It's not often you get the chance to look down on the political powers of one of the largest countries in the world, but go to the rooftop bars in Washington, DC, and in a fashion, you can do it.
There's really no better place to go than a rooftop bar in Washington, DC, to contemplate political affairs. There you can sit sipping on seasonal cocktails while staring out at the city skyline, contemplating what might or might not be going through the minds of the politicians slaving away at their duties below.
In truth, Washington, DC, has some incredible rooftop bars, but if you're into wearing casual clothes, you might want to reassess your attire before you visit them. There's nothing worse than arriving somewhere and getting attention for all the wrong reasons. If you're on vacation and didn't pack something adequate, don't worry, you can always go shopping in Washington and buy yourself something new that will get a vote of approval from everyone.
While it's not politically incorrect to wander around the nation's capital lumbered with bags, it will knock your street cred score down a peg or two. Some rooftop bars are also pretty hot on security and might refuse you entry if you're carrying too many packages or large bags.
Make sure you get your moments of political reflection by dropping all your excess baggage at one of the Bounce luggage storage facilities in Washington, DC. Bounce luggage lockers are the safest way of storing your stuff as they're individually security tagged, fully insured, and cost a lot less than buying one of the city's signature cocktails, The Rickey, does.
Best Rooftop Bars In Washington, DC
Here you'll discover where the best rooftop bars in Washington, DC, are and what each one has to offer. Surprisingly some have a lot more than colorful bar stools and a classy cocktail menu.
It might be hard to imagine lounging on rooftop seating in DC while sipping tropical cocktails and nibbling on Maryland crab deviled eggs, delicious tacos, or gourmet pizzas, but it can be done. You can also have a drink while staring at the White House, wondering if the President is home, as well as look down on Capitol Hill and the National Mall if you want to.
The Rooftop DC
What it's like:
The Rooftop DC is a fashionable drinking hole that has nothing of the hole about it. This excellent rooftop bar has a retractable roof which they open in warm weather so you can lounge on the sofas and feel the Washington breeze blowing through your hair.
In general, the décor here has a boxy appearance, but it blends well with the square-shaped skyscrapers that surround it. The colors of the furnishings, gray and blue, are basic but tone well without causing a headache-inspiring clash.
Strangely enough, while this rooftop bar is a sports bar where you can watch just about any sporting event, they have a strict dress code. Turn up here in athletic wear, sweatpants, or a plain white tank top, and you won't be allowed in.
Go any time from Tuesday to Saturday, both included, between four in the afternoon and seven in the evening, and all drinks, even the cocktail list, are half-price.
476 Northwest K Street
What it's like:
Whiskey Charlie is a rooftop lounge that, while it may be ultra-modern, inside it has the look of an old-fashioned gentleman's cigar-smoking club. The lounge is one of the city's new rooftop bars and is located at the Hilton Canopy Hotel on The Wharf, so it has fantastic views of the marina, the waterfront, and the Potomac River.
There's both indoor and outdoor seating at Whiskey Charlie, so it's a great place to drop by no matter what the weather is like in Washington, DC. They haven't gone for picnic tables outside either, but nice rattan sofas, high tables, and bar stools.
This is a super place to go to have sundowners as you watch the sun setting over the water. Rather than huge main meals, here they serve a wide variety of shareable small plates and finger food that are just enough to kill the hunger pangs until it's time for dinner.
Has to be the Spam Sliders or the District Wings, which come with three different dipping sauces and to drink, a cocktail that was probably named after a previous president, the Old Scalawag.
975 Southwest 7th Street
What it's like:
The view from the 12 Stories rooftop bar of the Intercontinental Hotel is probably one of the best you'll find. From this smart rooftop bar, you'll get almost panoramic views of the city skyline with the Potomac River as a bonus.
12 Stories is a spacious place that's made to look even bigger than it is by the floor-to-ceiling windows. The interior décor is an eclectic fusion of wood-paneled ceilings, polished cement flooring, and blue and caramel-colored furnishings. It may sound odd, but it's a look that works in a clinical way. The open-air terrace is more of a rooftop deck and is furnished simply with wooden tables and chairs.
Here they have three cocktail lists. One for classic cocktails, one for specialty cocktails, and another for frozen cocktails. As well as spirits and champagne, they also offer a small food menu of typical bar food.
One of 12 Stories frozen Tequila Sunrises accompanied by some crispy calamari with sweet chili dip to nibble on.
75 District Square SW
What it's like:
The Vue Rooftop is the rooftop bar-restaurant of the Hotel Washington and a pretty sophisticated rooftop bar it is too. Longer than it is wide, this rooftop terrace stretches the entire length of the building and is divided into several sections: a bar area, a comfortable dining room zone, and a section set out with high tables and stools. No matter which part you sit in, you'll be able to look down over the White House and the Washington Monument.
If you're looking to find one of the best rooftop bars in Washington, DC, to take someone special or want to impress a date, you won't go far wrong here unless you forget to book a table.
This rooftop bar-restaurant has a fantastic dinner menu they serve from 5 pm when they open, but on Saturdays and Sundays, they open at 11 am for a special weekend brunch. Yes, it is quite a bit pricier than many other rooftop bars, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for, and you can see the Washington Monument. What more could you ask for?
Go for a leisurely brunch and start with a First Lady's lemonade cocktail or try one of Vue's seasonal cocktails, then tuck into filet and eggs or some Maryland crab cakes. The bill will make you wince, but just tell yourself you're worth it.
515 Northwest 15th Street
What it's like:
Hi-Lawn is the rooftop terrace at Union Market, and if you're looking for a place to chill out in Washington, DC, that's not quite as posh or pricey as most rooftop bars are, this could be the place for you.
The reason it's called Hi-Lawn is because the roof surface is covered with astroturf. The terrace has a nice garden atmosphere, complementing the picnic tables and benches. If you're feeling energetic, you can also participate in some lawn games to pass the time.
From the bar, which was a shipping container in a past life, they serve a variety of hot dogs with sides of curly fries. If you're looking for gourmet food, you're in the wrong place. Whether draft cocktails are legitimate cocktails or not is a good question, and while any decent mixologist would probably turn their nose up at them, that's what they serve here. They also serve adult juice boxes, seltzer cocktails, and wine by the bottle.
This is a great rooftop bar to spend a few hours with friends playing lawn games while you down a few adult juice boxes or draft cocktails aptly named I Used To Be A Real Bartender.
1309 Northeast 5th Street
What it's like:
While the Lost Society may sound like an exclusive club, it's not. It's a steakhouse with a rooftop terrace. This restaurant's rooftop terrace has quite a chic style as it's decked out with black flooring, slate-gray high tables, bar stools, and a wall covered in creeping green vines. It's one that you can visit all year round, too, as it has a retractable roof and sliding windows that close to keep out the rain.
The city skyline views from Lost Society might not be great, but the food certainly is. If you're a dedicated foodie, you'll definitely want to drop by here to taste what they have on their food menu. They don't have one of those never-ending cocktail lists or a tasting menu. What they do have, though, is pretty good.
Would have to be a Mango Margarita to whet the appetite, followed by a chicken quesadilla with a glass of Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc and some bread pudding to finish. Check out their special menu if you're on a seriously restricted budget. You can choose two small plates and a drink for $20. That's a bargain.
2001 Northwest 14th Street
Top of the Yard
What it's like:
The Top of the Yard is the Hampton Inn and Suites rooftop lounge in DC's Navy Yard. While it may be the rooftop bar of a hotel, it's a pretty laid-back sort of place where you can relax on well-padded sofas and armchairs inside as well as outside. If you stand up to enjoy one of their seasonal cocktails, you can watch a baseball game while you do it.
The Top of the Yard has views straight down into the Nationals Park baseball field, which is great unless you're on a date, hate baseball, and your date doesn't. There are compensations, though. They come in the form of fantastic views of Downtown Washington and the Capitol Riverfront.
In reality, everything about the Top of the Yard is focused on the stadium and any games or events that are happening there. That includes the food and drink. Think burgers, hot dogs, wings, nachos, and just about everything else that comes out of a fryer or off the grill that goes well with craft beer, and you'll be hitting the right base.
When there's a big game going down or a big-name concert happening in the National Park stadium, make sure to book a table well in advance. Getting to see a game or concert for free is very popular in Washington, DC.
1265 Southeast 1st Street
It has to be said that when you go to any of the best rooftop bars, you will need to be dressed accordingly. You might only want to sip one of the bar's craft cocktails, but go in tatty jeans or a t-shirt, and you'll be shown the door before you even hit the rooftop deck.
Before you head off for the night out of your life, you should be aware of two more things. Many of the best rooftop bars frequently host private events, so the best thing to do before you get all excited is check on their website to see if they have anything special going on. The second thing you should check for is when they have a happy hour, as many do and who wants to miss out on one of those?