As the warm weather rolls in, Gothamites gear up for all manner of seasonal activities ranging from spring festivals to concerts in NYC and al fresco dining and drinking at rooftop bars. NYC's top restaurants and bars are unveiling their best outdoor drinking spots, including people-watching terraces and rooftop perches touting sweeping skyline views. From buzzy hotel hotspots to low-key first-date hideaways, raise a glass to the best rooftop bars in NYC.
Do you want more great stories about things to do, where to eat, what to watch, and where to party? Obviously you do, follow Time Out New York on Facebook for the good stuff.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to bars in NYC
Best rooftop bars in NYC
Gotham’s top-notch cocktail haunts come tucked in restaurant basements, stuffed behind unmarked storefronts and hidden in hot-dog shacks. Rarely do you find quality drinks in the DJ-soundtracked, pool-soaked terrain of rooftop bars—until now. Enter Tim and Nancy Cushman, the husband-and-wife team behind Boston’s high-flying Japanese spot O Ya, who bring smart tippling to the roof deck of Gramercy’s Park South Hotel.
The transportive vibe of Sleep No More, Punchdrunk’s interactive theater piece at the McKittrick Hotel, carries over to the venue’s rooftop bar. Named for a Scottish field where accused witches were hanged, Gallow Green has the feel of a garden party thrown at an abandoned farm. Fairy lights and tattered flags hang between verdant trellises; bartenders sling cocktails like the Vanessa’s Cup (which combines Rhum J.M. Gold rum, Pimm’s, sirop de canne—a simple syrup infused with cinammon, cloves and vanilla— strawberries, ginger and nettle tincture; $14), served by waitstaff dressed in ghostly white. The best seats in the house are inside an artfully ruined antique railcar, whose empty windows are hung with destroyed lace curtains.
The Strand Hotel’s 21st-floor drinkery boasts an uninterrupted sight line of the towering Empire State Building and first-come, first-served benches that offer a front-row seat. Don’t let the imposing main attraction blind you to the rest of the skyline—to your left is the lit-up crown of the Setai at 400 Fifth Avenue, and over to your right is the illuminated double-fin roof of the Epic. The price of admission for this light show? Specialty cocktails are $15 and bottles of beer $9. If you’re rolling deep, reserve a cabana and don’t worry about the weather, a retractable glass roof ensures a warm viewing platform safe from the elements.
While the music pounds downstairs, this LES rooftop offers a palm-studded oasis with white chaise lounges. On Saturdays between 10pm and 1am, the spot is often packed with large group reservations (fortune, it seems, favors the popular and organized). Head there on Sundays and Mondays for two-for-one well drinks.
There are few better ways to enjoy New York than from above, cocktail in hand, gazing across the lights and landmarks that define the city. One such landmark is the historic Knickerbocker Hotel, onetime haunt of American elite like F. Scott Fitzgerald and John D. Rockefeller, which serves as base of this 7,800-square-foot rooftop bar and terrace. Named after the late-19th-century hotel that originally occupied the Knickerbocker space, the outdoor space is outfitted with plush "sky pods" (VIP lounges built into corners of the roof), metallic-finished wood floors and a cigar lounge from celebrated tobacconist Nat Sherman.
Gaze at the Manhattan skyline from across the East River at this 3,000-square-foot roof deck. After a recent renovation, the aerie features a retractable glass roof, so you can hang out when it's sunny or raining. Quaff European brews that skew German, like the Schöfferhofer grapefruit Hefeweizen ($7), as you chow down on boozing-friendly eats such as bratwurst with sauerkraut ($6). There's also a DJ during the weekly boozy Sunday Brunch (2pm).
This rooftop bar, 17 stories above ground, offers a view of the East River, craft cocktails and light bites by April Bloomfield’s Salvation Taco. Sip the Salvation Margarita, a tequila, agave and lime juice concoction with a guajillo chili salt rim, while gazing at the vista.
This outdoor terrace bar on the Wythe Hotel’s sixth floor affords sweeping views of the East River and Manhattan, and it’s an ideal vantage point for watching summer sunsets while lingering over a Professor Fritz Briem tall boy ($16) or a quaff made from local small-batch spirits. Sure, the crowd comprises mostly globe-trotting cool kids from outside the five boroughs, but consider that another avenue to finding a guilt-free summer fling.
When you tire of Williamsburg’s dive bars, head up the stairs of this French bistro for a glass of vin on the wooden terrace that’s dotted with trees. The roof deck is now more conducive to drinkers: The same menu is offered as in the restaurant below, and DJs are occasionally spinning.
This massive rooftop beer garden, located 14 stories above the Italian megastore Eataly, offers a direct line to one of the world’s most exciting new beer regions: an unprecedented stash of beers from the Boot, as well as innovative house-made ales reflecting trends on both sides of the Atlantic. Hops-heads will geek out over the three proprietary cask-conditioned ales brewed on the premises. But you don't have to be a beer nerd to appreciate the views of the Flatiron and Empire State Buildings while sipping on the unpasteurized, unfiltered suds.