The American Bars With the Most Spectacular Views

Published On 09/02/2016 Published On 09/02/2016
St. Cloud
Courtesy of St. Cloud

Upstairs at Ace Hotel Downtown LA

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).


Schooner Wharf Bar

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.


Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro

Aspen, Colorado

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.


Lava Lava Beach Club

Waikoloa, Hawaii

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.


Signature Lounge at the 96th

Chicago, Illinois

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.


Duke’s Malibu

Malibu, California

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.


The Attic at the Salish Lodge

Snoqualmie, Washington

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.


High Roller

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.

St. Cloud at Knickerbocker

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.


Royal House Oyster Bar

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.


The Ides Bar at Wythe

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.


Top of the Mark

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.


Crow’s Nest

Anchorage, Alaska

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.


The Edge Steakhouse

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.


The Bell Tower Bar

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.

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1. Upstairs Rooftop Lounge at Ace Hotel 933 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015

The only thing hipper than the Ace Hotel DTLA is its rooftop lounge, aptly named The Upstairs Bar. Though the roof boasts a pool and lounge chairs, the emphasis isn't really on swimming -- probably because the concrete pool is small enough to be a hot tub. But you're not there for poolside cabanas, you're there for the impeccable drinks and daily event lineup, which includes everything from DJ sets and live concerts to book release parties and yoga classes. Add in stunning city views, and you've got an unquestionable classic in the rooftop game.

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2. Schooner Wharf Bar 202 William St, Key West, FL 33040

Key West's open waters, and their crowds of quietly sitting ships and masts make up the primary attraction at this waterside bar. Of course, cheap drinks and live music are also on offer here, and patrons heartily take advantage of the seafood-centric menu, including the coconut shrimp, ahi tuna nachos, and fresh oysters.

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3. Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro 76 Boomerang Rd, Aspen, CO 81611

This mountaintop bistro plates refined apres-ski courses, including steak tastare, fondue, and caviar, elevating your evening ski vacation experience to classy levels. And even though the food tastes like white tablecloth fare, both the interior and outside space maintain the jovial and sociable skiing mood that these outdoors restaurants are known for.

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4. Lava Lava Beach Club 69-1081 Ku'ualii Pl, Waikoloa, HI 96738

Leave your closed-toe shoes at home: this laid-back beach club is located on 10 acres along Anaeho‘omalu Bay, and offers a full-service bar set directly on the beach. The menu showcases farm-to-beach ingredients, with island-style bites like ahi poke, as well as cold cocktails, wine, and beer to get your vacation (or hell, weekday) off right -- with your toes in the sand.

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5. The Signature Lounge at the 96th 875 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Actually located on the 95th floor, this bar in the sky offers panoramic views of Chicago, a menu of elegant bar fare that includes Jamaican jerk chicken wings and caprese bruschetta, and specialty cocktails.

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6. Duke's Malibu 21150 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

Known for picturesque beach views, Duke's Malibu serves Hawaiian cuisine apt for a mainstream crowd, with accessible entree options like fresh fish chowder and chilled crab salad. Tiki drinks complete with mini umbrellas are also on offer, and are made even more festive by a live performing hula group that dances table to table.

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7. The Attic at Salish Lodge 6501 Railroad Ave SE, Snoqualmie, WA 98065

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.

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8. St. Cloud 6 Times Square, New York, NY 10036

Perched on the rooftop of the Knickerbocker Hotel, St. Cloud offers boutique small plates, craft cocktails, and glittering aerial views of Times Square. While the sleek interior features plush leather sofas and walls made entirely of green fauna, it's the outdoor lounge that attracts the masses -- on warm summer evenings, you'll find plenty of chic New Yorkers sipping signature drinks like the Blueberry Gin Daisy (Dorothy Parker gin, lemon, blueberry grenadine, seltzer) or the Spring Old Fashioned (Woodford Reserve bourbon, crème de peche, blackberry) while snacking on light fare like oysters, braised short rib sliders, and salmon ceviche.

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9. Royal House Oyster Bar 441 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Whether chargrilled, on the half-shell, royale, or Rockafeller, the oysters at this French Quarter mainstay are absolutely delicious. Royal House is a popular haunt for shellfish enthusiasts, but the menu boasts all sorts of Creole-inspired seafood dishes like jumbo lump crab cakes, crawfish étoufée, po-boys, and surf-and-turf. The brick-walled dining room strikes the perfect balance of refined and relaxed, and the second floor balcony overlooking lively Bourbon Street makes for great people-watching.

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10. The Ides at Wythe Hotel 80 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

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.

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11. Top of the Mark 999 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108

If you like your stunning view with a side of martini, this is your booze-soaked huckleberry. In addition to having a hella classy mid-Century vibe, Top of the Mark boasts a “100 Martini Menu,” the best of which can be found on page one. The namesake martini is a straight-up, straightforward blend of Ketel One, vermouth, and two olives -- shaken, not stirred, Mr. Bond. Don’t be afraid to show up in a tux. And, don’t be surprised if you see at least three proposals.

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12. Crow's Nest 939 W 5th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501

Boasting a spectacular views of the Chugach Mountains and a wine cellar containing over 10,000 selections, this Anchorage mainstay is a fine dining destination. The menu focuses on regional surf-and-turf with upscale French flair, as seen in standout plates like the roasted bone marrow and rib eye à la bordelaise.

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13. The Edge Steakhouse 68900 Frank Sinatra Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270

The incredible views are, first and foremost, the reason you're coming to the Edge Steakhouse. Operated by the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage, which is perched on a 650-foot bluff in the desert, this fine-dining restaurant boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that look over the sprawling desert landscape and explosive sunset. Be sure to book a seat at the bar to really feel like you're floating midair, and dig into a cut of Japanese wagyu with a glass of red wine.

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14. Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda on the Plaza 100 E San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Head to the Bell Tower Bar on the fifth floor of La Fonda hotel for unmatched aerial views of Santa Fe and, thanks to the city's low-rise buildings, the gorgeous, sprawling landscape that continues far into the distance. Go at sunset and feast your eyes on the horizon for an almost obscenely beautiful sky. It's even better when you have one of Bell Tower's signature margaritas in your hand. A laid-back space with Southwestern charm, this outdoor oasis also offers a variety of quesadillas to much on while you relax.