Photo of The Strand Rare Book Room (top left) by Aaron and Whitney Photography; all others cited below
Some people think Valentine’s Day is a good day for a proposal, but those people are wrong. Valentine’s Day is a holiday that belongs to Hallmark, but the day you propose is one that belongs to you, without any intrusion on the part of a greeting card company. Still, if you’re going to pop the question, you’re best off doing it before February 14, so the pressure’s off and no one’s sitting at dinner stressing out over whether or not they’re going to accidentally swallow a ring in their champagne. Luckily, this city’s full of romantic spots ripe for love and impending marriage. Here are a few of our favorites, from a bookstore and a movie theater to parks and restaurants.
Photo by Casey Fatchett, courtesy of One if by Land, Two if by Sea
1. One if by Land, Two if by Sea
17 Barrow Street between 7th Ave South and 4th Street, West Village, Manhattan
This West Village restaurant is one of the city’s most romantic spots, boasting an old-world elegance most of New York’s newer establishments sadly lack. Housed in Aaron Burr’s old carriage house, the restaurant is appropriately outfitted with vintage touches like exposed brick, hanging chandeliers, and cozy fireplaces, plus all the candlelit tables are partnered with velvet-backed chairs. The chef offers three- and seven-course tasting menus, depending on how long you want to drag out popping the question, and do note you might have some competition—the restaurant famously hosts at least one proposal a night.
A proposal in The Strand’s Rare Book Room, courtesy of The Strand
2. Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway between 12th and 13th Streets, Union Square, Manhattan
If you and/or your future spouse happen to be bookworms, there’s no better place to pop the question than at the city’s best and biggest bookstore. The Rare Book Room is particularly romantic and open to the public every day of the week (check the website for hours, which vary). You can also rent the Rare Book Room out as an event space if you’d like some privacy, or perhaps a spot for a surprise engagement party after you get a “Yes.”
3. Brooklyn Bridge Park
334 Furman Street between Grace Court and Joralemon Street, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
The Manhattan skyline is one of the city’s most romantic features, and Brooklyn Bridge Park has one of the skyline’s best views. Ergo, it makes sense that the park’s stretch is a prime spot for proposals. The Promenade is a particular favorite, but don’t sleep on DUMBO’s section of the park, which is home to a rotating selection of public art and the super-romantic Jane’s Carousel. Post-proposal, be sure to dine on celebratory pizza at Grimaldi’s like a true New Yorker.
Photo of Bemelmans Bar, courtesy of The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel
4. The Carlyle
35 East 76th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan
There’s no shortage of romantic hotels in town, including, but not limited to the Algonquin, Gramercy Park Hotel, and the Pierre. Still, The Carlyle on the Upper East Side has them all beat in terms of proposal potential. The hotel itself is a treat, having been built in 1930 in a distinctly Art Deco style that exudes pre-war architectural excellence. But the real romantic meat here is the hotel’s famed Bemelmans Bar, which boasts both some of the city’s best signature cocktails and gorgeous murals by Ludwig Bemelmans, who wrote and illustrated the delightful Madeline children’s book series. Pop the question after a twist on a Manhattan, then cheers over oysters—just be prepared to walk out with a hefty tab.
5. The Frick Collection
1 East 70th Street between 5th and Madison Aves, Upper East Side, Manhattan
You might think that as the city’s most beloved art museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the best Manhattan museum for a proposal (MoMA is the second most beloved, but like many New Yorkers, I’d lay down my life for the Met). Unfortunately, the Met’s popularity makes it a tough spot to pop the question, unless you like accidentally kneeling on a stranger’s toes. Try the Frick instead—like the Met, the Upper East Side mansion is full of love-inspiring art and architectural wonder but offers up far more private spaces and quiet nooks.
Photo courtesy of Nitehawk Cinema
6. Casablanca at Nitehawk Prospect Park
188 Prospect Park West at 14th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn
Few movies have withstood the romance test of time more than this acclaimed (and still surprisingly funny) Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman ditty, and on February 13th, you can make it a part of your own love story. Nitehawk Prospect Park is offering a 7:30 screening of the acclaimed 1942 film, complete with a themed champagne-and-gin (of course) cocktail dubbed “We’ll Always Have Paris.” The film runs only 102 minutes, so if you can manage to make it through without sweating too much, gin up and wait to propose after, by the park. And if you’re planning a proposal at another time, this dinner-and-a-movie location regularly screens romantic, old-timey classics.
7. Fort Washington Park
Washington Heights, Manhattan
For a spectacular vista from the other side, head to Fort Washington Park, home to the Little Red Lighthouse and a great view of the George Washington Bridge. Propose at dusk when the bridge’s lights turn on, and do it soon—once In The Heights comes out, the park’s guaranteed to be mobbed with Lin-Manuel Miranda-hungry tourists. Post-proposal, celebrate with fried pork rinds at Elsa Le Reina del Chicharron, which is still one of the best spots in the neighborhood for classic Dominican fare.
8. The High Line
820 Washington Street between Gansevoort and Little W 12th Streets, Chelsea, Manhattan
The High Line is a terrible place to propose in the summer, thanks to its unending foot traffic and overall glut of tourists blocking the rail (sorry)-thin walkways. But in the winter, the High Line’s much quieter, and therefore a prime spot for a semi-private proposal. Pop the question by the Standard Hotel, then head to penthouse bar the Top of the Standard for a celebratory drink and people-watch.
9. Staten Island Ferry
Whitehall Terminal, 4 South Street, Lower Manhattan
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again (and again, and again, and again). The Staten Island Ferry is one of the city’s best and most overlooked romantic spots. Granted, the inside is not particularly love-friendly, but if you get a deck spot on the ride back from Staten Island, you get an incredible (and free) view of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, plus the ferry’s bar offers some of the best drink deals in town.
10. Louis J. Valentino Park and Pier
Coffee and Ferris Streets, Red Hook, Brooklyn
I believe strongly that Red Hook’s cobblestone streets and pristine sunsets make it one of, if not the most romantic neighborhood in the city, and Louis J. Valentino Park and Pier is a perfect example. The pier leads out into the New York Harbor and boasts an incredible view of the Statue of Liberty. Hit it up at sunset, when the light starts dipping below the water, and plan a surprise engagement party at the nearby Red Hook Winery.