While cities like Miami have a year-round outdoor cocktail culture, for much of the country, sipping a drink while soaking up urban views or waterside vistas is one of summer’s great pleasures. We’ve selected the best rooftop bars for a taste of the high life from NYC to L.A.
Best rooftop bars in America
Practically a stone’s throw from Nashville’s famous honky-tonks on Lower Broadway, Acme calls itself a “funky-tonk.” The bar is spread over four floors, with a rooftop that offers 360-degree views of downtown, including the Music City Center, LP Field, the Cumberland River and Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. The bar hosts live music every night; for a tamer experience, join events such as Yoga Buzz (yoga followed by drink specials) or a Sunday champagne jam session.
The Miami skyline is laid out in front of you from this perch on the 16th floor of the EPIC Hotel. But even if Area 31 didn’t boast one of the city’s most spectacular views, chef E. Michael Reidt’s innovative seafood, much of it sourced from the waters you can gaze out upon, would surely be packing in the patrons. Reidt was recently named one of Ocean Drive magazine’s “hot new chefs,” and his patio garden provides some of the fresh ingredients for his frequently changing menu (a recent visit yielded crispy fish collar, smoked shrimp guacamole and pork cheek with a chili graham-cracker crumble).
On weekends, gawk at lawn bowlers in the pub’s English Garden Park from Brit’s second-story veranda while you nosh on British favorites like Scotch eggs and tandoori chicken. Inside the bar, homesick expats and Anglophiles can watch live-streaming soccer matches or episodes of Downton Abbey. Beers are half price at happy hour, and if you prefer the hard stuff, a formidable Scotch list awaits.
The Queen City earns its due praise from this rooftop with glittering views of downtown Cincinnati. The bevvy menu revolves around “Poptails,” which are frozen fresh fruit juices and purees placed in a glass of chilled liquor (try the lavender blueberry Poptail in vodka and limoncello). If that isn’t enough to sate your appetite, have snacks like chicken-liver pâté and duck pastrami from the hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant, Metropole, delivered to your perch.
Head up to the 15th floor of the super modern Nines Hotel to sleek restaurant and lounge Departure for bites by Top Chef finalist Gregory Gourdet and quirky cocktails like the Stumptown Express (Buffalo Trace bourbon, Stumptown cold-brew coffee, ginger liqueur, honey, bitters). During happy hour, you can try some of the eatery’s Asian and vegetarian specialties like the crispy squid with miso, or vegetable udon noodles with spinach. Though the rooftop is mostly enclosed, there is a balcony, but the views of Portland are unparalleled and the ambience is unpretentious no matter where you sit.
Stunning views that sweep from Mission Street all the way to the Bay, complex tequila cocktails and Latin American street-food–inspired plates make the spacious rooftop bar above Lolinda steakhouse the perfect stop for a lively meal or drinks. Caipirinhas, piña coladas and margaritas are made with fresh coconut and carefully selected cachaça. Equipped with heat lamps and umbrellas, El Techo is a great late-night destination since the kitchen stays open until 1am on weekends. Though long lines can form outside the elevator to gain entry, it's worth the wait.
For those looking to do more than get tipsy while taking in a view, Frol!k, located off the fifth floor of downtown Seattle’s Motif hotel, offers date-night–worthy diversions like shuffleboard and Ping-Pong. The sleek drinkery also features an expansive cocktail list, and if that’s not enough to warm you up when the Pacific Northwest chill sets in, there are several heat sources—including a super-cool-looking (contained) tabletop fireplace.
The transportive vibe of Sleep No More, Punchdrunk’s interactive theater piece at the McKittrick Hotel, carries over to the venue’s rooftop bar. 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), 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.
A place to see and be seen on the 55th floor of the Palms hotel, Ghostbar is a short taxi ride from the Strip but offers the best views of Sin City’s main drag. Make a beeline for a plush couch on the outdoor terrace. DJs spin regularly and events like “Bring Your Own Theme” day (an excuse to show up in full-on ’80s gear with your friends if you feel like it) keep locals coming back. Guests of the hotel and local ladies get free entry.
The city’s “Keep Austin Weird” slogan begins to make sense at this downtown tribute to the mustache. The surrounding skyscrapers are an urban backdrop for HandleBar’s backyard-style, second story deck. Features like a photo booth, Jenga and seesaw speak to your inner kid, but the liquid refreshments are strictly for grown-ups. Try a sophisticated boilermaker like the Einstein (J.P. Wiser’s Canadian Whiskey dropped in light beer). On “White Trash Sundays” you’ll get free barbecue, $2.50 domestic beers, $3 well cocktails, DJs—and maybe a few mullet sightings.
Beachside rooftop bars are in surprisingly short supply in L.A., but the High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin in Venice more than makes up for it. Watch a multi-hued sunset over the Pacific with a cocktail in hand—a classic Sazerac or Negroni, perhaps—and drink in the view. Getting chilly? Evening bargoers can stay past sundown wrapped up in one of the bar’s cozy blankets, one hand gripping a spiked cocoa while the other holds a shrimp skewer.
This outdoor terrace bar on the Wythe Hotel’s sixth floor commands sweeping views of the East River and Manhattan. It’s an ideal vantage point for watching summer sunsets while lingering over a Refresher Course, a bracing mix of vodka, thyme, lemon and Pernod topped up with soda. The place is usually packed to the gills, both for its skyline views and pumping music from local DJs—recent spinners include Abby Klein, the Naked Heroes and Evil Twins. Check the Ides' Facebook page for upcoming sets, which happen nearly every night of the week.
If you want to show the city off to an outsider, you take them to the roof deck at Legal Harborside. The plush lounge seating is a serious upgrade on run-of-the-mill iron patio seats; an impressive wine list and tightly focused food menu provide everything you need (namely, sparkling rosé and oysters); and of course the truly spectacular view of the harbor puts the city’s waterside charms on full display. The long weekend lines only add to the allure (though irksome to regulars).
You can spot Linger while walking along Denver’s 16th Street, which connects downtown Denver and the LoHi neighborhood. The bar is located in the former Olinger Mortuary and the original illuminated sign remains—except that the “O” stays dim at night to reveal the watering hole’s name, beckoning you to stay awhile. The roof is home to a 1975 RV (or Bar-V, as it’s known), where frozen mai tais and global street food like Mongolian BBQ duck buns, Wagyu sliders and falafel lettuce wraps are served. Afterward, grab a cone at the famous Little Man Ice Cream next door, which is busy even on the coldest winter days.
If you’re looking for proximity to the White House, the W Hotel’s POV is hard to beat: The rooftop terrace has such great views of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that you can see the snipers lurking on the roof. The bar gets packed in good weather so reservations are recommended.
In the DJ-soundtracked, pool-soaked terrain of rooftop bars, quality cocktails are a rare commodity. But Tim and Nancy Cushman, the husband-and-wife team behind Boston’s high-flying Japanese spot O Ya, bring smart tippling to the roof deck of Gramercy’s Park South Hotel. The alfresco drinks, courtesy of fellow Beantown import Ted Kilpatrick (Beacon Hill’s No. 9 Park) include the sparkling-wine–finished Airmail, a mellowing blend of Martinique rhum agricole, lime and honey, while martini stirrers have five riffs at their disposal. Overlooking the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, the copper-sided lounge is decked out with cantilevered banquettes, sunset-orange canopies and a crackling glass-front fireplace.
Kick back in your own private cabana and wonder why you ever idealized Miami. Rooftop@Revere boasts the sceneiest rooftop scene in the city, an amalgam of chicly dressed waitstaff, equally well-outfitted guests, and a smorgasbord of tropical drinks and low-cal munchies. On this perch atop the Theater District hotel, lounge on a reserved couch before hitting the pool (technically not open-air, but open to all bar visitors). The seven-story-high spot offers a beautifully distracting, 270-degree vantage point from which to gaze down upon all those ground-level lesser-thans.
San Diegans are accustomed to cool outdoor drinking spots, so a rooftop has to be pretty amazing to impress a local crowd. Rooftop600 offers some of the best panoramic views—and one of best party atmospheres—in the city. Though rain isn’t generally an issue here, the bar claims to have the city’s only retractable roof so weather never interferes with the Gaslamp Quarter–based revelry. Buy tickets to pool parties for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, or show up on a regular “Taco Sunday” for South of the Border eats and DJs.
The retro neon lights of the bar on NYLO’s indoor/outdoor rooftop complement the Dallas skyline’s most iconic structures like the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Trinity River Bank of America Plaza and the Texas Star Ferris wheel. Drinking a French 75 (gin, lemon, simple syrup and champagne) never tasted so good as when you’re sitting under a crystal chandelier and next to a graffiti-covered baby grand. To snag a tufted seat by the piano or on a coveted barstool with a view, make a reservation in advance.
Yes, the rooftop bar at the Standard can get a bit scene-y. But if you’re looking to embrace the oh-so-L.A. trope of sipping on a cocktail in your bikini at a pool party, this is the place to do it. Take the elevator up to the roof, where mod furnishings give off a space-age vibe and high-rises tower above like metallic palm trees. Weekend afternoons call for cocktail lounging, and visits after sunset guarantee a stunning, sparkling view of the nighttime cityscape.
While it doesn’t offer sweeping views or tons of greenery, the roof patio at Philly gastropub Standard Tap more than makes up for its lack of size with ample charm. Patrons can choose from more than 20 locally produced beers (selections change daily) to sip on the multilevel patio, which is somehow both distinctly urban—you’re nestled right up next to a neighboring building—and casually rustic with its weathered-wood planks, soft lighting and iron gates.
Bar food is taken to new heights at the Twilight Sky Terrace, where you can nibble on buffalo-chicken tostada with blue cheese or goat cheese and apple flatbread with caramel. It wouldn’t be Memphis without a killer view of the Mississippi River, so the bar’s location 17 stories atop the downtown Madison Hotel is ideal. At night, the twinkling lights of the Hernando de Soto Bridge provide additional inspiration for constellation-themed handcrafted cocktails such as the Comet Tail Cuba Libre (spiced rum, cinnamon, cane sugar, cola).
The 39th-story bar atop the Marriott Marquis, The View artfully frames the city in its wall-spanning arched window. Though the decor is admittedly dated and the crowd can be touristy, even locals agree that this is one of the best barside views in San Francisco. Seating is on a first come, first served basis, so arrive early to stake out one of the coveted tables along the window. The cocktails, served in low, round tumblers, are simple, strong and pricey. The namesake Marquis cocktail blends 209 gin, fresh citrus juice and Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire, while the Golden Gate is a sugary mix of Jameson, St. Germaine, cranberry and ginger ale.