An Expert's Guide to The Best Places to Propose in California
Between the beaches, mountains, deserts and major cities, California has a landscape for just about any taste. So whether you're looking for a rocky retreat, beach getaway, five-star resort or something in between, there's a spot for you on our list of the best places to propose in California.
We spoke with wedding photographer Leana Myra, owner of Leana Myra Photography, who does engagement shoots all across the state. With her help, we have curated the most incredible proposal spots in both Northern and Southern California that will ensure your social media feed is all rizzed up with the moment you and your love say "yes." If you're looking for an engagement planner, photographer or proposal packages, head to The Knot Vendor Marketplace to find more experts excited to help your love story start its next chapter.
In this story:
The Best Time of the Year to Propose in California
According to Leana, the best time of year to get engaged in California is the winter, from December to February. Between the holiday season and the decorations around town to the warm feelings around Valentine's Day, there are plenty of romantic times to ask your partner to spend the rest of their life with you. The weather is also "really nice" during this season and the timeline allows you to use your New Year's energy to plan the wedding.
The Best Places to Propose in Northern California
Whether you're planning a vacation to the West Coast or you've fallen in love in the Golden State, there's a reason you're here looking for the best proposal spots in California. Depending on your relationship, personalities, pastimes and budget, you might lean towards a beach proposal spot or luxury resort overlooking a city skyline. Either way, these locations will help make your partner's "yes" the happiest moment of your life.
Heavenly Mountain Resort
The Sierra Nevadas east of Sacramento are host to a myriad of world-class resorts tucked within the beauty of the mountains. At the south edge of Lake Tahoe is the Heavenly Mountain Resort, which has winter sports part of the year and adventurous excursions, such as a zipline, mountainside gondola ride and summer tubing for those staying during the summer. With unparalleled views of both the mountain and the lake, this is one of our favorite places to propose in California for nature-loving adventurers.
The Palace Hotel in San Francisco
Marble pillars, Austrian crystal chandeliers, a glass dome and a world-renowned bar all under the same roof. What's not to love about the iconic Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco? This hotel consistently ranks as one of the best getaways on the West Coast, and for good reason. Whether you want your proposal to feel like a roaring 20s soirée beneath the architecture of the grand lobby or prefer for it to take place organically while sipping afternoon tea, the staff here are prepared to make your moment everything you want and more.
Yosemite National Park
Half Dome and Inspiration Point may be two of the most iconic landmarks in the entire national park system. While either of these would make an ideal proposal spot with a jaw-dropping background, Yosemite National Park has myriads of lesser traveled trails that have no shortage of beautiful views, unique wildlife and flowing waterfalls.
Bernal Heights Park in San Francisco
For one of the most breathtaking San Francisco cityscape views, check out Bernal Heights Park. Its 360-degree view allows you to choose what you want as a proposal backdrop: mountain peaks, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay or the city skyline. With plenty of green space for you to do your thing, this park is truly a secret refuge just a short drive from the city center, making it one of the best places to propose in northern California.
V. Sattui Winery
Nestled in Napa Valley between Santa Cruz and Sacramento is V. Sattui Winery, an idyllic backdrop for a vineyard proposal for couples that love wine, mountain views and top-shelf elegance. The architecture, gardens and grounds here draw from the winery founder's Italian heritage, transporting you to the European countryside without actually leaving the West Coast.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
Starting your life together will be quite an adventure, so why not make your engagement story one as well? Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has the highest lift-serving summit in the state at 11,053 feet and is open in all four seasons. Tucked in the Eastern Sierras, this resort could be considered nature's playground with a variety of lodging options for any budget.
The Delta King Hotel
In the heart of Old Sacramento is the majestic Delta King Hotel, an authentic paddlewheel riverboat that floats along the city's waterfront. The one-of-a-kind boutique getaway pairs the city's rich history with waterfront dining, luxurious rooms and a bit of nightlife for celebrating the moment your love says "yes."
California State Capitol Park
Not all California proposal ideas need to include the beach or the mountains. Right in the city of Sacramento is the delightful Capital Park, a peaceful oasis amidst the bustling capital. With breathtaking rose gardens, historic architecture on every turn and trees sourced from around the world, there are numerous private nooks here to pop the question. Best of all, you have world class restaurants and hotels all around if you choose to turn your life-changing moment into a weekend celebration.
Shasta View Lodge
At the base of Mount Shasta lies the adorable town of McCloud, home to numerous delectable restaurants, adventures and perhaps the cutest cabin getaway in the state. Shasta View Lodge has numerous cabins that marry the rustic nature of the mountain town with the luxury that its visitors desire. With breathtaking views of the majestic mountain range just outside, this lodge is your home-base for a picture-perfect proposal adventure.
What happens when you mix charming bayfront cottages with one of the best kept secrets of Northern California cuisine? Well, you get one of our favorite California proposal ideas. Head over to Nick's Cove for a weekend at the cottages, which have soaking tubs and heated floors (really - they don't mess around when it comes to comfort here) and treat yourselves at the restaurant of the same name that puts sustainable seafood on your table, created by some of the best chefs in the industry.
The Best Places to Propose in Southern California
The location and landscape of SoCal has created a marvelous mixture of culture and coastline, which means a diverse mix of spots to pop the question. From iconic San Diego places to unique venues near Los Angeles, here are a few of the best places to get engaged in Southern California.
Big Sur River Inn
Leana highlights Big Sur along California's Highway 1 as one of the most iconic proposal spots on the West Coast. Tucked between the stunning beach and the state park's hiking trails and hot springs is the Big Sur River Inn, a rustic yet romantic spot to hide away for a weekend and kick off your engagement season. With a restaurant onsite and Sunday night music, you won't even have to leave the inn if you don't want to.
The Prado in Balboa Park
San Diego's renowned Balboa Park has miles of trails, gardens, museums and art installations to fill up a romantic day. If you're considering this iconic park for a quintessential SoCal proposal, you've got to pop the question while having dinner at The Prado. Beneath the stunning Spanish architecture, classic decor, a five-star staff and scrumptious food, this place has everything you need to pull off a truly San Diego proposal.
Could a list of magical places to propose in California be complete without Disneyland? Probably not. Cast members here are experts at creating magic moments, which makes it all the easier to make your dreams come true at the iconic West Coast amusement park. Bring your partner's favorite character into the planning process to make it truly unforgettable.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Urban Lights Installation
Outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is Chris Burden's Urban Lights art installation using 202 restored cast iron street lamps that date back nearly 100 years. Amidst the rows of lamps beaming with sophisticated city light may be one of the coolest spots to say "yes" that we have ever seen.
Allegretto Vineyard Resort
Leana shared how Allegretto Vineyard Resort up in Paso Robles is a "really popular" spot to propose, but that doesn't mean it is overdone. She highlights that this venue has an expansive property to make the moment your own, whether you want to bring a "big spread for a picnic lunch or roses and the whole shebang." With the Tuscany-inspired architecture, curated art collection, locally sourced food and access to the resort's winery, spa and exquisite accommodations at your fingertips, this spot will encourage you to enjoy your engagement season to the fullest.
Sacred Sands in Joshua Tree National Park
When Sacred Sands boasts "a high desert retreat unlike any other", they're not lying. With outdoor soaking tubs and outdoor beds, this one-of-a-kind concept getaway has been brought to life in the best possible way. Don't worry, there are beds inside too if you'd rather have a roof over you when you celebrate saying "yes" together after a day romping around in the uniquely stunning Joshua Tree National Park right next door.
The Carlsbad Ranch Flower Fields
If you're planning to drop to one knee between March and May, the best place to propose in California is the Carlsbad Ranch flower fields. The tell-tale mark of spring in Southern California, this farm comes to life as 55-acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers bloom in all different colors. A stroll through these fields is breathtaking, and pictures of your proposal here will be too.
Hotel del Coronado
For old-time movie buffs or couples that acknowledge "Some Like It Hot", Hotel del Coronado is a sun-soaked silhouette asking to be the backdrop to your engagement photos. Built on what is widely known as San Diego's most beautiful beach, Hotel del mixes the rich film industry history with nature's beauty and some Victorian architecture for an equally romantic and iconic proposal spot.
There are countless wineries you could propose at in California, but few have as exquisite vistas, captivating sunsets and caring of a staff as Milagro Winery. The property is gorgeous with unique elements like hiking, horseback riding and bocce ball while being just minutes away from Julian, one of the most beloved SoCal mountain towns. Plus, your pup can come to watch the proposal here!
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is not just a hotel but an entire resort. Its facilities include two beaches, three infinity pools, an enormous spa and multiple restaurants with ocean views. Within the 78-acre property you will have more than enough space to relax and unwind, without compromising on luxury, as you launch your new life together, making this one of the best places to propose in southern California.