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The Best Places to Propose in DC, According to DC-Area Photographers

Popping the question? The pros says these are the best places to get engaged in DC.

DC photographers say these are the best places to propose in DC.

Tis the season to pop the question! The holidays are coming, and although we say any time is a good time to propose, more than 40 percent of proposals reportedly happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day in the U.S. So we asked dozens of local photographers for the best spots to get engaged, and their answers included everything from famous places to hidden gems, with plenty of hot tips along the way. Whether you’re planning to arrange for professional photography to capture the moment or you just want to seal that picture-perfect memory in your mind, here are the best places to propose, according to DC-area photographers. Note: Many otherwise public spots in the District require a permit for professional photography—double check with the location and your photographer to ensure you have everything you need to avoid an awkward interruption to your engagement. 

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Among the Monuments and Memorials

A proposal with a view of the reflecting pool from the pillars of the Lincoln Memorial. Photograph by Birds of a Feather Photography.

“Is there anything more iconic than the view of the Reflecting Pool from the pillars of the Lincoln Memorial? A grand view for a monumental moment. This is the quintessential DC proposal location. It works any time of the year!” —Maggie and Betty, Birds of a Feather Photography 


Photograph by Lisa Boggs

“I really love the Jefferson Memorial for proposals. If the weather is great, the proposal can happen by the water and then you can take some photos with the memorial afterward. Or if the weather is bad, the memorial has some covered areas that make it a great backup plan for the proposal. It’s a win-win!” —Lisa Boggs, Lisa Boggs Photography 


Photograph of a proposal at the Lincoln Memorial by Connor Studios.


Photograph by Sarah Houston Photography

“My favorite spot is actually next to the Lincoln Memorial—there’s a secret little area, near the bathrooms, ha! It’s perfect because no one is around and you get a great view. The best timing: early morning or right around sunset.” —Sarah Houston, Sarah Houston Photography

The Netherlands Carillon at dawn. The area right in front of the bell tower offers the best view in the metro area of the sun rising over Washington. The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and US Capitol line up perfectly from that vantage point. If the sky lights up with beautiful colors too, you’re not going to get a more stunning backdrop for your proposal. The only downsides are a) sunrises are unpredictable, b) it might be hard to find excuses to be at that spot at dawn, and c) your photographer will need to get a permit to take pictures for commercial purposes there (it’s on National Park Service land). —Pete Martin, Potok’s World Photography

The DC War Memorial is a great way to get the iconic National Mall look, with its stately marble columns and view of the monuments in the background, without the crowds of more popular memorials. It’s beautiful during the day and intimate at night.” —Emily Ott, Beauty of the Soul Studio


“Gorgeous willow trees by the Potomac near the Lincoln Memorial at the sunset. What could possibly be a more romantic setting for a proposal in DC?” —Nat Wongsaroj, Nat Wongsaroj Photography


Downtown Frederick, Maryland

“My favorite is Historic Downtown Frederick. It has such an energetic vibrancy—it’s both hip and historic, with perfect spots all over Carroll Creek and Baker Park to pop the question. And with so many good restaurants and bars, the post-engagement celebration spots are endless.” —Mary Kate Battles, Mary Kate McKenna Photography


The American Pharmacists Association

Photograph of a proposal at the American Pharmacists Association by Edward Underwood. Myles planned the photo shoot with then-girlfriend Jessica to commemorate their anniversary, and proposed to her during it.

One of my absolute favorite locations for families and engagements is still the American Pharmacists Association. I’ve been photographing here for years. We are so lucky to photograph in a city chock-full of architectural and design masterpieces. The APA is one of them. The breathtaking facade and cascading stairs add drama for an unforgettable engagement experience.” —Edward Underwood, Edward Underwood Photography.


The National Cathedral

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Photographs by Tori Del Photography

“I love the National Cathedral for a proposal because there are so many options depending on the vision or theme. Couples can utilize the Bishop’s Garden for a floral or hidden garden backdrop in spring and summer, or the architecture for a European-inspired proposal backdrop. Either way, if you are going for intimate or private, the Cathedral is it!” —Victoria Delgado, Tori Del Photography


Near the Capitol 

Photographs by Kir Tuben Photography

“[My preferred] spot is always one of sentiment. Where did you go on your first date? Where do you walk your dog? If something has a memory, it shows you’ve put thought behind the story of you and your partner. There are so many beautiful spots in the city. My favorite might be the west side of the Capitol in front of the botanical garden. You can see a peek of the Capitol so you know that you’re in DC but it’s mostly garden. It’s quieter than some spots in the city as well!” —Kir Tuben, Kir Tuben Photography

“There is nothing more DC than the Capitol to pop the question. I can easily pass for a tourist so it helps me to be close to the couple while waiting for the knee to go down.” —Natasha Lamalle, Natasha Lamalle Photography

“Pennsylvania Avenue near the National Archives Metro stop. If you want to propose with the US Capitol featured more prominently in the scene, then one of DC’s most famous streets is the ideal location. The view of the dome is completely unobstructed for the entire length of the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, that starts at Freedom Plaza. And the best part is there are lots of great restaurants in the area, allowing you to either conceal your true intentions beforehand or to celebrate in style afterward.” —Anji Martin, Potok’s World Photography


Photograph by Alicia Lacey Photography

Georgetown is full of hidden gems—around every corner you find a proposal backdrop prettier than the last! Be sure to plan timing with your photographer as sunrise or sunset will yield the best light for your photos.” —Alicia Lacey, Alicia Lacey Photography

“One of my favorite spots is along the Georgetown Canal. It’s so beautiful and feels so DC. Plus, it’s easy to find on a walk through Georgetown and private enough that you don’t feel the typical tourist angst.” —Lauren Swann, Lauren Swann Photography


Along a Scenic Drive

Stephanie Messick Photography


“When I think about a proposal, I think about intimacy. There are so many intimate spots along Skyline Drive that incorporate a beautiful view, and also have the option of easy access if the couple wanted to include family and friends. I love this view, especially at sunset as the colors change every minute in the sky.” —Stephanie Messick Schloe, Stephanie Messick Photography & Design

On a Day Trip

Photograph by Laura’s Focus Photography.

“The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels is a such a beautiful spot for a proposal. You have the perfect view of the St. Michaels harbor area, historic boats of all kinds, and the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse. The best times are first thing in the morning when the sun rises over the Miles River or about an hour before sunset.” —Laura Friedel Bell, Laura’s Focus Photography

“Plant lovers, this is your spot: Rawlings Conservatory in Baltimore is a grand botanical garden, and multiple greenhouses under one roof means no matter what the weather (rain, clouds, humidity, extreme temperatures), your proposal can still go on and look amazing at the same time. Pro-tip: The palm house and desert house are my favorite spots for photogenic backdrops that you won’t find anywhere else in the DMV.” —Naomi S. Cataldo, Urban Row Photography

The National Arboretum

“This fall it has been absolutely breathtaking at the National Arboretum, especially the two hours before sunset. Some of the tall trees near the evergreens gardens have turned an unbelievable vibrant orange—it’s almost like a fairytale walking below them. Also, along Meadow Lane the large oaks are backlit perfectly by the golden setting sun. It would be a magical location for a romantic walk ending in a proposal under a gorgeous tree.” —Vicki Grafton, Vicki Grafton Photography


The Kennedy Center 

Photograph on the rooftop of the Kennedy Center by Amelia Johnson Photography

“The Kennedy Center has quickly become one of my favorite spots for photographing proposals and engagement portraits. There are incredible views of Georgetown, the Potomac, and the Arlington skyline, as well as beautiful natural foliage and architectural landscaped areas that are especially photo-worthy during sunset. Plus, you just can’t beat a vibrant location that promotes art and creators from all different backgrounds!” —Anna Schmidt, Anna Schmidt Photography

“The rooftop of the Kennedy Center. A District gem, the rooftop is never too crowded, and with an airy view of the sun setting over the Potomac the space proclaims ‘big picture.'” —Amelia Johnson, Amelia Johnson Photography


Photograph at the Reach by Sam Hurd

“The Reach at the Kennedy Center is one of my favorite areas in DC, and perfect for a proposal.  It’s got a huge variety of styles from modern architecture to reflecting pools, giant trees, and gardens. It’s also really high up relative to the rest of DC so the sunset lasts forever!” —Sam Hurd, Sam Hurd Photography


“The ‘I Love You’ Sign in the Old Town Alexandria waterfront area. It’s perfect because it looks like it was created just for proposals.” —Terri Baskin, Terri Baskin Photography

The Park

“For outdoorsy couples that don’t want an audience for their proposal, Rock Creek Park offers a beautiful backdrop in nature. You can plan your proposal mid-hike or enjoy a picnic at one of the many open areas in the grass.” —Lauren Barkume, Lauren Barkume Photography

Mason Neck State Park is wonderful! You are surrounded by the beauty of nature and have so many locations to choose from for asking the big question. There are open spaces, secluded trails, and shoreline along Pohick Bay. Really, any season of the year is good but I prefer summer. I recommend timing it near sunset on Pohick Bay. Amazing colors as the sun appears to melt into the water and very romantic!” —Mila Jacksom, Mila Jackson Photography

“Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria features stunning gardens year-round and a serene pond with a gazebo so you have plenty of options for beautiful spots to pop the question. Note that while the park is open dawn to dusk, the main parking lot is only open until 5pm and nearby parking can be limited.” —Emily Ott, Beauty of the Soul Studio

At Union Station

I love the idea of doing a romantic proposal at Union Station either in the archways outside or the gilded interior. I love this idea for a couple who travels a lot via Amtrak, and/or loves the hustle and bustle of the city setting. This might be a better match for an extroverted couple.” —Lisa Blume, Lisa Blume Photography 


Tudor Place

“The best place to propose is at an intimate spot without crowds walking around you. I would go to a place like Tudor Place to make sure there isn’t anyone playing paparazzi and to make sure you are by yourselves.” —Liz Fogarty, Liz Fogarty Photography


In Wine Country

Stone Tower Winery while there is foliage on the trees. I’d aim for sunset or the hour before sunset. Next to the Tower View Tasting Room there is a beautiful patio which has stunning views of the mountains and winery in the background. They could also walk through the vineyards. The vines are a perfect place for a photographer to hide.” —Akbar Sayed, Akbar Sayed Photography


At a Hotel

Photograph of a proposal at the Conrad Hotel by Trene’ Forbes.

“I recently captured a surprise proposal at the Conrad DC, which was the perfect backdrop for my couple’s engagement. I decided on the rooftop since the couple wanted a private moment without guests. The foliage was super amazing!” —Trene’ Forbes


At the Zoo

“The National Zoo isn’t just about the animals—there’s plenty of beautiful foliage from spring through fall, making it the perfect unique backdrop for a proposal, whether in front of your favorite animal enclosure or a tucked away corner of the park.” —Emily Ott, Beauty of the Soul Studio

In Front of a Castle

“The Smithsonian Castle Gardens are really beautiful and provide a unique dramatic backdrop for a proposal. You can choose from a more intimate spot tucked away in the gardens or in front of the castle itself. The gardens have the benefit of looking beautiful year-round, with many trees that stay green throughout the winter.” —Lauren Barkume, Lauren Barkume Photography


Amy Moeller
Fashion & Weddings Editor

Amy leads Washingtonian Weddings and writes Style Setters for Washingtonian. Prior to joining Washingtonian in March 2016, she was the editor of Capitol File magazine in DC and before that, editor of What’s Up? Weddings in Annapolis.