America’s Best Holiday Card Photo Ops

These outdoor family photography backdrops from Nebraska to Niagara Falls will induce genuine smiles from your whole crew

For parents who moonlight as photographers, an amateur family photo can receive no higher compliment than being labeled “holiday card worthy.” Sometimes that perfect shot comes when you least expect it. Other times, the job requires some serious outdoor family photography planning. Whether your group prefers to pose in a park or wave hello to friends from a historical site, try one of these four places to take family pictures.

Wear matching rain gear in Niagara Falls, New York

Pass out the ponchos and prepare to show off those pearly whites. The oldest state park in the U.S., Niagara Falls opened in 1885 and today hosts millions of visitors each year at its various attractions and local hotels. With water that falls at 32 feet per second over the falls and hits the base with more than 2,500 tons of force, the Horseshoe Falls are some of the most impressive. To capture that winning shot with the falls as your backdrop, pose on the patio just outside the main Table Rock Welcome Centre.

Pose in a maritime forest in Wilmington, North Carolina

North Carolina locals share a secret: when the season demands a family photo with an iconic coastal background, they hop on Highway 40 (the name eventually changes to College Road) and drive south towards the beaches and attractions of Wilmington. The road dead-ends at Kure Beach’s Fort Fisher, a photographer’s jackpot for glistening blue waters and sandy beaches. Parking is plentiful—a perk not always available at Wilmington’s other two beaches—and a two-minute walk in any direction yields a scenic coastal landscape with varied colors and textures. If you end up staying in Wilmington, you can Walk east to pose in front of the ocean where at low tide, large, moss-covered rocks line the surf’s tidal pools. On the peninsula’s west side, southern live oaks frame the Cape Fear River.

Stand amidst a floral backdrop in Omaha, Nebraska

Throughout all four seasons, Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens is overflowing with plant life. Your best photo op might be the Garden in the Glen, a particularly scenic part of the gardens with a glistening stream, water pools and small waterfalls. But before you call it a wrap, check out the shaded hosta garden, children’s garden and woodland trail. Depending on the time of year you plan to stay in Omaha, you’ll have plenty of lush backdrops to choose from. In the fall, don’t miss the special chrysanthemum display. And during the holidays, the gardens’ poinsettias steal the show—complete with a 20-foot-tall poinsettia tree and model trains, the Lauritzen Gardens will reward you for waiting until the last minute!

Capture a cityscape in Boston, Massachusetts

At Boston Public Garden, stunning views of the iconic Boston skyline, tulips in spring and a bridge provide a unique combination of cityscapes and natural landscapes. Plan to stay in Boston in the spring or summer so you can do a photoshoot in the nation’s first free botanical garden, where weeping willows hang over the water and fanciful, famed swan boats sail by. You can also opt for a sculptural background—kids gravitate toward the Make Way For Ducklings book-inspired statues. Get the winning shot at “golden hour,” about an hour before twilight. Then spread out a blanket and treat yourselves to a sunset dinner. Just a stone’s throw from the public garden, Beacon Hill Bistro packs a mean picnic basket. Pro tip: place your order two hours in advance.

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