In a city with as much sunshine and as many tall buildings as LA, you’d assume it would be easy to find great bars, patios, and dance parties on rooftops. It’s not. But the weather’s getting warmer, you have a dress that’s been waiting to be worn for eight months, and there’s a deep yearning within you that’s begging for strong cocktails and panoramic views of the city.
But now is not the time to give in and go to places with overpriced drinks and crowds full of people who scream when LMFAO comes on. Stick to these rooftops in LA, try to make a reservation when possible, and both you and your tiny black dress will be happy.
photo credit: Andrea D'Agosto
Desert 5 Spot
We love a themed bar. Why aren't more bars themed? Tell us what to wear! We'll have an amazing time. Self-described as "a little bit country, a little bit of rock-and-roll," Desert 5 is a Pioneertown-inspired rooftop bar in Hollywood that is committed to the bit. There are glowing neon signs, cocktail glasses shaped like cacti and boots, and a stage where some band you've never heard of plays their heart and soul out while rocking cowboy hats. It's Hollywood theatrics, of course. Not an actual dive bar in the desert, but something shiny and fun. It gets crowded here on weeknights, so probably come then. Weekends are packed, packed, packed.
photo credit: Wonho Frank Lee
When an excessive night is in order (Promotion? Celebrating life? Your best friend finally dumped her toxic ex?), Grandmaster Recorders’ rooftop is a fantastic option to keep in your back pocket. The absolutely grand, multi-story restaurant and bar in Hollywood was once a recording studio by the same name where Stevie Wonder, Bowie, and the Chili Peppers made magic happen, so the food and music carry equal weight. The fun and pricey restaurant downstairs is great, but the rooftop is super fun too. You can seamlessly continue the party upstairs, where you’ll find a striking jade green bar and giant heaters that look like table lamps. Drinks are named after famous songs and albums—we loved the Shake Your Money Maker, a bright yellow cocktail made with pineapple, lime, and smoky mezcal.
There’s always something going on at Hollywood’s Bar Lis. On Tuesdays, you can drop in for a glass of Gamay and live jazz. And on Saturdays, the whole place transforms into a tequila-fueled dance party. This plant-filled bar has a retractable roof, a lounge with an open-air deck, and a huge indoor space where you and a few friends can dance while a DJ spins disco and soul tracks. Cocktails start at around $18, or you can get bottle service starting at $350 if your pseudo-celebrity friend is paying. The next time you want to be outside with a great view of the Hollywood sign while wearing that outfit you'd put on to win back your ex, head to Bar Lis.
photo credit: Andrea D'Agosto
LA Cha Cha Chá
This is the rooftop bar to end all other rooftop bars. Not only is Cha Cha Cha not awful, but it somehow manages to achieve a perfect Venn diagram of fun, casual, and downright beautiful. Located on a lush, tree-filled rooftop in the Arts District, this is where you come when you want a one-way ticket to the city depicted in movies like La La Land. It’s the perfect place to swing by with a couple of friends for mezcal cocktails and tuna tostadas, hit a romantic date night out of the ballpark, or seal the deal with someone you’re desperately trying to convince to move to LA.
If you want to feel powerful and a little evil (like Edna Mode), drink an expensive, complicated cocktail on a rooftop overlooking the city. The open-air Umbrella Club on top of the Sixty Hotel in Beverly Hills is perfect for that kind of thing. You can sit by a fire pit, gaze at skyscrapers, and sip a fancy rum cocktail with a flower garnish. This spot is best suited for a date or small group for drinks before or after dinner, but note that they do have a full menu with burgers, pizzas, and salads.
Cara Cara sits at the top of the Proper Hotel in Downtown LA and is the chic destination to text your friends about, immediately. It’s home to strong cocktails and some of the best views around—stunning city skylines, mosaiced fireplaces, and a plant aesthetic that toes the line between “well-groomed” and “slightly overgrown.” You’ll want to come here to pregame before a night out, or to just catch the gorgeous sunset, now that it doesn’t get dark until , like, 9pm. Plus, the menu was created by the Lucques chef, and is packed with extremely “California” things, like chickpea fritters, halibut crudo, piri piri fried chicken, cara cara cobb salads.
E.P. & L.P.
Chances are, if you’re over 21 and owned a bandage dress in the year 2014, you’ve been to E.P. & L.P. Ever since they opened their doors on Melrose and La Cienaga, they’ve been famous for their incredible rooftop patio (and infamous for their long lines on the weekend). With unobstructed views of West Hollywood and plenty of space in between tables, it’s an ideal place to eat and drink outside while still feeling comfortable. They’ve been closed for the last year, but just reopened with a new menu (think lots of seafood, like baja tuna crudo and anchovy toast), a new wine program, and a completely redesigned space.
photo credit: Wonho Frank Lee
This classic Hollywood restaurant can be a bit of a scene (we did attend a commercial post-production agency’s holiday party here once), but they’ve also got one of the best rooftop patios in the city. No matter what day of the week it is, you’ll find a fun crowd here, lounging on giant day beds while surrounded by spectacular views of the city. It’s a 50/50 mix of actors trying to get as drunk as possible, combined with Europeans on holiday doing the exact same thing. There’s a full food menu, movie-themed cocktails, foosball, and lots of room for you to stand back and watch the chaos unfold around you.
Located at the very top of the Freehand Hotel in Downtown LA, Broken Shaker is exactly what you might picture when the words “Los Angeles rooftop bar” pop into your head. Despite the hordes of people posing in front of the pool, $15 cocktails, and the overall see-and-be-seen attitude, this rooftop bar still manages to remain relatively low-key. It offers all the requisite things you need for a proper day at the pool, like strong drinks, unobstructed views of the city skyline, and enough animal floaties to populate Noah’s Ark.
We still don’t know how we feel about Culver City’s Platform complex (is it chic? Dystopian? Maybe both?). What we can be sure of, though, is the power of Margot’s rooftop patio. With excellent views of the California coast, plus close proximity to the adjacent train junction, this popular patio on the Westside is secretly one of the best places in town to catch the sunset. There’s plenty of space to sit around, drink good cocktails, then choose from a solid menu of small plates like jamón Ibérico, crudo, and pan con tomate.
If you’re looking for a place in Weho with incredible views, Harriet’s is going to be your best bet. They have a huge space on the top of the 1 Hotel West Hollywood, packed with pinstriped furniture, lots of trees, and a panoramic vantage point of the city, all of which make it feel like you’ve been invited to a treehouse’s inner sanctum. The cheese plates, bowls of fruit, and fish tacos are solid, and the seasonal cocktails are even better. What you’re really here for, though, is getting a taste of the kind of view you’d have from a $3 million house in the Hills.
Located on the 12th story of the Waldorf Astoria, this lush rooftop patio serves a panoramic experience that’s just as luxurious as the neighborhood it’s housed in. Emerald green chairs are draped in satin, cocktails are strong and tasty (we like the slightly spicy ginger margarita), and you’ll have a view of the city that’ll either make you feel like a bird soaring over the California coastline.
LA is home to plenty of unsolved mysteries (like the sudden disappearance of the Mr. Peanut mural on Temple Street), but none are more perplexing than the lack of good rooftop pool/bars/restaurants on the Westside. Luckily, we have the High Lounge. The rooftop space at the Hotel Erwin in Venice is one of the few hotel rooftops you can check out even if you’re not a guest. Though there isn’t a pool, the drinks are solid and the views are as good as you’d expect from a hotel one block from the beach. The crowd on the weekends can get bro-tastic, but if you’re able to go on an off-time, or after work during the week, you might have the place to yourself.
Trying to find a restaurant that pleases everyone is difficult, even if that “everyone” just means you and your many whims and fancies. Head to the Ace Hotel. They’ve got a massive industrial rooftop space that’s got the best of every world imaginable, including a full bar, cozy outdoor fire pits, a pool area, and tons of tables to spread out on. Just know that it can certainly get crowded on the weekends.
Up on the top of The Beverly Hilton hotel is where you’ll find Sant’olina – a new Mediterranean bar and restaurant offering spectacular views of the Los Angeles skyline. From the floral blue tablecloths to the floor-to-ceiling windows, the patio here reminds us of a fancy country club cabana, except without the wafting scent of sunscreen or stray tennis balls. Instead, you’ll find shareable dishes like phyllo-baked halloumi, bright-red beet muhammara, and grilled za’atar chicken served with preserved lemons and fattoush salad, all served from a vantage point you probably haven’t experienced since you last rode Disneyland’s Soarin’ Over California ride.
The latest addition to Culver City’s rooftop pantheon is Bar Bohemien, a new cocktail lounge on the top of the historic Citizen Public Market. The building itself has been around since the 1920s, and mixes the original brickwork with plush leather green bar seats and huge, arched windows – creating somewhere that’s a little mysterious, a little art deco, and 100% where you should be going on your next first date. Look for drinks like the “Fire & Rain,” which combines mezcal, lavender bitters, and fresh lemon, or just choose from their list of craft beers and wines from local California producers.