Move on up to a deluxe rooftop bar in the sky where one can throw back a tequila sunrise in full view of the sunset, sip a sea breeze while a bay breeze whips through their hair, partake in a Pimm's cup and a panorama of the Hollywood Hills or the Pacific Ocean, or stare at stars while sucking down Sazeracs and sidecars. And thanks to Los Angeles' famous good weather, patio season is almost year-round at the following 15 way-up watering holes.
Live the high life at the tallest open-air bar in the western hemisphere. Perched atop the city on the 73rd floor of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, this rooftop provides a bird’s-eye view spanning from the Hollywood Sign to the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach. Watch the sunset with mochi ice cream sundaes, warm yourself by a fire pit with table-side s’mores, or round up 10 or more friends to celebrate with bottle service. Arrive early to score a seat by the edge. Non-hotel guests must pay ($10 daily or $20 after 8 p.m. on weekends) to touch the sky. Minors under 18 are allowed with a parent before 6 p.m.
Only a block from the beach, Hotel Erwin’s up-high hangout is the only rooftop bar and eatery in Venice. Live DJs often add a soundtrack to epic sunsets and weekend brunches that are far from basic (think lomo saltado burritos and chicken-n-waffles). Strategically placed planters create comfy nooks for your gang to gather and feast on flatbreads, poké lettuce cups, and pulled pork poppers. Minors welcome during certain hours.
Awash in the living décor, pattern play, natural fabrics and elements, and the casual boho elegance that is celebrity interior designer Kelly Wearstler’s stock in trade, Santa Monica Proper Hotel's indoor-outdoor lounge sits 22 floors above street level. Prime positioning is around the circular bar in the center section, but only if you’re there for a liquid lunch or dinner as many of the table-and-chair groupings are too low and deep to be conducive to a full dinner. Should you want to indulge in the Mediterranean-meets-Californian cuisine, request a more standard-sized table in the covered dining area or along the paths that connect it to the bar and pool. Those on first dates should go on the early side—music gets louder as the night goes on, making lengthy conversation complicated.
Atop the historic Commercial Exchange building (now the Freehand hotel) sits one of downtown’s most happening rooftop retreats. Every element of the James Beard nominee is colorful, from the clientele and exotic elixirs used in the drinks to the décor and greenery. Guests get priority seating by the adjacent pool. Street food-inspired snacks (tuna tostadas, veggie egg rolls, and halo halo) are best enjoyed when live music is also on tap.
Head to the top level of the newest Granville in Pasadena's bustling Lake Avenue shopping district for an intimate escape. While all locations of the popular Southern California chain serve booze, this is the only outpost with a rooftop concept. Lit by strung bulbs and trendy basket lights, only 50 people at a time can enjoy the lounge seating, gas fireplace, potted plants, and glassless window behind the bar facing the San Gabriel Mountains. While they serve all the basics, the bar specializes in gin. For those who know exactly what they like, there’s a well-organized menu for build-your-own gin and tonics or spritzers; or play it safe with the gin-based specialty and classic cocktails.
It’s easy being green at this posh spot for socializing thanks to living walls, lush planters, an Asian-inspired menu curated by culinary legend Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and décor in shades of mint and emerald. Popular with the rich and famous set, the rooftop of the 12-story Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills boasts panoramic views of the world’s most famous zip code and colorful craft cocktails like raspberry lychee Bellinis and cherry whisky sours to match vibrant sunsets.
All the social animals gather at this popular Santa Monica watering hole overlooking the beach—especially Wednesdays through Saturdays when the crisp marine air is filled with the sound of rotating guest DJs. There are technically three bars placed throughout the Nicholas Mathers-designed property, as well as a restaurant serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. The wood-, copper-, and stone-heavy décor skews North African while the food borrows heavily from Southern Mediterranean traditions (e.g. pastas, wood-fired pizzas, appetizers like meatballs and whipped eggplant) as do the drinks. Sorry "New York Times," it’s always Aperol Spritz o’clock here.
This colorful entrant in Hollywood caps the funky French boutique that moved to town a handful of years ago. In service of the brand’s “shared fun” ethos, it’s decked out with oversized day beds, telescopes, and table games, and it features a menu of dishes meant to be split like smoky black bean dip, summer burrata, and tempura cauliflower. The crowd is young, trendy, and confident, their savoir faire further emboldened by an extensive Moscow mule menu and cocktails cleverly named with nods to films like The Rise of Skywalker, Little Miss Sunshine, or Endgame. The terrace doesn’t take reservations.
Take a break from the grind of ground-level life in the 13-story concrete castle that once housed the United Artists operation and movie palace. The vintage vibe doesn’t stop there. Featuring a light installation created with antique steel chain, reclaimed barn hardware, and salvaged theatrical lights, the lounge and pool deck’s design is inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House and the legendary Hollywood night spot Les Deux Café. The hipster clientele, thriving red bougainvillea and creeping vines, and recently revamped drink selection with campy names like Sex Wax and Super Bloom keep it from ever feeling stale or outdated. Bask in the glow of the ceramic lanterns and the fireplace from your wicker thrones while eating fancy street tacos.
The rooftop portion of chef Louis Tikaram’s pan-Asian “eating house” E.P. is known for its lively bar scene and popping playlist. Groups can share punch bowls and boba cocktails while watching the lights of the Sunset Strip and the Hollywood Hills blink awake. If you start feeling peckish by the fire pit, walk past the plethora of potted plants, sleek black heat lamps, and slat walls to the neon “Night Food” sign to order quick bites like crispy chicken sandwiches, mushroom tacos, or soy caramel popcorn. Another much-Instagrammed neon sign, "Where Love Lives," leads the way to the smaller bar within a bar, Frankie's.
Spicing up the South Bay social scene with libations, light bites, and a very long fire feature you can sit at, this sun-soaked space at the brand new AC Hotel near LAX offers a great place to spend a lengthy layover. Just make sure you don’t leave your wallet in El Segundo.
Get a bird's-eye view of the city from this bi-level alfresco nest on the 15th and 16th floors of a South Hill Street high-rise. On the lower floor, the eclectic bistro serving French fare is a mishmash of patterns, materials, and furniture styles; tufted velvet chairs share space with polka dot couches, carved woodwork, ornate fireplaces, and floral and iron patio sets. The upper level is a slightly more intimate salon with potted plants and twinkle lights. In between live jazz and DJ sets, be sure to photograph your feet on the ceramic tile floors, your order of steamy bouillabaisse or rabbit ravioli, and your Parisian-inspired concoctions.
You might see stars of the celestial and Hollywood variety at this Sunset Strip stunner that tops the new, chic 1 Hotel. Slide into the striped banquettes and marble tables to imbibe in top-shelf spirits—punched up with fresh and seasonal mixers and garnishes—and take in the view of the LA basin below. Plant moms will appreciate the surplus of potted and hanging greenery. Plan to grab dinner beforehand as they only serve snacks like ranch potato chips and trail mix (plus mini burgers and hot dogs on select Saturdays and Sundays).
Floating above the revitalized Cahuenga Corridor, this 11,000-square-foot social hub encompasses an indoor lounge, three bars, a pool (the bottom of which rises to meet the deck to create a dance floor after dark), rentable cabañas, two DJ booths, and a grill cooking up daily breakfast and lunch as well as weekend dinner and brunch. Dress to impress as entry is left to the doorman’s discretion. That detail plus expensive bottle service and special events with themes and musical guests can at times make it feel a little Vegas—but the sexy suntanned crowd, California cuisine, and stellar views of the Hollywood Hills (including the famous sign) are 100 percent LA.
Should you find yourself thirsty behind the orange curtain or need to unwind after a day at Disneyland, head over to 15th floor rooftop of the Marriott Irvine Spectrum for 360-degree views, a banging soundtrack, a just-launched food menu with lip-smacking items like duck confit taquitos and bao buns, and “Real Housewives”-worthy people watching. Get buzzed on their honey wheat ale or signature cocktails; many of these make some form of honey the star ingredient, like the honeycomb-infused old fashioned or the Bee’s Knees, served in a honey bear container.