Set on the rooftop of the happening mixed-use development Ponce City Market -- the revamped shell of the historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. -- 9’s only access is via a freight elevator operated by a tour guide whose two-minute storytelling builds up to the climax of Skyline Park’s entrance. The vibe favors Coney Island’s boardwalk of yesteryear; once past the carnival games, Heege Tower, 18-hole miniature golf, and three-story slides, the city’s swankiest beer garden resides. Inside, the bar pours 12 hard-to-find ales and lagers, plus craft cocktails and an expert wine list to satisfy the most demanding palates. An open kitchen exhibits a classically trained culinary team dishing out everything from charcuterie to European-inspired shareable plates rivaling upscale dining institutions. The patio boasts Adirondack chairs, picnic benches, and even “igloos” in the winter months; regardless of the season, 9 Mile possesses one of the most stunning views of Georgia capital’s skyline connecting downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead in one pan. ATL’s beer scene continues inch toward the top of the national rankings, thanks in large part to its superlative pubs. 9 Mile Station literally takes it to the next level.
San Diego, California
Living up to its name with the most elevated views of any drinking establishment in San Diego, Altitude’s 22 stories provide such an enviable vantage point that you can actually peer into nearby Petco Park if the Padres are playing (though if the Padres are playing you may not WANT to see what’s happening in Petco Park). Luckily, not even questionable baseball can impede your enjoyment of a legit cheesesteak -- complete with an Amorosa roll direct from Philly -- or the $7 cocktails during the 5-7pm weekday Sunset Hour. What game?
With a peaceful nine stories separating you from crowds along the Ben Franklin Parkway underneath, Assembly has firmly established its status as Philly’s top rooftop draw since opening in spring 2016. Firepit-equipped pods provide a measure of privacy, so you and your crew can be (relatively) alone with your beverage of choice, be it the Cobra Kai-Ball (Scotch, black tea, spiced citrus, swept legs), or the obligatory summertime helping of frosé.Short rib sliders and flatbreads will keep you just even keeled enough that you don’t fulfill a Philly stereotype and fight some guy from the next table over based on his poor hockey opinions.
The go-to football (the overseas kind) viewing destination for Twin Cities Anglophiles, what the UK-channeling institution may lack in height (the rooftop is merely a second-floor haunt) it makes up for in amenities. For example, there’s a gloriously green court for bocce ball (ahem, lawn bowling). There’s also an enviable selection of European ales and lagers. There’s also the occasional freewheeling Shakespearean production because you’re cultured, dammit. Most importantly, there’s the knowledge that Minnesota summers are precious and you need to soak in every last moment of sunlight that you can.
The literal crowning achievement of the massive overhaul to the Chicago Athletic Association a few years back, Cindy’s may not have the tallest view overlooking the Windy City (stares dagger at Sears “Don’t Call Me Willis” Tower), but it’s likely the one that will make you the happiest. For one thing, the sightlines to Millennium Park, The Art Institute, and the like are still killer. For another, the drinks are far better than they need to be given the view (that’ll happen when your bar falls under the purview of beverage director David Mor). So snag a gin & tonic that will forever render other gin & tonics obsolete -- or, if you have a group of 10, spring for the apothecary service and go with a group negroni -- and know that all those suckers in skyscrapers are peering down at you enviously.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Le Meridien’s expansive 19th-floor lounge is the biggest option for open-air partying with a view in Charlotte, but size alone isn’t what sets it apart. Nothing says “I am enjoying summer in the most fun yet classy way possible” like taking down a Sparkle & Pop, which takes various varieties of bubbly and floats various flavors of King of Pops popsicles in them. Of course if combining such a concoction with the DJ-provided soundtrack might just be TOO much for you to handle you could just dial it back to a jalapeño pale ale from local Birdsong Brewing. They've also been known to offer specials on rosé. It seems like there might be a clever way to express that that one could use for a hashtag or T-shirt.
When Derek Brown’s game-changing DC cocktail bar relocated to a newer, larger space, its forthcoming rooftop (or “punch garden”) if you will, was easily the most buzzed about new amenity. Truth be told, ANY additional seating in one of DC’s most prized drinking dens would have been welcome. It’s positively a revelation that some of said seating now involves twinkling strings of lights and fresh air enhanced by the smells of the herbs they’re growing to enhance your cocktails, like the mint for their Ramos Gin Swizzle.
Departure, the fancy little cap on the top of PDX's luxury The Nines hotel, was one of the first legit rooftop bars in Portland, but being first doesn't necessarily get you too far 10 years later, especially when new options have sprung up all over the city. No, Departure makes the cut because it remains the best, and if that still takes convincing, just take the elevator to the top floor, walk through the retro-futuristic interior, grab a cocktail like the East-meets-Northwest Hanasaka Jiisan with Japanese whiskey and Douglas fir cordial, and step onto the deck. You'll be greeted by a panoramic view of the Cascade mountains, with Portland's bustling Pioneer Square below. Superstar chef Gregory Gourdet's manning the kitchen here, so expect inventive Asian fusion bites on the cheap during the daily happy hour, which transitions nicely into one of the best sunset views in Portland.
San Francisco, California
The perpetually packed Mission rooftop nobly protects patrons against the capricious San Francisco weather patterns with heat lamps and windscreens, but truth be told you’d likely brave a variety of elements to score a table here, roll through a couple of pitchers of palomas (you brought friends, you aren’t a maniac), and tear into some roasted squash empanadas and beer battered fish tacos. And if you’re less into sharing your booze, cocktails like the Tres Amigos (Mi Campo Blanco, Victoria lager, house sangrita, El Guapo) will only serve to validate that decision.
Named after one of Lincoln's bodyguards, one who presumably got a very bad performance review, J. Parker is perched 13 floors above the twee Lincoln Hotel. It's a rare downtown rooftop that manages to give off serious neighborhood vibes. It helps that the view here is less about the skyline than the Lakeshore, and the views of Lake Michigan here are unmatched in the city. This is a place that keeps it classy without being fussy, with craft cocktails pairing nicely with food like pork-covered nachos. Get in the open-water spirit with the Surfer on Lake Shore Drive, a riff on the classic tiki Surfer on Acid (get it?!). And don't worry if it's cold: There's a huge retractable glass roof to keep things warm and dry without ruining all that open sky.
Speaking of enviable Boston views, the Envoy Hotel’s Boston Harbor-adjacent overlook (ahem, lookout) has been one of the city’s most sought after tables (or couches, as the case may be) since opening a few years back. Things aren’t likely to slow this summer given the fact that you can pair said vantage point this summer with flights of rosé, pitchers of painkillers and tallboys of Hobo Life, a session-friendly IPA from local craft standout Lord Hobo, and a complete mischaracterization of how you’re spending your evening.
MBar made its debut only a couple years ago, and has entrenched itself as the premier destination for Seattle drinks with a view in the short time since. A quick stop (or long stop, depending on the crowds) in the ground floor bar and waiting area gives way to an elevator ride and a neon-lit corridor that transports you to one of the better views you’ll find of the Space Needle and its surroundings. It doesn’t hurt that the menu you’ll peruse when you get there comes from noted Seattle Chef Jason Stratton. The trio of inventive and seasonal Italian delicacies like Orecchiette with Georgies raab, drinks like the Sloe & Low spiked with absinthe and gin, and the aforementioned view will make you never want to repeat the decision of a certain NBA franchise we won’t mention.
Detroit had been without a high-rise rooftop bar that's open to the public for ages, no thanks to decades of abandonment of its many downtown high rises. That long streak ended this year with the opening of the Monarch Club. The historic Neo-Gothic Metropolitan Building sat in decay for years until it underwent a dramatic restoration, making way for Element Hotel, with the bar perched on the 13th floor. The 150-seat bar’s three outdoor terraces boast expansive views of Comerica Park and Woodward Avenue, and when it gets chilly the indoor section is equally impressive with a mid-century aesthetic featuring tawny leather chairs, red velvet upholstered lounges, and a white marble bar top. The cocktail menu exudes that same Mad Men vibe with standards like Manhattans and Side Cars, as well as modern specialties like the Violette Tendencies, with Norden Aquavit, Creme de Violette, lemon juice, simple syrup, and creme fraiche.
Los Angeles, California
Now that Downtown LA's finally cool again, it’s hard to walk through Downtown LA without passing a billion terrific places to eat and drink. It wasn't always that way. When Perch opened almost 10 years ago, it was a key member of the new class of DTLA restaurants. The food and drink program at Perch -- which includes a strong lineup of gins and cognacs, as well as plates like their iconic French onion soup and charcuterie boards -- helped define what Downtown would become. The vibe is just right, too; Perch has an elevated French ambience that never actually feels too pretentious. And with such a central location, prepare yourself for some of the most nutso sunsets and nighttime views that LA has to offer.
Although it does have the drawback of bringing you six stories closer to the infernal Texas sun, P6 is the hottest/coolest time you can have on a rooftop in Austin (without being submerged in water). Perched on the top floor of a parking garage connected to The Line Hotel, the panoramic views of Lady Bird Lake can’t be beat, and the atmosphere is just as hip as you’d expect from one of the nation’s most design-focused boutique hotels. Pastels envelope the patio, daybeds amp the relaxation score, and a DJs provide a soundtrack that ranges from banging house music to soulful Sunday brunch tracks. The menu leans towards small plate Mediterranean (think Spanish octopus, lamb tartare, roasted beets) and cocktails emphasize refreshment over booziness -- the Sundown Cobbler with gin, Prosecco, and fresh berries is a verified thirst quencher. Overheating? Just take the elevator down to their first floor pool, catty-corner to the Congress Avenue bridge.
Long Island City, New York
Is it a club? Is it a bar? Is it a full-blown restaurant? Who's to say, really -- but it definitely is proof that the best views of the Manhattan skyline happen when you venture outside of Manhattan. Long Island City might not be the future home of Amazon's new leviathan HQ anymore, but it is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city. And the roomy 9,500-square-foot Penthouse 808, part of the equally lovely Ravel Hotel, will give you one of the best vantage points in any borough, and more importantly, does it with a full menu of custom cocktails and Pacific Asian-inspired dishes (lobster dumplings, miso glazed-black cod, sushi boats, you get it). 808 delivers an up close look at the Queensboro Bridge and the general splendor of the Gotham skyline, without the sweltering crowds of some Midtown analogues. If you want a rooftop bar that keeps bougieness intact (dress codes and bottle service remain), but skews towards the low-key, local crowd, 808 should be your top spot. Sometimes "the outside looking in," is actually the best place to be.
For the best view of the White House -- that doesn't entail getting tackled by three Secret Service members -- you'd be hard-pressed to find a better vantage point than the aptly named POV Rooftop and Lounge atop the W Hotel in downtown DC. You'll catch bird's eye views of the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Capital Building... it's basically your sixth grade Social Studies class with (hopefully!) more cocktails. Will there be tourists there? Well, yes -- it is one of the best views in the entire city... and it is on top of a hotel. But that matters not. The space is expertly decorated, the cocktails are stiff, and the crowd has a fun-loving vibe that is decidedly unlike anything happening in any of the governmental buildings the bar looks down upon. The next time you are in our Nation's capital, skip the field trip, and head to the rooftop deck at the W. Honest Abe might not approve, but hey, he's been dead for 150 years.
The plentiful shading and cabanas provide ample respite from the sun on Houston’s hottest rooftop, while the surrounding greenery gives the whole thing a bit of a hidden-backyard-garden-party vibe. Of course, not many backyard parties offer up wagyu sliders and frozen Jack & Cokes. Come Sunday there’s a DJ-backed brunch party that lets you fight back against the aftereffects of Saturday with frozen vodka Gatorade and cookie butter French toast. Pro tip: Spend the whole weekend here.
Los Angeles, California
We can all agree: bigger is not always better. But when it comes to watching the sun set over the sprawl of Los Angeles, a cocktail in hand, it does help to be in the tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere. Spire 73 is located on the 73rd story of the Intercontinental Hotel, a sleek new monolith that literally altered the skyline of Downtown LA. Despite the audacity of the building, you'll find the bar itself to be incredibly low-key. This is not a scene-y, SoCal bungalow rooftop: this is the kind of situation you'd find in midtown Manhattan (and we mean that in a good way, for once). For anyone passing through DTLA, looking for a bar to impress a prospective business partner (**cough, or a Hinge date, cough**), you'd be hard-pressed to find a better spot to sip a happy hour beer paired with a palatial view. Spire will make you feel like you're the king/queen of Los Angeles, even when your screenplay isn't moving, you've been stuck in traffic for the past 3 hours, and that beautiful Cali smog has given you a chest cold. It's just that beautiful up there.
Situated 40 stories above Miami with a view of Biscayne Bay, Sugar’s a stunning backdrop in its own right, with a lush Asian garden style thick with ferns and bamboo providing the setting for you to enjoy steamed prawn and scallop dumplings and killer boneless Korean chicken wings. Naturally there are plenty of specialty cocktails on offer, too, with a strong focus on liquor diplomacy that blends ingredients from all over the world, including the Toki Highball repping both Japanese and Scotch whisky and the Dahlia combining elderflowers, tequila, and Thai chili.
New York, New York
Rooftop bar culture in midtown Manhattan is a beast of burden. Expect long lines. Dress codes. Finance bros. Judgemental stares and menus that will shatter your bank account. And for what? To crane your neck to maybe catch a view of the Chrysler Building? Top of the Strand is different. It's not as well known, or as much of a "hot spot" as other nearby rooftop bars: but it's better. You have small crowds, zero lines, easy access, and -- most importantly -- the best view of the Empire State Building in the entire city, bar or no bar. It's like a monument to Instagram selfies on the 19th floor of the Marriott Vacation Club Pulse, New York City (formerly the Strand... in case you were wondering why it isn't called Top of the Marriott Vacation Club Pulse). Grab an $8 beer, post up on one of the lounge chairs, and gaze up at NYC's greatest skyscraper. Don't overthink it: The Strand might not have the cache of other rooftop bars in the area, but it has the views, the booze, and the room to make it all worth it.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Vegas is hardly lacking in steakhouses, clubs packed with alarmingly attractive people, and spectacular views of the strip, but no establishment brings the three together quite so seamlessly as VooDoo. After you’ve mowed through the obligatory hunk of cow, step outside onto the roofdeck towering a full 51 floors above Vegas’ renowned but always impressive light show. Speaking of impressive shows (no, not Céline Dion), The Witch Doctor, a fishbowl cocktail harnessing the twin powers of rum and dry ice, completes your evening of Vegas-style excess.
The average hotel bar is often a charmless, corporatized watering hole for business travelers with beer you can find anywhere. The Woods is its antidote. It’s located atop The Source Hotel, a boutique offering that also houses a New Belgium Brewing outpost, which provides exclusive, rotating brews from a 10-barrel brewing system. Travelers and locals alike take in the unparalleled views, offering both mountain vistas and Mile High cityscapes on a wraparound balcony. Fireplaces heat up the place during snowy nights, and well-placed garage doors invite breezes in the summer. All 45 beers on tap are brewed in Colorado, though you’d be wise to focus on those crafted seven floors below where you stand.