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Posted at 1:24 PM ET, 02/25/2009

Cheap Dates: A Social Life Stimulus Plan

By Julia Beizer

We offer more than a dozen date ideas for the bank account-challenged. Free wine tasting at Vidalia is one of our top picks. (Jay Premack)

Classic Guru discussion this morning. Some of us felt really bad for all the young folks quoted in this front-page article about the perils of dating in these shaky economic times. One of us felt, quote, "Yeah, having to impress women with your wit and personality instead of your loot can be a bit of a downer."

While we can all agree that having a fat stack of cash won't make a relationship, we know it's not easy to ask out a girl or guy knowing your prospects fall somewhere in between Five Guys and $2 Miller Lite Happy Hour at the Front Page. Here are a few cheap date ideas with love from the Gurus. Chime in with your ideas in the comments below.

* Wine tasting is a good early-on date because the activity is a perfect spur for conversation. Problem is, sampling a variety of wines can be pricey. Make an after-work date at Vidalia, where the bar's Monday-through-Friday wine tasting allows you to try free samples from two or three different bottles chosen by the sommelier. Chat with him about your reactions while you snack on (small) complimentary hors d'oeuvres. Another option is the bustling Tuesday night tasting at Bistrot Lepic, where wine reps pour glasses of their products every week. Sometimes, you even get free champagne. The Curious Grape is a pretty reliable source, too. The Shirlington wine store has its own tasting bar, and experts host weekly seminars on topics like sake or the wines of Bordeaux. No purchase is required.

* On a weekend afternoon, CommonWealth is a great spot for casual game of checkers or backgammon. Snag a seat during happy hour (4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday) and sip on $4 cocktails, half-price domestic drafts and wines by the glass and $2 off specialty cocktails. Dinner at the Columbia Heights pub will set you back a few bucks, but stick to appetizers ($6-$11) and burgers ($11) for a less expensive meal.

* For the dude in today's story who was like, "Now [that I'm being 'thrifty'] I'm more inclined to take a girl to a good ethnic restaurant," let us introduce you to Great Wall, the finest Chinese food in Washington. They don't serve alcohol in the Spartan dining room, but really, all you need to drink is a bottle of water to keep the hot ma-la spices from burning your mouth.

More cheap date ideas after the jump.

* Take someone out to a Friday or Saturday night gallery opening. Not only do you get to check out art for free, but there are usually free snacks and drinks on hand. Cory Oberndorfer's last exhibition opening at Flashpoint included fun prints of roller derby girls, free wine and PBR, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ring pops. That may not sound like the classiest date in the world, but it certainly wins points for originality.

* You only get a handful of opportunities each year, but Woolly Mammoth Theatre's pay-what-you-can performances are a great way to get some classy culture on the cheap. The next chance is March 30 and 31st for the company's production of "Antebellum."

* Digging and listening at Som, window shopping at Go Mama Go, enchiladas, margaritas and Spanish practice at El Paraiso.

* Admission is free at Wheaton's Brookside Gardens. In the warmer months, stroll through the azalea garden, Japanese-style garden and other distinct areas. The year-round Wheaton Ice Arena (admission is $6.25, with $3.25 for skate rental) is within a mile from the garden. (See the rink's Web site for public skating schedule).

* Dinner dates can be expensive, but dessert dates are much easier on the wallet. Plan for a post-dinner rendezvous at Co Co. Sala and split one of the dessert tasting menus (all under $20). At $13 a pop, cocktails are a pricey (but delicious) addition.

* Let's do the math on Comet Ping-Pong. Pizza: $13-14. PBR cans: two for $5. A couple games of ping-pong: Free.

* A bike ride or stroll through the gardens of the National Arboretum is always a fun excursion. On your way, stop off at the Tom-Sietsema-approved Deli City to grab sandwiches or affordable crab cakes to go and have a picnic.

* Tour the National Cathedral on a Saturday afternoon (requested contribution is $5 for adults) and then stroll down Wisconsive Avenue for a bite at Surfside. Romance doesn't exactly spring to mind in the beachy casual dining room, but the $8 fish tacos will whisk you away to warmer, more exciting locales.

* Mid-afternoon dates are a good bet for spending less since they most likely won't involve a meal. Head to the Mall for some free culture, whether it's an exhibition at the National Gallery, a movie at the Freer or a lecture at the Archives. After that, some libations are in order. Enjoy a cuppa from the Teaism in Penn Quarter.

* Step 1: Meet at Foggy Bottom Metro at 5.
Step 2: Walk over to Tonic at Quigley's, where beers are half-price and wines by the glass are $5 at happy hour (4-7 p.m.).
Step 3: Walk back to Foggy Bottom Metro.
Step 4: Grab free shuttle to the Kennedy Center.
Step 5: Catch an amazing (and free) show on the Millennium Stage at 6 p.m.
Step 6: After the performance, wander out to the River Terrace and look at the Potomac.
Step 7: That's totally up to you.

* Guru David's idea of a cheap date: "A six pack of Bud and then back to my place for NBA League Pass."

Tempted, ladies? You know where to find us.

For more dating ideas, check out our Best Bets lists for cheap-eats restaurants and bars with lively singles scenes.

-- Rhome Anderson, Julia Beizer, Fritz Hahn, David Malitz, Stephanie Merry and Justin Rude

By Julia Beizer  | February 25, 2009; 1:24 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs, Museums, Restaurants, Theater  
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Malitz don't make me swoon like that...

Also I am totally gonna use the Foggy Bottom KenCen idea.

Y'all rock.

Posted by: ROEL8021 | February 26, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

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