The New York skyline is famous throughout the world, and there’s a good reason why. With the tall skyscrapers and flatiron buildings of Manhattan and the industrial factories and red bricked buildings of Brooklyn in particular, the views of the city are simply awe inspiring.
And with numerous flights to New York crossing the Atlantic every day, more and more people are getting to experience the delights of this great city. When visiting the Big Apple, there really is no better way to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city than from an open air rooftop bar, with a cocktail in hand. Here is a small selection of the best outdoor venues in New York.
AVA Lounge, DREAM Hotel
Located in Midtown, the experience of the AVA Lounge in the daytime is equally as fascinating as it is during the evening, making it the ideal place for both an afternoon apéritif and a night out in the city. While the main bar area is modern and contemporary, catering to a young, hip crowd, the outdoor stylings reminiscent of the quiet and serene New England beachfront destinations attracts an older, sophisticated group who feel at home relaxing on patio furniture with a glass of Prosecco in hand. Prices are average for a popular Midtown location, with cocktails around $15, and the views over the Hudson are spectacular whatever the time of day.
Situated right on 5th Avenue, 230 Fifth is the perfect spot for refreshments after a day of NYC shopping. This penthouse bar can proudly boast that it is Manhattan’s largest rooftop venue, with a very laid back, almost picnic-like atmosphere, with long benches and garden chairs for patrons to relax on and socialise. With such a light, airy space, anything goes here, and it’s not unusual to see a true mix of ages and styles hanging out. Due to its location, the views of the city are amazing, but perhaps most impressive is the unobscured image of the Empire State Building. The only downside is that drinks are pricey, at around $12 for a single measure plus mixer.
Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Located at Metropolitan Museum of Art, this rooftop bar is almost as important a part of the museum as the exhibitions themselves. The style and decor are incredibly down to earth and welcoming of everyone, right through from families with young children to adults looking for a relaxing beverage or snack. The signature artwork here changes each year, so there is always something new to see, though the astonishing view of Central Park remains the same. For an extra special bonus, visit over the weekend for access to the dedicated martini bar. Prices are remarkably reasonable for such a high profile premises.
Sky Room, Fairfield Inn & Suites
Right in the heart of Times Square, this rooftop venue couldn’t be any trendier if it tried. Expect a loud, crowded, and energetic atmosphere, and a relatively young crowd. What really makes this bar stand out are the five different themed areas all on the one roof, ranging from the bustling Times Square Lounge to the quieter, and pricier, South Terrace complete with private cabanas and table service. Cocktails are popular here, and only the best ingredients are used, such as Bacardi, Ketel One, and Bombay Sapphire. The 360 degree views are unrivalled, but there’s no beating the bright lights of Times Square itself. Amazingly, the prices are low, at just $5 for a beer and $7 for a glass of wine.
Both the main bar and the rooftop bar at this establishment echo their up and coming Brooklyn neighbourhood, with huge variety and contemporary features coupled with traditional red brickwork typical of the area. There’s no pretension here, it’s just a low key place to have a beer or two with friends in the warm New York summer. There are 14 beers on tap for a refreshing pint. But, for something different, why not try a ‘Pickleback’, a shot of whisky with a pickle juice chaser. This is definitely a place for those on a budget, with drinks starting at just $8, and there’s a free view of the famous Manhattan skyline in the distance.
The Ides, Wythe Hotel
Converted into a super cool bar from an old Williamsburg factory, The Ides, situated on the 6th floor of the Wythe Hotel, attracts the young hipsters of Brooklyn. Drinks are reasonable priced for this trendy area at around $10 for a shot plus mixer, although the quality of the views is often debated. Whilst some guests enjoy watching the transformation of the old industrial area, others aren’t so keen. It’s really a matter of personal preference. This is a popular joint, and is renowned for having long queues for the rooftop area, especially in the middle of summer, so be sure to turn up early to grab a seat.
Night of Joy
Brooklyn’s Night of Joy is unlike many other bars in New York. Rather than being modern, hip, and trendy, it has an air of an old, traditional British pub, with chintz-style chairs, large fabric rugs, and bar stools adorning the interior, whilst the rooftop patio is equally as relaxed, with metal garden furniture and drinks served from a wooden hut. Despite the old school stylings, there’s still a relatively young crowd here, although it’s also popular with the older generations. Unusual ingredients are used to create the cocktails here, such as dill & beetroot vodka and basil & lime gin, so it’s good for something a bit different and unique. The patio is only open during the spring and summer, so timing is everything.
There’s a host of great places to enjoy a drink with a view in NYC – just remember to do it responsibly!
Jon Piggins is a travel writer. He visits New York every year and loves to pass on his tips for enjoying the city.