Best Places to Propose in San Francisco
Annie and I have had the honor to photograph 200+ surprise proposals in the San Francisco Bay Area at a ton of locations, ranging from the ever-popular to the individually-unique. Here’s our list of 10 best places to propose in San Francisco that do not include the Golden Gate Bridge (for those, see this page). If you’re planning to propose in our wonderful city, hopefully this will help or at least give you some ideas!
Top 10 locations for a San Francisco proposal
1. Palace of Fine Arts
The Palace of Fine Arts is a perennial favorite among locals and visitors alike. The rotunda is a iconic landmark in the Marina neighborhood, and it makes an excellent backdrop for a beautiful proposal. There is a pond with a paved walking path that goes all the way around the pond, so it’s a great place to have a relaxing evening walk before popping the question.
For a proposal, I recommend choosing a location that is across the pond from the dome so that it can be fully captured in the background. (In the photo above, the pond is between the couple and the dome.)
2. Lovers’ Lane/Andy Goldworthy’s Wood Line
We don’t usually think of the dense, urban city of San Francisco as a place with a lot of forested areas, but it actually does have some great wooded spots. The Wood Line is a long clearing in the middle of a wooded area, with a squiggly line of logs that runs along its length. It’s a great place to take a stroll in the woods, and you’ll encounter some joggers and folks walking their dogs.
The great thing about this spot is that it has a beautiful forest feel yet is sparse enough to let lots of beautiful light filter in through the trees. The best time of day to come here is early in the morning, both because it will be emptier and quieter, and also because the light is better here early in the day due to its orientation.
3. Sutro Baths
Sutro Baths is our single most popular spot for engagement photos, so naturally, it’s also an often-requested location for proposals. It’s just an incredible place for photos and I feel like I have to include it on this list, but I generally discourage my couples from choosing it for a proposal. Sutro Baths is extremely crowded (especially on days with good weather), and on its busiest days I’ve seen 10+ professional photo shoots plus endless swarms of people watching the sunset, all vying for the same spots at the same time. For an engagement shoot that’s ok, since we’ll be shooting at various spots around the area and can pick the ones that are unoccupied while we wait for others to clear up.
But for a surprise proposal, it’s all on you — though we’ll talk through a plan beforehand, once you’re there, we can’t directly help you without giving away the surprise. The photos here at sunset are definitely one-of-a-kind though!
4. Stow Lake
Golden Gate Park has some great opportunities for photos, and of them, Stow Lake is my favorite. For James & Anne Marie’s proposal pictured above, one of us took photos from the shore and one from a boat in order to capture different angles of their moment. There are also other spots, for example Huntington Falls on Strawberry Hill is another popular choice. When planning, keep in mind that the last boat rental is 4pm daily and the boathouse closes at 5pm. The boathouse can also be rented, making it a great place for an private engagement party afterwards.
5. Ina Coolbrith Park
Tucked away on Russian Hill, Ina Coolbrith Park is a neat little park in a pretty quiet neighborhood. It looks tiny on Google Maps, but don’t be fooled — its view is gorgeous, especially near sunset. For the spot Jim (above) chose for his proposal, it was very easy for us to sit around on a bench nearby looking like casual park-goers, and because they’re standing right in front of a railing/drop, that also precluded the possibility of photobombers appearing behind them.
6. The Rooftop Garden at Fairmont SF
The Fairmont San Francisco is a venue we’ve become quite familiar with after photographing lots of proposals and a few weddings as well. The rooftop garden is actually on the ground lobby level of the hotel, but because the building is on a hill, the garden is situated above the streets around it, giving it a clear view of portions of the San Francisco skyline.
The rooftop garden is generally open to the public (you don’t have to be a hotel guest); however, it’s important to understand that the space can also be rented for private events, and it will be closed off during those times. For that reason, if you’re planning on proposing here, I’d recommend looking into reserving it so you can enjoy your proposal moments with just you and your partner, without running the risk of being denied entry.
7. Treasure Island
For some reason, I feel like Treasure Island often gets overlooked. It’s not the most fun of places, I guess — there’s very little to do on the island — but its view looking at San Francisco is great, and it’s also not a bad place for a peaceful stroll along the waters of the San Francisco Bay. Parking is also exceptionally easy around the island. Just be aware that the Bay Bridge is the only way to get here, and traffic (especially getting onto the bridge) ranges from mildly bad to excruciatingly miserable. Be sure to plan ahead!
8. Pier 7
Pier 7 sits on The Embarcadero waterfront near downtown San Francisco/the Financial District. It has the appearance of an old wooden pier with street lamps running down both sides, and has a great views of the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco Belle (that ship on Pier 3), and downtown, with the Transamerica Pyramid being quite prominent in the distance. Since it’s downtown, there are many great restaurants nearby, which can serve as a convenient excuse to get your partner out for a sunset walk just before/after dinner while all dressed up. And being on the eastern side of the city, the weather is almost always sunny, even while many of the other spots on this list might be shrouded in thick San Francisco fog.
9. Alta Plaza Park
Alta Plaza Park is near the middle of the city and is a favorite for locals catching some sunshine or walking their dogs. It isn’t really a landmark or a famous location so it might not be your first choice if you’re visiting SF, but it’s a great spot for a low-key proposal, especially for locals for whom the park might hold a special meaning — perhaps it was a first date location, or a favorite weekend picnic spot. It has quite the view for such an unassuming little park, too.
10. Bernal Heights
Bernal Heights is a favorite of mine because it’s easy to get to, offers a quiet and private spot for a proposal (it’s big and spacious, so the people density here is very low), and is situated in a spot that gives a great view of the city.
Scott & Briana’s proposal (the photo above) was during a massive wildfire that clouded the skies with smoke so it doesn’t fully show how great the location is; check out Emily & Steve’s engagement photos for a better look at this location on a normal day. The one major downside here is that it can sometimes be very windy, so keep that in mind if either of you has long hair.
Looking for more ideas?
I’ve omitted Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints from this list, since those deserve their own separate page. Don’t forget to take a look at our list of top 10 Golden Gate Bridge proposal spots!
Or perhaps a more unique location?
San Francisco is full of great places. I hope I’ve given you some ideas, but I love it when my clients do something unique and personal! Here are a few that are a bit more off the beaten path: