South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Despite the borderline cheesy name, SODA Bar is more Miami Vice than old-school soda shop -- as evidenced by its neon light accents, fire pit, infinity pool, and (more often than not) swanky guests. This moderately sized -- but just-the-right-level-of-bougie -- hideaway atop the boutique NYLO hotel on Dallas' Southside features a scenic view of the Dallas skyline, and, despite the apparent air of luxury, is a surprisingly chill place to post up and have a nighttime cocktail. Not all rooftop bars have to be fancy and high energy, right? More often than not, the best ones aren't, and SODA hits that sweet spot. The cocktails are priced as you'd expect (they hover around $15, standard for rooftop mixology) and while here, tell convention to buzz off, and snag a flirtini (Champagne, pineapple juice, vodka, horrible name) because it tastes good, fits in, and for once, no one will judge you. You might just forget you're in Dallas, after all.
Los Angeles, California
If you prefer your rooftop bars to resemble set pieces from Entourage -- a horrible show, with palatial locations -- look no further than Filifera: a SoCal rooftop lounge fit for a meeting with your new power agent. The bars airy indoor lounge spills out onto a plush-chair covered patio, complete with bountiful vegetation, minimalist tables, and sweeping views of the Hollywood hills. And, you might assume a place this cool would obviously be stuffed to the gills with LA douchebags -- but that is simply not the case: the vibes at Filifera are surprisingly relaxed, and there's usually enough room for small groups to settle in, or spread out. For libations, stick to Mexican-leaning classics like the superb mezcal margarita, or opt for the refreshing passion fruit fizz if you're feeling frisky. Oh, and Filifera features one of the best Monte Cristo sandwiches in town -- complete with an egg on top -- if you aren't watching your waistline for that next casting call.
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 Strand Hotel. 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.
New York, New York
For those who like their rooftop drinking accompanied by theatrical flair -- Gallow Green should be your go-to NYC rooftop this summer... and every other season, for that matter. Located at the top of the enigmatic McKittrick Hotel (home to immersive theater mind-benders like Sleep No More) the rooftop bar is stylized as a secret garden, with the ride up on a clandestine elevator that's seemingly like waiting in a line for a roller coaster at Disney World. It's a production worth the (sometimes lengthy) wait. In the winter, the rooftop has rustic lodges, firepits, and warm bowls of mulled wine. In the summer, winding paths around the decadent tables overflow with vegetation, to the background music of small bands or solo guitarists plucking away in some hidden corner. Simply put: It's Alice in Wonderland in the middle of downtown Manhattan.
Brooklyn, New York
Far, far away from the rooftop bar lands of button-up shirts, Patagonia vests, and constant talk of 401k diversification lies Northern Territory -- Greenpoint's super low-key, basically bare bones answer to NYC outdoor drinking space. The Australian bar has cheap beers, frozen margaritas, plenty of seating, and a vibe that compliments Summer Friday revelry better than a floral fanny pack with a flask in it. At the end of the day, it isn't the rooftop bar with the best view, or most clout -- but who cares? It's still one of the best outdoor drinking havens in the entire city. And in New York, if you can be on a rooftop with a beer in your hand on any given summer night, you've done something right.
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.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better vantage point overlooking Downtown Atlanta than this perch on the 11th floor of the Glenn Hotel, housed in a historic landmark building that dates back to 1923, though the lounge’s roots are most decidedly the handiwork of a sleek 21st-century update -- buildings just didn’t quite have their rooftop game on point yet during the Coolidge administration. But you won’t spend much time pondering history here, you’ll be too busy savoring the paprika salt rim on your Smoked Roka (think margarita with a pineapple kick), live music playing in the background while you watch the Ferris wheel rotating in Centennial Park, knowing that you undoubtedly made the superior entertainment decision for the evening.
Texas summers (and springs and autumns, for that matter) don’t exactly make you think to yourself “I’d like to be closer to the sun,” so luckily the W Hotel’s WET Deck lives up to its name with an inviting pool that ensures you’re not relying solely on libations for cooling-off purposes. Soundwave Sundays (soundtracked by DJ Bird Peterson along with some rotating special guests) might well be Austin’s finest Sunday funday, and the complementary happy hour access after 5pm takes the good name of nightswimming back from an overwrought, wistful REM song.
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.
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. In the NOT dialed back department, there’s a $30 endless rosé special on Sundays. It seems like there might be a clever way to express that that one could use for a hashtag or T-shirt.
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 veteran spirit guide Nandini Khaund). So snag a Spanish-style gin & tonic made with local Letherbee gin and house-made fennel-calamansi tonic, cool off with a creamsicle blending white chocolate gelato and blood orange sorbet, and know that all those suckers in skyscrapers are peering down at you enviously.
Now in its first full summer (it opened last September) atop the Halcyon Hotel in Cherry Creek, Departure Elevated has stunning views of the mountains... fine, that’s not exactly a huge point of distinction for a rooftop bar in Denver. But how about roving dim sum carts slinging steamed pork buns and kushiyaki skewers that pair nicely with an Asian-leaning cocktail menu that includes large format options like the Full Bloom (St. Germain, junmai sake, bubbly). Now that you mention it, the mountains do look rather stunning, don’t they?
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 chicken tinga empanadas 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.
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.
Still as strong a draw as ever since opening in LA a couple of summers back, Mama Shelter is an ideal setting for gazing up at the Hollywood sign while kicking back on one of the technicolor couches. Speaking of Hollywood, the cocktail menu’s appropriately entertainment-themed, as in the Y Tu Mama Tambien (mezcal, almond syrup, lime, jalapeño, cucumber). The entertainment continues with everything from foosball to drag queen bingo on Saturdays to occasional outdoor film screenings. Hey, we can think of some cocktails that might fit that theme!
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, but the local beer selection here packs a stronger presence than it typically does at rooftop establishments, both on its own and in beer-infused cocktails like the Pichelada, a Thai chile-kicked riff on the michelada with Inlet brewing’s Monk in the Trunk amber ale.
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.
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 Fishhouse Punch (Appleton reserve rum, Hennessy VS, lemon, peach black tea), or the obligatory summertime helping of frosé. Swedish meatball sliders and tuna watermelon poke 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.
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 bacon-wrapped, mayo-ketchup-poblano-topped TJ dog, or the $7 cocktails during the 5-7pm weekday happy hour. What game?
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 corn empanadas and beer battered fish tacos. And if you’re less into sharing your booze, cocktails like the Belafonte (rum, lime, banana, pineapple, cacao, ginger) will only serve to validate that decision.
MBar made its debut late last summer, and has entrenched itself as the premier destination for Seattle drinks with a view in the months 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 some rabbit foie gras bolognese over soft polenta a Stratton Manhattan (kicked up with Amaro Montenegro and the whimsy of rhyme), and the aforementioned view will make you never want to repeat the decision of a certain NBA franchise we won’t mention.
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.
The recently renovated, always in-demand rooftop bar atop the Watergate Hotel (gosh that name is familiar... has it been in the news lately?) is much more fun than another viewing of All the President’s Men, with playful drinking options like strawberry Negronis and boozy Hawaiian shaved ice -- OK fine that’s closer to an eating option, but what’s with the interrogation, are we on trial here? Sigh. End of jokes. Not a joke: the fact that they’ll bring you fancy personal prosciutto pizzas in little delivery boxes. Also not a joke: that view of the Potomac.