Drinks: Up on the roof — The best rooftop bars for your buck.

230 Fifth

230 Fifth

Want a different summer escape every night of the week? As Manhattan’s rooftop bar season kicks into high gear this month, there are more than 25 places to see a bird’s-eye view the city. Relax and enjoy fresh air — except for the cigarette smoke — and even more refreshing drinks at any of the high-altitude bars, whether they’re trendy clubs, hidden dives or just a plastic lawn chair on a tar roof. Here are seven standouts, so you can sip in style every day of the week:

230 Fifth With 22,000 square feet of space and enough wood benches and sturdy garden chairs for about 500 guests, the city’s largest rooftop bar opened a year ago on top of the New York Market Center near Madison Square Park. 230 Fifth is so vast that it seems impossible it could be in Manhattan — until you notice the Empire State Building and MetLife building looming as your tablemates while you sip cocktails flavored with guava, cactus and blood orange, and enjoy an array of Malaysian bar snacks. Drinks average $12 each, but the (almost) unobstructed 360-degree view of the city offers a year-round rooftop vacation that’s well worth it. (230 Fifth Avenue, 20th floor, between 26th and 27th Streets, 212-725-4300)

A60 Though a members-only bar, there are tricks to cracking open A60. Try reserving a room at the hotel downstairs. Two separate rooftop areas present guests with picturesque midtown and lower Manhattan skyline views. The bar has room for up to 100 people, and offers pricey exotic drinks and Thai hors d’oeuvres. (60 Thompson, 60 Thompson Street, between Spring and Broome Streets, 877-431-0400) 

Bar 13 Amid palm trees and illuminated panels, patrons at this Miami-themed rooftop garden can enjoy a different themed party and two-for-one happy hour specials every weeknight. Its location between NYU’s Washington Square campus and Union Square makes this a prime destination for students stuck in the city all summer and looking for a little South Beach flavor, but the mostly under-30 crowd varies every night of the week. Affordable drinks save this otherwise lackluster roof, where opaque screens surrounding the deck mean the only place to look is up. Get there early (before 10pm) on the weekends to avoid a $10 cover charge. (35 E. 13th Street, between Broadway and University Place, 212-979-6677)

Cabana at the Maritime Hotel Consistently ranked as one of the city’s best rooftop escapes, Cabana at the Maritime fulfills your summer fantasies. In the summer, this bar in the meat-packing district feels like a cross between a trendy L.A. nightclub and a retro luxury cruise liner, complete with heat lamps, leafy plants, tropical wallpaper, lounge cushions, and plenty of strappy sandals and halter tops on the tanned female clientele. Cool off with a bottle of sake or a martini with fresh lychee juice and look for celebrities like Sean Penn, Sam Rockwell or the Hilton sisters, all of whom have been regulars in the past. And after a night of partying, you can use free passes to New York Sports Club a block away. (88 Ninth Avenue, between 16th and 17th streets, 212-242-4300)

The Delancey During the summer, the roof is the main draw at this three-floor Lower East Side rock and roll bar near the Williamsburg Bridge. The all-weather rooftop bar is palm-fronded, South Beach style, with benches, fountains and a BBQ (and even a retractable roof that shields partiers from the rain — while it unfortunately eliminates an already-limited view). But beware: the roof usually closes to the public by 9pm for private parties, the drink specials aren’t always as cheap as advertised, and the staff doesn’t want you there. (168 Delancey Street, at Clinton Street, 212-254-9920)

Gramercy Park Hotel Private Roof Club and Garden The Gramercy Park Hotel has just opened its own rooftop bar this spring, available only to guests of the hotel and select private members. The unique indoor and outdoor space 16 stories above the city strikes a balance between after-hours chic and classic private membership clubs, creating a country club feel in the middle of Manhattan. Paintings by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, among others, are on display inside. The roof promises to offer the same personal comfort and intimacy of a private home, and its exclusivity is ensured by the hotel’s expensive room rates. (2 Lexington Avenue, at E. 21st Street, 212-920-3300)

Roof Garden Café At the Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, young and old, tourist and native co-exist in a spacious garden setting above the treetops of Central Park. The “bar” is really just a concessions cart that serves alcohol and snacks, but in addition to the spectacular view, marvel at sculptures by Frank Stella. Children are welcome and the roof closes early (8:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, 4:30 pm other days). Accessible only by the southwest elevators on the ground floor of the museum, just outside the 20th-century art gallery. (The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, at 82nd Street, 212-535-7710)

This article was published in the May 18-20, 2007 weekend issue of amNewYork.

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