The surge of warm weather this weekend rekindled our desire to drink outdoors while enjoying a view of the sky, the lake, or the city. To help you plan for al fresco season, here’s a short list of hotel rooftop bars that won’t disappoint.
1. IO Urban Roofscape at the Godfrey Hotel Chicago
4th floor, 127 W. Huron St., 312-649-2000
Open now atop the much-anticipated Godfrey, which opened this past February, this sprawling rooftop has all the makings of greatness: a unique location at the edge of River North, with deep southeast-facing views across the downtown; a good chef overseeing the small plates menu; a retractable roof to render weather powerless; interesting and roomy spaces reminiscent of the best at theWit’s Roof, including a fireplace terrace, cabanas, and water features (but without the cheese factor that has become sadly inescapable at theWit). At 10,000 square feet, IO Roofscape is also the city’s largest.
When to go: Go for brunch on the weekends and you’ll have the place—and the sunshine—to yourself.
2. J. Parker at Hotel Lincoln
13th floor, 1816 N. Clark St., 312-254-4747
A glass-enclosed rooftop bar is open year-round, but its outdoor terrace, which opens in May, is the real draw. And mostly for the views: No other Chicago hotel rooftop can beat the sweeping panorama offered by J. Parker’s amazingly unobstructed spot in Lincoln Park. You’ll be able to gaze upon Lake Michigan, the downtown skyline, and all the way down Lincoln Avenue from this vantage point. “The water looks the bluest during the mid afternoon sun,” says Hotel Lincoln’s GM Bob Shelley.
When to go: If you want a table, Shelley recommends getting to the bar before 6 p.m. on Monday or Tuesdays. Guests of the hotel are moved to the front of J. Parker’s line whenever there’s a wait.
16th floor, 401 N. Wabash Ave., 312-588-8600
Opening for the season in May, the Terrace at Trump is a favorite for nearly the opposite reason that we love Hotel Lincoln. Instead of taking in the city from afar, Trump’s Terrace puts you right in the middle of it, with incredible landmark architecture as your backdrop. This year, the chances of getting a seat have improved with the addition of 60 seats for an increased capacity of 250.
When to go: Catch the fireworks at Navy Pier on Wednesday and Saturday nights.
4. Drumbar at Hotel Raffaello
18th floor, 201 E. Delaware Pl., 312-933-4805
Opening on May 1, Drumbar’s cozy terrace, a good portion of this combined indoor-outdoor rooftop, is nestled between Gold Coast highrises. New this season, Drumbar will offer food after 2 p.m. on Sundays and showcase a new cocktail menu from Alex Renshaw, the beverage director’s first summer at the helm.
When to go: Take advantage of Drumbar’s partnership with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and order a rare, slow sipper during its relatively subdued happy hour.
Soho House Chicago
113–125 N. Green St.
Based on the rendering alone (at right), we’d put this last rooftop at the top of the list—except for the fact that it won’t open until August (which, of course, could be delayed) and that the bar is not exactly open to the public. Soho House Chicago (113–125 N. Green St.), a boutique hotel opening in the Fulton Market neighbourhood, will have a big rooftop available exclusively to hotel guests and members of the Soho House club. Here’s why you’ll want to book a room: The rooftop will offer an 80-foot swimming pool, an expansive patio with two fireplaces, a glass-enclosed bar, and British-inspired restaurant.