Where to Propose in NYC with an Empire State Building View

May 5, 2016

New York City has SO many fantastic views. The city is breathtaking, and there are many places you can go to enjoy the skyline. If you want to propose while visiting NYC, there’s nothing like having the Empire State Building as the backdrop to make it a beautiful, memorable moment.

Having photographed over 100 marriage proposals in and around NYC, I’ve come up with a list of five perfect places to enjoy the view before popping the question. These are great spots to go if you want the Empire State Building to be the main backdrop – and you know, while you’re planning your NYC proposal, perhaps consider having it photographed!

Each spot has something different to offer. I’ll go through the pros and cons of each, and with such diverse choices, at least one of these will be sure to appeal to you!

Here they are, in no particular order….

Top of the Rock, Manhattan

This may be my favorite place to photograph a proposal. The views are always stunning, and you get an absolutely fantastic view of the Empire State Building and lower Manhattan. You feel like you’re floating, almost, with the glass walls. And, as a photographer, it’s a great place for me to blend in. The viewing decks are large and wide, allowing me to photograph without being on top of the couple. The process to get to the top is pretty quick and painless (you need to purchase tickets for a specific time in advance).

Pros: Easy to get to, the most beautiful views, and will make for a wonderful story afterwards.

Cons: Tickets cost money (it’s not a *lot* of money, but it’s not free), and it’s the most public of these locations. This wouldn’t necessarily work if you wanted something more private unless you timed it well.

Rooftop Bar at 230 Fifth, Manhattan

We go from up high in the sky back down closer to the ground – though we aren’t on street level yet! About 20 stories up is the rooftop bar at 230 Fifth. Unlike Top of the Rock, which, because the view is out and downwards, has a view of many city buildings (with the Empire State Building at the center of it all), 230 Fifth has a view of the Empire State Building dominating all others. You are close enough to get a fantastic, straight up view, but not so close you’re craning your neck back to see.

Pros: Easy to get to, the view is pretty much *just* the Empire State Building, you don’t technically have to spend any money here. Conversely, you can reserve a table and turn the proposal into a celebratory drinks/party immediately afterwards!

Cons: Without reserving a table (which usually involves expensive bottle service), you’re at the mercy of the crowds and what little spots with views may be available. If you want a private moment, the best time to propose here is when nobody else is on the rooftop (either because it’s an off time or it’s freezing).

Gantry Plaza State Park, Long Island City (Queens)

If you haven’t been to Long Island City, you need to go. It’s quickly becoming THE place to be in the city, and it offers wonderful skyline views of Manhattan. Its positioned perfectly so that directly across the East River is the Empire State Building in all its wonderful glory. This is a great place to go if you want the Empire State Building and a lot of the midtown skyline incorporated in your views. Depending on timing, this can also be a “public yet private” spot.

Pros: Awesome skyline views, totally free, several places within the park are near the water and have the best views.

Cons: This is not in Manhattan so you’ll need to take a train or taxi here. Closest train stop is the 7 at Vernon Blvd/Jackson Ave, or you can walk a little further and pick up more trains at Court Square (the E, M, G, and 7)

Transmitter Park, Brooklyn

This is a hidden gem tucked away in Brooklyn – a place I didn’t even know about until I photographed a proposal here in January. This is a great place to go if you want privacy. The skyline view is good, though you are a wee bit further away, so the Empire State Building becomes one of many buildings. This is a place frequented by locals, but no tourists, so if you’re visiting and want a true NYC experience, this may be just the ticket for you!

Pros: Privacy, great views of midtown and lower Manhattan, and the pier walkway goes out pretty far over the water (but if that makes you too nervous, there are great spots on land as well).

Cons: This is also not in Manhattan and is a bit more complicated to get to by train if you are coming from Manhattan. It’s a short walk off the Greenpoint Ave G train stop, but the G doesn’t go through Manhattan, so you’ll either have to transfer, walk from the Bedford Ave L stop (this may be a 15-20 minute walk), or cab it here. The view of the Empire State Building is nice, but won’t dominate the scene like a place like 230 Fifth or Refinery Rooftop would (this may be a pro for those who want more of a “NYC skyline” vibe).

Refinery Rooftop, Manhattan

Another great spot similar to 230 Fifth. The staff here is wonderful, and will go the extra mile to help you prepare for your proposal. This is another Manhattan rooftop spot close to the Empire State Building without it being overpowering.

Pros: Easy to get to, wonderful, helpful staff. You’ll need to pay for a table (bottle service, etc.) but they are so attentive and it’s a great one-on-one experience with them.

Cons: Unlike the other locations, you can’t see the Empire State Building from every place within Refinery Rooftop – it’s pretty much limited to one area of the roof. Working with the staff will help alleviate this, but if you’re going in with no pre-planning, you may not get that spot you need for the view.

But What About Proposing at the top of the Empire State Building?

I’m going to be blunt with you – I don’t recommend actually going to the top of the Empire State Building to propose. The outdoor walkways around the observation deck are narrow and often jam packed – I’m talking you’re actually getting squished. The lines to get in are usually much worse than at Top of the Rock (which has ticket admittances at certain times, thus allowing a constant flow of people without it ever being overwhelming). I have photographed some small weddings up at the Top of the Empire State Building and they were all extremely challenging due to the wait, the crowds, and the lack of space. Anyone who emails me and throws out the idea of proposing here, I’ll generally steer towards Top of the Rock or some other location.

If you want to visit, by all means, do it! And propose elsewhere with the ESB in the background 🙂

Are you interested in having your proposal photographed? Contact me!
Email: (or use my contact form, which goes right into my inbox)
Instagram: @pennacephotography / @NYCProposals


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