If Denver doesn't quite get the 300 days of sunshine it's reputed for, it comes close enough to make alfresco dining and drinking as central to our lifestyle as hiking, cycling and climbing — while requiring much less effort. Thanks to rooftop access, these 18 spots offer some of the best outdoor perches in the city. (Come August, you can add 54thirty to the list: The open-air lounge is on the 20th floor of the soon-to-open Le Méridien.)
Justin Cucci has outdone himself (again) with this sizzling tapas bar at the top of a five-story building in LoHi, where there's not a bad seat in the house for sweeping views of the Mile High City — though it goes without saying that the very best ones line the balcony.
Must-order: Matzo ball soup dumplings, shawarma-spiced lamb ribs, diablos (merguez-stuffed prunes with piquillo-feta fondue), Valencian paella, anything out of a porrón, housemade vermouth as an apéritif
Insider tip: Not that you really need one, but you get a monocular for an extra visual boost upon being seated at your eagle's nest of a table.
2930 Umatilla St.; 303-524-9193
Departure's just-opened lounge represents a lift-off, set as it is eight floors above the dining room. Up here amid the poolside cabanas, the aura's exclusive, the decor swanky, the views expansive. Dim sum cart service and serious yet flirty cocktails top it all off.
Must-order: The Battle of Batida or Ryu punch, taro chips with cashew-jalapeño dip — and whatever Gregory Gourdet's crew has whipped up by way of dumplings and skewers that day, of course
Insider tip: Elevated opens at 4 PM weekdays and 11 AM weekends. Arrive on the early side for your best shot at getting in.
249 Columbine St.; 720-772-5030
Briar Common Brewery + Eatery
With a deck fringed by the treetops of Jefferson Park and Sports Authority Field just beyond, this modern brewpub would be worth the occasional fair-weather visit even if the food and drink were merely adequate. That both are excellent makes it a shoe-in for regular stops.
Must-order: Mussels with yak chorizo, anything featuring rabbit or fried chicken, the Mt. Angel American Wheat with house-flavored syrup (e.g. chile or beet)
Insider tip: Most nights there's a three-course, beer-paired tasting option in addition to the regular menu — and it's just $35.
2298 Clay St.; 720-512-3894
LOW Country Kitchen
It isn't even open yet, but when it is (any day now), Brian and Katy Vaughn's flower-bedecked rooftop oasis will bring you as close as you can get to a life of leisure down South, as you hold court over a julep-accompanied supper served family-style.
Must-order: The strawberry-rhubarb smash, happy-hour deviled eggs and boiled peanuts, fried chicken and collard greens
Insider tip: Speaking of happy hour, it'll be 4:30–6 PM weekdays, 2:30–6 PM weekends.
1575 Boulder St.; 720-512-4168
Variety is the spice of life at everybody's favorite hipster food court (oops, "collective eatery") in LoHi, with seven vendors in slow yet steady rotation. But one thing never changes: the eye-popping panoramas from the indoor/outdoor upper deck–slash–party pad.
Must-order: Seasonal pasta from Chow Morso, American Grind's veggie burger, oysters at The Regional, fresh coconut water at Quiero Arepas — just to name a few
Insider tip: In July, Souk Shawarma will give way to Kaya Kitchen, an Asian street-food counter from ChoLon's Lon Symensma.
3200 Pecos St.; 720-269-4778
10 Barrel Brewing Company
In addition to acclaimed beers and surprisingly solid grub, you can catch some gorgeous sunsets from the spacious deck of this lively RiNo brewpub.
Must-order: Pub snack mix, steak nachos, the Cucumber Crush or Abuelita guava cream ale (when available)
Insider tip: A brewery may be the last place you'd expect to find valet service, but lo and behold, 10 Barrel's got it. Parking problem solved.
2620 Walnut St.; 720-573-8992
Ascend the staircase of this izakaya to unwind in its serene, Zen-accented sanctuary under the starlit night sky. Overlooking the action on bustling South Pearl Street, you'll somehow feel far away from it all.
Must-order: A bottle of sake, new-style sashimi and panzanella
Insider tip: If the patio is full (and it usually is), there's also a super-sexy upper-level bar with a retractable roof.
1487 S. Pearl St.; 303-777-0691
Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar
Fresh air, fruits de mer, cold house beer and all: If you squint, you can almost pretend the breezy little hideaway atop the Glendale branch of Big Red F's beloved seafood franchise is overlooking the ocean rather than the CitySet complex.
Must-order: Oysters and spiked strawberry lemonade at happy hour, shrimp-garnished Bloodys and blackened-catfish Benedict come brunch
Insider tip: On Friday, May 26, Jax is hosting an '80s-themed summer kickoff bash on the rooftop complete with a costume contest — the winner of which will enjoy free crab for a year. And that's not all: East Coast–style shellfish feasts are going down up top all summer, including two crab boils on June 10 and September 9, a lobster boil on July 8 and a clambake on August 12.
650 South Colorado Blvd., Glendale; 303-756-6449
If your fantasy rooftop bar boasts skyline views, a lime-green RV with a walk-up window that dispenses cocktails, happy-hour noshes like BBQ-duck buns or cheddar-shishito poppers and a crowd of cool kids to soak it all up, the one-of-a-kind scene that unfolds atop Justin Cucci's mortuary-turned-eatuary is about to make it a reality.
Must-order: A Thai Collins, beet falafel, New England fish tacos
Insider tip: Seating is first come, first served, so get there early to join the party.
2030 W. 30th Ave.; 303-993-3120
Mark and Andrea Ferguson's West Highland haunt features a front patio with a fire pit, a wraparound porch, backyard-garden dining among the blooms and a rooftop deck that, because it's not always open for service, remains something of a secret — so if your heart's set on it, call ahead.
Must-order: The menu here changes frequently, but seafood dishes are always a treat — think calamari parmigiana or seared scallops with foie gras hash browns and peppered blackberries — as are desserts like green-tea tiramisu and PB&J ice cream sandwiches.
Insider tip: Though a few years old now, Solitaire only recently launched brunch. So if you can get a table upstairs, it's perfect for lounging over mimosas, spritzes and deep-dish breakfast pizzas.
3927 W. 32nd Ave.; 303-477-4732
When the Rockies are playing, the 90-seat patio atop Troy Guard's riotous RiNo shrine to tacos and tequila can feel like an extension of the ballpark, with a packed house (or rather roof) making merry at community tables against a Downtown-skyline backdrop, or perched on and around the stools lining the indoor/outdoor bar.
Must-order: The lamb-neck taco, rattlesnake-chorizo queso or guacamole, the Silk Pajamas margarita
Insider tip: Sometimes the "wild card" taco of the day is outrageous indeed (kangaroo, antelope); sometimes it's a simpler pleasure (fried oyster, buttered lobster). Either way, ordering it blind is half the fun.
2461 Larimer St.; 303-295-0686
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
This slick modern hangout in the tiny (and still somewhat peaceful) Prospect neighborhood boasts a smashing view of Coors Field from its rooftop deck.
Must-order: Whiskey, of course, plus pork wings and burgers
Insider tip: Parking is anything but easy on the streets, but there's a covered garage directly behind the bar to leave your wheels (as well as valet service Thursday–Saturday evenings).
2907 Huron St.; 303-226-1540
Come social hour, whisk the sophisticates in your life off to the terrace of the ART hotel's fourth-floor restaurant, stylish as all get out with lounge furnishings and fire pits — not to mention a small but elegant selection of seasonal nibbles and drinks (which also happen to be well-priced by hotel standards).
Must-order: Lamb sliders, seasonal dips (such as hot crab or spinach-artichoke) with crostini, a Colorado whiskey sampler
Insider tip: As long as you're here, take yourself on an art tour: The lobby, halls and meeting rooms display the hotel's top-notch collection.
1201 Broadway; 720-709-4431
Del Frisco's Grille
Already known as the more-casual sibling of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, this Cherry Creek go-to takes relaxation to a whole new level, literally, with its third-floor rooftop bar, where you can cuddle on greenery-lined loveseats, mingle at the standing counter or catch the Rockies on a (nonintrusive) flatscreen — all while grazing from the full downstairs menu or going all out with a steak dinner.
Must-order: Filet meatloaf, quinoa tacos, happy-hour Wagyu corndogs, lemon Doberge cake
Insider tip: The cocktails here are on the fruity side, which means they go down extremely easy. By all means indulge — just don't do it at a breakneck pace.
100 Saint Paul St. #140; 303-320-8529
The Crafty Fox Taphouse & Pizzeria
Given some 60 beers on tap (plus more by the can and bottle), you may be too engrossed in this LoHi tavern's list to notice or care where you're seated. But the second-floor deck does boast Downtown vistas when and if you bother to look up.
Must-order: Smoked chile wings, French onion pizza, Crystal Springs Cherry Saison, Wiley Roots Stop. Collaborate and 'Nilla! (all beers subject to availability)
Insider tip: With its open garage doors, artificial turf and picnic tables, the upstairs dining room functions as an extension of the deck, so no biggie if there's no room for you right away.
3901 Fox St.; 303-455-9666
Four Friends Kitchen
Kiddos in tow? This daytime gathering place in Stapleton is your best bet for family-friendly rooftop dining. While they busy themselves with house-provided toys, you can relax in the sunshine (or under the shade of the retractable awning, for that matter) with an adult beverage.
Must-order: Crab–fried green tomato Benedict, Down South trio, sage-cucumber lemonade
Insider tip: Make sure you've got some time to kill before you come here — there's usually a wait. (Or use the Nowait app.)
2893 Roslyn St.; 303-388-8299
This Larimer Square longtimer is the last Richard Sandoval spot standing after the sudden closure of Zengo and La Guëra; cross your fingers it sticks around, because the upstairs lounge is as lovely as ever — cool and roof-shaded, with tilework and furnishings that give it the feel of a south-of-the-border resort.
Must-order: Bacon guacamole with chips, chileatole and the ancho-spiced margarita
Insider tip: Happy hour starts at 2 PM, so this is a great place to play weekday hooky.
1400 Larimer St.; 720-946-1433
Ignite Kitchen & Cocktails
A rocking hangout pre- and post-ballgame, the rooftop patio at this Ballpark staple is anything but a fair-weather friend. Instead, it's your all-weather companion, being half sheltered and half exposed to the open air. As temperatures soar, fans and water misters keep you from overheating.
Must-order: The sweet-and-spicy bacon known as Man Candy, the Ignite burger and the Rowdy Mermaid cocktail
Insider tip: Sorry to see the PB&JJ Burger with peanut-butter aioli and jalapeño-raspberry jam go after a recent menu overhaul? Don't fret — it pops up as a frequent special. Call ahead to confirm availability.
2124 Larimer St.; 303-296-2600