The Best Places to Get Engaged in Raleigh and Durham
You’ve found the person you’re ready to spend the rest of your life with, congratulations! Now you’re ready to get engaged, but you’re not sure where to propose. Well, you’re in the right spot. I’ve compiled a list of 15 of the best locations to propose in the Raleigh-Durham area. This list covers a wide range, including city backdrops, lush gardens, and even sporting events!
What to Consider
Before we got to the best places to propose, let me just share a few factors you may want to consider when choosing the best location.
First, think about the crowds. Some of these locations are busier than others. I’ll talk about that in each description. If you think a crowd might make your soon-to-be fiancé uncomfortable, then consider one of the more private locations on the list.
Another factor to keep in mind is time of year. The Raleigh Rose Garden is beautiful in May when the flowers are blooming, but it’s not as interesting in January. Urban locations such as the American Tobacco Campus in Durham and Boylan Bridge in Raleigh look good year round, while garden locations tend to be better in the spring and summer.
Hiring a Photographer for Your Surprise Proposal
It’s always a good idea to have photos of your proposal! Sure, you could just get a friend with an iPhone, but the quality won’t compare to a photographer. (Heads up: with an iPhone you two will look teeny-tiny in the photos unless your friend is standing awkwardly close to you.) If you can hire a professional, please do! Their expertise will capture the moment far better than any iPhone will. I’ve photographed numerous surprise proposals and engagements in the area. If you’re interested in booking me, just fill out my contact form below:
Alright, without further ado, here are the best locations for a proposal in the Raleigh-Durham area!
Best Spots to Propose in Raleigh
1. North Carolina Museum of Art
The NC Museum of Art has a great outdoor park with miles of walking trails. It’s a popular place to go have a picnic, walk your dog, and enjoy modern art sculptures scattered throughout the trails. There are numerous great spots for a photo (it’s actually a popular place for engagement and family photo shoots). On a nice day, the park gets pretty busy. There will definitely be other people around, but it’s not so crowded that you would feel overwhelmed. This is a great spot to go year round!
2. WRAL Azalea Gardens
The WRAL Azalea Gardens are beautiful, especially when flowers are blooming in the spring and summer months. April through June are my favorite months to photograph here because of the flowers, though it is pretty all year long. The WRAL Azalea Gardens also has a nice fountain and many pathways between hedges among the tall trees. Although the garden is a popular spot, the tall hedges give you a bit more privacy than some of the other locations on this list.
3. JC Raulston Arboretum
JC Raulston Arboretum is another beautiful garden for a proposal. There are many beautiful places all throughout the garden. Just like the WRAL Garden, JC Raulston Arboretum is nice year round, but spring and summer are the best. If you choose the Arboretum, make sure you check their hours before going. They often close in the late afternoon, especially in the winter months. You can check out there hours on their website here.
4. Downtown Raleigh/Boylan Bridge
If you’re looking for a more urban location, I definitely recommend going to downtown Raleigh, in particular Boylan Bridge. Boylan Bridge is just at the edge of downtown along Boylan street. It is by far the best view of the Raleigh skyline. If you go to Boylan Bridge to propose, I recommend going as close to sunrise or sunset as you can, as this is the best light for pictures.
Other nice spots downtown are the Capitol building, the plaza outside of Union Station, or the murals around the Warehouse District.
5. Raleigh Rose Garden
The Raleigh Rose Garden is a picturesque little garden that has, as its name indicates, a bunch of roses. The Rose Garden also has a nice arbor that makes for a great photo spot as well. The roses bloom from around Mother’s Day until the first hard freeze (typically the end of October or early November). I would not recommend this garden in the winter or early spring, as you won’t find many flowers, but the rest of the year it is beautiful!
6. Dorothea Dix Park
Dorothea Dix Park is another great park in Raleigh to propose. The park boasts wide open fields and another great view of the Raleigh skyline. For a few weeks in July, the park hosts Raleigh’s best sunflower field. This park is a great spot if you want to plan a picnic or set something up for your proposal. Make sure to check Dorothea Dix park’s event calendar to avoid any events that may draw large crowds.
7. NC State
NC State (or any of the universities in the area, for that matter) is a great location to propose, especially for those who have memories there. While NC State may not be the most picturesque campus in the Triangle, it is sure to be a sweet spot for any couple who met or started dating as NC State students.
8. Pullen Park
Pullen Park is a sweet spot to propose for the kids at heart or those with fond memories growing up in Raleigh. However, you don’t just have to propose on the carousel or train ride, as there is a nice boardwalk around the lake. Go in March to see cherry blossoms for a super romantic proposal!
Best Spots to Propose in Durham/Chapel Hill
9. Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Duke Gardens is arguably one of the best gardens in the Triangle. They have so much variety, including a rose garden, Asian gardens with a bamboo forest, and an epic cherry blossom display in March. Duke Gardens gets pretty crowded during the cherry tree bloom, but it’s worth it for the amazing view! Choosing to visit the gardens right at sunrise or sunset will help keep the crowds at bay.
10. Duke University
Even if you didn’t attend Duke, the beautiful architecture around Duke Chapel (on Duke University’s campus) make this a beautiful spot to propose. The gothic arches make you feel like you’ve traveled to Europe right in the heart of Durham. I recommend avoiding this area in the weeks leading up to graduation (late April through mother’s day) as the area floods with students taking graduation photos.
11. American Tobacco Campus
The American Tobacco Campus holds a special place in my heart, as this is where my husband proposed to me! He chose this location to propose because it was where we had our first date, but there are plenty of things that make this spot great for anyone. The American Tobacco Campus has cool, industrial architecture including unique water features and historic structures including an old smokestack and water tower. The area is lit well at night for a particularly cool atmosphere.
12. Eno River State Park
If you’re looking to get away more into nature for your proposal, the Eno River State Park is a great option. There are miles of hiking trails along the Eno River, and you can get your feet wet in the river any time you want. In my opinion, the Eno River has the best hiking trails in the Triangle. While you will certainly encounter others along the river, especially families playing in the water on a nice summer day, you can walk on a bit farther and find more seclusion, especially if you opt for a weekday.
13. Jordan Lake
Jordan Lake is another one of the more natural options on the list. There are a variety of activities you could use for your proposal, including walking along the lakeshore, kayaking, or picnicking. Ebenezer Beach has a sandy shore. It can get crowded on a nice day, but for some privacy you can take a walk along the shore. It becomes a bit more rocky, but there are far less people.
14. UNC Chapel Hill
As UNC alumni, I can’t recommend UNC enough for a proposal, particularly if you are UNC grads or Tar Heel fans! There are so many places around campus that you could use for your proposal, such as Coker Arboretum, the Upper Quad, the Old Well, or the Bell Tower. UNC’s campus is beautiful year round, though I do suggest avoiding it from late April through mid-May, as it will be crowded with students taking senior photos. I also recommend checking the calendar to avoid basketball and football games, as parking will be rough those days.
15. Durham Bulls Game (or any sporting event)
Last but not least, you could consider proposing at a sporting event, such as a Durham Bulls game. Be careful with this one: if your girl loves sports and doesn’t mind attention, then you can consider it–but make sure you know that she wouldn’t mind! For the couple that loves going to games together, it could be such a fun way to propose! I got to photograph this special proposal during the fireworks of a Durham Bulls game, and it turned out amazing! (The fireworks definitely added a special element.)
If you are big fans of a particular team in the area but don’t want the crowds, consider proposing in the stadium or arena while a game isn’t going on. For example, I’ve seen proposals at UNC’s Kenan Stadium and NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium both while empty. Just be sure to check that you can enter the stadium before you go so you!
Although all of these locations listed would be a great place to propose in the Raleigh-Durham area, you might also consider somewhere that is meaningful to you and your significant other. Where did you go on your first date? Where did you first tell each other “I love you”? Is there somewhere that you’ve always dreamed of going? Don’t be afraid to get creative! Your soon-to-be fiancé will definitely appreciate it.