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Los Angeles, California
The boom in Downtown LA has brought plenty more rooftop hotspots -- but the Ace remains unrivaled for its 360-degree Downtown skyline vantage. An eclectic, craft-beer toting bunch (OK, mostly hipsters) scatter throughout the 14th-floor rooftop oasis of this 1927 Spanish Gothic building that has live DJs at night, a partially covered dining and lounge area, and a pool deck. Views are gargantuan (with retro neon signs to boot).
Key West, Florida
In Key West, it’s all about celebrating that famed sunset with a toast literally every night of the week. If you’re not at Mallory Square, you’re saddled up at Schooner Wharf Bar in the historic seaport. This institution has that no-frills, good-times island vibe that hasn’t changed since it opened in 1987 where parrot heads in flip-flops congregate to salute the sinking sun with strong rum cocktails. There’s definitely going to be a Jimmy Buffett song playing at some point, and you know you know the lyrics.
Virtually the only way to get to Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro is via ski or snowboard, meaning this sweet little alpine ski hut 10,740ft high in the mountains is a legend among ski bunnies and trust-funders who like to pop après-ski champers while admiring the vast mountain views. It’s a trek to get to, so celebratory table-top dancing is not uncommon.
Despite the miles of sandy coastline in the islands of Hawaii, not many bars are actually on the beach. Not so at this tropical, open-air oasis that hugs the west coast of the Big Island. On a given night this outdoor bungalow bar is a hotspot for local ex-pats and laid-back visitors who knock back huge island-themed cocktails while a local Hawaiian musician plays the ukulele. Dip your toes in the sand, feel the breeze, and expect an orgasmic sunset.
At the Signature Lounge at the 96th, you’ll have to pony up an average of 16 bucks a drink, but it’s worth the staggering views of the city skyline from the famed John Hancock Tower. The scene up here at skyscraper lounge (one floor up from the signature restaurant) is unsurpassable, with floor-to-ceiling windows framing Chicago’s world-renowned architecture. You’re so high up in the clouds you may get a touch of vertigo but there’s nothing like a Signature Room Punch to take the edge off.
Literally steps from the water, Duke’s Malibu (named after Hawaiian surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku) has that rare and priceless Pacific Ocean view that makes it one of the best bars along the PCH. Come for the sea breeze alone. While there’s a blatant Hawaii theme with hula dancers and cocktails like Coconut Mojito and Lilikoi Press, the occasional celebrity sighting and trademark Malibu facelifts truly anchor it in place.
Twenty-five miles outside Seattle, this beautifully remote mountain village is home to parks and trails galore -- and little else. Boho nature lovers may go tramping into the woods, but at the Attic you can still get the best the sights without hiking boots. This rustic, tucked-away gem serving craft beers overlooks the Snoqualmie Falls with prime views of the waterfall embellished with tall pines and a whole lotta sky. There’s only two window-front tables, which you’ll want to saddle up at for the best views.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Vegas is teeming with bars flaunting impressive views (from Ghostbar at Palms Casino to Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental) but the most exciting place to drink isn’t part of a trendy casino resort. The High Roller, the largest observation deck in the world, features glass-enclosed, passenger pods that can fit as many as 40 people, and many are designated with full bars and bartenders. Like a Ferris wheel, the High Roller takes your pod 520ft high for some of the most insane aerial views of the strip. It takes approximately 30 minutes for one full revolution, so get used to slamming shots. Vegas, baby.
New York City
Rooftop bars in Manhattan open every New York minute, making panoramas a dime a dozen. But a unique view worth seeking out awaits at St. Cloud. Here, amid Times Square yet also fairly low to the ground, so you can catch all the pedestrian action, flashy signs, and giant Elmo busking. The swank rooftop bar offers indoor and outdoor seating as well as private rooms and “Sky Pods,” though the original structures and facades are of the 19th century, Beaux-Arts architecture makes it hella original.
New Orleans, Louisiana
There’s no shame in throwing beads from Bourbon St balcony bars and getting flashed for your enthusiasm, but it’s a whole other affair one street over on Royal. Technically an oyster bar (but still serving up Mardi Gras-level pours), Royal House has a laid-back, second-floor balcony where you have a bird’s-eye view of the action along two French Quarter streets. It’s a true time warp and oh-so NOLA: street musicians and passing horse-drawn carriages add to the unparalleled people-watching.
Brooklyn, New York
Ides is so hipster that Brooklyn hipsters don’t even go there, but its unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline make the Manhattan-priced drinks worth it. The bar still draws a low-key fun crowd who gather inside the Art Deco-inspired dining room, though the best vantage point is on the outdoor terrace where you’ll likely meet that one local who brought their not-from-this-country friend who has a million questions about Donald Trump.
San Francisco, California
The 360-degree views at Top of the Mark are so commanding you’ll hardly notice the sheer number of Instagramming tourists or that dude proposing to his girlfriend. Crowning the 19th floor of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins in Nob Hill, Top of the Mark isn’t effortless (strict dress code, 21+ after 10pm) but this is how it’s stayed classy since 1939. Kick back with a signature martini from its fancy menu of 100+ drinks and absorb the glimmer of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.
Perhaps the fanciest place for a drink in Anchorage, Crow’s Nest doesn’t disappoint with its excellent wine menu (more than 10,000 bottles to choose from) or the old-school bar in which you’ll warm your ass up with a rare red. The views from up here, atop the Hotel Captain Cook, are tantalizing, whether you’re peering out into the ocean or the sprawling city framed by snow-capped mountains.
Palm Springs, California
Perched on a 650ft bluff in the desert, Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage owns it when it comes to killer views. The best vantage is at its signature fine-dining restaurant. The fancy-schmancy steakhouse has floor-to-ceiling windows, quite literally a lens into the sprawling desert landscape and signature purple-spun sunset. You’ll want to book a seat at the bar, which, unlike the tables, gives the illusion that you’re floating in the skies.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
This desert town remains a magnet for retirees and older visitors, and sure enough, the typical Bell Tower customer likely saw Jimi Hendrix live in concert. But there’s no other place you’ll find better aerial views of the city of Santa Fe, and, thanks to its low-rise buildings, the picturesque landscape that unfurls into the far distance. The laid-back vibe here goes great with a signature margarita, and the sunset over George R.R. Martin’s house is as captivating as his books.