Embrace the great outdoors with these five date ideas
By Molly Williams
May 11, 2022
Image Credit: Molly Williams for The Campus Trainer
As temperatures rise and the sun begins to shine, one might say that romance is, once again, in bloom. If you’re eager to take advantage of the outdoors this season, look no further. Here are five picturesque spaces in and around College Park that are sure to elevate your dating game.
1. Paint Branch Trail
Between the sparkling lake, the ever-romantic gazebo and the many dogs you’re sure to meet along the way, a walk on the Paint Branch Trail provides a simple answer to a classically complicated question: Where should we go?
With multiple entrances in the area, this spot is a local and reliable way to spend an afternoon. Take a moment to sit and soak in the views on one of the many benches scattered around the lake’s perimeter, or watch the water move and glisten from the gazebo’s balcony.
Katherine Lord, a senior environmental science major and Adventure Program assistant for UMD Recwell, suggests biking the trail to Riverdale or Hyattsville, then grabbing dinner or drinks while in town.
2. Buddy Attick Lake Park
If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back, take a trip to Greenbelt and visit Buddy Attick Lake Park. When you get there, follow the cobblestone path near the shore and treat your date to a lazy day by the lake.
This is a peaceful setting for people who might be trying to get to know each other. You can walk or sit, or do a little bit of both, as you and your date enjoy the freedom that being in nature brings, a concept that Lord says allows people to be more authentic.
Removed from the other areas of the Greenbelt Recreation Facility, Assistant Director of Recreation Programs Anne Oudemans says the lake was designed to be a passive experience. “It’d be nice to come out, spend the day. Maybe have a picnic, maybe grill, and just enjoy the outdoor space,” she said.
3. Takoma Park Farmers Market
Make it an early afternoon date. Takoma Park’s weekly farmers market is short and sweet, so it’s a good way for you and your partner to make the day count.
Browse fruits, vegetables, trinkets and more from local vendors who set up shop every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “You can find really unique things at farmers markets,” says Nada Babaa, a UMD graduate student who works at the Metro Microgreens stand. “You can find cute gifts for people like skincare items… breads and pastries and all kinds of produce.”
You can also make it a two-part event. Go for a stroll around Takoma Park after visiting the market. Or, if you’re savvy in the kitchen, use fresh produce to cook your date an amazing meal to round out your time together.
4. Rock Creek Park
As the weather grows warmer, the hiking trails at Rock Creek Park grow greener. You and your date can watch the forest slowly come back to life while exploring everything this area has to offer.
Open spaces welcome sunlight and comfort, and plenty to look at both on and off the path. If you’re lucky, you might see a blue jay flying from tree to tree, or hear little animals rustling in the bushes.
As with many outdoor spaces, Rock Creek Park is also a prime picnic spot. Located just around the way from the farmers market, you might consider bringing your newly-purchased snacks, and your date, for an outdoor luncheon reminiscent of spring days to come.
5. National Arboretum
Just a metro ride away, true romantics can explore over a dozen botanical gardens at D.C.’s National Arboretum. With so many views to take in, this spot sets the scene for a lovely day.
“It’s fun to just be in beautiful places, and really appreciating the moment and where you are with someone,” Lord says. She has spent time walking, biking and picnicking in this metropolitan sanctuary.
Visitors can learn about plants from all around the world through collections like the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, which features art from traditional Japanese and Chinese practices, respectively. This time of year is also ideal for seeing the Azalea Collection as they reach peak bloom.
The National Capitol Columns stand proudly on the National Arboretum grounds. This stately yet scenic landmark is arguably one of the most photogenic places in D.C. If you want to impress your date with some history, tell them how the columns were originally part of the Capitol Building, but were ultimately removed due to architectural concerns. In other words, they couldn’t support the dome. Besides their natural wonder, all of these activities are open to the public and free of charge, so there’s no reason to hesitate. Get outside, enjoy the sunshine and celebrate the new season with someone special.