At street level, you can trip over garbage, fall into an open manhole, or wind up having to take a picture of some tourists in front of a building that only sort of looks like Rockefeller Center. So any chance you get, you should head to a rooftop - where you can enjoy all the benefits of a regular outdoor patio without having to fight a squirrel for the privilege of finishing your food or drink.
Unfortunately, some rooftops get uncomfortably busy and only play Diplo, and others are overpriced and boring. If you want to find the ones that are actually worth your time and money, use this guide. It has big rooftops, small rooftops, rooftops where you can get a spritz with your parents, and other rooftops where you can have a few tequila sodas then try out some dance moves you learned from Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.
the outdoor spots
Many rooftops feel like nightclubs. Broken Shaker does not. Mostly, it just feels like a 1960s tiki lounge that happens to be on top of a building (the Freehand Hotel) - and it’s one of our favorite rooftops in the city. It has a big indoor space filled with potted plants and wicker furniture, as well as a big wraparound patio with lots of tables and little nooks where you can hide. The only catch is, you might have to wait to get in. If you’re looking for a quality rooftop, it’s worth it.
If you ever find yourself talking to someone you don’t actually want to be talking to, just picture yourself drinking wine in a hammock on a rooftop. In other words, picture Rooftop Reds. At this rooftop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, you can play some cornhole, hang out in a hammock, or just sit on some astroturf and have a few drinks. Wine is the main thing here (there are even some real grape vines on the roof), but if you don’t want that, there’s beer as well. Just know that reservations are required
Westlight is on the top floor of the William Vale Hotel, and the view here makes most other rooftops feel like the fire escape outside your window. There’s a big indoor area with floor-to-ceiling windows, but if you’re here, you should be sitting outside. Just make sure to book a table in advance. You aren’t the only one who enjoys sitting on a couch while staring at the Manhattan skyline.
A block down from Westlight, there’s another hotel (The Hoxton) with another rooftop bar. This one is called Summerly, and it also has a view of a very large portion of New York City. It’s summer-themed and looks kind of like a J.Crew ad, and there are plenty of little tables where you can hang out and enjoy a view of the city. There’s also a full dinner menu - but the food is, for the most part, pretty average. So stick to drinks.
Lemon’s is the rooftop bar at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg. Why’s it called Lemon’s? Maybe it’s because of the yellow color scheme. Or maybe it’s because it’s Italian-themed, and people enjoy lemons on that boot-shaped peninsula. The important thing is, this is a nice place for some early-evening drinks with a few people who want a view of Manhattan. There’s an indoor area where you can have a cocktail and eat some meat and cheese, and there’s a patio where you should be sitting whenever the temperature is anywhere north of 55 degrees. Just be aware that it gets extremely loud at night, and you’ll have to write your words on a cocktail napkin if you want to have a conversation.
This is a pretty normal rooftop bar. By which we mean, it feels like the outdoor common area of a nice apartment building where you’d want to hang out and drink a glass of wine. Stop by the next time you catch a show at Madison Square Garden or grab some dinner in K-Town.
Maybe you’re getting a drink with a few people who don’t necessarily want to stand on a banquette and shout along to a remix of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Try Last Light at Sister City (a new hotel on the Lower East Side). It’s an attractive space with a small bar and a couple of booths, and it has a patio that’s perfect for some low-key outdoor drinks with a couple of friends.
Let’s start with the positives of Harriet’s Rooftop at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. First off, it has a big outdoor patio with an incredible view. You can see the Brooklyn Bridge, lower Manhattan, and even a version of the Statue Of Liberty that looks like a little figurine you’d buy at a gift shop in Times Square. Plus, there’s a pool area where you can reserve a space. But drinks are pretty expensive (they start around $16), and there’s also a $20 entrance fee if you aren’t a hotel guest. Still, it’ll impress any out-of-towners, and it’s worth checking out at least once over the course of your summer.
Elsie Rooftop is only about a block away from the central part of Times Square where tourists go to be around enormous neon signs and other tourists, but it doesn’t feel like it. To get here, you enter the lobby of a big anonymous-looking building, talk to a host, then take the elevator to the 25th Floor. There, you’ll find a gold-themed bar with mirrored tables, high ceilings, and a terrace with some couches. It’s an attractive space, and it’s definitely a little upscale - but it doesn’t feel too stuffy. Bring a date if you somehow wind up near Times Square.
When you want to dance under a disco ball next to a DJ booth in front of some big windows looking out over Lower Manhattan, go to Make Believe. It’s the rooftop bar at the Sixty LES hotel, and there will probably be at least one birthday or bachelorette party here when you stop by. It’s a fun spot that gets very loud and very busy, and there are a few outdoor spaces on either side for when you need to escape from everyone and breathe some non-sweaty air.
If Make Believe and Mr. Purple are 25-year-olds who just learned that fabric softener isn’t the same thing as detergent, Jimmy at The James is a 30-year-old who separates whites and colors. It’s the rooftop at The James hotel in Soho, and it has a big indoor area with a fireplace, hardwood floors, and modular sofas. There’s also a patio with a view of lower Manhattan and a pool that could fit roughly one pickup truck. Reservations are available, and, yes, you can actually swim in the pool.
Going to Mr. Purple on a Saturday night in the summertime is a slightly masochistic act similar to visiting Times Square on New Year’s Eve - but if you want to go “out out,” drink on a giant patio, and maybe run into several people you’ve seen on dating apps, it’s perfect for that. Will you have to wait to get in? Yes. Will there be a line at the bar? Of course. But it wouldn’t really feel like you were going out on the Lower East Side without either of those things.
A.R.T (the rooftop at the Arlo Hotel in Soho) is a somewhat generic-looking place, and the main selling point is a big patio with a decent view of downtown and the Hudson River. It’s a great spot to hang out with a big group in the daytime, and it turns into more of a club (complete with doorman) at night. So anticipate a wait once the sun goes down.
As you probably guessed, this is from the same people behind A.R.T Soho. It’s the rooftop at the Arlo Hotel in Nomad, and it’s perfect for when you need an outdoor area to grab a drink within walking distance of Penn Station. You get a close-up view of the Empire State Building here, and it’s ideal for when you need to meet up with a few friends or coworkers for a night of drinking that probably won’t get too wild.
Bar Hugo is mainly an indoor lounge, but it has a nice view of the Hudson and some balcony space where you can breathe higher-quality air than what you’ll find at street level. It’s one of the few rooftops that actually has a Happy Hour (from 5 to 8pm on weekdays).
Azul is in the same hotel as Bar Hugo, and it’s sort of like Bar Hugo’s younger, cooler sibling. It has a big outdoor space with lots of plants and strings of lights, and it’s where you should be hanging out when you want to drink something blue and meet some people who might be willing to date you. Drinks are expensive (like at pretty much every other rooftop), but at least you can sit on a couch, listen to some music, and enjoy a view of New Jersey.
The rooftop at Pod 39 used to have food and drinks from Salvation Taco, but that place closed, and Empellon Al Pastor took over. Aside from that, this rooftop is pretty much the same as it always has been. It still looks like a set of Roman ruins on top of a building in Murray Hill, and you’ll still find a big after-work crowd. If you live or work in the area, we highly suggest you drink at least one margarita here this summer.
If dancing is your top priority, go to Elsewhere. It’s a music venue in Bushwick with several indoor spaces and a big rooftop patio that has a bar and a DJ. It’s not very high up (the building is only two stories), but you don’t come here for the view. You come to drink and dance outside like you’re taking part in some kind of pagan ceremony. There’s usually some kind of ticketed event going on, but if you want to have a fun night out, it’s worth the price of admission (usually around $20).
We’re pretty sure it’s some kind of state law that every boutique hotel needs to have a decent-sized rooftop with at least seven potted plants, and Good Behavior is further evidence of this. It’s the rooftop at the Made Hotel in Nomad, and like most other hotel rooftops, it has nice views, vaguely tropical drinks, and a DJ.
CloudM Rooftop Bar is very much a hotel bar, and it’s about as relaxed as a coffee shop (in part because there’s an actual coffee shop on this rooftop). It’s a big space with a patio looking over the city, but it tends to stay pretty calm due to the fact that most people have no idea that this place exists. So if you’re on the Lower East Side wondering where you can take some people who don’t really go out anymore, come here.
Magic Hour is the enormous, upscale rooftop at the Moxy Hotel in Times Square with bottle service, a circus theme, and a mini-golf course. If you read that sentence and thought “Eh, not for me,” that’s perfectly reasonable. But if you need a fun place to have a slightly ridiculous time in Midtown while you spend an irresponsible amount of money, come get drinks here and take advantage of the dance floor.
If you get out of work in Midtown and want to drink somewhere other than a vaguely Irish pub playing hockey on TV, go to The Polynesian. This is a big tiki bar from the same people behind Carbone and Dirty French, and like those places, it’s theatrical. You can get a large-format cocktail in a treasure chest or a flaming beverage in a skull-shaped mug here, as well as bar snacks like a pu pu platter and some very good fries. Make a reservation to be safe, and hang out on the patio when it’s nice out.
Close your eyes and imagine if Restoration Hardware (the luxury furniture store) opened a massive rooftop restaurant in the Meatpacking District. The spot you pictured probably looked like the photo below - because that’s exactly what this place is. It’s a huge restaurant full of chandeliers, shrubbery, and people who own tiny dogs, and the American food on the menu is both solid and pricey. It’s walk-in only, so you’ll probably have to wait a while for a table, but you can kill time getting drinks, walking around, and sitting on some couches and beds that cost as much as small automobiles.
Yet another downtown hotel bar, The Crown is a mostly generic-looking place that happens to have a great view. Think of it as a backup rooftop to use in case you don’t want to have to push through a crowd at a busier spot on the LES.
You recently had a few drinks, then went online and bought some clothing you didn’t need. If you need a place to wear these fancy things you purchased, go to the rooftop at The Public Hotel. It’s an upscale place that looks kind of like something out of Blade Runner , and it has a big patio where you can hang out and count the number of people wearing Balenciaga sneakers. The door policy can get a little strict, so try to get here on the early side, and/or try to convince the doorman that you’re the heir to the Cool Whip fortune.
Let’s say you work in the general vicinity of Madison Square Park, and you need a place where you can drink with a couple of coworkers who don’t annoy you as people. Try the Roof at Park South. It has a big outdoor area with plenty of seating, and you can eat some hummus, chips, or fried chicken bites if you have too many drinks and start getting weirdly honest with one another.
Refinery Rooftop is a utility spot. It’s on top of the Refinery Hotel, and it feels like a nice beer garden that also serves wine and cocktails. This is that person on your roster that can play any position, and you’ll find it incredibly useful if you spend time in the area.
When you take the elevator up to Salon De Ning at The Peninsula Hotel, you’ll probably be joined by several people who look like they just left work in a shiny building with at least one bank’s name on it. And when you get off the elevator, you’ll wind up in a small room with a bar, a few couches, and even more of these people. This is a good spot for semi-upscale drinks with coworkers in Midtown, and it has a large patio where cigars are plentiful.
Walk down the busy stretch of 57th Street between 6th and 7th, and you’ll see a doorman standing next to a little door to the side of the Viceroy Central Park. Through that door (and down a short hallway) you’ll find an elevator to The Roof. It’s a small, upscale space with a nice view of Central Park, and it’ll help you impress some people who still experience wonder whey they look at New York City.