Two warm, sunny weekends in a row can only mean one thing: the return of outdoor drinking season. These eight rooftop bars—some new, some reliable favorites—serve up refreshing drinks alongside killer, open-air views.
For after-work cocktails with a breeze: Drumbar
201 E. Delaware Pl., 312-933-4805
The bar atop the Rafaello Hotel, which will cheers to its fifth anniversary this June, gives off a sophisticated library feel. Head onto the rooftop terrace, where summery white and green furniture makes for a more laid-back (but still elevated—18 floors up!) place to drink a cocktail.
For downtown swank in Wicker Park: Cabana Club and Up & Up
2018 W. North Ave., 872-315-3050; 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave., 872-315-3082
The opening of the Robey hotel and its sister hostel the Hollander next door took Wicker Park’s drinking-with-a-city-view options from zilch to two. For Miami vibes, head to Cabana Club on the sixth floor of the Hollander, which opens May 7. There’s a pool, but don’t get your giant swan blown up just yet. Only hotel guests are welcome to splash around, though chaise lounges for 160 people will be up for grabs. Too tempted to jump in? Visit Up & Up on the 13th floor of the Robey, which is now open to the public, after opening as a hotel-guests-only spot.
For those days you need an extra dose of zen: Noyane
101 E. Erie St., 312-667-6700 (Hotel)
A central bar, strands of bistro lights, and views of the Mag Mile from 21 floors up will greet guests when the Conrad Hotel’s rooftop bar opens in late May. The menu’s Japanese influence makes it the ideal place to camp out on muggy summer days. Expect to find refreshing sushi and sashimi to snack on; for sipping, they'll have sake, Japanese whiskey and beer, and Japanese-inspired cocktails.
For that bird’s-eye look at Millennium Park you just can’t quit: Cindy’s
12 S. Michigan Ave., 312-792-3502
There are a few new rooftop bars to check out this year, but don’t pass up the gems of summers past. Cindy’s, on the 13th floor of the Chicago Athletic Association, doles out some of the best views in the city. Come for those, and stay for the creative cocktails, playfully listed as “potions and elixirs,” from so-called spirit guide Nandini Khaund.
For city, lake, and park views—even on a rainy day: The J. Parker
1816 N. Clark St., 312-254-4747
The popular Lincoln Park spot features a retractable roof that makes the top floor of Hotel Lincoln a year-round destination. No need to worry about that roof getting in the way of your vitamin D exposure or killer views, though. On picturesque summer days, the roof will be retracted so you can soak it in from one of 140 outdoor seats.
For a payday nightcap: LH Rooftop
85 E. Wacker Dr., 312-357-1200
The 2016 newcomer easily earned rookie of the year thanks to its three levels offering stunning views of Michigan Avenue, the Chicago River, and a sliver of Lake Michigan. Sure, you should expect to drop a minimum of $15 per cocktail, but if you consider your visit a lesson in Chicago architecture (spot the Hancock, the Tribune Tower, and Marina City), it’s worth the bloated bill. Bonus: LH is more accessible this year. Reservations for the second-level terrace can be made via OpenTable, the hotel has nixed the pre-arrival payment requisite, and the Cupola on the tiptop is open to the public so long as it’s not booked for a private event.
For large-format drinks that impress: Apogee
660 N. State St., 312-202-6000
Formerly known as Vertigo Sky Lounge, the Dana Hotel’s 26th floor, 1,100-square-foot rooftop lounge is set to open as Apogee on May 5. You’ll want to round up your crew to check it out: Benjamin Schiller (The Berkshire Room, The Sixth) has created a list of cocktails fit for sharing while settled into the posh lounge seating.
For River North minus the scene: Celeste Roof Garden
111 W. Hubbard St., 312-828-9000
Climb up three floors to Celeste’s rooftop, and you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon a secret garden that’s a world away from the Hubbard Street hubbub below. Victorian-style furniture outfitted in a playful tropical pattern and greenery climbing the brick walls add to the garden vibe. Like The J. Parker, Celeste’s new retractable roof makes it a suitable retreat even in the winter months. Once the weather gets into a consistently warm groove, they’ll ditch the roof (save for a rainy day).