2023’s Best Cities for Rooftop Drinking

A young, hip group toast their beer glasses from a rooftop.

Which U.S. cities will literally elevate your drinking experience?

Roof Gnome has you covered with 2023’s Best Cities for Rooftop Drinking.

We compared nearly 300 of the biggest U.S. cities based on a cocktail of 18 metrics. We factored in rooftop bar and lounge access and consumer ratings, stirred with data-driven mixers like affordability and climate.

Take your happy hour to new heights with our ranking below. To learn how we ranked the cities, see our methodology.



See how each city fared in our ranking:

Infographic showing the Best Cities for Rooftop Drinking, a ranking based on rooftop bar and lounge access, consumer ratings, affordability, and climate
Note: For presentation purposes, not all ties may be displayed for some metrics above

Bird’s-Eye View

Check out the slideshow below for highlights on each of our top five cities.

An aerial shot of the New York City skyline with the Empire State Building in the center and One World Trade Center in the background
No. 1: New York | Overall Score: 77.48

Access: 1
Consumer Satisfaction: 1
Affordability: 201
Climate: 245

Local Tips: Escape to the tropics in the Bronx’s Zona de Cuba. Palm trees, vibrantly colorful furniture, and live Cuban music will draw out the spicy flavors in your sangria.

For a perfectly framed, skyhigh view of Manhattan, book a spot at Nubeluz, serving “modern interpretations of classic cocktails” like the Enriched Tom Collins and Salt Air Margarita.

Photo Credit: Roberto Vivancos / Pexels / Pexels License
The Griffith Observatory stands atop a hill overlooking the Los Angeles skyline.
No. 2: Los Angeles | Overall Score: 42.45

Access: 2
Consumer Satisfaction: 6
Affordability: 198
Climate: 51

Local Tips: Not for the acrophobic, Spire 73 (the floor it sits on) claims to be the “tallest open-air bar in the Western hemisphere.” The mixed-drinks menu features a refresher appropriately named City View.

Soak up ocean views at famed ONYX Rooftop Lounge atop Santa Monica’s Beacon Hotel. Come for late-night happy hour between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.

Photo Credit: Roberto Nickson / Pexels / Pexels License
Two people bike along the water overlooking the Chicago skyline.
No. 3: Chicago | Overall Score: 41.66

Access: 3
Consumer Satisfaction: 2
Affordability: 165
Climate: 261

Local Tips: A lush, 24th-floor garden in the heart of Downtown Chicago, Château Carbide is a “botanical-driven, absinthe-inspired cocktail bar.” Order a personal drip fountain, a traditional absinthe preparation method for a cloudy effect.

When the temperature drops, cozy up next to a fire pit at the stylish VU Rooftop Bar in Chicago’s South Side. Or enjoy soaring views at Cabra’s rooftop bar, with outdoor-inspired cocktails like Patio Thyme.

Photo Credit: Chait Goli / Pexels / Pexels License
Boats float while docked at the marina at sunset, with the San Diego skyline glittering in the background.
No. 4: San Diego | Overall Score: 38.81

Access: 5
Consumer Satisfaction: 3
Affordability: 142
Climate: 60

Local Tips: Be mesmerized by 360-degree views of the city at Techo Beso, atop the AC Hotel Gaslamp San Diego. The tropical-themed bar wraps around the entire rooftop of the hotel.

For a more authentic beach vibe, try The Rooftop Bar crowning San Diego’s No. 1 hotel, Mission Pacific. The bar promises “drop-dead gorgeous sunsets” and offers bottle service and bespoke cocktails.

Photo Credit: Lucas Fonseca / Pexels / Pexels License
The Washington Monument overlooks stately buildings in Washington, DC.
No. 5: Washington | Overall Score: 36.98

Access: 4
Consumer Satisfaction: 9
Affordability: 155
Climate: 180

Local Tips: Enjoy a breezy, boozy brunch at TAKODA Beer Garden in Washington’s Shaw neighborhood. The rooftop bar offers 16 draft beers and nine specialty cocktails to wash down traditional, homedown brunch fare.

One of the biggest rooftops in Washington, Hi-Lawn invites you to a low-key picnic while sipping on juice-box cocktails and boozy punch pouches on its expansive artificial turf lawn.

Photo Credit: Anna Lowe / Pexels / Pexels License

Panoramic Insights

The Big Picture

Tall concrete jungles like New York (No. 1), Los Angeles (No. 2), and Chicago (No. 3) are top-shelf cities for cocktails with a view. Our best performers generally offer easy access to quality — albeit spendydrinks. Climates vary between ideal and unpredictable, which clearly hasn’t stopped bar owners from raising their rooftop game.

At the bottom of our ranking barrel are much smaller cities like Springfield, Massachusetts (No. 289), Sioux City, Iowa (No. 286), and Beaumont, Texas (No. 283). Here, rooftop drinking holes are as rare as a Dalmore 62. You may need to drive (sober) to the nearest large city to enjoy a cold one from the top floor.

Standout Stats

Double Shot

  • New York highballed to the top of our leaderboard with 77.48 points — over 35 points more than Los Angeles, our silver medalist — thanks to No. 1 rankings in both Access and Consumer Satisfaction.

Big Apple Martini

  • The number of top-floor drinking establishments in New York (No. 1 overall) are through the roof at over 850. That’s about 2.4 times as many as in Los Angeles (No. 2), the city with the next highest number, 354.

Crowd (-Averse) Pleaser

  • With a population of nearly 80,700, Miami Beach, Florida (No. 18 overall), is the smallest city among our top 20 and the only one with fewer than 140,000 residents. This resort city placed 10th overall in Access.

Loungy Tastes

  • In 40 cities, rooftop lounges are more popular than rooftop bars — 30 are in the West and Southwest. Los Angeles (No. 2 overall) has 50 more rooftop lounges than bars, the biggest difference, followed by Las Vegas (No. 6) with 23 more and Miami Beach, Florida (No. 18), with 19 more.

Hidden Treasure

  • A Spanish word meaning “hidden,” Escondido (No. 71 overall) in California is indeed an obscure but precious gem. It is the only city with a top-10 spot (No. 7) in Consumer Satisfaction that didn’t crack our top 15 overall.

Bringing Down the Roof

  • Despite offering the most affordable liquor, the only two rooftop drinking establishments in Boynton Beach, Florida (No. 203 overall), need to work on beverage quality. The businesses collectively earned the lowest average Consumer Satisfaction score in our entire ranking, tied with Mesa, Arizona (No. 263).

Missed Opportunity

  • The lowest menu prices and the most ideal climate can draw out the thirstiest, most outdoorsy patrons, but investors in Yuma, Arizona (No. 175 overall), aren’t capitalizing on this winning combo. Yuma lacks both rooftop drinking establishments (No. 265 in Access) and top-flight booze (No. 275 in Consumer Satisfaction).

Shaken, Not Deterred

  • The harsh Northern climes of Buffalo, New York (No. 209 overall), Grand Rapids, Michigan (No. 147), and Pittsburgh (No. 109) might make residents shiver while sipping hot toddies from the roof, but those low temperatures clearly are no obstacle. All three cities ranked among the top 75 in Access and serve decent drinks.

Raise Your Glass (Ceiling)

  • Among the 10 cities with the highest numbers of top-rated and most reviewed rooftop bars, Savannah, Georgia (No. 11 overall), and Charleston, South Carolina (No. 20), are the only two with fewer than 670,000 residents. Both have populations hovering around 150,000.

Ask The Experts

Drinking from high places can be quite exhilarating. Roof Gnome turned to a panel of hotel, restaurant, and bar industry experts for insights into this one-of-a-kind experience. Read their thoughts below.

  1. When is the best time, if any, to drink at a rooftop bar?
  2. What are the top three considerations to keep in mind when planning a rooftop bar visit?
  3. How different, if at all, are drink prices at rooftop bars versus non-rooftop bars? What accounts for the price differences?
  4. What are some creative or unique rooftop bar experiences that drinking establishments could offer to consumers?
Jason Zhang
Lecturer, The Collins College of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona, General Manager, The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch
Jai Girard
MS, Certified Hospitality Educator, Instructional Faculty | CMAA Faculty Advisor
Thomas Steele
Owner & Operating Member
Jason Zhang
Lecturer, The Collins College of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona, General Manager, The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

When is the best time, if any, to drink at a rooftop bar?

According to existing research and business data, the best time to drink at a rooftop bar varies depending on the location and target audience.

From a practical standpoint for bar owners, it is ideal to cater to different customer preferences by offering diverse experiences throughout the day. It is important to focus on locality. Market research centered on local consumer preferences should be incorporated into bar designs, offerings, services, and more. Bars located in designed tourism destinations are obviously going to be different and should be centered around story, heritage, and culture.

Daytime hours are popular for patrons seeking a relaxed atmosphere and scenic views, especially during weekends and holidays. Evening hours, particularly during sunset, attract customers looking for a vibrant and energetic ambiance. Market data indicates that bars experience peak foot traffic between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, making this timeframe crucial for attracting patrons and maximizing revenue. Post-dinner time frames between 10 p.m. – closure also see improved foot traffic on weekends, holidays, or major events.

Ultimately, bar owners should consider their target demographic and local market dynamics, and capitalize on peak demand periods to optimize their rooftop bar’s success.

What are the top three considerations to keep in mind when planning a rooftop bar visit?

When planning a rooftop bar visit, consumers should consider the following three practical factors:

1. Weather conditions. Before you ascend to the rooftop paradise, do yourself a favor and check that weather forecast. We’re talking about open-air bars here, folks, so beware of rainstorms, gusty winds, or blistering temperatures that could turn your pleasant experience into a sauna session or an impromptu swim. Dress appropriately for Mother Nature’s mood swings, and if the weather looks as gloomy as your ex’s Instagram feed, consider rescheduling your sky-high escapade.

2. Crowd and reservation policies. Picture this: You’ve climbed the stairway to rooftop heaven, only to find yourself squished like a sardine in a can. Yikes. Popular rooftop bars tend to fill up faster than a free ice cream truck on a summer day, especially during peak hours or weekends. Do your research and make reservations in advance to secure a spot and save yourself from the crushing disappointment of being left out in the cold. Oh, and be prepared for those snooty places that have guest lists longer than a CVS receipt.

3. Time of day and atmosphere. Just like Cinderella, rooftop bars have their own magical transformations throughout the day. Are you in the mood for a lazy afternoon lounging with chilled vibes? Or do you crave an electric evening filled with laughter and clinking glasses? The time of day dictates the ambiance, so choose wisely, my friend. Whether you want a tranquil oasis or a party in the sky, find the perfect rooftop hour that aligns with your desired vibe.

4. BONUS: Price. Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room — or rather, the number on the bill. Brace yourself, because rooftop views come with a price tag. Those glamorous rooftop experiences often come with fancier drinks and higher price points. So, before you sip that cocktail with your pinky finger extended, do a quick price check. You don’t want your jaw to drop faster than a rock star’s microphone. Stay savvy and be prepared, my rooftop reveler.

By considering these practical factors, consumers can ensure an enjoyable rooftop bar experience that suits their preferences and avoids any potential inconveniences.

How different, if at all, are drink prices at rooftop bars versus non-rooftop bars? What accounts for the price differences?

When it comes to drink prices, rooftop bars can sometimes make you feel like you’re sipping on liquid gold in the sky. While not always the case, rooftop bars tend to have slightly higher drink prices compared to their non-rooftop counterparts.

The higher prices can be attributed to a few factors.

1. First, the stunning views and unique atmosphere come at a cost. Maintaining those rooftop spaces, with all their fancy furniture and breathtaking vistas, requires extra investment.

2. Second, rooftop bars often attract a trendier crowd, and with that comes the expectation of upscale offerings and higher-quality ingredients.

So, while you may have to pay a bit more for your cocktail in the clouds, just remember, you’re not just paying for the drink — you’re paying for the experience, the view, and the bragging rights to say you’re enjoying a drink closer to the stars. Cheers!

What are some creative or unique rooftop bar experiences that drinking establishments could offer to consumers?

During busy peak hours, just let your superb quality products, attractive decors, and excellent service do the work. But what about the hours when the bar is not busy at all?

  • Establishments can offer creative and unique rooftop bar experiences to captivate consumers. Consider hosting themed events such as rooftop yoga sessions, where patrons can sip on healthy mocktails while practicing sun salutations with panoramic views.
  • Alternatively, mixology classes can engage customers by teaching them the art of crafting signature cocktails against the backdrop of a breathtaking skyline.
  • Another enticing option is to collaborate with local artists for rooftop art exhibitions or live music performances, creating an immersive cultural ambiance.

By providing these distinctive experiences, businesses can attract customers during off-peak hours, foster a loyal customer base, and enhance their reputation as a go-to destination for memorable rooftop experiences.

Jai Girard
MS, Certified Hospitality Educator, Instructional Faculty | CMAA Faculty Advisor
James Madison University, Hart School of Hospitality, Sport, and Recreation Management

When is the best time, if any, to drink at a rooftop bar?

I would say that dusk or late night would be the ideal time to visit a rooftop bar. There’s nothing better than having that golden hour of light while enjoying the scenery.

What are the top three considerations to keep in mind when planning a rooftop bar visit?

• The weather. Most rooftop bars offer outdoor fire pits, so chilly or cold nights aren’t too concerning, but rain is a huge discouragement for most people.

•. The reason why you’re going. Is it for business, family, or friends? Understanding the vibe is important in this decision-making process. Is their unique ambiance the atmosphere that’s going to be most conducive to your evening? If it’s family or friends, what vibe are you feeling?

• Do they have food? If I’m going out to a rooftop bar, I am probably planning on staying out longer. Whether it’s tapas or full meal service, it makes a difference.

How different, if at all, are drink prices at rooftop bars versus non-rooftop bars? What accounts for the price differences?

Drinks at rooftop bars tend to be slightly elevated and location will have something to do with that. Part of the reasoning is where they are located. Cities that offer these types of venues tend to be larger.

One thing to think about is how prices compare to other venues in the area. When I travel, I like to go to rooftop bars and typically don’t visit other types of bars. Therefore, an untrained mind might think they’re very overpriced compared to the bars they might visit while in familiar environments. The atmosphere accounts for the difference. It’s a destination bar and not someplace you’re likely to just hop over to. Maintaining that atmosphere with being outside just costs more.

What are some creative or unique rooftop bar experiences that drinking establishments could offer to consumers?

There are a lot of game opportunities now and people want to engage in the experiences they have. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, think a grown-up version of “I Spy” from your rooftop bar.

The theme is everything. If you come up with a unique theme, then the possibilities are endless. For instance, if your rooftop bar is in a historic district, what fun drinks can you come up with that play on what you can see from your line of sight?

Thomas Steele
Owner & Operating Member
The Haymaker Bar

When is the best time, if any, to drink at a rooftop bar?

The best time to have a drink at a rooftop bar is when the weather is nice out. Certain places might have times where it is particularly perfect to have a cocktail. For instance, some places might have an excellent view of the sunset. One thing to keep in mind is that those are also the times when others want to be on the rooftop also so places can get crowded. If the bar has options for reservations it is always best to make one to guarantee yourself a spot.

What are the top three considerations to keep in mind when planning a rooftop bar visit?

• The weather – while there are numerous places that have enclosed rooftops, many more are exposed to the elements. You don’t want to be outside in the cold or in the rain. Also if the bar has a great view of downtown or the waterfront you also don’t want fog or anything getting in the way to obstruct your view. Considering the sun and heat is also important. Even if it isn’t a crazy hot day, if the rooftop is directly in the sun at the time you want to visit it can be quite unpleasant if you aren’t prepared for it. Make sure you dress appropriately for the potential weather that could impact your experience.

• The view – a lot of places have roof tops but they are not necessarily looking at anything specific. I have been to places where the view is literally a back alley with trash everywhere. Not saying that on a beautiful day it still isn’t worth being outside having a beer from above, but when you add a great view it really sets the tone for a special experience.

• What kind of place it is vs the kind of experience you are looking for. All types of bars have rooftops these days. Sports bars nightclubs, dive bars and upscale cocktail bars all have rooftops. If you want to have a romantic evening enjoying martinis with your partner, you probably don’t want to be at the crowded sports bar when the home team is playing. Make sure the vibe of the bar matches with the vibe you are looking for or it could take away from the experience you are looking for.

How different, if at all, are drink prices at rooftop bars versus non-rooftop bars? What accounts for the price differences?

Drink prices vary by establishment. Sometimes rooftop prices are in line with other establishments in the area. Other times you pay a premium. Some places have a happy hour and hours do not.

If it’s a higher-end place known for a particularly special view, it is almost guaranteed that drink prices are going to be jacked up — sometimes by extreme amounts.

I have been to places where you are paying $30+ for a cocktail before the tip. Very few cocktails are worth $30 and when you are paying that much the cocktail is almost always disappointing one way or the other. But remember what you are really paying for is the view, ambiance, and experience. At the end of the day, having a view from above of the national mall on a beautiful day with a Negroni in hand is probably worth $30, even if the drink itself is average.

Also, remember that unless you are in a city like San Diego where the weather is almost always perfect, unenclosed bars have a limited time throughout the year to make their money. Then there are also rainy days to factor in. The rest of the year it’s dead space. Don’t be surprised if that is reflected in the prices.

What are some creative or unique rooftop bar experiences that drinking establishments could offer to consumers?

One experience I have seen at only a couple of establishments but have always found magical is playing a special song as the sun is setting. If you can add a waterfront to that it makes it that much better. It’s a neat little tradition that will be memorable for all. It’s also great for the social media attention it can attract.

Rooftop bars have an extra special feel to them as is so if you can add a little tradition or spectacle like that it can really leave a lasting impression on your guests that they tell all their friends about.

Ultimately owners and management need to understand their market and customize their space to make it the most welcoming to as many guests as possible. From there, offering a consistent product with a bit of creativity to it along with an always friendly staff will keep people coming in the door. The amazing view with the perfect weather from above will just be the icing on the cake.

Behind the Ranking

First, we determined the factors (metrics) that are most relevant to rank the Best Cities for Rooftop Drinking. We then assigned a weight to each factor based on its importance and grouped those factors into four categories: Access, Consumer Satisfaction, Affordability, and Climate. The categories, factors, and their weights are listed in the table below.

For each of the 500 biggest U.S. cities, we then gathered data on each factor from the sources listed below the table. We eliminated 211 cities lacking sufficient data in a single category, resulting in a final sample size of 289 cities.

Finally, we calculated scores (out of 100 points) for each city to determine its rank in each factor, each category, and overall. A city’s Overall Score is the average of its scores across all factors and categories. The highest Overall Score ranked “Best” (No. 1) and the lowest “Worst” (No. 289). Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 289 due to ties.

Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, TripAdvisor, and Yelp

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Main Photo Credit: Kampus Production / Pexels / Pexels License

Richie Bernardo

Richie Bernardo is a managing editor who previously wrote about personal finance and immigration. Philippine-born, Kansas City-bred, and barbecue-fed, Richie enjoys baking, deal hunting, and binging “Ancient Aliens.”