Raising the Roof: a Bird's-Eye View of Things to Do in New York

Catch a unique view of the NYC skyline from one of these spectacular rooftops
Catch a unique view of the NYC skyline from one of these spectacular rooftops | Courtesy of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge / Expedia.com
Photo of Nick Dauk
13 September 2021
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Elevated pools, sky-high gardens and buzzing bars with deck-spinning DJs set the scene for you to explore a different side of the Five Boroughs.

New York City needs no introduction, so we’ll cut right to the chase. There’s a lot to see and never enough time to see it in the most populous city in the United States, but you can instantly get an eyeline to nearly every borough if you know where to go. Don your best cape and zip around, superhero-style, to take in New York from these amazing rooftops – which we guarantee will save the day and spare your friends from the same old snaps of this supremely photogenic city.

Freehand New York

Freehand New York
Courtesy of Freehand New York / Expedia.com

You didn’t come to the Big Apple to color inside the lines – you came to Freehand to embrace your adventurous side. This artistic hotel in the Flatiron District has seen many a creative spend long hours honing their craft. Art workshops, live music and a host of other in-house events are yours to explore. Where to start? The Broken Shaker rooftop bar where the rye whiskey-based Out of Office cocktail will get the creative juices flowing.

Mr Purple at Hotel Indigo

Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$
Mr Purple at Hotel Indigo
© Mr Purple at Hotel Indigo
Allow Mr Purple to introduce you to the Lower East Side with a rooftop brunch atop Hotel Indigo. Pick your way through plates of fries, charcuterie and fried pickles without ever letting go of your bloody mary. In fact, there’s only one reason you should be engaging in Mr Purple without a drink in hand – and that’s when you’re slipping off your clothes for a dip in the pool.

Skylawn

Bar, Cocktails
Embassy Suites by Hilton New York Manhattan Times Square
Courtesy of Embassy Suites by Hilton New York Manhattan Times Square / Expedia.com

All roads lead to the center of Manhattan, so after you’ve scaled the Empire State Building and felt the buzz in the air at Times Square, take a moment to rest your feet at Skylawn. This bar and social space on the third floor of Embassy Suites may not be the highest rooftop bar in the city, but its open-air ambience is worth a few hours of relaxation. Think ahead and check their schedule to see when they’re screening films at this prime-time chill-out space.

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Courtesy of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge / Expedia.com

A pro tip from 1 Hotel: don’t spend your entire NYC holiday in Manhattan. Venture across the Brooklyn Bridge to 1 Hotel and you’ll be rewarded with a five-star stay. Organic bedding, filtered water and in-room yoga will make you feel refreshed and far from the busy city. But the best breath of fresh air awaits on the rooftop pool deck, where you can admire the skyline from across the East River, preferably with a Brooklyn Brewery beer in hand.

The William Vale

The stylish dining room of the restaurant at the William Vale looks out over the Midtown Manhattan skyline from double-height windows
Courtesy of the William Vale / Expedia

Luxury in Brooklyn is synonymous with the William Vale. The Williamsburg community is as vibrant as any, as highlighted by the artwork adorning the hotel’s rooms. Give yourself the chance to breathe it all in with a stay in the Vale Garden Residence, or skip up a few floors to the rooftop to really inhale the spirit of the city. Brooklyn’s longest outdoor pool is ready for your best cannonball. Feeling chilly? Warm up with global street food at the Westlight’s 22nd-floor rooftop bar.

Elsewhere

Music Venue
Elsewhere
© Elsewhere

Don’t go running back to Manhattan just yet. You’ve been there, now check out Elsewhere. This huge venue for live music has multiple levels of fun, but we prefer to stay on the open-air rooftop. Here, DJs spin while you slurp a spicy mango margarita slushie, and a trendy crowd mixes and mingles with boozy ice pops in hand. Hanging out in Elsewhere feels like you’re spending an endless summer day without one responsibility on your shoulders.

Rockefeller Center Rooftop Gardens

Building, Cathedral, Park
Rooftop in Rockefeller Center New York
© Pako Dominguez / Alamy Stock Photo

Assuming your feet take you to Rockefeller Center – and, be honest, they will – you’ll certainly want to drink in the views from Bar 65 in the Rainbow Room. May we sidetrack you for a more serene spot from which to view the city? The Rockefeller Center Rooftop Gardens are made up of five gardens within the complex, some more accessible than others. We suggest swinging up to 620 Loft and Garden, if for no other reason than to geek out at this filming location for the original Spider-Man movie.

The Met Cantor Roof Garden Bar

Bar, Cafe, American
The Met Roof Garden Bar, New York
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Not to overexpose you to more of the most beautiful sights in the country, but after your tour of the Met Museum, there’s one more stunning scene to check out. The Cantor Roof Garden Bar overlooks Central Park and the skyline beyond it, surrounding you with the natural beauty of New York City that’s often overlooked in favor of urban splendor. Food and drinks are available, but you’re also welcome to freely sit alone with nothing but your thoughts as you watch the sunset.

Public Hotel

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Courtesy of PUBLIC, an Ian Schrager hotel / Expedia.com

A smart hotel right beside SoHo, Public wants nothing more than to make you feel at home in the Big Apple. Cozy up in your minimalist loft-style room before making your way down for a dazzling performance at the theater, where you can catch live music, cinema screenings and even a hot and sweaty dance night. You could also spend your evening bar-hopping from the lower-floor restaurants to the Roof: a hub of energy and excitement offering 360-degree views of the city. This being a hotel from Studio 54 founder Ian Schrager, expect DJs to be in residence.

Dear Irving on Hudson

Bar, Cocktails
Aliz Hotel
Courtesy of Aliz Hotel / Expedia.com

It may feel like your holiday has flown by in a New York minute, but there’s one way to slow the last of it down. Head over to Midtown to the top of the Aliz Hotel for a celebration of New York-made spirits. This ode to the Empire State is the best way to drink in views of Midtown and toast a city break like no other.

If you’re addicted to that NYC rooftop view, see the best places to stay with mesmerizing New York views.

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