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It may not be called the City of Love, as is its European counterpart, but Manhattan and its neighboring boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island are equally capable of setting the scene for amour. Here are some of our favorite spots that would make the ultimate backdrop for popping the question.
Central Park Conservatory Garden
Save this engagement setting for springtime, when flowers fill the three gardens with color—tulips in the northern French garden, spring bulbs in the southern English one, and pink and white crab apple trees lining the Italian garden in the center. All six acres are designated a quiet zone, so if you’re planning a large public gesture, reminds Sarah Pease, professional proposal planner at Brilliant Event Planning, "Don't forget your permits! NYC cops and park officials are positively heartless when it comes to any kind of special setup that doesn't have the proper permits, even if it's for a proposal."
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The Brooklyn Bridge
What better place to merge two lives than on a bridge that arches over the East River to connect two boroughs? Make a reservation for a restaurant on the other end and suggest taking a walk. Time the proposal to take place just before sunset when you reach the halfway point. You still have the other half of the stroll to enjoy the first precious moments of your engagement together before you reach your destination. (And it would be even more special if friends and family were waiting there to celebrate with you!)
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Empire State Building
Many a romantic comedy has idealized the iconic Empire State Building observatory and its 360-degree view of the Big Apple, but that doesn't diminish its grandeur. The trickiest part of popping the question here is the timing. For a more private setting, not to mention shorter lines, head up between midnight and 1 a.m. or first thing in the morning (it opens at 8 a.m.). From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday, a saxophonist sets the mood with an evening serenade.
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Cruise on the Harbor
Picture this: You're sailing along the Hudson, between breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty, when you pop the question as the sun sets. Classic Harbor Line's fleet of boutique yachts set sail from the Chelsea Piers on a variety of themed cruises, including foodie, fireworks, and seasonal (from $34/each). If you'd prefer a more intimate proposal, you can even reserve a private charter for the two of you—or propose on land and have guests waiting aboard for a surprise celebratory cruise post-engagement!
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Top of the Rock
Why wait until after you pop the question to feel on top of the world? Come up with a plan to get your sweetheart to join you for an excursion up to the Top of the Rock, where you can take in breathtaking views of Manhattan, including Central Park and the Empire State Building, before asking for her hand in marriage.
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Roof Garden at the Met
Art lovers may become more so at the rooftop (open early May through October) of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here, you'll find a charming garden, bar, and gorgeous views of Central Park, especially at sunset. Saunter hand in hand through the galleries before heading up for a drink and the moment that will frame your lives forever.
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Just a quick ferry ride from Manhattan, the former military base now boasts serene parks that are open to the public during the warmer weather. Plan a leisurely summer afternoon pedaling around on bikes (available to rent) and picnicking before popping the question while gazing out across the water at the city skyline.
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St. Luke's Garden
Tucked behind a high brick wall near The Church of St. Luke in the Fields in the West Village is a secluded garden that is open to the public as a place for peaceful reflection and respite. Take your partner for a day shopping and dining in the historic neighborhood, then plan a detour into this sweet, intimate setting to propose. In the spring and summer, butterflies abound, big old oaks shade some of the benches, and the whole place blooms with all kinds of flowers that smell otherworldy good. By fall, the leaves are starting to turn vibrant colors on the many smaller trees and it still has all its green ivy and climbing vines.
Note: Use of the gardens for weddings, filming, or any private function has to be arranged with permission from St. Luke's.
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The American Wing at the Met
Whisk your amoureux away to Paris without boarding a plane. Wind your way through the Metropolitan Museum of Art and stop in the quiet American Wing gallery that houses John Vanderlyn's panoramic painting of the palace and gardens of Versailles. Or curate your own proposal plan within the walls of other famous NYC museums. Two of the most spectacular ones are The Cloisters and The Frick, both housed in historic buildings with gardens that seem plucked from a fairy-tale.
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620 Loft & Garden at Rockefeller Center
Invite your fiancé-to-be to your own private rooftop oasis. This midtown marvel holds a small, trimmed English garden overlooking Fifth Avenue and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Rent the space to pop the question and have friends and family show up after for a surprise engagement party.
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Tiffany & Co.
Not only does this proposal location nod to the Truman Capote novel and Audrey Hepburn film A Breakfast at Tiffany's, it's also practical: After asking, you can pick out the engagement ring together. Get as elaborate with the plan as you wish, from simply inviting her to meet you for coffee or lunch nearby to hiring a driver to first take her on a tour, stopping along the way at significant spots (where you first met or kissed). At each stop, the driver or a friend can hand her a surprise, from a bouquet to a hand-written letter. End the trip in front of Tiffany's, where you'll be waiting with a blue box and—what else—breakfast!
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Alphabet City Community Gardens
Escape to nature. In the East Village, you'll find tiny gardens that have been nurtured, preserved, and enjoyed by the community for decades. Stop to smell the roses on the way to dinner—there are dozens of noteworthy restaurants in the area—propose, and watch your love bloom.
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The Little Red Lighthouse
In 1931, the construction of the George Washington Bridge almost resulted in the demolition of this humble lighthouse in Fort Washington Park. Partly prompted by the children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, it was protected by public demand. Today it is the only lighthouse in the city—and a symbol of perseverance, adding to the reasons why it is a fitting spot to begin your marriage.
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Make reservations at Tavern on the Green, but don't head straight to the famous New York restaurant. Walk there through Central Park, stopping by its largest bridge, so-called because its elegant shape is reminiscent of the bow of an archer. Play Cupid by dropping to your knee with the reflective lake, bountiful trees, and idyllic urban scene as a backdrop.
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Imagine you and your beloved living as one after leaving this Central Park destination. The memorial to John Lennon features a mosaic tile in the center of a courtyard, designated as a quiet zone, that is often adorned with flowers in tribute to the late singer and the peaceful ideals he advocated.
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Madison Square Park
Consider this happy little patch of the Flatiron District for your proposal. Start by grabbing a burger at the nearby Shake Shack, then take a walk to the ornamental fountain. The 150-year-old space—orginally erected as a tribute to World War I troops—will serve as a landmark of your love, which you can revisit for years to come.
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The High Line
One of the more modern public spaces in NYC, the former rail line is a walking trail perfectly integrated into its surroundings, marrying views of towering skyscrapers, the Hudson River, and potentially you and your S.O.
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Brooklyn Bridge Park
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Smith & Mills
If you want food and romance on the menu, pick an intimate establishment like Smith & Mills or get a private room at Le Bernardin or the Skybox at Daniel. And, Pease suggests, propose at the beginning of the meal. "Otherwise you're painfully nervous throughout the entire meal and your partner will either guess what's happening or just wonder why you're acting so odd." Other options? Try Entwine Wine Bar, the private dining room at Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental, or Hamilton's in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn (just steps away from watching the swans in the scenic Prospect Park Lake).
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Washington Square Park
Plan for an evening proposal in this park, where the archway lights up at night, framing the Empire State Building in the distance. You could even hire some street musicians to set the mood and, after you ask, enjoy your first dance as a soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs.
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Answer to the call of the wild. Within this nationally renowned zoo, there are several special areas that can be reserved for weddings, events, and, yes, proposals, too.
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To make sure your message gets across, you can always rent screen space. A creative take on the Jumbotron sports proposal, schedule this go-big-or-go-home scheme through the annual Valentine's Day event "Love in Times Square," or contact the Times Square Advertising Coalition for other options during the year.
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Grand Central Terminal
With its cavernous size, elegant architecture, and rich history as one of the nation's most prized landmarks, this midtown train station promises to make your proposal a jaw-dropping one. Windows on either side of the depot's soaring ceiling let in streams of light, which reflect off the marble walls. Instruct your sweetie to meet you under the iconic brass clock in the center—a generations-old tradition for New York travelers—and get down on one knee right then and there. Or, enlist the help of the mysterious "Whispering Gallery" to send your sentiments directly into the ear of your beloved. With its low, arched ceilings and glazed tiles, the area outside the Grand Central Oyster Bar has the acoustic ability to carry hushed conversation from a speaker at one end of the room to a listener at the other.
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Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
Built in 1842, this historical City Island estate has been preserved as one of the last remaining pieces of what was once quiet countryside in the present-day Pelham Bay Park. An educational museum tour is the perfect excuse for getting your date out into the surrounding flowering gardens and lush green courtyard, where the two of you can linger behind to chat about other matters.
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Socrates Sculpture Park
Contemporary culture meets nature at this waterfront park in Queens. Featuring lovely landscaping and rotating visual art exhibits, the free public space gives you the option of getting engaged during an outdoor art tour or a relaxing picnic for two in the grass.
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Staten Island Ferry
Departing approximately 109 times each day, this five-mile, 25-minute ride is known for the views of NYC it provides and it is absolutely free. Plan to scout out the New York Chinese Scholars Garden (another great place to pop the question), hop on the boat, and go. "It may sound cheesy," Pease says, "but doing it during rush hour and with the killer view of the Statue of Liberty—it could be pretty amazing for a public proposal." We think we like cheesy!
Find out how to submit your proposal pics and details at marthastewartweddings.com/submit.