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Being a New York City native, I love hopping around rooftop bars and seeing the gorgeous skyline at sunset no matter where I am.
Rooftop bars take all-too-familiar scenery, metal skyscrapers – and turn them into places that radiate warmth, luxury, celebration, and even serenity.
In the past year, I’ve traveled a lot with friends, for work, or for myself, and as many times as I could, I made sure to book hotels that offered rooftop bars, lounges, gardens and more, in order to heighten my stay in cities around the country.
The best way to look at a city is actually being able to get a sort of aerial view of the city. Being able to point at different parts of the city, and naming the various popular points of interest can be so much fun. It is also great to have discussions with friends or locals that oftentimes lead to getting to know the history of a particular city.
After having stayed in a variety of hotels with rooftop access, these are the top 5 most exquisite rooftops that I visited last year.
1. McKittrick Hotel, Gallow Green (New York City)
I take any chance I can get to see any hint of nature on a day out with friends, and McKittrick Hotel’s Gallow Green, right off the Highline in Chelsea, was an enchanted rooftop forest in this concrete jungle.
The soft lights at the bar and restaurant illuminated the myriad trees, vines, and delicate flowers that surrounded the seating areas, and the fire pit in the lounge further alluded to a campfire-in-the-woods feeling that the bar presented.
The wood furniture and earthy tones of the bar and lounge invited a warmth that you just don’t get in more typically modern rooftop bars, and it looks great in the daytime as well as nighttime.
I went for the Rooftop Brunch special at Gallow Green, which gave a full 90 minutes of cocktails for $25, and provided a buffet of fresh salads and flavorful meats and roasted veggies.
2. Hotel Indigo, Mr. Purple (New York City)
I was looking for a sophisticated atmosphere for a casual night out with my boyfriend, and Mr. Purple at Hotel Indigo couldn’t have been a better environment.
The indoor bar was overlooking the city from the Lower East Side, and the specialty and craft cocktails paired well with the modern decor and high-rise buildings on the skyline.
The outdoor seating at Mr. Purple, had cute, purple chairs in theme with the rooftop’s name, and the wood lounge seats and strung bulb lanterns made the neat outdoor arrangements look contemporary and chic.
While there was room to socialize, especially by the poolside, there was also space for me and my boyfriend to spend an evening together and enjoy the drinks and burgers we ordered from the bar.
3. Virgin Hotel, Cerise (Downtown Chicago)
When my best friend announced that her bachelorette party was to be set in Chicago, I didn’t really understand why we had to fly to the midwest to celebrate, but when we arrived at the Virgin Hotel in Downtown Chicago and saw their rooftop bar Cerise, I immediately understood the appeal.
A glass barrier that surrounds the roof lets party-goers and loungers alike look out onto the bright lights of the city, and indoors, the bar served classic cocktails and hosted a small dance floor where a DJ played.
The open and spacious outdoor area at Cerise had modern furniture, like the circular blue and green couches, which invited large groups of people to have fun and socialize with other groups, while the West Deck seating offered more intimate conversations between couples.
Apart from the drinks, the appetizers we ordered at this bar were also quite brilliant. The ingredients seemed fresh, and their food menu definitely complimented the drinks prepared by some very friendly bartenders that suggested liquids based on your preferences.
This was the perfect rooftop bar for the bachelorette party, but because of our party size, there were a lot of other great rooftops we didn’t get the chance to experience. Here’s a list of the rooftops in the Windy City that we missed out on.
4. NoMad Hotel Rooftop Bar (Downtown Los Angeles)
A rooftop pool at a hotel in California is not entirely special, but the absolute most memorable poolside experience was during my stay at the NoMad in Downtown Los Angeles.
The bar and café had a classic, tropical vibe with the ocean blue and sandy brown accents, and the modern wood furniture helped piece together the luxury that the NoMad has to offer.
The centerpiece of the rooftop, however, was the poolside’s fire pit, a replica of the Orcus statue that is located in Italy’s Sacro Bosco (Garden of Monsters). Inside the mouth of Orcus was an open flame, his dead eyes staring down the length of the rectangular pool and lush greenery surrounding his stony face.
It was a spectacular image to be presented with upon walking into the pool area, and every time I looked, someone was taking a selfie with the monster.
5. EAST hotel, Sugar (Miami)
While South Beach, Miami is known for its nightlife and club scene, rooftop bar and garden Sugar at the EAST hotel was a more serene ambiance than what I was expecting from my visit to Miami.
The regional foliage is set against a backdrop of clear blue skies and glassy city buildings, which juxtaposed the vibrantly green garden and woodsy flooring.
The bar itself was constructed entirely of wood, from the ornately carved front bar to the overhang that tented the back bar, and it served Asian-inspired cocktails with ingredients like hibiscus, jasmine tea, and yuzu juice.
The seating area complemented the bar and garden, with stony grey furniture and bamboo accents that matched the Asian-style bar, and warm lights hung from lanterns in the garden’s trees and the bar front’s intricate carvings glowed as the sky grew darker.
From garden scenes at Sugar and Gallow Green to nightlife energy at Cerise, all of these rooftops had a high-end, exclusive atmosphere that made my stay at the hotel all the better.
My decision to stay at these hotels out of town, namely the Virgin, NoMad, and EAST hotels, was in large part due to the convenience of accessing their rooftop areas – especially at the Virgin Hotel in Chicago, where our bachelorette party could easily hop back and forth between our rooms and the party.
Even though digital marketing for hotels may be less expensive, hotels are opting to spruce up and renovate their roofs as a marketing technique to make them enticing for guests and visitors alike.
Let’s face it: being able to look out onto the city and feel the cool breeze in the sky is a luxury we all want to experience.