Do you like cocktails with a view? Then this is the story for you. Our friends at Roof Gnome compared nearly 300 of the biggest U.S. cities based on 18 different cocktail metrics. See which 10 cities will take your happy hour to new heights — and which 10 will make you thirst for a nicer view. Click here for the full list of the best cities with rooftop bars.
Tall concrete jungles like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are top-shelf cities for cocktails with a view. The best cities 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, Sioux City, Iowa, and Beaumont, Texas. 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.
- New York highballed to the top of our leaderboard with 77.48 points — 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 are through the roof at over 850. That’s about 2.4 times as many as in Los Angeles, the city with the next highest number, 354.
Crowd (-Averse) Pleaser
- With a population of nearly 80,700, Miami Beach, Florida, 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.
- In 40 cities, rooftop lounges are more popular than rooftop bars — 30 are in the West and Southwest. Los Angeles has 50 more rooftop lounges than bars, the biggest difference, followed by Las Vegas with 23 more and Miami Beach, Florida with 19 more.
- A Spanish word meaning “hidden,” Escondido California is indeed an obscure but precious gem. It is the only city with a top-10 spot 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, need to work on beverage quality. The businesses collectively earned the lowest average Consumer Satisfaction score in our entire ranking, tied with Mesa, Arizona.
- The lowest menu prices and the most ideal climate can draw out the thirstiest, most outdoorsy patrons, but investors in Yuma, Arizona aren’t capitalizing on this winning combo. Yuma lacks both rooftop drinking establishments and top-flight booze.
Shaken, Not Deterred
- The harsh Northern climes of Buffalo, New York, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Pittsburgh 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, and Charleston, South Carolina, are the only two with fewer than 670,000 residents. Both have populations hovering around 150,000.
Behind the Ranking
First, we determined the factors 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.