By Elana Schor - 02/14/06 12:00 AM EST
Fundraisers can fall for candidates, lobbyists go gaga over pending legislation, and some staffers have an unnatural attraction to the Capitol Carryout’s taco salad — but more often than not, traditional romance falls by the wayside in workaholic Washington.
Today brings a perfect opportunity to slip out of the office and escape to a quiet spot with someone special, whether that person be an office crush or a neglected spouse. If you’ve forgotten to make dinner reservations or are hunting for affordable amour this Valentine’s Day, here are seven Washington spots that come highly recommended for a rendezvous.
• The memorials at night. Capital Living’s highly unscientific survey rated the Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt memorials as the district’s top spots for nighttime canoodling. The hazy glow of the backlit memorials flatters everyone’s face and figure, the wintry breeze provides a perfect excuse to hold hands and stay close, and what political junkie could resist the historical flavor of a spontaneous visit? Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes for the stroll.
• The Jungle Room catwalk at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Its proximity to the Capitol makes the Botanic Garden a popular spot for midday meet-ups, and the Jungle Room’s lush abundance of tropical greenery offers a welcome infusion of fragrance in the depth of the Capitol’s winter frigidity. The catwalk can be easy to miss for a first-time Jungle Room visitor, but the room’s sensory rush is only heightened from the second floor. Warning: the Botanic Garden closes promptly at 5 p.m.
• Hains Point. At the southernmost tip of the city, this most scenic spot in East Potomac Park affords a perfect few of planes arcing into the air from National Airport. “The Awakening,” J. Seward Johnson’s famous sculpture of a giant falling into — or emerging from — the earth, can be a conversation piece or a makeshift bench on which to sit close to a loved one.
• Whistler’s Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery. If your beloved is an art buff, this untapped gem is a perfect place to steal a kiss. The lavish, mahogany-paneled room with breathtaking teal-and-gold peacock ornamentation was created for a wealthy London ship owner by James McNeill Whistler, the American-British master, and purchased intact by the Freer after Whistler’s death in 1903. Few gallery-goers dawdle inside the room, making it more private than a crowded restaurant.
• The Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral. On the south side of the cathedral grounds lies a lovely patch of blooms, with wooden benches and a small gazebo for quiet chat. The garden technically closes at dusk, but sneaking in makes a trip even more romantic. Remark to your date that Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) was married just yards away (may achieve optimal effect with Armed Services Committee aides).
• Spanish Steps at Dupont Circle. Hidden in the underbrush, just above the Quaker Meeting House on Florida Avenue, is a wide row of steps leading north to a gorgeous fountain, where water trickles from ornate lion’s-head gargoyles and the city feels miles away. Bring a bottle of wine, take a seat on one of the ledges and, if the weather permits, enjoy a lazy hour together.
• Bartholdi Park and Fountain. Nestled around the Botanic Garden is this oasis of classical design from the mind of Frederic Bartholdi, who also created the Statue of Liberty. The highlight of the park is its romantic cast-iron fountain, depicting three nymphs holding aloft a string of 12 oval lights. Sit at the edge of the fountain with a cup of hot cocoa and dream of spring’s imminent arrival.