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Unfortunately, San Francisco's relatively cool climate — the average temperature during summer months is in the mid 60s — means it's not the ideal location for rooftop bars. The fog is also particularly heavy during the summer making rooftops a chilly spot to hang out. However, on the rare day that the temperature rises above 75 degrees, San Franciscans flock to areas that have outdoor patios and rooftop watering holes.
A personal favorite is the tenderloin hot spot Jones. The elegant indoor-outdoor space has a massive roof area with large wooden tables and comfy chairs. There are two bars which makes it relatively easy to get a drink. Another great rooftop bar is El Techo of Lolinda in the Mission. Lolinda is an Argentine steak house with excellent cocktails and a vibrant roof top bar. At El Techo, they offer beautiful views of the Mission and a menu of Latin American street food.
As much as we San Franciscans dream of balmy nights under the stars, sipping cocktails in our new sundress and strappy heels, baby, it's cold outside! Most 'rooftop' bars we go to are inside, but there are a few open air ones too. Here a few few places to enjoy a lofty libation.
The Top of the Mark at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel is perhaps the best known. While you won't find a bargain, you will find the vision of then owner George D. Smith who, in 1939, decided to convert his 19th-floor penthouse apartment into a cocktail lounge. These days visitors and locals ride the elevator up for the views and the 100 martini menu!
if you MUST be outside, and there are times when we must, head to Jones. Only three blocks from San Francisco’s historic Union Square, within walking distance to all downtown hotels, this bar/restaurant features a one-of-a-kind 8,000 square foot (heated) courtyard terrace.
Bisdes the fantastic food at Bluestem Brasserie, and their clever American Road Trip menu, this stylish downtown eatery also has an outdoor patio on the second floor and a mean cocktail list---the perfect pairing for warm San Francisco days and nights.
The Marriott Marquis hotel in downtown San Francisco has a spectacular view from the 39th floor lounge.