Here's Our Travel Guide to This Nation of Over 7,000 Islands
It’s not always easy to get into the rooftop bar at Tribeca’s James Hotel (bouncer, clipboard, all that), but it’s worth a try -- and often enough, you’ll be welcomed to the covered 18th floor rooftop to indulge in $17 grilled pineapple mojitos on a velvet sofa. Right in front of the Downtown skyline lights is a fireplace, which may just inspire you to cozy up with a mug of mezcal-spiked Mexican hot chocolate and drink away your winter woes.
Eataly’s rooftop beer garden transforms into an Italian ski chalet for the colder months, whisking you away to the alps just atop the Flatiron marketplace. Inside the covered rooftop, you can expect blankets and heat lamps, pine trees, rustic log-constructed furniture, and even a quaint cabin that can be booked for groups to enjoy a family-style lamb shank feast. Drink-wise, you can order anything from house-made ales and draft beer to beer cocktails and a trio of warm cocktails. If standing at a crowded bar after work isn’t your thing, reserve a table, where you can drink the night away in Alpine style and order plenty of pasta and polenta, of course.
Flushing’s only rooftop cocktail bar opened this past spring as a warm-weather hangout, but with the balcony doors closed, Leaf becomes a cozy rooftop lounge on a chilly winter night. Curl up on a couch in the appropriate foliage-decorated lounge or head straight to the bar for Chinese-inspired craft cocktails like the seasonal Smoke & Mirrors made with Szechuan pepper infused Creyente mezcal, Aperol, ginger, and pineapple, and Chinese food, including beef noodle soup, Taiwanese popcorn chicken, and pork buns. Visit from 5pm-8pm daily for $6 wine and cocktail specials and $3.50 Narragansetts.
Choosing to spend time near Herald Square may not strike you as a great idea, but this 30th floor bar elevates you out of the Midtown chaos to a 360-degree view of Manhattan and the Hudson River. Though the indoor rooftop stays open past midnight, plan to visit at sunset for the best westward facing views and #nofilter selfie opportunities. Drinks aren’t cheap, nor are the cocktails spectacular (stick to beer), but the location is perfect to break up your commute and warm up on a cluster of couches and lounges on a cold day.
Though a meal at the Rainbow Room may be out of your budget, the iconic venue’s neighboring cocktail bar will fill you with New York nostalgia without the massive price tag (or at least, a slightly less massive one). The views of Central Park, Midtown Manhattan, and Downtown are almost worth the price of drinks (a gin and tonic will definitely set you back $22), which you can enjoy indoors during the colder months (while still pressing your iPhone against the floor-to-ceiling windows for the perfect Instagram).
Williamsburgians pining for views of Manhattan should head up to The Ides, the narrow rooftop bar at the scene-y Wythe Hotel, which fetches a line through the hotel lobby most nights. Up top, you’ll find a glass-backed bar with bottles mimicking the skyline and plenty of Brooklyn wannabes sipping pricy cocktails. Gratuity is included in the $16-18 cocktails (like the appropriately named Brooklyn View with gin, grapefruit, and sparkling wine) and if you want to skip the line, you can reserve a group spot for eight or more people and smugly enjoy your pass to the front.
Exposed brick walls and industrial-style furniture allegedly paying homage to the Garment District’s history welcome you to the retractable glass-covered rooftop at the Refinery Hotel. Note the looming Empire State Building above the often-rowdy bar, as well as the cold-weather appropriate fireplace (should you be lucky enough to earn a spot near the flames). There are plenty of small bites but you’re really here for the drinks, which famously come in $55 caddies to serve four. Expect sweeter cocktails like the Derby (Grey Goose, watermelon cordial, lemon, pineapple) and the Fedora (44 North Sunnyside Nectarine, iced tea, lemonade), all of which are made to order rather than poured from some pre-mixed tank.
Just a short walk from the New York Public Library is a literary oasis where you can toast to a day of reading (or taking advantage of the NYPL’s free Wi-Fi) on a roof filled with quiet and bookish drinkers. Sunlight pours in during the day, making it easy enough for reading material to be your only date for drinks, and after rush hour and on winter weekends, you can expect the place to be relatively quiet, so you can discuss that riveting New Yorker feature with whomever you’re trying to impress.
Long Island City
To get some of the best city views, you’ll have to leave Manhattan and head to this Queens rooftop clubsteraunt, which offers sweeping views of the East side skyline and the 59th St Bridge. The 9,500sqft lounge doesn’t really attract the commuter crowd native to Midtown rooftops, but rather Queensians visiting from all over the borough (who aren’t always immune to the temptations of a sushi boat and bottle service).
Lower East Side
This 15th floor lounge plays to the Lower East Side going-out crowd with cocktails carbonated and bottled in-house, punches made with small-batch spirits, and Irving Roasters coffee to keep partiers awake throughout the night. When it’s not pool weather, views are best enjoyed on the indoor chaise lounges, banquettes, and high-top communal tables, where you can also order grilled cheese, chicken wings, or kale Caesar salad (naturally).
Located high up on the 21st floor of Williamsburg's newest luxury hotel, The William Vale, Westlight is home to some pretty spectacular city views, in addition to fancy cocktails from Head Bartender Anne Robinson (formerly of PDT) and equally fancy bar bites from Chef Andrew Carmellini. Stay warm inside on one of the upholstered loungers or brave the outdoors for its semi-ironic Top of the Rock-style standing binoculars.
Don’t expect a shortage of tourists at this indoor penthouse/partially heated outdoor roof deck that, come winter, gets adorned with artificial igloos that fit up to eight people. Igloos can’t be reserved, so you may have to wait for your chance to squeeze in and sip your mulled cider, but, hey, you didn’t move to New York for all the extra personal space, did you?
1. La Birreria200 5th Ave, New York
2. JIMMY at The James15 Thompson St., New York
3. Leaf Bar & Lounge133-42 39th Ave, Flushing
4. The Skylark200 W 39th St, New York
5. SixtyFive bar at the Rainbow Room30 Rockefeller Plz, New York
6. The Ides at Wythe Hotel80 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn
7. Refinery Rooftop63 W 38th St, New York
8. Bookmarks Lounge299 Madison Ave, New York
9. Penthouse8088-08 Queens Plaza S, Long Island City
10. Mr. Purple180 Orchard St, New York
11. Westlight111 N 12th St, Brooklyn
12. 230 Fifth230 5th Ave, New York
Atop the Flatiron food emporium Eataly sits La Birreria, an 8000sqft Italian beer garden that pours glasses of amber ale in view of both the copper-capped Metropolitan Life Building and Empire State. It's an impressive setting for sipping cask ale brewed onsite, or any of the local and imported taps on offer (some ten drafts and twenty bottles). Communal tables under the big city sky are perfect for groups, as is the Piatto Misto platter made up of a beer- and apricot-braised pork shoulder and a host of sausages (both Italian cotechino and German bratwurst make cameos). Even in the dead of winter, this rooftop is in full swing as it transforms into an Italian Alps-inspired pop-up Biata. Yes, the roof gets covered, but stringed light, ski lodge aesthetics, and specials like muleld wine make up for it.
Inspired by 1970s New York and classic pubs, JIMMY is an intimate rooftop escape with sleek upholstered seating, working fireplaces, and warm wood floors. Located on the roof of The James Hotel in Soho, the bar boasts unparalleled 360-degree views of the city skyline. Grab a chaise lounge poolside in the summer or sip the mezcal, honey, lemon, and smoked sea salt Pure & Simple indoors when the weather turns cold.
Flushing is know more for its abundance of cheap Asian dining options than flashy rooftop lounges, yet Leaf Bar & Lounge manages to combine the two ideas in a rustic-chic take on an izakaya with Taiwanese street foods joining quality cocktails. The bar menu by chef Henry Lin, from Taiwan himself, is filled with satisfying snacks like pork belly buns and popcorn chicken. The unexpected drinks have both flavor and character, exemplified by the Pineapple Express -- vodka and sherry with pineapple puree and salted-caramel syrup in an ornamental copper cup.
The Skylark is sleek, sexy, and has killer views -- essentially, what you come to expect from a Midtown rooftop haunt. From a partner behind city favorites like The Lambs Club and Jimmy at the James, Sklark maintains a refined air that's bolstered by contemporary copper light fixtures, dark woods behind the bar and mod sofas arranged along wall-to-wall windows. Mixologist Johnny Swet crafted the cocktail list, with twists on classlics like a Manhattan spiked with American oak extract. Asian and American flavors zigzag on the bar menu, featuring avocado toasts and Peking duck wontons, but the real fun is had with indulgently quirky items like mac & cheese cupcakes.
It doesn't get more Old New York than an evening at the Rainbow Room, which opened in 1934 as a jazzy retreat for the fur-clad, limo-sporting social elite. The space underwent an historic renovation in 2014, restoring the spot to its former glory... and then some. Bar SixtyFive -- a whopping 65 floors up -- is the walk-in sister to the Rainbow Room restaurant (waitlists there are almost as long as the bill receipts patrons run up), allowing you to get in on some of the glamor. 10-foot-tall window walls overlook views that stretch for miles, which helps justify the bar tab and gives you something to wistfully gaze out on as you work on elevated bar bites like Wagyu beef sliders and fatty salmon sashimi.
The Ides is perched atop the Wythe Hotel, and while the line for this Williamsburg bar may be a bit long -- and dense with European tourists -- after sunset, the view is worth it. The indoor-outdoor lounge boasts glittering views of Manhattan, and though the buildings are the same as what you'd see from many a North Brooklyn rooftop, the Ides' bartenders mix strong drinks with a professional edge.
Blocks from Bryant Park, Refinery Rooftop sits at the crest of a hotel of the same name. An expansive outdoor terrace features seating nooks divided by potted plants, and the space can even host drinkers in the colder months when the retractable roof closes, the fire is up, and tents are set up. The cocktail list has something for everyone, making the rounds from rum to gin, even if it is a bit pricey -- but at such great heights, what isn't? Still, when the Empire State is smiling down at you, it's only appropriate to go for a Rooftop Sparkler (tequila, lime, agave, prosecco) and take it all in.
The Library Hotel in Midtown, where each floor is titled after Dewey Decimal System categories, has a rooftop lounge called Bookmarks... because what else would it be called? A literary air runs throughout, or rather a corporate version of it, with a mahogany fireplace in the interior and fancy patio furniture out on the terrace. Cocktails like The Pulitzer (gin, elderflower liqueur, Fernet, agave nectar) and Dante's Inferno (mezcal, blood orange liqueur, Aperol) don't let you forget that books -- or at least the idea of them -- are what the place is all about.
Perched above the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City, Penthouse 808 has a vibe that's skewed slightly more Miami than post-industrial LIC. Clocking in at 9,500sqft, the swanky indoor/outdoor rooftop offers unbeatable views of Manhattan and the Queensboro Bridge. The fusion menu takes cues from Japanese and Hawaiian cuisines, featuring sushi, robata skewers, and poke.
Located in the Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side, Mr. Purple is a rooftop bar with an interior that's both upscale and cozy, and a menu that gives new twists to classic bar food. Behind the bar you'll find regional craft brews, an extensive wine list, and unique cocktail offerings. There's a breathtaking view of the city from every seat in the bar, and in the warmer months, you can head out to the patio for a dip in the pool.
Westlight, the rooftop bar perched on the 22nd floor of Williamsburg’s William Vale Hotel, is well aware that its domineering North Brooklyn view is rare, so much so that its outdoor patio is mounted with bright yellow observation binoculars. The menu, crafted by Chef Andrew Carmellini, includes a beverage program that juxtaposes unique concoctions with standard cocktails, and a small plates selection that’s a microcosm of global street food. Though you’re undoubtedly here to drink and ogle at the 360-degree views of New York, be sure to order dessert: the peanut butter bar with salted caramel cream is spectacular.
This vast, greenery-lined rooftop bar is one of New York's largest rooftop gardens, filled with one-of-a-kind furniture pieces and palm trees. While 230 Fifth is perfect for outdoor drinking in the summer for obvious reasons, it's also open year-round thanks to heat lamps and inflatable igloos, making the winter rooftop scene just as enticing.