At 22 stories, ALTITUDE is the highest open-air rooftop bar in the area, which means you’ll have better views of the city here than anywhere else. In addition to the bird’s eve view of the city, ALTITUDE’s location next to Petco Park also means you can catch a free ball game, which -- given how godawful the Padres are -- is the perfect price. The bar rarely has a cover, but it does have a dress code, so don’t show up dressed like you just rolled out of bed and you should be good.
Look at everything I just wrote about OB Brewery, replace “Newport Ave” with “Mission Boulevard” and “snacks” with kebabs, and you have Amplified Ale Works. The brewery has gotten a ton of recognition as of late (we included it in our best brewery list, nbd), and head brewer Cy Henley is always working on new brews, so no two visits to Amplified will be alike.
Ignoring the scores of tourists that are sure to be at Cannonball on any given day, the bar has an unabated view of the beach and the best people watching in San Diego with the crowds that populate Ocean Front Walk.
A rooftop pool bar in the middle of Gaslamp is great -- a rooftop pool bar in Gaslamp without a cover is a dream come true. It isn’t cheap, but the bartenders pour strong drinks, and isn’t that what really matters?
An excellent date spot, Catania serves up some of the best Italian food in San Diego in a relaxed environment with a view of La Jolla’s picturesque downtown. Try the duck sugo orecchiette, or go with a classic and order the pizza margherita.
Too often, lists like these neglect North County, which is outright silly. Just one block off the beach, Hello Betty presents stunning views of the Oceanside Pier. It can get crowded up there with people putting back oyster shooters and ceviche and beers, but head downstairs to the main kitchen for the best salmon burger in town.
Of all the rooftops on this list, the Rooftop by STK atop the Andaz in Gaslamp is arguably the clubbiest, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. STK hosts some great pool parties, and the music director always brings solid DJ acts. Go, get in the pool and have some fun.
There might not be a more “hip” (whatever the hell that means) neighborhood right now than Little Italy. Between spots like Ironside Fish & Oyster, Juniper & Ivy, and Crack Shack opening in the past few years, Little Italy has become THE place for daring new restaurant ventures, and Kettner Exchange is here to make sure libations are taken care of in a gorgeous, two-story rooftop setting.
A 14-story jewel in the Gaslamp, The Nolen features both a patio and a rooftop, because why not? Its beautiful setting -- which features a communal fire pit -- underlies an immersive cocktail menu. It’s cocktails only at The Nolen, but the barrel-aged and classic menus featuring cant-miss drinks like sidecars and new-age cocktails like a Christmas in Nicaragua.
After years of being in the works, OB Brewery finally opened its doors this past July. Now, the brewery is open serving well-made craft beers on Newport Ave within spitting distance of the Ocean Beach Pier. The snacks it offers pair well with its beers at sunset, and it’s in the heart of OB, so you get all those weird hippy vibes as well.
Straight up, the best view in San Diego might be from Mister A’s. Its location just outside the heart of downtown in Banker’s Hill gives you a view of the entire city in all its splendor, from the airport to the bay. Also, the kitchen makes incredible mac and cheese, and if you can’t get down with mac and cheese on a rooftop, you are a horrible person.
When Gaslamp is a complete shitshow and you want a bit of a reprieve from insane lines and fighting for elbow room at the bar, head to Rustic Root. The super-relaxed atmosphere pairs really well with the rooftop view for watching the masses as they roll down Sixth Ave.
Another Downtown rooftop bar located in the shadow of Petco Park, Level 9 has one advantage over all the other rooftop bars: It’s dog friendly. Located atop the Hotel Indigo, Level 9 lets you have a beer or three with your canine pal at elevation, and you’ve never experienced a conversation like having a boozy heart-to-heart with your dog about how much you love him/her while standing nine floors up.
Sometimes, the designers of rooftop spaces will sacrifice atmosphere in order to make a location look chic. Far too often a rooftop will look awesome, but be filled with stuffy people. That’s definitely not the case at El Prez. Yes, it can get crowded at times, but if you’re looking to let your hair down and have a good time, this is the spot.