“I go up where the air is fresh and sweet, up on the roof.” Recognize those lyrics? This time of year as temperatures rise, so do Washingtonians, taking a cue from the sentiments expressed in that old tuneful gem first recorded by The Drifters.
Thankfully, D.C. has fully embraced the rooftop lounge trend, with cool spots ranging from swanky cocktail destinations and hip poolside retreats to neighborhood beer gardens. And because of the city’s height restrictions, you don’t have to go sky high for sweeping views that take in bustling downtown or historic zones—often punctuated by the Washington Monument. Now that calls for a toast!
POV at the W Hotel
For decades, tourists and locals have flocked to this tip-top terrace with stunning vistas, especially at sunset. A former Hotel Washington space turned glam by the W Hotel, POV draws a see-and-be-seen crowd. Order a cocktail at the dramatic circular bar, then gaze down on the White House and out to landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Treasury, the buildings on the $5, $10 and $20 bills. Seating is first-come, first-served (arrive early!), except for Friday and Saturday nights starting at 9 p.m., when bottle-service reservations are required.
515 15th St. NW, 202.661.2400, povrooftop.com
On the hot 14th Street corridor, the aptly named Masa 14 offers a rooftop that recalls a design-savvy pal’s back deck, with wood planks underfoot and tables surrounding petunia-filled planters. Inventive Latin-Asian small plates (crunchy shrimp rolls, pork belly “bao” buns) pair with tangy margaritas and mojitos. Restaurateur-chef Richard Sandoval also owns next door’s El Centro D.F., a hip Mexican eatery with its own roof terrace.
1825 14th St. NW, 202.328.1414, richardsandoval.com/masa14
1905 Bistro & Bar
Known for its friendly vibe, French bistro 1905 said “oui” to the roofdeck craze. Atop a Federal row house in the Shaw neighborhood, find an intimate bi-level space with colorful wall panels and plenty of standing room to relish a venue specialty: absinthe, mixed into cocktails or prepped the traditional way with a flaming sugar cube. Careful, or that Washington Monument view may go a bit “van Gogh.”
1905 9th St. NW, 202.332.1905, 1905dc.com
Sauf Haus Bier Hall
Beer buffs in search of Oktoberfest-style revelry hoist a mug (or a boot) at communal tables on the rooftop of an 1880 Dupont Circle building. Sauf Haus pours 16 German drafts—like Franziskaner Dunkel, Paulaner Hefeweizen—to pair with bratwurts, sauerkraut and 2-pound Bavarian soft pretzels. Other “Prost!”-worthy drinks? Hard cider and Riesling wine.
1216 18th St. NW, 202.466.3355, saufhausdc.com
The Brixton brings a bit of Britain to U Street NW. Named for a South London neighborhood, this spot boasts an “Olympic-size” terrace where two green marble bars pour shandies, Pimm’s cups and English ales that fuel an energetic scene. Thankfully, well-aimed swirling fans keep it from getting too hot. Sightlines take in the action in this buzzing zone, and in the distance, the top of the Washington Monument.
901 U St. NW, 202.560.5045, brixtondc.com
DNV Rooftop at The Donovan
Looking for waterfront real estate? Fourteen floors above Thomas Circle, settle into a deck chair or cabana at DNV for a “damn nice view.” Only guests of The Donovan hotel can dip in the pool, but everyone savors the panorama (from downtown to the National Shrine) and cooling quaffs like cocktails and sparkling wine, plus boozy popsicles. The Tokyo-inspired bar bites include robata skewers and sushi.
1155 14th St. NW, 202.737.1200, dnvrooftop.com
Jack Rose Dining Saloon
On the edge of bustling Adams Morgan, Jack Rose offers an open-air terrace with beer, cocktails and a menu of bar fare, some of it (like burgers and smoked whiskey wings) prepped on the wood-fired grill. Whiskey is the big draw here. The vast collection—one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere—includes domestic, international and rare varieties. In the Tiki Bar, open Thursday through Saturday, the vibe and the drinks swing to the tropical, but the view stays on the Washington Monument.
2007 18th St. NW, 202.588.7388, jackrosediningsaloon.com
The Observatory at The Graham Georgetown
In D.C.’s oldest neighborhood, The Observatory attracts crowds, with a line sometimes extending down the street. But would-be loungers try their luck or make reservations in advance for bottle service tables. There are cocktails and cigars to savor along with views of the Kennedy Center, the Washington Monument and the elegant surrounding streets, which brings us to the dress code: “Georgetown chic.”
1075 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, 202.337.0900, thegrahamgeorgetown.com
The Rooftop at The Embassy Row Hotel
Another stylish rooftop pool beckons, this one at Dupont Circle’s Embassy Row Hotel. On the tiered terrace, patrons can go for a swim and then relax at stylish picnic tables or in the shaded lounge area, craft cocktail in hand. On view: Gilded Age mansions, many converted into embassies. Before 5 p.m., you’ll need to score a pool pass ($30) at the hotel’s front desk. Otherwise entry is gratis.
2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW, 202.265.1600, embassyrowhotel.com
Rosewood Washington, D.C., Rooftop Bar & Lounge
One of the city’s most elegant aeries is now open to the public. Atop this ritzy hotel flanking the C&O Canal in Georgetown, claim a perch on a plush sofa for cocktails, wine or rare whiskeys and gaze upon views of the historic neighborhood and beyond. Reservations recommended.
1050 31st St. NW, 202.617.2400, rosewoodhotels.com/washington-dc
For views of the happenin’ Shaw neighborhood, head to this new spot with a rooftop beer garden pouring 24 American drafts. But it’s not all about the brews. There are also 50-plus whiskeys, from Kentucky’s Bulleit Bourbon to locally made Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye.
715 Florida Ave. NW, 202.525.1252, takodadc.com
In Southwest, the city’s smallest quadrant, rooftop bars are a rarity. Thankfully, the Hyatt Place Washington DC/National Mall has addressed this dearth with a new outdoor lounge 13 floors up. Views here include the Washington Monument but also the Jefferson Memorial and the Potomac River all the way south to the Wilson Bridge. To order? Try a craft cocktail (perhaps the Sunset Claret or the Southwest Cooler) and some tasty bar bites like chicken lollipops and Siracha-spiked deviled eggs.
400 E St. SW, 202.803.6110, citybardc.com