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Over the Top

A Week on New York’s Hotel Rooftops
  • Hudson hotel

    Sky Terrace at the Hudson

  • Hudson hotel

    Sky Terrace at the Hudson

  • Trump Soho

    Bar d’Eau at the Trump Soho

  • Thompson LES Hotel

    Poolside at the Thompson LES

  • Gansevoort Park

    Rooftop and Lounge at the Gansevoort Park

  • The Standard New York, High Line

    Le Bain at the Standard, High Line

  • The Maritime Hotel

    The Cabanas at the Maritime

  • Gramercy Park Hotel

    Rooftop Garden at the Gramercy Park

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

On the Atlantic coast, where the Hudson and East rivers meet the sea.

WHY GO

This is one of just a handful of cities with a genuine shot at the title of Capital of the World. If it isn’t happening in New York, it isn’t happening.

HOW

It’s practically impossible to avoid — all roads, rails and flight paths in the eastern U.S. seem to lead to New York.

TABLET TIP

Try to see the city’s much-vaunted attitude as a positive rather than a negative. Rarely will a New Yorker leave you wondering what he really thinks.

New York, May, 2013

The New York hotel rooftop is a precarious thing. At its worst, it can be an unctuous cocktail of vertigo, claustrophobia and unpracticed inebriation — granted only after you’ve groveled with some dead-eyed doorman for the privilege. But you persevere; and then it’s that magic hour on the longest day of summer when last call and first light start closing in on one another and you’re gazing at the shores of Jersey City with someone lovely at your side and, good God, since when does Jersey City look like that? In New York, this most vertical of American cities, the hotel rooftop occupies its own special vantage point — human pageant below, human pageant on high, a macro urban landscape that goes on for days, and a self-contained scene unto itself. Here, in honor of summer’s arrival, we present a Manhattan rooftop for every day of the week.

Monday — Sky Terrace at the Hudson
It’s half past six, happy hour. Your day so far’s been rough. But here you are at the Hudson, and against all odds you find yourself sunk into that coveted hammock, with its green and white hillock of pillows. You eye your kaffir lime sake sangria with some skepticism as you plant it, while swaying, on the ground below. With its urban-oasis atmosphere and a crowd that thins out after sundown, the Hudson’s Sky Terrace is at its best during the just-after-work hours, its views of the Statue of Liberty welcoming you into the world of Manhattan’s hotel rooftops.

Tuesday — Bar d’Eau at the Trump Soho
For sheer elevation, Trump Soho’s seventh-floor Bar d’Eau may not quite measure up to the competition, but with a sprawling outdoor pool deck and a surprise bocce court, it manages to compensate in other ways. You resign yourself to handing some hard-earned dollars over to the ownership, and in exchange you get a well-crafted cocktail and some prime people-watching, plus the chance to play the most scenic game of boules this side of the Atlantic.

Wednesday — Poolside at the Thompson LES
“No diving,” read the stern warnings painted onto the tiles around the pool, and you wonder for a minute if maybe they’re being a little defensive about their Lower East Side location. Poolside is a good distance, at least in spirit, from the teetering gilded monuments across town, but with the be-shaded visage of one Andy Warhol lithographed onto the bottom of the pool, it hardly lacks for style. And should you wish to flush out your Blue Ribbon cocktails with some cheap post-party beer, some of Manhattan’s best dive bars are right in the neighborhood.

Thursday — Rooftop and Lounge at the Gansevoort Park
After a long last night on the Lower East Side, you clean yourself up and head to Murray Hill, where the Gansevoort Park Rooftop and Lounge calls to you like some sotto voce Siren, a soothing daytime reprieve from the city that surrounds it. With a stand of skyscrapers crowding above and the Empire State building towering in the distance, it’s about as urban a backdrop as you could possibly have for a swim. Just try to pull yourself away at a reasonable hour. There’s a big weekend ahead, and the quiet daytime scene turns into a just-plain-scene by night, when doors open to the public.

Friday — Le Bain at the Standard, High Line
You show up very late and it’s still much too early, but maybe that’s not so bad; at least you can get in the door. Up in the penthouse discothèque is le bain itself, a sloshy plunge pool with gyrating patrons to match. This, as we’ve said elsewhere, is what hedonism looks like at its most dolled-up, and if you just let go and get into the spirit — and the world-class DJs, gut-rumbling sound system and soaring views all do their bit — it’s hard not to feel that it looks pretty alright. You think of Hieronymus Bosch, or Blake, or you don’t think at all and you have a fantastic time.

Saturday — The Cabanas at the Maritime
Face it; you didn’t make it home last night. But on the upside, you’ve already got your party pants on, and it’s a short walk up to the Maritime, where the leafy rooftop cabanas offer just enough shade from that bright, bright sun. The crowd control is a serious business here, a pain at the door but a joy from the other side. Once you’ve stepped over the threshold, you can settle into one of the cushy sofas and do your celebrity gawking in peace, or just play it cool and relax with a drink.

Sunday — Rooftop Garden at the Gramercy Park
It’s been a long, strange week, and you’ve got to come back down sometime — but not before making a trip to the Gramercy Park’s Rooftop Garden, where brunch is mercifully served until three in the afternoon. Stumptown coffee helps pry those tired eyes open, the better for taking in the Basquiat and Hirst masterpieces amidst the tropical foliage. And then, with a belly full of fancy pancakes, you head downstairs and fall into a deep sleep in your dreamy hotel bed.

Mike Parker

Many of these venues are weather-dependent, and some are technically guests-only. If it’s early in the season or if you plan to visit without booking a room, you may want to call ahead.

BOOK THIS STORY

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

On the Atlantic coast, where the Hudson and East rivers meet the sea.

WHY GO

This is one of just a handful of cities with a genuine shot at the title of Capital of the World. If it isn’t happening in New York, it isn’t happening.

HOW

It’s practically impossible to avoid — all roads, rails and flight paths in the eastern U.S. seem to lead to New York.

TABLET TIP

Try to see the city’s much-vaunted attitude as a positive rather than a negative. Rarely will a New Yorker leave you wondering what he really thinks.


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