- 1 / 16Best Drinks: Cindy’sChicago, IL
Of all the worthy reasons to patronize a rooftop bar, the most basic is to satisfy one’s need for a damn good drink. For this driving factor, head to Cindy’s in Chicago. “Spirit Guide” Nandini Khaund heads the bar (or “original pharmacy,” as the menu reminds guests) crafting her Potions + Elixirs with inspiration from around the world. The Grey Garden—made with Tito’s Vodka, Dolin Blanc, crème de violette, Emperor’s jasmine pearl tea, and lemon—is a fan favorite, as is the Pillar of Hercules, a fruity concoction of Bruichladdich, manzanilla sherry, Mallorca melon shrub, hibiscus, mint, and lemon. Be sure to pair your drinks with Cindy’s shareable dining menu, where dishes showcase the best of the Midwest’s local ingredients.
- 2 / 16Best View: The Ides Bar at Wythe HotelBrooklyn, NY
While many rooftops bars are notorious for killer views, nothing compares to the stunning scene at The Ides Bar at Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. Who doesn’t love toasting to the entire Manhattan skyline and East River in front of them? This rooftop bar is an institution in New York class (think chic sophistication mixed with industrial cool) that consistently attracts lines down the block each weekend. While the crowds come for a multitude of reasons—classic cocktails, local DJs, and a delicious locavore menu—they stay for the postcard-worthy view. In a city that’s an epicenter for rooftop bars, The Ides stands out from the pack.
- 3 / 16Most Playful: Frolik Kitchen + CocktailsSeattle, WA
Frolic and play the PNW way at Frolik Kitchen + Cocktails. Don’t let Seattle’s reputation for dreary weather fool you: The city’s best-kept secret is actually its summer sun, which tends to peek out from mid-July through October. Soak it up atop downtown’s largest outdoor rooftop deck, where the view is phenomenal, the day vibe is casual, and things heats up when the sun goes down. Challenge friends to shuffleboard and ping-pong while sipping a revolving selection of local beers or playful cocktails. Tantalizing options for the latter include the likes of the Orange You Old Fashioned (of Bulleit bourbon, bitters, Solerno blood orange liqueur, and soda water) and Banana Hammock (of Bacardi banana, Glenlivet, lime, grapefruit, and simple syrup). Once playtime has passed, settle your soiree around outdoor fireplaces and a candle-lit bar, munching bites from newly designed menus for brunch, lunch, and dinner.
- 4 / 16Best Music: Acme Feed & SeedNashville, TN
Is a bar that’s all about music, well, music to your ears? If so, pack your rooftop thirst for Music City. Acme Feed & Seed hosts live performances seven days a week and is situated just steps away from Nashville’s honky-tonk scene on Lower Broadway. Tunes include everything from country and funk to DJ shows, so it’s worth it to visit this four-story hangout more than once during your trip (the roof level’s 360-degree views are tough to beat as well). Acme Feed & Seed hosts special events throughout the summer, such as Yoga Buzz, which entails free classes followed by drink specials and brunch—and the Caribbean-themed Acme Islander parties on Friday evenings. Be sure to pack an appetite along with your dancing shoes; the city’s famous hot chicken pairs perfectly with every drink.
- 5 / 16Best Inspiration: Sugar at EAST, MiamiMiami, FL
As the hotel’s name implies, Sugar at EAST, Miami brings the Far East to America’s Southeast with influences from China, Thailand, India, and more. Head 40 stories up to a seductive jungle hideaway thick with bamboo, ferns, and intimate seating. Snack family-style on the likes of steamed dumplings and tiger cry beef while sipping Pan Asian–inspired cocktails such as the Lychee Blossom or A Night in Hong Kong. The only thing to remind you that you’re still in the States? The 270-degree views of downtown Miami and beyond.
- 6 / 16Best Year-Round: J. ParkerChicago, IL
Chicago and all of its seasonal extremes may not seem the obvious destination for a rooftop bar, but J. Parker at Hotel Lincoln will make you think otherwise. This rooftop bar, named for President Lincoln’s bodyguard, features a retractable roof over glass walls, letting guests enjoy sprawling views of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan even when it’s so cold that the lake turns to ice. The walls add to the weather protection as well, creating a relaxing spot atop the Windy City. Throw in top-notch seasonal cocktails and a menu from Hotel Lincoln's new retaurant, The Kennison, and you have a Chi-Town hangout that you’ll never want to leave.
- 7 / 16Best Renovation: Top of the GateWashington, D.C.
You know a hotel isn’t messing around when it undergoes a $200 million renovation. When that hotel has a bar as its cherry on (roof)top, you know that it’s a place you’ll want to be. Enter: Top of the Gate at the Watergate Hotel. This Nixon-era classic is now a modern-day masterpiece, and its rooftop bar is in high demand. The space is a local favorite due in part to its innovative drinks, which include boozy Hawaiian shaved ice concoctions such as the Silver Fox (made with condensed milk, almond milk, and pineapple Bailey’s). But Top of the Gate’s most attractive feature is definitely its 360-degree view, entailing a panorama of the Pentagon, Potomac River, Washington Monument, and more.
- 8 / 16Best Vibes: Mama ShelterHollywood, CA
For many of us, a good bar is all about the good vibes—and Mama Shelter has our favorite vibes in the States. Leave it to L.A. to craft the perfect rooftop blend of cool, chic, laid-back, and funky all in one rainbow-colored space. Rotating entertainment options include foosball, drag-queen bingo, outdoor film screenings, and more, with drinks that all involve various mom puns (example: the How I Met Your Mother, which combines vodka, Aperol, red grapes, mint, lemon, and wheat beer). Enjoy them with shareable Mediterranean-inspired fare while soaking in views of the Hollywood Hills, plus a famous sign that sits among them. If you’re looking for America’s happiest of happy hours, this rooftop is the place to be.
- 9 / 16Best Urban Escape: Gallow GreenNew York City
If drinks served in a fairytale-like garden sounds enchanting, then Manhattan’s Gallow Green Bar and Restaurant is the rooftop for you. This dreamy enclave earns our title of Best Urban Escape; one step into this flowering, glittering hideaway and the Big Apple feels worlds away. The sanctuary is perched atop Chelsea’s McKittrick Hotel, which is famous for hosting an interactive theater production called Sleep No More. We recommend ordering a drink of the same name: a tropical concoction of cacao-infused Banhez mescal, pineapple bitters, La Croix coconut soda, and lime. Gallow Green is also renowned for its buffet-style weekend brunch, so buy a ticket, eat your fill, then drink the magical day away.
- 10 / 16Best Pool: SODA Bar at the Nylo HotelDallas, TX
Looking to take a dip up top? SODA Bar at the Nylo Hotel in Dallas is home to our favorite rooftop pool in the States. Eh-hem, we should clarify: rooftop infinity pool. SODA’s theme is retro, which means you’ll get your fill of foosball, faux grass, and neon lights (including inside the pool), plus sweeping views of the Big D. Go for swim, then warm up around the outdoor fire pit while sipping any number of specialty cocktails, such as the Thin Mint: a dessert-like drink made with Jameson, Ramplemintz, and Godiva white chocolate. The most coveted seats in the house are in SODA’s indoor area, where reservations are recommended if you want to sit on barstools with a view or near the graffiti-covered baby grand piano.
- 11 / 16Best Beachfront: High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel ErwinVenice Beach, CA
There’s a reason people travel from around world to catch a Venice Beach sunset. Watching the sky fade to rainbow hues over the Pacific Ocean is memorable from the sand, but trust us—the experience grows notably more epic when enjoyed from a roof, drink in hand. Head to High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin, the only rooftop bar in Venice Beach. The surf-inspired hotel is SoCal to its core, serving cocktails with names like the Lazy Sunbather and A Day at The Beach. Spend your L.A. morning attempting to hang 10 on the waves; later, head up to High to hang with 360-degree views of the city and sea. If you forgot sunscreen or sunglasses for your day-drinking festivities, you can order them off the menu (seriously). After the sun goes down, stay warm with spiked hot chocolate and cozy blankets.
- 12 / 16Best Food: LingerDenver, CO
With all of this rooftop drinking, you’ve got to leave room for some rooftop eating as well. Denver’s Linger is famous for its innovative variety of gourmet global street foods. Its shareable options are eclectic in the best way, combining flavors from East Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, local Colorado favorites, and beyond. (Yellowfin tuna tacos and Mongolian barbecue duck buns? Yes, please.) But while patrons come for the food, they stay for the bohemian vibe. Linger serves its dishes out of a 1975 hippie RV—better known as the Bar-V—alongside funky cocktails like the frosty Frosé, made with rosé, vermouth blanc, Aperol, lemon, and pomegranate. There’s a reason that Linger is one of the liveliest bars in the city; be sure to make reservations if you want to hit its weekend Beats and Brunch (you do).
- 13 / 16Coolest Newbie: Mykonos BlueNew York City
New rooftop bars crop up frequently across the country, but our vote for the Coolest Newbie is Mykonos Blue in Manhattan. A trip up to the rooftop at Hotel Hayden is a Mediterranean getaway without leaving New York. A Greek Isle atmosphere defines the entire experience: from all-white decor and stone-tiled flooring to authentic small plates and drinks made with ouzo or mastiha. Enjoy views of the Freedom Tower and NYC skyline from the outdoor terrace or the indoor area, complete with glass walls. Best of all, the bar is open year-round. Isn’t it comforting to know that a Mykonos getaway is always nearby? (Opa!)
- 14 / 16Most Highly Anticipated: Charmaine’s at the Proper HotelSan Francisco, CA
Proper Hospitality is launching its flagship San Francisco hotel in the mid-Market neighborhood this fall. This means that San Franciscans not only will have a new boutique staycation option, but also will finally have access to another rooftop bar in the city. While El Techo has been pleasing the city’s rooftop needs for the past few years, it never hurts to have options—and Charmaine’s at the Proper is set to do the trick. We can’t wait to sample cocktails from Harris and Schick and shareable bites by chef Jason Franey, all the while enjoying sprawling views of our beloved City by the Bay. The countdown starts now.
- 15 / 16All-Around Best: Departure Restaurant at The NinesPortland, OR
Portland’s Departure Restaurant at The Nines, a snazzy Pan-Asian restaurant, is stunning inside and out, with the “out” more pertaining to our purposes: Its two rooftop patios overlook downtown’s Pioneer Square, the Willamette River, and an expanse of PNWonderland beyond. But a top spot needs more than stunning aesthetics. America’s Best Rooftop Bar must have great food—a feature that Top Chef finalist Gregory Gourdet ensures, leading the kitchen with options like crispy pork belly dim sum and Ishiyaki steak. (In Portlandia fashion, entirely separate vegan and gluten-free menus are also available.) Our number-one bar must also have great drinks—and considering that Departure is home to Portland’s largest selection of sake, you can sip assured that it meets this criterion as well. Lastly, our top spot must have great ambiance—and because this is Portland, we’re happy to report that Departure is as unpretentious and welcoming as can be. It’s a bar worth traveling for and a definite must on your next weekend getaway to the city.
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