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Posted at 4:11 PM ET, 09/21/2009

Cool Date Ideas for Fall

By Fritz Hahn

Jerry Bailey and Barbara Pelle get close during a cooking class for couples at Cookology in Sterling. (Dominic Bracco II - For The Washington Post)

Every few months, the Going Out Gurus like to offer you some season-specific date ideas. With crisp afternoons and evenings on the way, we thought we'd offer some ideas tailored to the cooler fall weather. If you have good ideas of your own to share, join us every Thursday at 1 to chat about them during our Got Plans? discussion.

Apple-picking is a no-brainer for this time of year. There's something homey and fall-like about a drive out to the country, a jaunt around the farm and coming home with more fruit than you'll ever need for pies and crisps galore. We like Butler's Orchard, but there are plenty of other options near town.

Fall weather is also great for tooling around town on bikes. If you don't have a bicycle, there are plenty of places to rent, like Thompson Boat House in Georgetown. Grab a bite to eat before heading out on a ride up the tow path or the Capital Crescent Trail. Afterward, reward yourselves with a post-ride treat.

Skyline Drive is the ultimate fall getaway for Washingtonians, but have you ever driven it? Talk. About. Slow. It's just one long line of leaf-gawkers pulling off the road erratically for photo ops. That said, it's one of our prettiest local wonders, and the kind of thing everyone should do once. When you're on your way out west, make a point to veer off course for a trip to the Locke Modern Country Store.

After you have that out of your system, remember there's plenty of greenery in the heart of the city. Take Metro to Woodley Park and wander down the long hill to the Rock Creek Park footpath, which winds its way to the Kennedy Center and Georgetown waterfront, and take in the changing colors as you go. Or, go the other direction: through the end of October, you can go on hour-long horseback trail rides on Saturday and Sunday, led by a National Park Service ranger. No experience is needed, but calling ahead is advised. Get a little closer with your date at one of the park's monthly after-dark activities, which include stargazing (Sept. 26 and Oct. 17) and candle-lit walks through the woods (most Saturdays in October). See a full list of events on the park's Web site.

For a completely out-of-the-ordinary type of fall hike, through November, you can take in the changing leaves while you tour the grounds of the National Park Seminary at Forest Glen. Fancy shacking up with your sweetie? Together you can contemplate the pros and cons of setting up housekeeping in in a pagoda, a windmill or a castle. Afterward, stop in at the nearby General Store restaurant, which feels like another relic from the past even though it only in the past year. Set in a restored building, typical of the housing stock in that neighborhood, you can charm a tune out of the player piano for only a quarter. The comfort food you'll find on the menu is perfect for fall -- definitely don't miss the pies of the day.

For theater-lovers looking for a great deal, plan ahead for the annual Free Night of Theater. That's when you can see performances by Synetic, Keegan and Folger Theatre (among many others) free of charge. After the show, grab a hot chocolate to celebrate the cooler weather, or for something a little more grown-up, head to Equinox for some seriously delicious hot apple cider.

In winter, people usually hibernate a bit. Sure, you'll bundle up to go out, but come football Sunday, you'll probably want to spend it in front of the television with some good food. Get out of the couch slouch groove by taking a cooking class. CulinAerie hosts couples cooking courses and Zola Wine & Kitchen offers a bunch of wine tastings and cooking classes for smaller groups. (For more ideas, see The Post's annual list of cooking classes.

The nights of patios and rooftop parties are fading fast, and before you know it, you'll be wishing for a mug of hot cider (or a hot toddy) beside a roaring fire. Here's a list of our favorite pubs and lounges with fireplaces. We especially love the popular Tabard Inn's cozy lounge; you can't beat spending time with your sweetie while listening to the sound of crackling logs and, on Sunday evenings, live jazz.

Fritz still maintains that there are few better dates out there than spending time chatting over Connect Four and a microbrew or two at Bedrock Billiards. (If you're really geeky, grab a barstool at either the Pug or the Red Derby, both of which have Trivial Pursuit cards for patrons to quiz each other with as they sip.) More of a Battleship kind of couple? Check out these other bars well stocked with games.

-- The Gurus

By Fritz Hahn  | September 21, 2009; 4:11 PM ET
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Does anyone know if any of the local orchards are dog-friendly? I have a large, active, apple-loving lab who I'm sure would enjoy the trip if he were welcome.

Posted by: KS8284 | September 22, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

i would call the orchards you'd like to visit and ask. most are really friendly and will answer your questions...

i know there are also some vineyards that welcome furry friends, so you could make a day of it!

Posted by: lermanzo | September 28, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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