Courtesy, Island Oyster
As soon as warm weather hits New York City, outdoor drinking season kicks into high gear. Rooftops, boardwalks and the tiniest of back gardens fill up with enthusiastic drinkers ready to toast the return of sunny days. Check out our list of the City’s best seaside haunts, rooftop perches, floating bars and picturesque backyards for alfresco refreshment, and then make the most of beautiful weather while getting your drink on.
Considering NYC’s famous skyline, it’s no surprise that we have an ample supply of rooftop bars. In the warmer months, these spots are ideal settings for sipping while soaking up the sun and taking in the sights.
Top-floor picks: In Midtown, Ophelia has wraparound views thanks to a swank outdoor terrace, while the Met's Cantor Roof Garden Bar is an art-filled perch overlooking lush Central Park. The Freehand Hotel’s Broken Shaker serves refreshing tropical drinks year-round, but summertime sun on the roof-deck gives the bar extra-beachy vibes.
Loeb Boathouse. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite
Lounging in the park is how New Yorkers experience the great outdoors—preferably with drinks in hand. This outdoor version just happens to include a bar; we won’t judge if the bar within the park was more your destination than the park itself.
Pseudo-picnic spots: Central Park’s Loeb Boathouse is a classic setting for refreshments after a stroll or boat ride, as is the open-air Boat Basin Café, nestled in Riverside Park facing the Hudson River.
The Honorable William Wall. Courtesy, The Honorable William Wall.
Drinking on a boat is a relaxing way to take in majestic views of the City and its rivers while embracing the warm weather.
Maritime state of mind: Board the Honorable William Wall if you fancy a drink on a floating boat. You’ll take a scenic ride out to this barge stationed in the New York Harbor, where an upper deck lounge and drinks served in plastic cups await. Pilot and Brooklyn Barge, two buoyant bars in Brooklyn, provide all the atmosphere of a boat trip without the commitment of actually leaving the dock.
For those of us who prefer to drink on solid ground, seaside watering holes are a great alternative to boîtes on boats. Plus, these bars still offer striking views, seafaring vibes and ocean breezes.
Cheers to piers: Hudson River hangout Pier I Café serves up beer, sangria and cocktails to guests at one of its many umbrella-covered tables, often with live music playing in the background. A few nautical miles down the river, spread out in City Vineyard’s expansive wine garden or on its rooftop lounge while sampling from 15 or so wines on tap.
Ruby's Old Tyme Bar and Grill. Photo: Jen Davis
Who says your beach day can’t double as your bar day? At these summery spots you can tackle both. Just make sure to keep the sun (and sunscreen) on your face and the sand out of your drink.
Ocean-adjacent destinations: Visitors to the Rockaways can rely on the Low Tide Bar for a refreshing break from sunbathing. The boardwalk bar serves twisted tea, sangria and buckets of ice-cold beer. Coney Island’s boardwalk has been home to Ruby’s Olde Tyme Bar and Grill since 1972; its no-nonsense specialty is cold beer in plastic cups. Though it’s not actually on the beach, Surf Bar brings beach vibes to Williamsburg via its sand-covered back patio and umbrella-topped tiki drinks.
Courtesy, Island Oyster
While most of NYC is technically an island destination (the Bronx is the lone borough connected to the mainland), Governors Island has a distinct vacation-spot feel thanks to its lush green spaces and waterfront views. Come May 1, this warm-weather destination is accessible by ferry from Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Governors Island getaways: Island fixture Little Eva’s is a centrally located beer garden, with plenty of picnic tables, beer cans and fresh fruit cocktails to go around. Island Oyster, a 2017 addition, is a tropical-themed bar and oyster restaurant overlooking New York Harbor and Lower Manhattan. Beer, wine and cocktails, like the Fair Winds (vodka, lime, fassionola, orgeat and seltzer), are on hand and ready to refresh.
Courtesy, Gitano Garden of Love
Finally: spacious terraces, charming patios and secret gardens of all sorts. These are some of the most common settings for outdoor drinking in the City, beloved by locals—and anyone else who can appreciate the luxury of a backyard in the NYC real estate market.
Back-of-the-bar oases: There’s plenty of room to spread out in the sun at Gowanus’ Lavender Lake—a 1,600-square-foot patio complete with ivy vines, picnic tables and string lights. Over in Queens, Nowadays is a favorite outdoor hangout thanks to a beachy color scheme, tree-covered seating area and small food-truck menu that accompanies the full bar. Soho’s Gitano Garden of Love is one big rainforest-like backyard with enough palm fronds and plants to feel like Tulum, Mexico—even when the open-air bar is just steps from bustling, distinctly NYC Canal Street. You’ll want to stay a while in the secluded outdoor space at Thai restaurant Wayla. It’s got lounge chairs for sipping cocktails and homey tables for enjoying full meals, plus photogenic foliage and twinkle lights for photo ops—so take all the time you need.