The Hottest Hotel Rooftop Bars
Take an outdoor rooftop pavilion, add a sleek, see-and-be-seen bar, a sparkling pool, and stellar views for miles, and you’ve got the makings of one perfectly fabulous night.
Nothing quite says summer in the city like an alfresco lounge on high. And thanks to the wealth of urban hotels that have been opening cocktail aeries, travelers looking to add a little height to their vacation getaways have never had so many options for taking to the skies.
Cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Miami dominate the hotel rooftop bar trend. You can float atop the Manhattan skyline at the Peninsula’s Salon de Ning, soaking up its glamorous 1930s Shanghai vibe, complete with Chinese daybeds. In South Florida, preside over the ocean with a mojito in hand at the Viceroy Miami, which towers 50 floors above Brickell Avenue; visitors can see from Biscayne Bay all the way to the Everglades. Want to mingle with the stars under the stars?Finagle your way into the recently revamped Skybar at the Mondrian West Hollywood and you’ll have no shortage of gorgeous L.A. views.
But that’s just the start. You’ll find great new open-air watering holes from coast to coast. In Dallas, the poolside bar at the Joule, designed by Adam Tihany, is widely considered to be the city’s top summer spot. In Atlanta, buzzed-about barmeister Rande Gerber has opened Whiskey Blue atop the W Buckhead. Chicago is getting into the act with 29th-floor C-View at the Affinia Hotel, which serves food from celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, while the Dana Hotel’s new Vertigo Sky features a 1,000-square-foot outdoor terrace.
And more high-altitude hot spots keep opening their doors. In New York City alone, two stylish newcomers, the Standard and the Jane, plan to have their own renditions in full swing by the summer solstice. A bit further uptown, the Marcel at Gramercy will soon open the Baboon Lounge, a 10th-floor space designed to be a whimsical wine bar with South Beach–style cabanas and 360-degree views of the Empire State Building.
It’s time to get up on the roof.
Additional reporting by Catesby Holmes, Sarah Kantrowitz, Stirling Kelso, Soren Larson, Jason Sheeler, and Brendan Spiegel.
Chicago: C-View at the Affinia Hotel
It’s not the drinks that are the star at this rooftop. Nor is it the view (though the 29th-floor spot overlooks the Hancock Building and the Sears Tower). It’s the food. As an extension of celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s C-House, which is located in the hotel’s lobby, the indoor-outdoor lounge features a compact menu of Samuelsson’s best hits, like chorizo macaroni and cheese or gourmet fish.
Los Angeles: Andaz West Hollywood
At this 14th-floor rooftop getaway, sun-seeking hotel guests can dip into the plunge pool while waiting for their drinks (try the Limoncello Sparkle), or take in the panoramic views, which stretch from the Hollywood Hills to downtown L.A. and out to the Pacific.
New York: The Empire Hotel Rooftop
The iconic red-neon Empire Hotel sign is a familiar sight on the Manhattan skyline. Now, thanks to the opening of the 8,000-square-foot Empire Hotel Rooftop—the latest addition to restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow’s empire—you can enjoy cocktails directly in its shadow. Patrons to the Upper West Side space have the run of not one, but three outdoor terraces that feature wicker day loungers, private cabanas, and a bar with a retractable roof. The menu features Chodorow’s typical Asian fusion cuisine, like Kobe beef sliders and rock shrimp tempura served with a sweet chili sauce.
Miami: Plunge at the Gansevoort
Miami’s not one for understatement, as visitors to Plunge can attest. At 24,000 square feet, complete with a 110-foot-long elevated pool, it’s one of the largest rooftop bars in the world. Here, the wood deck is lined with towering palm trees, the bar is carved from marble, the poolside cabanas feature chandeliers, and the views go from the Miami skyline out to the Atlantic.
Atlanta: Whiskey Blue at the W Buckhead
Longtime bar entrepreneur Rande Gerber’s first venture in the South delivers ultra-modern glamour atop the newly opened W Buckhead. Call the hostess to make a VIP reservation; you’ll be led to the front of the line for the glass elevator, which offers a preview of the bar’s unrivaled views of Atlanta’s skyline.
Santa Barbara, CA: Perch at the Canary Hotel
With its terracotta floors, mosaic tile work, burnished furniture, and quietly trickling fountain, the aptly named Perch takes its cues from the Mediterranean. But it only takes one sunset to remind you of your southern California setting. The 1,800-square-foot terrace features views all the way from the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 miles out into the Pacific, to the Santa Ynez Mountains. Grab a glass of a local vintner’s wine and enjoy it in front of the limestone fireplace, in the Jacuzzi, or beside the pool.
Portland, OR: Departure Restaurant and Lounge at the Nines Hotel
To construct Departure, the architects of the Nines added a 15th floor to the famed 77-year-old Meier & Frank Building, which houses the property. But instead of repeating the building’s terracotta façade, the space is sheathed in gray and white steel and resembles a spaceship. The futuristic design carries through on both of the outdoor lounging decks, thanks to their sleek, geometric-style furniture and metallic color scheme, punctuated by fiery bursts of orange. The views stretch from Mount Hood to Mount St. Helens.
Los Angeles: Roof Garden at the Peninsula Beverly Hills
Many L.A. rooftop destinations come with headline-grabbing features (Astroturf lawns! Glass-bottom pools!), but what the Peninsula’s newly redesigned Roof Garden lacks in razzle-dazzle, it more than makes up for in sophistication and tranquillity. Here it’s all about refined creature comforts, from the weekly barbecue to the heated limestone.
San Diego: Sìrèn at the Sè Hotel
As rooftop bars go, this fourth-floor, poolside lounge doesn’t exactly tower over its downtown neighbors. But what it lacks in views it makes up for with its own brand of eye candy: a rotating cast of Cirque du Soleil–esque performers who turn the 7,000-square-foot oasis into an interactive stage twice a week. The drinks also go beyond the usual bar offerings. Don’t miss the menu of vodka-infused fruits and vegetables.
Phoenix: The Clarendon
Known for its 60-foot water wall and a bubbling hydro spa that holds 50 people, this Valley of the Sun bar also hosts a Sunday night retro-Brazilian dance party. Locals love the inventive cocktails (like the creamy horchata-Kahlúa milk shakes) and the fine views of Phoenix’s seven crimson mountain ranges.
Miami: Magic City at the Epic Hotel
This lounge doesn’t crown the 22-story building but rather wraps around the 16th floor, taking in the generous southern exposure. While the 10 private cabanas may fill up fast, the curvy wicker chairs bordering the two infinity pools are a romantic touch. Sweet pink Florida shrimp or line-caught yellowtail sashimi from the hip neighboring restaurant Area 31 restaurant are choice snacks, especially since the bay waters they came from are glittering below you.
Dallas: The Joule
This 2,500-square-foot poolside bar, designed by Adam Tihany, is considered by many to be the city’s top summer spot. For full Texas immersion, try a Southern Belle, made with Austin-distilled Tito’s Handmade Vodka, lime, peaches, and sparkling rosé; drinks for two $25. Also not to be missed: Charlie Palmer’s lobster corn dogs.
Chicago: Vertigo Sky Lounge at the Dana Hotel & Spa
It’s the unisex bathroom at Vertigo that first caught our attention. With a large round window overlooking the Chicago skyline and another window where visitors can order old-time drinks like Sidecars and Pink Ladies from the bar, it’s turning out to be quite the happening loo. Vertigo’s 1,000-square-foot outdoor terrace, which has its own fire pit and trippy décor (think abstract-shaped wooden benches and globe lights), is a suitable option for the more modest among us.
Washington, D.C.: ADC at the Donovan House Hotel
A room at this Thomas Circle property comes with access to the members-only ADC (Above D.C.), where an eclectic mix of revelers—everyone from senators to co-eds—relaxes by the outdoor fireplaces. Sate your hunger with fried foie gras wontons sent up from Todd English’s Cha, located on the ground floor.
Scottsdale, AZ: Sunset Beach at the W
Sunset Beach might not be anywhere close to the water, but that doesn’t stop it from adopting a South Beach vibe. Plush daybeds surround the pool, where attendants circulate handing out chilled cucumbers for your eyes. Private cabanas are kitted out with flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi. And the drink menu has its share of tropical beverages, like strawberry and grape caipirinhas, key-lime martinis, and fresh fruit mojitos.
Miami: Club 50 at the Viceroy
Club 50 quite literally rises to the occasion. The bar, at 50 floors above Brickell Avenue, offers views from Biscayne Bay in the east to the Everglades in the west. Design details include an underlit pool, checkered marble floors, and chic turquoise leather chaises. An active social calendar full of parties and events, plus a fun drink menu with hits like the Bourbon Smash (lemon juice, strawberries, basil, and sake) keep the city’s pretty young things flocking.
Los Angeles: Skybar at the Mondrian West Hollywood
Get past the picky doormen guarding the entrance and elbow your way through throngs of gawkers, and you’ll be lounging at the chicest rooftop bar around. The recently redone space—designed by Tim Andreas, a Philippe Starck protégé and the force behind Miami’s Shore Club—is as comfy as it is glamorous. Our advice: stay the night. Not only can you score a banquette by booking a hotel room, you’ll have an easily accessible bed to tumble into after your boisterous night.
New York: Salon de Ning at the Peninsula
The rooftop of Manhattan’s Peninsula has gone through several remakes over the past couple of years, but the latest incarnation, the Asian-inflected Salon de Ning, hits the spot. The clubby vibe, glamorous 1930s Shanghai meets modern-day NYC, is made complete by Chinese daybeds overlooking Fifth Avenue and drinks like the Ning Sling: mandarin-infused vodka, lychee and passion fruit juices, and fresh mint leaves.