Shelley Metcalf

Drink in the view at these above-it-all lounges.

By Allen B. Bunting

Beach, San Diego, California
Here's a bar where you can sink your toes in the sand whilescoping out the downtown San Diego skyline. The city's firstrooftop bar feels modern and comfortable, with sleek loungers,hanging chairs, and private cabanas. At night, this W Hotel barturns up the heat as locals and guests mingle beside the fire pitand cruise the heated sand floor. In summer, Beach becomes atheater, showcasing flicks under the stars; 619/398-3100 or wbeachbar.com.

Pavilion Bar & Café, Charleston, South Carolina
Atop the Market Pavilion Hotel, every order comes with agenerous serving of downtown Charleston and its harbor. Pair thepanoramic view with a skyline martini, one of the bar's signaturecocktails. Sip a drink by the cascading pool with fountains anddecorative fiber-optic lights; 877/440-2250 or marketpavilion.com.

Plunge, New York, New York
Overlooking Manhattan's trendy Meatpacking District, Plungeat the Hotel Gansevoort attracts a chic crowd. The hot spotprovides a place to see and be seen, with specialty drinks and alight menu. The outdoor bar features 360-degree views of the cityand river (there's a retractable glass roof for use in inclementweather). The terrace includes a landscaped garden with privatecabana; 212/206-6700 or hotelgansevoort.com.

Castaways Bar & Grill, Chicago, Illinois
Climb aboard Castaways, a shipshape restaurant on Chicago'sNorth Avenue Beach. The lakefront icon draws beachgoers with casualfare and ice-cold beer, so be prepared for crowds. On any givensummer day, you'll find the Bar & Grill filled with visitorssipping margaritas and rum drinks while soaking in the sunshine.Open May through September; 773/281-1200 or stefanirestaurants.com/castaways.htm.

The Rooftop Surfclub, Victoria, British Columbia
The newly designed patio at the Sticky Wicket Pub &Restaurant resembles a West Coast surf hut, with a longboardtabletop, vibrant blue-and-green-stripe chair cushions, and asurfer-shape topiary (complete with board shorts). And here's themain attraction: 90 tons of sand form what may be the only tworooftop beach-volleyball courts in the world. Open May throughSeptember; 800/663-7476 or strathconahotel.com.

Tarpon Club, Seaside, Florida
The top deck at Bud and Alley's Restaurant buzzes withsuntanned locals and visitors eager to unwind. This Gulf Coastrestaurant knows how to make you feel welcome. But beware whenbusy: This place is not for the crowd-shy. For an unbeatable view,stop by at sunset. Order a mojito or a Beach Libations Rum Punchand listen for the 1888 steam train cast-iron bell, rung each nighton the deck; 850/231-5900 or budandalleys.com.

Sky Bar, Virginia Beach, Virginia
This waterfront rooftop bar seems to float above theboardwalk. It takes full advantage of its 21st-story location atopthe Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, with clear railings topreserve the view and an infinity pool that appears to spill intothe ocean. Open daily; 31ocean.com.

Rooftop Lounge, Miami Beach, Florida
Steps away (and up) from the beach, the Townhouse Hotel patiopromises ocean breezes and great views from king-size waterbedsshaded by fire-engine-red umbrellas. Every Friday and Saturdaynight, the lounge hosts lively soirees for the see-and-be-seen;877/534-3800 or townhousehotel.com.

Sky Terrace, San Francisco, California
From Mission District restaurant Medjool's fifth-floorterrace, enjoy 360-degree views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the BayBridge, and San Francisco. The tapas menu offers everything fromgrape leaf-wrapped sea bass to hamburgers. Cash only; 415/550-9055or medjoolsf.com.

The Top, Key West, Florida
Once popular for "penny cocktail hour," The Top has beendrawing a crowd since 1949. The seventh-floor bar at the CrownPlaza Key West-La Concha is the place to go for panoramic views ofthe Key, the Gulf, and the Atlantic Ocean. Patrons enjoy front-rowseats for spectacular sunsets; 800/745-2191 or laconchakeywest.com/thetop.htm.

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