The Best Outdoor Drinking in America
Make the most of the impending summer and drink like God intended: outside and possibly wearing a shirt that you cut the sleeves off of. Where outside, you ask? How about at one of the greatest outdoor drinkeries, essential patios, or bodacious beer gardens across the country, helpfully compiled by our local editors and experts? As for what makes these spots so fantastic… how about 360 skyline views, hammocks for when you really need to kick back, or even a haircut before you hit the bar? And nobody ever lost points for a giant mural of Elizabeth Taylor overlooking the festivities.
Bottle & BarlowSacramento, CA
With our combination of good-to-great weather for eight months of the year and downtown’s recent proliferation of patios, Sacramento’s outdoor dining and bar scene is poised to become one of the best in the country. Bottle & Barlow is among the biggest new players downtown, with a not-often-seen booze-meets-grooming concept, plus a seamless flow from the indoor bar space to an Art Deco-inspired patio that seats 70. The “Bottle” is a small, urban bar that is leading the local craft cocktail and beer revolution, while the “Barlow” is a high-end men’s barbershop run by local style setter and rockstar barber, Anthony Giannotti. By the time you kick up your feet with a house Old Fashioned, you’ll be looking and feeling good. -- Seann Rooney
San Francisco, CA
On an especially warm day in San Francisco, you can be sure that everyone you’ve ever met will have the same genius idea: let’s do a little day drinking in Zeitgeist’s sun-soaked beer garden. In recent years, this Mission dive bar has morphed from a fairly exclusive dive to a spot where everyone doesn’t necessarily have to know your name. Even the notoriously surly bartenders seem to be friendlier these days, though they still relish booting people who break the rules (no photos, standing on benches, sassing the bouncers, or crappy tips). But that’s all fine by us. As long as the best-in-SF Bloody Mary’s and pitchers of beer keep flowing, we’ll keep showing up, sun or fog, hoping to find a seat at one of the two-dozen picnic tables, and paying for everything with cash without a single word of complaint. -- Daisy Barringer
Nothing marks summertime in Philly like the one-by-one openings of the favorite outdoor drinking establishments that went away for the winter, and at the top of every Philadelphian to-do list is Morgan’s Pier. Located just beside the striking architecture of the Ben Franklin Bridge and overlooking the Delaware River, Morgan’s Pier plays host to a wide array of outdoor activities; besides a stellar drink, food, and brunch menu, visit the pier at night for a moonlit dance party from a host of rotating local DJs. The beer garden offers over 30 drafts and cans, along with a handful of wine options and over a dozen specialty cocktails, including the coveted Tecate-and-tequila beergarita. Even as warmer weather wanes, there’s plenty to do at Morgan’s Pier until it closes for the season around early November, like last year’s six-week fall festival and annual Halloween night.
-- Marielle Mondon
Bay Street Biergarten’s dog-friendly patio is one of the prettiest (and most fun) in Charleston, and what it lacks in views, it more than makes up for in personality. Go for the communal seating, bocce and cornhole court, flat screen TVs, and strings of lights (aww). The beer selection is as expansive as the name suggests, and the German- and Southern-inspired menu is filled with crowd pleasers like pretzel bombs, spaetzle, and Freaky Taters (tots or fries topped with smoked cheddar cheese sauce and demi glace). They also host a bunch of awesome events out on the patio, like a Spice Girls-themed brunch, weekly trivia nights, live music, and more. -- Sydney Gallimore
Los Angeles, CA
LA abounds with outdoor drinking options, but this French-leaning bistro bar with an unobstructed 360-degree view of downtown scores the most points for classy ambiance and off-the-chain cocktails. Ensconced in a historic Art Deco building, Perch comprises a restaurant/bar/lounge on the 15th floor and a rooftop deck with a wraparound patio on the 16th. On any given day, you’ll find the whole spectrum of LA mingling among the antique-inspired furniture, fire pits, and intimate corners that just beg for conversations that begin with, “Now, you can’t tell ANYBODY…” Occasionally, there’s a live jazz band. Not so occasionally, the bar serves a tailored but impeccable selection of craft beer, wine, and Parisian-esque libations with names like Hemingway on the Beach and French Maid.
-- Tiffany Tse
Milwaukee has an abundance of outstanding outdoor drinking options, but none so special as Barnacle Bud's. The huge, casual-with-a-capital-c wooden deck includes several picnic tables just an anchor’s throw away from well-trafficked boat slips. Barnacle Bud’s screams Key West -- if Key West was located in an industrial area on a sliver of the Kinnickinnic River. There’s no room on the patio for anyone taking themselves too seriously -- they can’t sit here. Barnacle Bud’s’ vibe is kitschy, casual, Jimmy Buffett, and manages to feel authentic despite the fact that flip-flops, shorts and outdoor drinking aren’t things that are enjoyed for most of the year in Milwaukee. But it’s amazing how quickly waterfront views, oysters, fried fish, and cold beer can make even Wisconsinites feel tropical. -- Dan Murphy
Denverites do the great outdoors better than most anyone, and they do beer better than most anyone, so you’re damn straight they do beer outdoors better than most anyone. At this slick indie food court, they do it on either of two roof decks -- one covered, the other sun-drenched and flanked by bleacher seats -- so soak up sweeping views of the downtown skyline along with craft brews galore. Of course, the bars on both floors dispense wine and seasonal cocktails too, because you can’t drink beer all the time. (Well, you can, but the point is you don’t have to.) Meanwhile, seven different vendors turn out everything from chard pakora with beet ketchup to grilled rack of boar over curried lentils to pair with that local cream ale or pear cider ('tis the season).
-- Ruth Tobias
New Orleans, LA
You probably already know that the best outdoor drinking in the City of New Orleans is the entire City of New Orleans (imbibing in the out-of-doors being famously legal and celebrated here). But when it comes to most-cherished bars and restaurants with outdoor spaces, the winner is clear -- Bacchanal. What started as a quaint neighborhood wine shop has evolved into one of the most fun and lively places in town. Their “back yard” is filled with live jazz seven nights a week, everything from traditional to gypsy, hard bop, and experimental what-have-you. If you want wine (you want wine), their friendly experts will guide you; should modern cocktails be your game, the upstairs bar has some stellar ones. And did we mention that the food is outstanding, to boot? But really, it’s all about the backyard party. And everyone from Mid-City to the Garden District, from the Riverbend to the French Quarter and Marigny knows that this is the place to be drinking outside. Well, alongside everywhere. --Scott Gold
Ma Kai means "by the sea," and go figure. This is the most Hawaiian-styled of the Marination group's half-dozen spots, and its island aesthetics transport even the most winter-worn from the chilly Puget Sound shoreline to an aloha-spirited party (yes you can wear that shirt). Turquoise and bright-green Adirondack chairs share space with picnic tables shaded by orange umbrellas. A small window on the side of the building ensures that you'll never have to go too far for a refill on your boozy shave ice. Custom-made beers and other local taps pour sun-friendly suds in front of a panoramic view of all of Downtown Seattle. Spam sliders and Korean tacos soak up the booze, and don't even think of driving home after a day of sunshine and sipping: that's what the King County Water Taxi -- which leaves from the same pier -- is for. -- Naomi Tomky
The back patio at this cash-only, reinvented Polish dive bar is a favorite among Windy City restaurant and bar industry pros, and with good reason. Long picnic tables and a fire pit make the space feel more like a friend’s backyard than bar patio -- which is only enhanced by twinkle lights hanging from the tree branches overhead. Down one of the weekly rotating kegged cocktails, which may incorporate herbs from the patio’s own herb garden. Or come for Sunday BBQ, when one of a rotating cast of chefs cook up elevated summertime eats on the hearth. If the weather isn’t cooperating, the interior -- decked out in taxidermy and lined with booths whose tables double as hand-carved chess boards -- makes for a perfect spot to hunker down and wait out the rain with a stiff cocktail or Old Style in hand. -- Maggie Hennessy
New York, NY
When you live in New York, it’s essential to have those little moments that remind you why you do. And nothing accomplishes that quite as effectively as drinking on a rooftop. Even if this particular locale lacks the “locals only” feel New Yorkers tend to gravitate towards -- the Jimmy is in a hotel, after all -- it doesn't matter. In the literal sense (because it’s open to non-guests). Still, the 360 views of lower Manhattan, the Freedom Tower, and Hudson River from the 18th floor, compounded with a cocktail in your hand are guaranteed to either give you the “Holy shit, I live here” or “Holy shit, I want to live here” feeling. Fair warning: there is a pool smack dab in the middle, so watch where you’re going. Don’t ask us how we know that. -- Liz Newman
Picture it: it’s a sticky Kentucky summer night, and your spiked honey-lavender lemonade is sending chilly rivulets of condensation over your wrist. You’re perched on an Astroturf-covered bench watching your friends play ping pong on a light-up table across the courtyard at Garage Bar in Louisville’s trendy Nulu/East Market district. The aroma of wood-fired pizza from Garage’s open kitchen mingles with the crescendo of conversation from the crowds around you, crowds that actually make you want to put down your Smartphone and mingle: downtown types with mussed hair and loosened ties, girls in sundresses and sequins, hipsters toting bike helmets and dog leashes. Garage’s garage doors are raised, and the green sign is a lit neon moon reflecting ad infinitum on the chrome art piece in front of the bar: two full-sized muscle cars set on a machine that slowly forces them together, a slow-motion simulation of a collision. -- Elizabeth Grace
The Pump House BiergartenCharlotte, NC
There’s nothing more appealing for open-air boozing than a badass craft beer scene combined with an extreme sport spectacle, and in Charlotte you can have access to both, simultaneously. The Pump House Biergarten at the U.S. National Whitewater Center overlooks paddlers from its island perch in the middle of the manmade rafting course, and offers up 60 beers on tap. Enjoy a pint at the pavilion after the day’s strenuous activities, or better yet, grab a drink from the draught bar and post up in the grass to watch those a tad more adventurous than yourself go whizzing on by. Plus, special events and festivals, like the River Jam concert series, are held alongside the rapids year-round to add even more party appeal. -- Courtney Matinada
It can be hard to peg down the “best” place to drink outdoors in the Twin Cities because season permitting, we have a lot! There are the lakes and parks, Target Field, the State Fair, or even our own backyards. But it’s hard to think of a better dedicated place for outdoor drinking than the four season beer garden at Butcher & the Boar. While you definitely get a feel for the city around you, it also feels like you’re at the best BBQ in America right on your best friend’s lawn. And the partial enclosure, various fire pits, and standing heaters help to ensure full year round usability. To top it all off, they’ve also got an excellent selection of whiskeys, bourbons, scotches, craft beers, and delicious meats. -- Keane Amdahl
Normally, we’d say drinking at a hostel is a horrible life choice (uhhh those movies?!), but if you’re talking about The Broken Shaker, we’ll forgive you. Go there for the Instagram-worthy cocktails like Froot Loop Old Fashioneds, and stay for the pool, Sunday BBQs, chill patio vibes, hammocks, comfy chairs, Banyan trees worth napping under, herb garden, beef jerky, and ginger chicken wings. It’s Miami’s best not-so-secret secret bar and one of the best hotel bars in America. So even if someone does pop out of the dark and tries to kill you, we’re basically saying it’s still totally worth it. -- Jennifer Agress
In the city of the “to-go” cup, most of the Historic District (from Jones Street to the river) is a roving party. But when locals want to settle in for a solid sipping session, they head southeast to the end of Livingston Street, where the ramshackle Bona Bella neighborhood gives way to a weathered dock and miles of glistening salt marsh. It’s the ultimate Savannah view: rippling blue water and golden spartina grasses punctuated by maritime pine hammocks. A tart Hemingway Daiquiri or bacon-infused Old Fashioned pairs perfectly with the coastal breeze, but the down-home Painkiller slushie ain’t half-bad on a hot day. With a fire pit, a perpetual game of bocce, and Chef Tony Seichrist’s seafood small plates, the Wyld is like a boozy summer camp with a pretentious Y in its name. Boat right up for happy hour or brunch, and stay until they send you packing.
-- Annabelle Carr
The best drinking patio in Dallas is also arguably one of the most expansive. After all, extensions of the outdoor space include open-air seating near the cheesesteak grill and the best seats in the house: perches up in the adult treehouse. Wherever you sit, it’s damn near impossible not to burn off most of a day with a local beer or a craft cocktail and chill, listen to live music or decide which of the daily rotation of food trucks you’ll be noshing from next (and, of course, there are the aforementioned cheesesteaks to choose from). And the people-watching is prime, from earthy East Dallas neighbors and Lower Greenville regulars, to college kids out for a break and Dallas visitors checking to see if the buzz around Truck Yard is deserved. Every Dallasite worth the title knows it most definitely is. -- Farah Fleurima
Every city needs a great beer garden. And if that beer garden happens to serve outstanding sausages and pretzels under a giant mural of Elizabeth Taylor, well, even better. Dacha offers a carefully curated selection of world-class German, Belgian, and American brews, housemade cocktails, and (recent development) a full food menu inspired by traditional Bavarian beer gardens. Dacha's new chef (a former nominee for a James Beard Award, Semi-Finalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, no big deal) has introduced currywurst, a variety of brats, schnitzel, German potato pancakes, and a whole new brunch menu, among other stellar offerings. Not a fan of beer? Well, you're weird. But you're also fine here: Dacha has a variety of wines, great meads, and ciders, too. The bathroom situation has also greatly improved. Whereas before you were looking solely at porta-potties, there’s now the luxury of, you know, actual bathrooms. Always a plus. It's the best bar in D.C. to bring your dog, as it's open air, but still covered. The daily Happy Hour means $10 boots of Radeberger Pilsner, Konig Ludvig Hefe, and Flying Dog IPA. Don't let the long lines scare you -- Dacha is worth the wait. -- Logan Hollers
Char BarKansas City, MO
While Kansas City has plenty of great outdoor drinking spots, if your goals are 1. To drink and 2. To do it outside, head to Char Bar. A fairly new addition to the Westport entertainment district, Char Bar bills itself as a place for “smoked meats & amusements.” Neither disappoints. The beer garden is massive, and features croquet, bocce, ping pong, and corn hole. If games aren’t your thing, cozy up to the hot tub-size fire pit with your craft beer or one of nearly 50 whiskeys. But buyer beware: Westport can get a lot busy on Friday and Saturday nights, so if you’re looking for more of a laid-back afternoon vibe, well then, go in the afternoon. And if you find your cornhole game is off, head inside and soak it all up with some damn fine barbecue. -- Emily Farris