Going to a rooftop in NYC during the winter isn’t something we’d usually consider. But after months of being confined to our apartments with nothing to do but drink hot chocolate and count the number of bricks on the building next door, a skyline view might do us some good. Thankfully, some rooftops have opened with heated outdoor setups, making it possible to enjoy a spritz or sashimi platter even when it’s cold out. And unlike the uncomfortably busy rooftops of yesteryear, the six spots on this guide are limiting capacity more than ever before and also taking reservations.
The view from Westlight on the top floor of the William Vale Hotel makes most other rooftops feel like the fire escape outside your window. But unlike your rusty emergency exit, they’ve got private heated chalets that you can book for 90-minutes at a time for $45. Plus, they’re serving fondue, whiskey cocktails, and more of the things you’d probably want to consume after fumbling down the slopes in Aspen. Reservations can be made on Westlight’s website, and if you own a pair of ice skates, you might want to bring them with you and twirl around the hotel’s rooftop ice rink.
While Elsie Rooftop is only about a block away from Times Square, the space feels more like a 1920s penthouse than a deserted tourist trap. This bar has golden chandeliers and a big wraparound terrace with sectional couches and string-lit shrubbery, but somehow it doesn’t feel too stuffy. You might see people in boxy dark blazers drinking champagne here, but more than likely, others will just be hanging out and sharing sangria pitchers. Stop by Elsie at 5pm on a Friday to catch the sunset, or do some day drinking from 1-10pm on Saturday or Sunday.
Magic Hour is the enormous rooftop at the Moxy Hotel in Times Square that has brunch service, a giant carousel, and pink string lights running along its walls. Their winter-themed pop-up is open every day, but if you want to order pancakes topped with cotton candy or s’mores that would go with Paris Hilton’s collection of Juicy Couture tracksuits, you’ll have to make a reservation for weekend brunch. If this sounds like something you’d be into, visit the hotel’s website before the pop-up ends in March 2021.
Sushi Lab might be the only place in NYC where you can enjoy a 15-course omakase high up in the air just a few blocks away from three overly-excited men in Buzz Lightyear costumes. This outdoor restaurant on top of The Sanctuary Hotel in Midtown even has hanging greenery and basket lights, which makes it an ideal spot for a romantic night out. If you and your date aren’t ready for several courses of raw fish, you can also order a few maki rolls or some sashimi from their a la carte menu. Before you make any big plans, you’ll need to reserve one of the socially-distanced outdoor tables, or a few seats at the chef’s counter, on the restaurant’s website.
Haven at the Sanctuary Hotel
Haven Rooftop is another heated outdoor restaurant at The Sanctuary Hotel. It’s a much more casual option than Sushi Lab, so keep it in mind for Happy Hour drinks or a weekday lunch with a coworker who you actually consider a friend. Haven’s tented outdoor space is essentially a tunnel of string lights leading to one big sunroom, filled with several socially-distanced seating areas. The next time you want to eat a grilled cheese sandwich with an apple cider Moscow mule somewhere other than your couch, this is a good place to do it.
230 Fifth Rooftop Lounge
If you haven’t already been to 230 Fifth Rooftop, you’ve probably seen photos of this place. It’s got one of the best views of the Empire State Building anywhere in the city, which means that tourists and native New Yorkers flock here all year-round. This huge outdoor spot in Midtown has a bunch of private igloos that you can book for up to 10 people, plus they welcome walk-ins on a first-come, first-served basis. Like every great rooftop, 230 Fifth also offers brunch service from 12-4pm on weekends. For more information on reservations and pricing, head to the restaurant’s website.