What’s better than a summer cocktail? A summer cocktail at an outdoor bar. And even better than that? A summer cocktail at an outdoor rooftop bar. In many cities where the temps plunge in the winter (we’re looking at you, Northeast), these breezy bars—often home to some of the best views in town—are only open a few months a year, so enjoy ‘em while you can. Here are 10 of the best rooftop bars to check out this summer.
1. Top of the Gate, Washington, DC
The open-air space atop the legendary Watergate Hotel is done up with garden-like greenery and communal seating and boasts 360-degree views of the Potomac, as well as the Kennedy Center and the Washington Monument (it’s almost like an American history lesson up there.) Sure, there are cocktails, but teetotalers can also indulge in perfect-for-summer-heat Hawaiian shave ices like the Silver Fox version made with condensed milk, almond, pineapple, and coconut.
2. Hot Tin, New Orleans
After opening on top of The Pontchartrain Hotel last summer, Hot Tin has become quite the hot spot thanks to its views of downtown NOLA and the Mississippi River along with lovely vintage-style cocktails. The name is more than just a play on the rooftop factor—the eclectic decor is meant to feel like a 1940s artist’s loft and honors playwright Tennessee Williams, who resided in the hotel while writing A Streetcar Named Desire. Photo credit: Christian Horan
3. The Rooftop, Laguna Beach, California
High above a sandy stretch of luxe Laguna Beach, the simply-named bar at the top of the historic La Casa del Camino hotel is most stunning at sunset, when a post-beach crowd gathers for early evening drinks and often stays until after dark. The place recently jumped on the grown-up slushie train with its Frozé, a frozen blend of rosé, grapefruit rum, lemonade, and peach puree.
4. Juvia, Miami
This sexy South Beach spot is just as attractive as all the pretty people strolling the fabled Lincoln Road below with poppy purple furniture, a vertical garden, and views of the city and harbor. Though the bar scene is as hot as the weather, Juvia also serves up French-Japanese-Peruvian fare with an emphasis on seafood, including lots of raw bar and sushi offerings.
5. Deck Nine Observatory Bar, Austin, Texas
You can have your own vertical bar crawl at this venue that was once a power plant and is now a mix of office space and eateries. Start in the subterranean cocktail “laboratory” The Boiler Room, then stop for a bite at glass-enclosed restaurant Boiler Nine Bar + Grill on the main floor before ending up at Deck Nine for yet another cocktail. (Try the frozen Rio Verde, concocted from tequila, basil, grapefruit, lime, and Chartreuse to cool off on a humid Texas day.) The roof deck decor stays simple with blonde wood tables and those ubiquitous metal tower viewers you can use to get a closer look at the cityscape.
6. The Nest, Seattle
It’s hard to get better views of the Puget Sound than from this bar and lounge at the top of hotel Thompson Seattle decked out with sleek and comfy living room furniture, throw rugs, and coffee tables. In colder months or during inclement weather (which, as you may already be aware, Seattle is known to have), guests can move to the inside bar and still take in the scenery with floor-to-ceiling windows.
7. El Techo, San Francisco
Located in San Francisco’s cooler-by-the-minute Mission District, this venue on top of sister steakhouse restaurant Lolinda is dotted with bright blue umbrellas and dishes up Latin American street food along with vacation-y rum-based cocktails like pina coladas and the pineapple-banana Belafonte, along with pitchers of margaritas and palomas. Photo credit: Aurbie Pick
8. Upstairs Bar at the Ace Hotel, Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles has become one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods, and the Ace Hotel—often filled with a hip crowd—fits right in. In addition to views of the city lights and solid cocktails, there’s a roster of daily events, usually involving a rotating lineup of DJs in the evenings. Oh, and the hotel’s adjacent theater—housed in a restored 1920s Spanish Gothic-style movie palace—is worth a stop (and a show!) if you can swing it.
9. Salon de Ning, New York City
The swanky spot on the 23rd floor of the posh Peninsula Hotel in midtown Manhattan (named for a fictional Shanghai socialite called Madame Ning) unveiled a fresh look to give it a Hamptons resort feel last year with oversized umbrellas, lush plants, lanterns, and lounge seating (because if you’re stuck in the city, you might as well pretend you’re at the beach). Besides cocktail offerings, there’s a cigar menu, solid wine list, and a sky’s-the-limit list of champagnes so you can celebrate summer by splurging on a $600 bottle of ’06 Dom..or save that money for a vacay and just have a beer.
10. Lookout Rooftop and Bar, Boston
After a harsh Northeast winter, it's no wonder New Englanders hit this open-air bar on top of the Envoy Hotel nightly to finally take in the warm weather and views of the Boston waterfront while sipping a boozy beverage or a local Mass-made microbrew. To counter those cocktails, Lookout will be running rooftop yoga sessions on the last Sunday of the month this summer, so you can get your zen on from on high. And it turns out the fun doesn’t end when it gets chilly. In the winter months, the rooftop transforms into a winter wonderland complete with heated igloos that can accommodate up to 10 bundled-up imbibers.
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