Visiting one of the world’s most populated cities, it might be hard to appreciate the beauty of the metropolis as you make your way through the sea of humanity on our streets, buses and subways. Sometimes you have to rise above it all, literally. The city of diverse structures has atop many of its buildings spectacular vistas that sometimes come with a cocktail and sometimes with a dollop of art.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a wealth of treasures inside its walls, but none like what you will find on its Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. Art installations, like the current “The Roof Garden Commission: Huma Bhabha, We Come in Peace,” have the added beauty of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. Exhibitions have been a part of the Met’s rooftop since it opened to the public in 1987. You can also take a moment to savor all that envelops you with a cocktail from The Cantor Roof Garden Bar.
A few top spots give that overarching view of the Big Apple. Here, it’s not just about the destination, but the journey to the top as well.
One World Observatory sits at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. In the 47 seconds it takes to rise 102 stories, video screens in the elevator construct a Manhattan skyline from the 1500s to today. Once at the top, you can head down a floor for dining and drinks or two floors below for the gift shop and souvenir photos. The elevator ride down provides an aerial view of One World Trade Center.
If you have never visited this building you can be overcome with a sense of awe when you first step into the Empire State Building, which has been featured in dozens of movies and television shows. It's arguably the world’s most famous building and a national historic landmark.
Head to the Main Deck on the 86th floor: The open-air observation deck encircles the spire, allowing a 360-degree view of the city, the Statue of Liberty and more. Download the free Observatory Experience app on the spot with the free Wi-Fi, which informs every view. The Top Deck on the 102nd floor reveals views for up to 80 miles away. The “Dare to Dream” exhibit, chronicling the building’s history, is housed on the 80th floor.
See the lush expanse of Manhattan’s green space with Central Park stretching out below Top of the Rock. The open-air roof deck on the 70th floor of Rockefeller Center is glass-free and perfect for photo ops of Midtown and Downtown skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building. Inside, there are unobstructed views on the 67th and 69th floors; the Swarovski-made Radiance Wall is worth a stop, as is the Joie Chandelier made with 14,000 crystals.
The third-floor Rooftop of The DL has one of the city’s largest retractable roofs, making the outdoor space suitable for year-round use. Its draw is views of the Williamsburg Bridge and Lower East Side skyline. The 5,000-square-foot space is also perfect for enjoying a cocktail and listening to Top 40, pop, house and R&B music by well-known DJs.
Head to 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar, home of the city’s largest rooftop garden. Grab a seat on a wooden bench or at a table and enjoy a drink while taking in the Empire State Building to the north. Large umbrellas provide shade or keep the rain off your head while the 1980s and 1990s music sets the tone on the weekends. Go inside and down the stairs to the enclosed penthouse lounge for more of the same. In the winter, the rooftop deck is partially heated, with see-through igloos that can hold up to eight people and keep the chill out while you enjoy skyline views and wintry cocktails.
The 14th floor of the Library Hotel is home to Bookmarks Lounge. Relax in a plush indoor setting or take literature-inspired cocktails (The Pulitzer, F. Scotch Fitzgerald) outside for city views from the wraparound terrace.
Atop the luxurious Refinery Hotel, the Refinery Rooftop is a casual, chic spot for cocktails and snacking while enjoying the view of the city’s skyscrapers. The roof of the former hat factory is embellished with an elegant brick and wood setting, sofas, individual tables and long benches on which to enjoy signature handcrafted cocktails. A variety of music keeps the joint jumping after 10 pm Friday and Saturday nights for the 21-and-over crowd.
Monarch Rooftop Bar & Indoor Lounge on the 18th floor of the Courtyard by Marriott serves up beautifully plated food and cocktails, in addition to the views of Midtown Manhattan. You can get outside through sliding floor-to-ceiling glass doors and get a drink at the patio bar, but the temptation may be to stay inside on a plush couch among vintage bricks and custom terrazzo tiles.
The 10,000-square-foot space that is the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge is an adult “amusement park” on the 18th floor. Sit at one of the carousel’s rotating tables and observe the topiary animals in suggestive positions and Foreplay, a miniature putt-putt golf course with oversize animals posed at their come-hither best.
The Skylark’s (200 W. 39th St., 212.257.4577) rooftop terrace on the 30th floor finds Times Square to the north, Midtown to the east and the Hudson River to the west among its breathtaking vistas. The terrace is just one portion of the classy spaces that define the lounge’s multiple levels. There is also the Living Room, the Skylark Room and the Pool Room, which features a custom pool table that converts into a full dining table.