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2023's best cities for rooftop bars and lounges


2023’s best cities for rooftop bars and lounges

Two cocktails on a table on a rooftop bar in a city.

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

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

Here’s a deeper dive into how cities across the country compare when it comes to most establishments, affordability, and weather. Numbers denote the city’s ranking, which includes ties. 

1 New York, NY
2 Chicago, IL
3 Washington, DC
4 Los Angeles, CA
5 Nashville, TN

1 New York, NY
2 Los Angeles, CA
3 Chicago, IL
4 Washington, DC
5 San Diego, CA

1 Reno, NV
2 Rialto, CA (TIE)
2 Elgin, IL (TIE)
2 Franklin, TN (TIE)
2 Bellingham, WA (TIE)

1 Temecula, CA (TIE)
1 Hartford, CT (TIE)
1 Gainesville, FL (TIE)
1 Des Moines, IA (TIE)
1 Broken Arrow, OK (TIE)

1 Boca Raton, FL (TIE)
1 Elgin, IL (TIE)
1 Frederick, MD (TIE)
1 Fargo, ND (TIE)
1 Franklin, TN (TIE)

1 Yuma, AZ (TIE)
1 Scottsdale, AZ (TIE)
1 Tempe, AZ (TIE)
1 Phoenix, AZ (TIE)
1 Buckeye, AZ (TIE)

1 Pittsburgh, PA
2 Anchorage, AK
3 Syracuse, NY
4 Kirkland, WA (TIE)
4 Tacoma, WA (TIE)

Roof Gnome

Top 20 cities with highest overall scores for rooftop bars and lounges

A table showing the top 20 U.S. cities for rooftop bars and lounges.

Big cities came out on top for the highest marks in access, customer satisfaction, affordability, and climate. Here’s a closer look at how the top five locations stacked up.

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.

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.

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.

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.

No. 5: Washington, D.C. | 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.


Panoramic insights

Friends laughing and talking at a rooftop bar in a city at sunset.

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 spendy — drinks. 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.

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.


Behind the ranking

Two cocktails next to a candle on a rooftop bar table in the evening.

First, Roof Gnome determined the factors (metrics) that are most relevant to rank the best cities for rooftop drinking at bars and lounges. Then the study assigned a weight to each factor based on its importance and grouped those factors into four categories: Access, Consumer Satisfaction, Affordability, and Climate. 

For each of the 500 biggest U.S. cities, Roof Gnome then gathered data on each factor from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, TripAdvisor, and Yelp. Roof Gnome eliminated 211 cities lacking sufficient data in a single category, resulting in a final sample size of 289 cities.

Finally, Roof Gnome 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.

This story was produced by Roof Gnome and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.

Article Topic Follows: Lifestyle - Stacker

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