Rooftops are a New Yorker’s secret escape. They offer a refuge from the crowds down at street level, as well as unique vantage points not just of the skyline, but also of the sky, which is so often hidden from view. Although summer may seem like the ultimate rooftop season, the cooler weather months offer plenty of reasons to head up and out. Here are a gathering of some favorite all-season rooftops and expert tips for transforming your own outdoor space into a year-round retreat.
All-Season Rooftop Restaurants and Lounges
The Lodge at Gallow Green: The whimsical garden lounge Gallow Green that crowns Chelsea’s McKittrick Hotel (home of the interactive drama Sleep No More) transforms into a trendy mountain retreat for winter. A rough-hewn ski lodge offers a cozy hideaway filled with comfy seating, plush rugs, and blankets. Outside, an impromptu pine forest surrounds a welcoming fire pit.
Refinery Rooftop: Perched on top of the Refinery Hotel in the Garment District, Refinery Rooftop offers unobstructed views of the Empire State Building from a 3,500-square foot open space with a retractable glass roof. In winter, a fireplace and candlelight cast a romantic glow on the exposed brick walls of the four-season dining space.
Serra Alpina by Birreria: Eataly’s Flatiron rooftop restaurant Birreria reinvents itself every season by theming its outdoor space to a pop up concept, such as autumn’s Serra d’Autunno ( “greenhouse of autumn”), which includes a rustic farm stand with apples and hot cider, and winter’s Serra Alpina, which brings an Italian ski chalet ambience to the urban rooftop. Protected within a glass atrium, evergreens, a wooden lodge and fur-throw-covered chairs create an authentic après-ski atmosphere.
230 Fifth Rooftop: The vast open-sky rooftop at 230 Fifth, one of the largest such public spots in the city, becomes its own winter wonderland. Transparent geodesic igloos warmed with heat lamps and steaming beverages set the scene for taking in the brilliant winter sky. Added perk you can try at home: thick robes to don outdoors to stay warm.
Westlight: Set 22 stories above Williamsburg atop the hip William Vale Hotel, Westlight‘s greenhouse-like space is open year-round. Here you can sample Chef Andrew Carmellini’s creative globally-inspired cuisine and take in the exceptional 360 degree panoramas of the twinkling Manhattan skyline and beyond.
Making Personal Outdoor Space All-Season Retreats
To make your own rooftop deck, balcony, terrace, or back garden usable year-round, Amber Freda of the Brooklyn-based Amber Freda Landscape Design advises treating your outdoor space like a four-season garden. If you plant evergreens and other elements that bloom throughout the year, you will always have something new to see. “In New York City, where living spaces look directly onto gardens and terraces, they very much become a part of the footprint of the apartment—a visual additional room,” Freda says.
Here are some ways to enjoy your outdoor space, no matter the temperature outside:
Plant with fall in mind: Heading into the colder months, Freda suggests planting fall annuals such as mums, kale, cyclamen, violas and pansies, which will survive down to 10 degrees, and adding trees to landscaping including birch, maple and dogwood for their autumnal gold and crimson leaves.
Think perennially: Sedums, grasses and other perennials keep their visual appeal going into winter, while plants that boast colorful winter berries, including red winterberry holly and skimmia and purple beauty berry, will add a striking visual element.
Light it up: As winter settles in, Freda adds string lighting to evergreens and railings and glossy thick magnolia leaves, decorative white branches and red berries to planters to keep things visually interesting when viewed from the warmth of the indoors.
Gimme shelter: For those who want to spend time outdoors in the colder months, add protective pergolas and heaters in walls or floors. Fire pits and fireplaces make for an unexpected element in a outdoor city space. Note: They will likely need a dedicated gas line and have to be 10 feet from anything flammable, according to state law.
By implementing these tips, Freda says, “You’ll make your outdoor space active year-round, ensuring that every inch really counts.”