Taking in a great view can be expensive -- particularly in major cities where riding an elevator to the top of a skyscraper is a tourist attraction on its own. But there are often less-expensive alternatives. We went on the hunt for rooftops and terraces that offer great views or a relaxing outdoor atmosphere (and sometimes both) without the sky-high prices. A few are free public areas, but most are restaurants and bars where it's possible to enjoy the view, while also grabbing an affordable drink or meal -- typically, $10 or less for each.
25 Places to Enjoy Rooftop Views Without High Prices
A restaurant and craft brewery, Amplified Ale Works boasts a 1,000-square-foot second-story terrace with an ocean view. Doner kebab sandwiches start at $9, salads are $8.50, and a few share-worthy appetizers start at about $6. More than a dozen beers are featured, including the entire Amplified lineup, which is made with a gluten-reducing fermentation process.
San Francisco has a handful of privately owned public open spaces that are often open during regular business hours. One is the rooftop garden at 343 Sansome Street, which features a sundial, stunning views of the Transamerica pyramid, and a glimpse of the bay. Plenty of seating is available.
On top of the Birchwood Inn, the Canopy Rooftop Lounge offers nearly 360-degree views of the harbor, bay, and city. Particularly suited for sunsets, covered sofas and patio tables are available, but weekends are busy. Sandwiches and small plates start at $8 and bottled beer at $4.
Gene's Sausage Shop is a specialty market with cured and fresh meats, pickled products, and all sorts of other goodies. Head to the rooftop patio to enjoy a freshly grilled brat and a cold beer on one of the many picnic benches. Entrees cost about $8, a 16-ounce draft beer is about $6, and a 24-ounce canned beer (aka a "tall boy") is about $4.
Those looking for a respite from the hectic shopping district below can head up to the garden on the Westfield Mall's roof. It's often quiet, and benches and plants add to enjoyment of the view. To get to the roof, exit the mall and walk next door to 835 Market Street. Head to the first elevator on the left, the only one that goes up to the ninth floor. Bring an ID just in case the building's guard asks for one.
On the shores of Wayzata Bay, 6Smith has a patio and rooftop dining area with splendid water views. Lunch and dinner can be pricey, but stop by during happy hour for $2 oysters, $4 draft beers, and other snacks and drinks for $6 or $8. Happy hour is from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a second late-night happy hour from 9 p.m. to close Monday through Thursday and 10 p.m. to close on Fridays and Saturdays.
Open year-round, the Vertigo Sky Lounge at the Dana Hotel features an outdoor patio with a fire pit, as well as indoor seating. No cover is charged, but getting in can be difficult at times and reviewers say a dress code is ambiguously enforced. Once inside, views from the 26th floor outlook are stunning. Cocktails are pricey, but a bucket of five beers starts at just $25.
On the waterfront in Charlestown, Pier 6 is a nautically themed three-floor restaurant and bar with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and a roof deck. Grab a drink or snack and enjoy the view after visiting the U.S.S. Constitution next door. Beers start at $7, several salads are $10, and fried pickles or French fries are $5 each.
The Metropolitan Museum is on many visitors' (and residents') to-do lists. The museum can take days to get through, but make time for a visit to the rooftop. Rotating exhibits accompany beautiful views of Central Park and Manhattan's skyline. The suggested donation price to enter the Met is $25, but any donation amount is enough for a ticket (unless purchased online).
The Godfrey Hotel in River North has several bars and an outdoor patio on the fourth floor. Reviewers say it's often crowded, but the festive atmosphere is one of the venue's biggest draws. Grab a beer and enjoy the view of Chicago's southern skyline for just $7.
The roof of the parking garage at 100 First Street isn't particularly high, but it's still a wonderful getaway from the busy city. Walk up the four-story stairway from the street and enjoy a semi-secluded lunch among trees, bushes, and water features.
This is a large British pub with a menu to match. Grab a seat on the rooftop deck and enjoy a drink while watching the lawn bowling. During happy hour weekdays, 20-ounce pints and select wines are $5 each, and food and cocktail specials are $3 to $7.
Cora's Restaurant at the White House Hotel in Biloxi gets decent reviews. A few of the lunch options are less than $10 and there are $5 appetizers, vodka drinks, wines, and draft beer from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Enjoy the drinks in with a view of the Gulf from the upstairs patio.
In Williamsburg, Berry Park's 3,000-square-foot roof often draws a crowd during the warm months, although heating makes it an option when the weather is cooler, as well. Beers are $6 to $8, and glasses of wine start at $8. The bar also screens many soccer games on an indoor projector and hosts the occasional concert, but go for the view of the Manhattan skyline, particularly at sunset.
A music venue with two stages, Reggie's also has a 99-person rooftop bar, with a pull-string shower and umbrellas for the summer and heaters during the winter. A free pool table, basketball hoop, and eight TVs also attract patrons. Burgers start at $8.50, brunch starts at $8, and food and drink specials are featured through the week, although the service can be uneven, according to reviews.
In Columbus Circle, on the southwest corner of Central Park, Dizzy's hosts jazz shows with a great view of the city and park. Doors open for Tuesday and Wednesday late-night sessions at 11:15, and the cover is only $5. Thursday and Friday late nights are $10. Drinks start at $7 for a beer while specialty cocktails command about $15 each.
Head up to the 15th floor of Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side to enjoy sweeping views from the Mr. Purple bar for the price of $6 to $8 bottles of beer and $7 drafts. Named after Adam Purple, a local artist and squatter who died in 2015, the posh bar has been a source of controversy, but admirers say the cocktails and views are equally dazzling.
The views aren't the main draw of Social Drink Food, a fourth-floor terrace of the Yotel in Hell's Kitchen. Rather, it is the enormity of the 7,000-square-foot terrace lined with brightly colored pillows and cushions and long picnic benches. Pizzas start at $9, beers at $6, and wine at $7, but happy hour specials are available every day of the week.
Perched atop the Skye Condos and Hyatt Place hotel, Fahrenheit's 21st-floor view of downtown and the surrounding area is breathtaking. The rooftop has small herb gardens, fire pits, and a pool, as well as a few seating areas and plenty of standing room. The food gets mixed reviews and beer ($5 to $6) is the only thing that fits the budget, but the view is worth a visit.
Nineteen (or XIX) restaurant, bar, and café on the top floor of the Hyatt at the Bellevue offers great views of downtown Philly. Seating is limited on the balcony, and it's closed during the fall and winter, but patrons can request an indoor seat by one of the large windows. Bottled beers start at $6 and drafts start at $8, a few small appetizers are $6 or $8, and flatbread pizzas just break the budget at $11 each.
The Continental Midtown near Rittenhouse Square (there is another Continental diner in the old city) has a few quirks, such as one-way mirrors in the bathrooms, so people in the hallway can see as patrons check themselves out. Some of the tables have swinging chairs as well, although it can be hard to eat while swinging. The rooftop bar is partially enclosed and open all year. Beers start at $5, but most of the food menu is more than $10 a plate.
A three-story restaurant and bar, Acme Feed Seed often has live music and inexpensive brews. Although the entrees are in the low- to mid-teens, grab $3 to $6 beer and enjoy the fresh air on the rooftop.
Backbeat is a new two-story bar in south Austin with trendy cocktails and bites, such as a Trinidad Sour on a nitro tap and red curry rabbit rillettes. The rooftop lounge features views of downtown and happy hour specials Tuesday through Thursday. At other times, cans of beer start at $3 and a few of the specialty cocktails are $10. Many food items cost less than $10.
A popular music venue that also hosts viewing parties for sporting events, the Rattle Inn's large rooftop deck isn't as posh as some other 6th Street joints. The drinks are cheap, especially during happy hour, when domestic beers are $2 and well drinks are $3. The roof deck has plastic coverings and heat lamps for cooler nights and fans for hot days. There are nine TVs, a photo booth, and two Skeeball machines.
Located in the heart of downtown Houston on the edge of Discover Park, the Grove is only two stories high but still provides great views of the park and city for patrons. Enjoy the fresh air on the patio, or sit inside and gaze through the floor-to-ceiling windows. During happy hour, select beers and well drinks are $2.50, wine by the glass is $5.50, and small bites are $8 each.