From serene mountain views to swanky city scenes, there’s a rooftop in California where your personal version of paradise awaits. Near-perfect weather combined with natural beauty and idyllic sunsets mean you can (and should) elevate your afternoon or evening year-round.
Some of the best meals in the Golden State can be enjoyed up high under a ceiling of stars. Head to the coast where you can gaze at the sea while tasting its bounty. Just north of San Diego at George’s at the Cove, named one of the 10 best restaurants in the world by Fodor’s Choice, Californian cuisine is served on every level. Reserve a seat on the rooftop Ocean Terrace, which looks out over the La Jolla shoreline. Soak up inland wonders in agricultural capitals such as Sonoma County. At Healdsburg’s Single Thread (which boasts three Michelin stars), chef Kyle Connaughton serves 11 courses of hyper-local food above the equally exceptional inn of the same name.
Forget the old saying about swimming after dinner and jump right in at a rooftop pool. The Sawyer in Sacramento, The Andaz in San Diego and the Rowan Palm Springs are just a few of the hip hotels where you can make a seven-plus-storey splash. Get your own private pool boy—ahem, concierge—at The London West Hollywood, and let someone else attend to your every fresh cocktail desire.
Experience new-school Hollywood glamour first-hand at one of LA’s many rooftop clubs. For a truly top-notch experience, try Spire 73, the highest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere. Wherever you travel in California, there’s almost certainly a rooftop nearby, where views and fun are a mere lift ride away.
The sun dipping below the western horizon, a blanket of city lights spread out at your feet, the Hollywood Sign glowing from its hillside perch—these are memorable sights from any vantage point, but there’s nothing quite like taking them in from a rooftop in the middle of Los Angeles. One of the best things about LA is the weather, and sunny days offer an extra bonus: warm evenings and nights. So relaxing outside, perhaps on cushy banquettes around a swimming pool glowing with cool blue light—well, it doesn’t get much sexier than that.
For a sultry, see-and-be-seen experience, head to E.P & L.P. This West Hollywood spot is part swanky Asian restaurant (E.P) and part rooftop club (L.P). Rub shoulders with the stars as you sip an alcoholic boba tea and gaze out at the glimmering Hollywood Hills. Those preferring a lower profile should retreat to the nearby Rooftop at the Palihouse. Lush greenery, stylish chairs and chic lanterns complement 360-degree views and hibiscus cocktails. For a brush with the super exclusive, book a room at WeHo’s Petit Ermitage. Open only to hotel guests, the rooftop is pure magic with its saltwater pool, seasonal cocktails and a butterfly garden so well done that it’s recognised as a sanctuary by the National Wildlife Federation.
Another excellent option is The Roof on Wilshire, above the Hotel Wilshire in the heart of Downtown. Relax on wraparound banquettes to watch the skyline light up, and sip on one of the bar’s signature mule-style drinks until the stars come out. Also in the Downtown area is Upstairs Bar at the Ace Hotel, with tropical drinks and views of the towering San Gabriel Mountains. A new addition to DTLA, The Rooftop at The Nomad serves tiki cocktails and inspired ice-cream sandwiches on its terracotta deck, which is dotted with lemon trees. Just a few streets away is the literal pinnacle of the city’s nightlife: Spire 73, which sits atop the Intercontinental Hotel and is the highest outdoor bar in the Western Hemisphere. If you want a wacky and unforgettable night, try to nab one of the spaceship-like waterbed pods alongside the pool at The Rooftop at The Standard, Downtown LA. Or head to The Fonda Theatre, where rooftop guests can watch a live feed of the night’s performance.
For nearly a century, Palm Springs has served as a glamorous escape for desert dreamers and the Hollywood elite. And there’s no better place to play starlet-on-holiday than on a rooftop lounge with a cocktail in hand. Thanks to a recent revival, central Palm Springs boasts a handful of high-up venues where its trendiest visitors love to lounge. Whether you’re in the mood for dinner with a view, poolside drinks or a full-on party, Palm Springs has the perfect rooftop spot for you.
In November 2017, the Kimpton Rowan Hotel Palm Springs opened its swanky doors to become the tallest building in the city. Head all the way to the top of this mid-century modern structure to enjoy the only rooftop pool in all of Palm Springs at High Bar. Enjoy views of vibrant palm trees, framed by the hazy San Jacinto mountains as you sip your piña colada and dangle your feet in turquoise water.
Kimpton’s roof also plays host to the desert city’s highest restaurant, 4 Saints. Executive chef Stephen Wambach, who previously ran the kitchen at Chicago’s Four Seasons, blends French technique with local ingredients and whimsical flair. The ever-changing menu features dishes such as artichoke salad with miso dressing and shaved black truffle. Enjoy exceptional cuisine as you gaze out onto a desert panorama.
For an equally delicious (and exceptionally photo-friendly) adventure, head to Sugar High at Azucar Restaurant & Bar. Enjoy Mediterranean fare surrounded by iron chandeliers and colourful portraits of Frida Kahlo before stargazing from the rooftop lounge. A tiled fireplace and sheepskin throws ward off the post-sunset chill, as does the Spicy Melon cocktail, made with mulled jalapeño, watermelon and mezcal.
Wherever you start the evening, end the night at Moxie, where letting it all hang loose is practically a requirement. Every Thursday, Friday and Sunday, this laid-back bar turns into a fully fledged dance party with a DJ spinning until 2 am. Fuel your moves with cold beer and deep-fried pickles served all night.
A cocktail somehow tastes even better when paired with a beautiful view—and San Diego has some stunners. Experience America’s Finest City in all her glory from the luxurious perch of a rooftop bar. Whether you’re in the mood for poolside glamour or board-shorts bliss, there’s a sky-high bar for you.
If you’re in the mood for a swanky hotspot, head to central San Diego. Atop the Pendry Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter sits The Pool House, complete with turquoise tiling and oasis-like cabanas (open to the public 11 am to 4 pm daily). At 14 stories high, The Nolen offers skyline views, best enjoyed over a make-your-own mimosa during Sunday brunch. Also up high (on the 12th floor) sits the iconic Mister A’s, where you can sip cocktails while watching planes fly past. Coming with a big group? Reserve a coveted cabana—either for brunch or evening cocktails—at the rooftop lounge at the Kettner Exchange in Little Italy.
Get your own private box at a Padres game (no tickets required) at Altitude Sky Lounge, which has an unobstructed view of Petco Park. Or travel through time on the roof of the award-winning steakhouse, Born and Raised. Don Draper vibes permeate both the mid-20th-century design and the cocktail menu: straightforward gimlets, martinis and Manhattans.
As the unofficial craft brewing capital of California, San Diego boasts a number of high-up hoppy options. Relax oceanside at Amplified Ale Works (babies and dogs are welcome on the rooftop). Equally laid-back, the Pacific Beach Alehouse is known for creative brews, exceptional skewers and dynamite sunset views. Just five miles south, OB Brewery serves beer flights on wooden surfboards right next to Ocean Beach Pier. For a raucous time, check out the massive 10 Barrel Brewing, where fresh beer is washed down with improved comfort food (think pork belly & watermelon salad).
Head out of San Diego proper for a variety of vistas. Go all the way up at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla (named one of the top 10 restaurants in the world by Fodor’s Choice), where the Ocean Terrace offers sweeping views of the shoreline. Or head north to Oceanside for oyster shots or fish tacos with views of the surfers below at Hello Betty Fish House.