America’s Coolest Rooftop Bars

3 minute read

When the golden hour hits on summer evenings, a ritual unfolds in cities across America: cubicle dwellers rush for the exits; lines form waiting for elevators to open; and social media is flooded with images of backlit skyscrapers and bright cocktails. It’s rooftop time.

Frolik Kitchen and Cocktails
Summers on the Puget Sound are downright idyllic, and downtown Seattle’s new—and only—rooftop bar breaks with the city’s rough-hewn mold. On the fifth floor of the artsy, just-opened Motif hotel, Frolik’s splashes of bright color (purple stools, yellow-accented couches) and modern flourishes (LED-lit bar) evoke Hollywood glitz more than Pacific Northwest chill. The patio is more playful, outfitted with orange Ping-Pong tables and shuffleboard courts. And if it does get damp and chilly, huddle up next to one of the glass-walled fireplaces and order another Dark and Stormy.

The Skylark
A slew of chic rooftop openings—including the Refinery Hotel in 2013 and the Archer Hotel’s Spyglass—has revived a once-dormant section of town with some after-hours buzz. And newcomer The Skylark is the crown jewel. Nightlife veteran David Rabin (Lambs Club, Jimmy at the James) is behind the concept, which pairs an upscale summer cookout menu (mac and cheese cupcakes, root beer Old-Fashioneds) with 270-degree views encompassing the Hudson River, Empire State Building, and Times Square. Raining? Head downstairs to the Mad Men–mod lounge outfitted with Midcentury Modern furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows.

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High at Hotel Erwin
Venice Beach, CA
Did the moniker of Venice’s only rooftop bar come from High’s enviable post above the legendary boardwalk or the ever-present wafts of California’s famous cash crop? Ponder it over a double IPA from San Diego’s Stone Brewing Co. or a jalapeño strawberry margarita alongside the beachy-bro Angelinos who spend languid afternoons watching sailboats ply the Pacific.

IO Urban Roofscape
Acidic-level testing, measuring ingredients by weight, infusing drinks with exotic hybrid fruits and habanero salt air foam—chef Riley Huddleston’s affinity for experimentation is on display at the Windy City’s most eye-catching new addition, the retractable-roofed IO Urban Roofscape, in River North. After an education in molecular mixology at Grant Achatz’s Aviary, Huddleston conceived “cocktails from the kitchen,” a philosophy that turns to obscure methods and mixers (mangorange, mandarinquat) for inspiration. Its location in the new cubist, ultramodern Godfrey Hotel is a fitting match. The solarium-esque space is embellished with video installations, a waterfall wall, and soaring stingray-shaped canopies.

The coterie of chefs at Juvia may hail from royal culinary houses—Boulud, Morimoto, Ducasse—but it’s the sleek aesthetic that earned this quintessential SoBe spot a James Beard Award. On the penthouse level of a Herzog & de Meuron–designed parking garage, Venezuelan architect Alejandro Barrios-Carrero channeled Miami’s Latin spirit: Brazilian wood floors, a violet amethyst-topped bar, and a spectacular 22-foot vertical garden. At night, the South Beach It List comes out for house-music DJs and overflowing bottles of Veuve Clicquot. Bring your black card.


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Nate Storey, Travel + Leisure

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