The president and first lady jetted to a date in New York late Saturday afternoon, aides and media in tow.
"I am taking my wife to New York City because I promised her during the campaign that I would take her to a Broadway show after it was all finished," the president said in a statement an aide read to the press.
After dining a little more than two hours at Blue Hill, a West Village restaurant touted by New York magazine as a "seminal Greenmarket haven" that features food grown by chef and owner Dan Barber on his upstate farm, the president and first lady headed to the Belasco Theater to make curtain call for "Joe Turner's Come and Gone."
According to the pool reporter, Mr. Obama appeared to shake a man's hand on the way in, reports CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller.
The play by August Wilson is about black America in the early 1900s, with residents of a boardinghouse recalling their migration from the sharecropping farms of the South to the industrialized North.
As the motorcade left the West Village and drove up Sixth Avenue to the theater, crowds of people, at times about eight deep, gathered on the sidewalks of the blockaded streets to wave as the Obamas passed. Some cheered. Cab drivers opened their doors and stood on the frames of their taxis to glimpse the president and first lady.
The White House declined to say how much the trip was costing taxpayers, and even before the smaller jet left Washington, the there-and-back trip drew criticism from the Republican National Committee. The RNC issued a news release that chastised Obama for saying he understands American's troubles, but then hopping up to New York for "a night on the town."
Noting that General Motors is expected to file for Chapter 11 protection on Monday, the news release said: "Putting on a show: Obamas wing into the city for an evening out while another iconic American company prepares for bankruptcy."
In an interview before his inauguration, Barack Obama said he and his wife like having "date nights," usually on Fridays. Since moving to Washington, the Obamas have managed to fit in at least a few nights out in the nation's capital.
While on a trip to New York last week, Michelle Obama was reminded about the couple's first date.
"You know, after 20-some-odd years of knowing a guy, you forget that your first date was at a museum," she said. "But it was, and it was obviously wonderful. It worked."
Before traveling to New York, the Obamas watched daughter Malia's soccer game for an hour Saturday morning.