Looking for a leafy green venue for your engagement shoot, but not interested in the crowds of Central Park? Well have I got some suggestions for you. In today’s blog on NYC engagement shoot locations, I list what I think are the 11 most underrated alternatives to Central Park. You don’t have to be photographed with the masses; there are options available!
If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am not a fan of Central Park. It’s not that I don’t like the park – Central Park is an iconic location that everyone should visit. It’s just that most people don’t do the park justice. Unless you have a personal connection to Central Park, photos in the park tend look like everyone else’s photos. It’s as if you are re-creating someone else’s engagement session. I am of the mind that your engagement portrait should be personal to you and should reflect the story of how you met and fell in love – not the story of any other couple. So unless you were proposed to on the Bow Bridge, here are some alternatives to Central Park where you can get a green environment for your shoot, but the background might better reflect your personal story.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Rockefeller Park & the Irish Hunger Memorial
Most everyone knows Battery Park and that you can get a spectacularly close view of the Statue of Liberty there. Battery Park is a great spot, especially if you have a Staten Island connection and are interested in adding a trip on the Staten Island ferry to your engagement session. My only caveat about using the park is the fact that there is virtually no shade in the area. Also, the area with the best view of the Statue of Liberty is pretty small, and crowds for the Statue of Liberty ferry tend to make this park a very crowded spot. The better option is to walk a bit north and to the west to Rockefeller Park. This is a great little park with views of the waterfront and the Statue of Liberty. Even better, the park is really only crowded during the lunch hour with office workers. Rockefeller Park has lots of artistic options for different photos and you can easily move back into the land of skyscrapers for a more New York City feel. You might also try taking photos at the Irish Hunger Memorial. This architectural gem is an exquisite building with interesting light and a rocky, natural edifice on the side that lends itself well to lots of artistic options for your engagement shoot.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Riverside Park
I would say Riverside Park is probably the second most popular park for an engagement portrait in the city. The park is scenic: it has waterfront views, a tree-lined promenade and forest-covered areas that make you feel like you have completely left the city. During the summer, there are flower gardens blooming around 79th Street that rival anything in the New York Botanical Garden. Again, if you walk up the park you can easily cross the street to Broadway and include a city feel to your engagement portrait session. If you have a playful nature like my clients Nancy and Jeff, you can also clown around on the park’s dinosaur sculptures in the playground at 96th Street.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Riverbank State Park
Moving a bit further north in Manhattan is Riverbank State Park. This park is basically an extension to Riverside Park. The park offers sweeping views of the Hudson River, and if you walk far enough north you get a grand view of the George Washington Bridge. If you live close to Washington Heights, then this is the park for you. There is a beautiful promenade found at 135th Street, and one of the most unique architectural elements in Riverside Drive overpass which makes for an iconic engagement photo.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Fort Tryon Park
Fort Tryon Park, home to the Cloisters Museum, is an ethereal world unto itself. When you visit this park, you truly feel like you have left the city. The park has a high view of the Hudson River down below and includes a magnificent garden that anyone with a green thumb should visit. In all of my times photographing in Fort Tryon Park I have never found it to be that busy, except when the medieval fair takes place there in early October. Other than that, you have the park all to yourself. Linden Terrace is a popular spot for small weddings and should be included in any engagement portrait shot list. One other option is the Cloisters Museum itself. While you cannot shoot within the museum without a permit, it’s always better to ask forgiveness rather than permission. There is a courtyard within the middle of the museum that is a picturesque portrait location.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Roosevelt Island
Why more couples do not have their engagement shoot on Roosevelt Island is beyond me. The island offers majestic views of the New York City skyline, there is a great park at the end of the island which includes a creepy, abandoned smallpox hospital, and you even get views of the city from the tram ride going to the island. What’s not to love? I would also be remiss if I did not remind you that Roosevelt Island has some of the best cherry blossoms in New York City. You can photograph all of your cherry blossom hopes and dreams on Roosevelt Island without having to deal with the crowds in either Brooklyn Botanic Gardens or Central Park.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – City Island and Orchard Beach
If you are based in the Bronx, then consider City Island and Orchard Beach for your engagement portrait. City Island is a charming little town and a fantastic ‘road trip’ easily accessible by the subway. You can find some of the best seafood in the city at the area restaurants, comb through antique shops, and have a drink on the water as you watch the sunset. In addition, you have the option of going to Orchard Beach for the full beach experience. Orchard Beach was created by Robert Moses back in the day, and you can still see some Art Deco flourishes at the entrance to the beach.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Astoria Park
Back in my beloved Queens, Astoria Park is a fantastic engagement shoot location. The park is large, and depending upon when you are in the park, you can get shots with the empty pool for a more industrial look. Even better, there is the Welling Court Mural Project at the intersection of 30th Avenue and 125th Street where you can get great shots with graffiti. The archway underneath the bridge is lovely, and there are lots of cute little restaurants nearby for a glass of wine after your engagement shoot.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Rockaway Beach
If you are a true lover of the outdoors, then Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge should not be missed. The park is a bird sanctuary and you can get a nice view of the New York City skyline in the distance. Rockaway Beach is another location to add to your shot list. You have the beach with tons of surfers, a few little restaurants down main street, and beautiful old homes. Lots of options in an area of that never gets the respect it deserves.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Liberty State Park
For those of you living in New Jersey, Liberty State Park is an obvious choice. The park is huge, and has great views over the water to New York City. There is a 9/11 memorial that, while very sad, can be used for some interesting photos. You also have the old train station that is architecturally stunning inside and out. A sunset cocktail at either Maritime Parc or Liberty House would be the perfect end to an engagement shoot at Liberty State Park. Oh, and did I mention the great view of the Statue of Liberty?
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Stevens Park and the Hoboken Waterfront
I discovered this area while shooting a wedding at the W Hotel in Hoboken. The park and outdoor areas are terrific. You have a perfect view of the Freedom Tower and sweeping vistas all up the island of Manhattan. Even better, you have the option of extending your engagement shoot into the city of Hoboken. Hoboken feels preserved in time, and the shops and restaurants there are precious. Take the PATH train and feel like you have stepped back into the era of old New York, complete with beautiful brick buildings everywhere.
NYC Engagement Shoot Locations – Governors Island
Finally, Governors Island has to be on this list. I had one of my all-time favorite engagement shoots on the island with my clients, Vanessa and Nathan. Since you can only visit Governors Island during the summer, you have to think ahead to plan the shoot. Also, keep track of ferry times and go as late in the day is possible to get the best light. But other than these concerns, Governors Island should not be missed because of how many options it offers for an engagement shoot. There is the greenery of the park itself, great views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline, plus the old buildings of the former naval base and Fort Jay. For anyone reading this, I am dying to do a shoot on Governors Island during the 1920s Jazz Age Lawn Festival. Let’s get gussied up and take some photos!
A quick shout out to my Nancy and Jeff, whose engagement shoot photos at Riverside Park you can find below. I will have the pleasure of photographing their wedding at the Bear Mountain Inn carousel this Saturday. I’ll have all the details about their fun wedding coming next week. Until then, have a great weekend, and drop me a line to inquire about booking your engagement portrait!
If you would like to see more images from my portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com