The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The most romantic places in Washington

Meridian Hill Park is a great place for couples to while away the day together. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Every good love story has a dreamy soundtrack, a passionate cast of characters and an enchanting setting. To help you figure out the last one, here's a list of our favorite spots around town to visit with your beloved. Many of these destinations are secluded, making them an ideal place for canoodling or planting that first kiss.

Meridian Hill Park

On a nice day, finding a spot around the water at Meridian Hill Park can be the start of a pleasurable afternoon spent getting to know each other. Fall brings a bundled-up crowd and a blanket of red, brown and orange leaves, but if you're there on a Sunday during the summer, be sure to catch the drum circle, as musicians play an impromptu performances until about dusk.

Bounded by Euclid, 15th, W and 16th streets NW. 202-619-7111.

Iron Gate

Try to plan your trip to this historic restaurant in the springtime, when the wisteria branches covering the dreamy courtyard are in full bloom. Thanks to heaters and blankets, even colder months can make for a romantic date night in the alfresco portion of the restaurant — and give you a good excuse to cuddle up. Plates are meant for sharing, so pick a few of the Mediterranean-leaning dishes and ask your server for recommendations on the restaurant's nearly 400-bottle wine list.

1734 N St. NW. 202-524-5202.

Spanish Steps

Whether you knew to seek them out — or accidentally stumbled upon them while wandering through Kalorama — the secluded Spanish Steps wow every time. Inspired by the marvel of the same name in Rome, the stairs are ensconced by magnolia trees and lead to a fountain with a lion’s head. Pack a picnic — or an engagement ring.

1725 22nd St. NW. No phone.

C&O Canal

As you meander the serene footpaths of the Georgetown portion of the C&O Canal, it’s fun to imagine the site as a once-bustling hub of transportation. A number of overpasses grant you privacy and provide cover for a quick kiss if PDA isn't your thing. Seek out the graffiti cliffs, a particularly scenic portion of the canal that's covered in vibrant art.

1057 Thomas Jefferson St. NW. 301-739-4200.

Bar Pilar

This 14th Street bar and restaurant — named after Ernest Hemingway’s boat — has been a staple of the neighborhood for over a decade. But the real reason you’ll want to bring a date here is to snag the intimate two-seater near the staircase, or what staff members call the “make out cove.” The love seat provides plenty of privacy as you get to know your date over a strong old fashioned.

1833 14th St. NW. 202-265-1751.

Crispus Attucks Park

Lush, leafy and clandestine, this small park is beloved by those in-the-know. Only accessible by an alley — unless you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the townhouses that make up its borders — it’s worth visiting year round, including during the winter when the neighborhood strings lights in the trees, encouraging you to walk around with hot cocoa, hand-in-hand.

23 U St. NW. No phone.

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

In the winter, couples can make figure-eights on the ice amid sculptures by Joan Miró. In the summer, the setting is home to Jazz in the Garden, one of the most iconic D.C. date nights. The venerable museum offers its own charms, but in a city full of apartment dwellers, the outdoor space is a year-round lure.

700 Constitution Ave. NW. 202-216-9397.

Church and State

Once you find the easy-to-miss door and make it upstairs to this church-inspired bar, make a beeline for the mock confessional. Outfitted with plush sofas and dim lighting, the covert space tricks you into believing there’s no one else around — other than the bartender who hands you drinks via a small sliding screen.

1236 H St. NE. 202-399-2323.

Moongate Garden

Moongate Garden — located between the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Smithsonian Castle — is an oasis within an oasis. Tucked within the Enid A. Haupt Garden, this leafy hideaway is accessible via two keyhole shaped granite moon gates that spill into a tranquil park. In the spring, the cherry blossoms add a pop of pink.

12 Independence Ave. SW. 202-633-2220.

The mezzanine at 9:30 Club

While this no-frills concert venue may not scream “romance,” the mezzanine on the second level is a remote part of the club where you can nuzzle under your date's arm without feeling cramped. (Quick access to a bar doesn’t hurt.) The distance from the stage gives you a birds-eye view of the performance as well as a chance to have a stimulating conversation and find a common rhythm.

815 V St. NW. 202-265-0930.

Bishop's Garden

The Bishop's Garden at Washington National Cathedral was built to mimic the walled-off estates and grounds of medieval cathedrals. Its winding paths and rose garden are a gorgeous setting for a walk. See if you can spot the hidden Darth Vader grotesque and the outer space-themed stain glass window on the cathedral.

Wisconsin and Massachusetts avenues NW. 202-537-6200.

The Terrace at the Kennedy Center

Before a performance or just because you're in the neighborhood, slip out of the Kennedy Center's Grand Foyer onto the terrace with a couple of glasses of wine and soak up the stellar view of the Potomac River. On Independence Day, smart folk looking for a new view of the fireworks flock here, too.

2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600.

United States National Arboretum

Walking among the original 1828 Corinthian columns from the U.S. Capitol can feel like you're touring Greek ruins, and there's plenty more at the Arboretum that makes it a perfect getaway in the city: a koi pond and bonsai; damp mossy forest; and perfectly manicured lawns. In the spring, find a quiet corner of the park, lay out a blanket and simply enjoy the day.

3501 New York Ave. NE. 202-245-2726.

Little Serow

Forgo menu deliberation and give in at this basement nook where servers in 1950s attire and one of the city's best chefs ship out course after course of the hot, sour cuisine from the Isaan region of Northern Thailand. At $45 per person, dining at Little Serow is a relative bargain, but reservations aren't accepted; would-be diners must wait it out for seating. Improve your odds by going on a weeknight.

1511 17th St. NW. No phone.

Dumbarton Oaks

What a difference a couple of blocks makes. The din of Georgetown shoppers quickly gives way to an idyllic street lined with trees and stunning homes near the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, which sit on 10 acres at the highest point in Georgetown. The spot feels like a secret sanctuary, and the property begs for exploration of the varied landscaping — the day lilies on Crabapple Hill, the sprawling forsythia along the northern perimeter, the 900-flower rose garden and the orchard of peach, apple and cherry trees. Although picnicking is not permitted, visitors can take baskets of food to Montrose Park, just a short walk down R Street.

1703 32nd St. NW. 202-339-6401.

Read more:

We’ll never agree about D.C.’s best bars, but we ranked them anyway

The best margherita pizzas in the D.C. area, ranked