithsonians. The National Museum of Natural History is a great place to go for a date, simply because it’s so large and there’s so many different topics that it covers that there’s something that will spark conversation.
For the evening, we’d go somewhere near water, like Old Town Alexandria. It has a historical feel to it. Plus, there are a lot of different shops you can go into.
I’d be hungry by then, so we’d go to Alero in Dupont Circle. The one in Dupont is great for a date because it’s smaller. Another thing is that they have these big shareable margaritas that come in so many different flavors.
At night, I assume there’s some type of burlesque show going on. In the queer community, we have a lot of amazing quality, sexy performers. There are some that have D.C. drag kings involved like Pretty Boi Drag. Or go to a DC Gurly Show.
Teal Dye, adult boutique owner
Teal Dye typically spends Valentine’s Day helping folks browse Lotus Blooms, the health- and education-focused adult store in Old Town Alexandria that she owns. The store’s calendar revolves around Feb. 14, and workshops during the month tend to sell out. When she’s making her own romance off the clock, one thing Dye, 29, loves to do with her partner is go see the monuments at night. “It’s still a good visual reminder of how cool it is to live so close to the nation’s capital,” she says. But on her last-minute Valentine’s Day, Dye and her partner are keeping it close to home in Old Town. — Rachel Podnar
Captain Gregory’s speak-easy is super fun. We love speak-easies because they give you that intimate space that’s not a super-loud bar. You can feel closer and quieter.
Even for me, going to a sex store is one of the most fun dates, Valentine’s Day or not. We would get dressed up and go out for drinks and then tour Lotus Blooms. One of the things couples counselors tend to encourage couples to do is just come walk around and immerse yourself in something that is supposed to be partner-focused and intimacy-focused. Sometimes, at a busy bar or a movie, there’s not so many opportunities to create that special intimacy. So for me, walking around a sex store is super fun.
Then we’d go somewhere to continue that conversation. Bluprint Chocolatiers has the coziest fireplace and the best hot chocolate. It’s like melted chocolate pieces — there’s almost no liquid, it’s so thick. It’s just a cozy, cute place.
We don’t have kids, but we do have dogs that are our kids. So we would probably walk down to The Dog Park, which is a dog store. It’s got all sorts of little treats. Instead of buying presents for ourselves, we would buy presents for our two border collies, Mikey and Mia.
Then we would come home and essentially make date jars for the rest of the year. We would hang out with the dogs, cook our own dinner, drink wine and plan our dates for the rest of the year.
Warren Brown, baker
Warren Brown knows the way to at least one woman’s heart: tofu. “One of the first Valentine’s we had together, I cut tofu in the shape of a heart and cooked it for her,” Brown, 48, says of Pamela, his wife of 10 years. “What you have to do is play to the heart of your partner.” Brown won the hearts of D.C. when he founded local bakery chain CakeLove. After closing the last of his stores in 2015, Brown developed CakeLove in a Jar, offering his buttercream-obsessed fans a spoon-friendly way to feed their sweet tooth. Now he and Pamela live in Petworth with their daughters, ages 9 and 6. — Kristen Page-Kirby
Back in the old days, it was definitely different and usually involved somehow downing a bottle of wine, but that’s just beyond comprehension right now. Now we like to do our outdoor stuff, whether it’s biking or running. We’d like to try to get a bike ride in, and it’s going to be between 15 and 20 miles if we can. We’d go just up through Rock Creek Park, up to the C&O Canal, loop down through Georgetown and then back through the city.
Then it would just be a walk to get something to eat at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, because it’s easy. We love Timber Pizza; it’s definitely one of our favorite things to do before the crowds get there. We’ve enjoyed breakfast there, too. If we didn’t do Timber, we like Taqueria del Barrio or going over to 11th Street in Columbia Heights to El Chucho. Their guacamole is awesome and their sandwiches are really good.
We’d come home to veg “sin hijas” [without daughters] and binge Netflix together — if we haven’t cheated on each other. She totally left me behind and watched all of “Sex Education” last week!
This is along the line of love and not necessarily Valentine’s Day, but the one thing I have that gives me peace and keeps me settled is I love being in service to my family. It’s difficult to load the dishwasher and to get up out of bed and hear someone always calling your name, but I just cherish the fact that I’m able to do this for my wife and children. That, to me, makes my life complete.
Eva Mozena Brandon, comedian
Lots of comedians joke about online dating, but Eva Mozena Brandon is a legit expert. “I’ve been on many, many dates and I’ve used all the apps,” she says. “Actually, I recently quit online dating and have started destroying all my friendships one by one instead.” When not awkwardly hitting on her male friends, Mozena Brandon, 31, co-hosts a weekly show at The Airedale called “Thursday Night Therapy.” This week’s edition, which starts at 8 p.m. Thursday, is Valentine’s-themed, so that’s where she’s decided to conveniently start her last-minute date. — Sadie Dingfelder
Dating a comic means showing up to a lot of shows, so I’ll order my date a whiskey and a burger and then pretty much ignore him the rest of the show. He won’t mind because I’ll be killing it. Watching me crush onstage for 10 minutes, that definitely counts as foreplay.
I won’t take him home right away because my apartment is not fancy — I’m still trying to convince my friends that the pile of laundry in my corner is fiber art. So we’ll get a drink at The Line hotel. It’s such a sexy space, even though it used to be a church.
Or maybe we’d go to see a late movie, but it definitely wouldn’t be a romantic comedy. It’d be an action movie, like “Black Panther.” Action movies are exciting and suspenseful, while watching a romantic movie on Valentine’s Day — that’s a lot to ask of everyone, emotionally.
The next morning, I would wake my date up and be like, “Get up, I have a surprise!” Then I’d drive out to Assateague to see the ponies at sunrise. There’s something to be said for the element of surprise — for trusting someone enough to get in the car and go with them to some unknown destination. I’d make a playlist for the drive there with hints — there’d be the song “Wild Horses” and also “Cake by the Ocean.” I love that song, because the lyrics came from some Europeans misremembering the phrase “sex on the beach.” Cake by the ocean is better, anyway, and I’d pack some cupcakes for us to eat. This date is basically an elaborate setup with a silly punchline.
LaDawn Black, radio host
LaDawn Black calls herself a romance expert. And rightfully so — she was the host of one of Baltimore’s top radio relationship shows, “The LaDawn Black Show,” on Magic 95.9-FM for three years and has written three books on love and relationships. The radio personality now hosts two romance shows, including “In the Groove” on WEAA 88.9-FM in Baltimore. Although she now lives in Charm City with her husband and three kids, the 45-year-old D.C. native is still head over heels for the District. “I got engaged by the reflecting pool,” she says. “That’s the most romantic thing that ever happened to me in D.C.” — Zainab Mudallal
We’d navigate the day on the Metro. It adds a bit of nostalgia for us because that’s how we got around early in our marriage. It also forces you to really connect and talk because there’s no distraction of someone trying to drive.
I always like to do something cultural so we can learn something together as a couple. We’d go to the Hillwood museum. It’s a fantastic location. You can take in some art that you normally don’t get to see, but also the grounds are gorgeous.
When you forget it’s Valentine’s Day, the easiest thing to do is to reconnect with some of the places that were important to you in your relationship. We would take a ride to Georgetown and get food. Uno Pizzeria & Grill used to be our spot for lunch. Then we’d walk around Georgetown afterwards. I love ice cream; my husband is not an ice cream guy, but I would force him to come out of his shell and we would get some from Ben & Jerry’s.
For dinner, there’s no better place, no prettier setting, than Sequoia. If there’s no table available, we’d just sit at the bar and have a drink, then take a walk around Georgetown Waterfront Park and enjoy the peace of not having kids [for the day].
For the real dinner, we’d go back to where we lived when we first got married, The Car Barn off of East Capital Street. There’s a great pizzeria right around the corner called Al’s Gourmet Pizza. Early in our marriage, we would pool our small amount of funds at the time, get a pizza and sit on a stoop to eat it, drink some wine and just connect.