When it comes to Valentine's Day, a stuffy four-course dinner in a room with 30 couples cooing over chocolate lava cake isn't for everyone. For those looking for something more inspired, active or budget-friendly, these 10 date ideas are not only laid-back, but each one adds up to no more than $20 per person.
10. Go for a skate while a DJ spins records at the National Gallery of Art ice rink
On Valentine's night, it's DJ Stylus spinning the requisite R&B slow jams. What it costs: Admission for ice skating, $7-$8; skate rental, $3. (Full disclosure: DJ Stylus, a.k.a. Rhome Anderson, is a Going Out Guide contributor.)
9. Let an R&B singer set the mood
If you're, you know, trying to seal the deal, Cody ChesnuTT's Valentine's Day show at the Hamilton is pretty much exactly where you need to be. Seriously. Just check out a song or two from ChesnuTT. What it costs: $17. Standing room tickets are still available.
8. Pay a visit to the Valentine's Day Creation Station
The Torpedo Factory's regular art night and open studio event is love themed on Thursday night and will feature a photo booth for documenting a kiss (very important); a reception for a new Target Gallery exhibition; and a "creation station" where you can make your honey a valentine. Afterward, head to Eammon's for fish and chips, and since it's Valentine's Day, a deep-fried Snickers. What it costs: The Torpedo Factory event is free. A plate of fish and chips at Eamonn's costs $8-$12.50. A fried Snickers costs $3.50.
7. Share fondue for two ... at one of the poshest restaurants in town
Couldn't score Blue Duck reservations? Join the club. Skip out of work a little early and meet your date at Blue Duck Tavern's lounge instead. Every winter night from 5:30-10:30 p.m., the lounge serves up steamy, cast-iron pots of fondue for two, served with bread, apples, pears, pickles and dried fruit. (You'd be wrong not to pair it with a little white wine, but that's going to be extra.) What it costs: $15.
6. Engage in a little "Pillow Talk" ...
After the drudgery of a Rosslyn workday, head to Artisphere for a screening of "Pillow Talk," the Rock Hudson-Doris Day Oscar winner with a fluffy plot about the love that follows two strangers forced to share a phone line. What it costs: $8.
5. ... Or a threesome
The "Valentine's Trilogy" title is a little heavy-handed, but the Phillips Collection's "Angels, Demons and Savages: A Valentine's Trilogy" performance, with dance suites inspired by the art of Jackson Pollock, Jean Dubuffet and Alfonso Ossorio, is compelling stuff. Bonus? There's a Tryst actually inside the Phillips, so this one is kind of two dates in one. What it costs: $20 per ticket.
4. Take advantage of a prom do-over
If you actually enjoyed your high school prom, you're in a small minority, but most of us have had enough distance that we can now look back on our scratchy tuxes and ill-fitting satin gowns with a sense of humor. That's why Looking Glass Lounge's Bad Prom party on Valentine's sounds like so much fun. The bash features $5 Natty Boh and Jim Beam, and in a move that brings a tear to our eyes, you can slow-dance every 30 minutes to Roxette's breakup anthem, "It Must Have Been Love (But It's Over Now)." What it costs: No cover.
3. Take one for the team and take her to see "Anna Karenina"
Yes, it has all the elements that would usually have you running in the other direction: period costumes; it's set in Russia; Keira Knightley. But just once, suck it up and take your date to see this four-star flick, which ends its run at the Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema on Thursday. Like "Atonement," you might even secretly enjoy it. What it costs: $11.
2. Laugh together
Some say comedy is too risky for a first date, but if you're on at least date number three, comic Rahmein Mostafavi's weekly Cool Cow Comedy showcase at the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse's Green Room, is one of the top stops for local comics, and at $5, it's a steal. What it costs: $5.
1. Wine and dine without the sticker shock
Northside Social's happy hour is an amazing way to taste the finer things in life -- tempranillos, barberas and other European offerings -- without the hefty tab. During happy hour Monday through Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m., the wine bar offers two red selections, two white selections and one sparkling wine for $5 apiece. What it costs: A cheese board and two glasses will set you back just $21, one dollar over our budget. But hey, it's Valentine's Day. You can splurge.