By Lauren Tjaden
High above Tampa Bay's bustling rumble of diners and pedestrians is another world, where the mundane happy hour is elevated – literally.
These rooftop bars in Tampa offer a bit of escapism, transforming a simple drink with friends into an experience all its own.
Like cocktails, rooftop bars come in all flavors. From those that cater to stiletto-heeled martini sippers to others that attract hipsters who fancy craft beers, there’s a rooftop bar in Tampa for everyone.
340 Beach Dr. NE, St. Petersburg
The Scene: Girls Night Out
The View: Located above The Birchwood on posh Beach Drive in St. Petersburg, The Canopy is an oasis for those looking to soak in a special crafted cocktail and lounge in style. Lined with private cabanas, The Canopy offers as much privacy or visibility as one would need. But let’s face it, it’s all about being seen here, making it a perfect place for girl’s night out. An added bonus is The Canopy has comfy couches facing modern electric fire pits, making it an acceptable outside excursion well into the cooler months. Situated four stories above Beach Drive, The Canopy provides expansive views of Tampa Bay, the downtown St. Petersburg skyline and the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.
What to order: While the Canopy offers an extensive list of signature cocktails, the Dirty Martini with goat cheese stuffed olives takes the familiar to new heights.
809 Gulf Way, St. Pete Beach
The Scene: Family Time Sunset
The View: Attached to the Historic Hurricane Seafood Restaurant, this rooftop bar has been drawing droves since 1977, when the restaurant first opened at Pass-a-Grille Beach. The restaurant is classic Gulf Coast Florida, with a menu of enough seafood dishes to keep you full through next hurricane season. The rooftop bar’s atmosphere is much of the same with a daily band that plays reggae and beach themed music. The rooftop piece de resistance is the sunset view over the waves of the Gulf of Mexico, so it only makes sense that they pass out brochures listing sunset times for each day along with drink and food specials. Happy hour is Monday through Friday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The closer it gets to sunset, the more packed the bar gets, so plan accordingly.
What to order: Keep it simple. The Traditional Mojito is made with Cruzan rum and yes, the mint is fresh.
381 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach
The Scene: Bros Beach Day
The View: The Lookout Bar at Hooters in Clearwater Beach is situated a floor above the Hooters restaurant. Down below, folks enjoy Hooters staples like wings and beer. But the Lookout Bar, complete with cushy couches, high top tables and palms, offers an upscale experience. Waitresses have replaced the skimpy orange shorts with black ones. And along with wings, diners can enjoy a Lookout Bar exclusive menu, including Mahi sliders and sea scallops.
What to order: When in Rome… The bar’s signature Lookout Knockout combines rum, melon liqueur and pineapple.
5250 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach,
The Scene: Glam Beach Party
The View: The white sands and emerald waters of St. Pete Beach are famed world-wide, and Level 11 Rooftop Lounge boasts a spectacular view of them. Perched 11 stories high atop the historic Grand Plaza Hotel, this destination promises a classy rooftop vibe. Craft cocktails, imaginative cuisine and sunsets over the beach make Level 11 the perfect place for a romantic date, but the action heats up every Friday and Saturday night 11’s Ultimate Rooftop Party with DJ Davy Rolando. Of course you’re invited to the bash!
What to order: The Spiced Mango Margarita puts a new twist on a frozen favorite, and the classic Eleven Martini always goes down smooth.
1910 N Ola Ave, Tampa, FL
The Scene: Happening Hangout
The View: Encompassed by the historic Tampa Heights neighborhood, Armature Works is a fully restored, reimagined historic building that boasts unfettered views of the Hillsborough River. The structure houses inventive eateries and Heights Public Market as well as event spaces. The oh-so-cool M.Bird sits atop it, a deco-inspired, lux lounge. Kick back at a table, booth, or in a plush chair and enjoy the vibe and the gorgeous waterfront views.
What to order: Try one of the sipping rums, neat or with one big ice cube. The knowledgeable staff can help you choose the perfect one.
505 S Gulfview Blvd, Clearwater
The Scene: Laidback Beach Bash
The View: Nestled on the tenth floor of the Edge Hotel, this 2500-foot rooftop bar and restaurant holds bragging rights as Clearwater Beach’s largest. It promises panoramic views of Clearwater Beach, a 24-foot-long fire bar with complimentary Fire Ball Shots every evening at 9 p.m., and an enormous projection screen playing music videos and sports games. A live DJ and dance party on the second and fourth Friday of every month rounds out the fun.
What to Order: Jimmy’s offers Craft Beer and Signature Edge Tropical Cocktails; the Cactus Colada or the decadent Banana Mudslide are beach-y favorites.
1202 N Franklin St., Tampa
The Scene: Delicious Date Night
The View: Celebrity chef Fabio Viviani is at the helm of Mole Y Abuela, crafting Spanish-inspired dishes from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. It’s fare to please the most dedicated foodies, served in a welcoming atmosphere that you might find at your grandmother’s house.
What to Order: It’s hard to go wrong with the tapas-- or for that matter, much else on the menu. Complete your meal with a pitcher of red sangria, rich with chunks of fresh apple stained with the dark garnet color of the wine.
1207 South Howard Ave., Tampa
The Scene: Elegant Evening
The View: Vibrant yet understated, this classy lounge promises crafted cocktails using the very freshest of fruits, herbs and spices as well as wine, craft beer and small plates. Curl up on a plush couch, sit at the bar or around a table and soak up the night sky.
What to Order: Bern's Coffee Cocktail is concocted from all that is good in the world: American and Turkish blend coffee, Reyka vodka, chocolate bitters and sherry.
930 South Howard Ave, Tampa
The Scene: Chilled Out City Slicker
The View: Take in sweeping views of the downtown Tampa skyline while savoring handcrafted cocktails, made-to-order sangrias and elevated bites at the Luna Lounge, located on the fifth level of the Morrison building in Tampa’s South Howard Corridor. The Lounge feels swanky and chill at the same time, with a warm, kicked-back vibe.
What to Order: The frozen rosé is the perfect remedy for a hot summer evening.
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