San Diego’s lush greenery, epic Pacific coastline, and year-round sunny and moderate weather are prime reasons that nature lovers, surfers, and winter break vacationers flock to its beaches and parks.
Watching the seals sunbathe and swim at La Jolla Children’s Pool, meandering through the majestic Balboa Park, or sailing through San Diego Bay are all perfect outdoor activities that demonstrate San Diego’s natural bounty.
San Diego’s sunny days end with spectacular sunsets over the crashing waves of the Pacific, turning into pleasantly cool nights under starlit skies.
There’s no better way to spend the golden hour in San Diego than drinking a cocktail or glass of California wine on a charming rooftop bar.
No matter where you are in San Diego, you’re in for an epic view, and San Diego’s diverse restaurant and bar scene takes full advantage of the city’s picturesque scenery.
660 K St, San Diego, CA 92101
Overlooking the Petco Stadium to the south and the Embarcadero Marina to the west, Altitude Sky Lounge lies atop a 22-story building in San Diego’s historic Gaslight Quarter.
The elegant and modern furniture, expertly crafted cocktails and small bites, and unparalleled urban and oceanic views have garnered Altitude acclaim from Buzzfeed.
Since Altitude is right on the water, I recommend heading there for happy hour on weekdays from Monday through Friday to watch the sunset with a cheap cold beer or cocktail in hand.
They make a delicious vodka martini, but if you’re looking for a sweet beach cocktail, I recommend the passion fruit and mango cosmo.
535 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Located in downtown a few blocks from the Gaslight Archway, Rustic Root is a charming and hip New American bistro and rooftop lounge with a romantic and lively atmosphere.
They have weekly events like Sunday Supper, Vino and Vibes on Tuesdays, and Rooftop Revelry cocktail and dinner parties on Fridays and Saturdays.
Rustic Root serves refined New American cuisine with a brunch, cocktail, and dinner menu that draws culinary inspiration from every U.S. tradition.
I loved their Scotch Egg, with house-made sausage, a soft-boiled egg, pimento cheese grits, and whole grain mustard.
453 Sixth Ave #7007, San Diego, CA 92101
The Nolen is an elegant rooftop lounge on the 14th floor of the Courtyard Gaslamp in downtown San Diego with views that span a lively urban cityscape to the iconic Coronado Bridge.
The Nolen serves high-end cocktails and seasonal small bites, putting modern twists on classic favorites.
The Nolen uses the finest spirits from local artisan distilleries or small-batch distilleries from around the U.S., creating high-quality beverages.
I was intrigued by their Casual Hello cocktail, featuring gin, sauvignon blanc absinthe, and Pineapple hibiscus infusion.
3105 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego, CA 92109
Cannonball is a high-end, award-winning sushi restaurant and San Diego’s largest outdoor rooftop venue.
Located above the Mission Beach boardwalk, Cannonball offers epic ocean views and entertaining people-watching opportunities all day and night.
There is live acoustic music three evenings a week that coincide with the sunset, making for a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere for drinks and dinner.
If you want a fusion of Japanese and California, I recommend the Lobster roll with spicy lobster, yamagobo, fried avocado, jalapenos, spicy aioli, and eel sauce.
207 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Located on the roof of the Hard Rock Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter, Float Rooftop Lounge offers a sunny California pool party by day and a romantic, trendy cocktail party by night.
You can rent cabanas with personal flat-screen TVs while sipping cocktails or enjoy a cool night by the outdoor fire pits.
FLOAT has a large food menu with a colorful and fresh offering of California cuisine. I enjoyed a glass of white wine with a delicious tajin-crusted salmon with cilantro chimichurri, papaya lime salsa, and arugula slaw.
2001 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Winner of the James Beard Award, Michelin Bib Gourmand, and Orchids and Onions Award for Architecture, Kettner Exchange is one of San Diego’s premier New American restaurants for both food and atmosphere.
Located in Harborview overlooking Waterfront Park, Kettner Exchange is a modern masterpiece in architectural design.
Chef Brian Redzikowski’s seasonal menu is as stunning as the restaurant’s décor and views. I enjoyed a sunset on the rooftop lounge with a delicious order of Filet o Fish Bao.
366 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Owned and operated by Michelin-starred celebrity chef Akira Back, Lumi is a cutting-edge Japanese bistro and sushi bar in the center of the Gaslamp Quarter.
Its sleek, modern Japanese décor houses outdoor fire pits, live DJ sets, and sake cocktails for a hip young crowd.
Chef Back creates a fusion of Japanese cooking and California culinary specialties to create a unique and delicious menu.
I started with a yellowtail pizza, followed by the extravagant surf and turf roll, with King crab, NY strip steak, asparagus, avocado, garlic ponzu, and leek miso sauce.
2550 Fifth Ave 12th floor, San Diego, CA 92103
Mister A’s is a fine dining New American restaurant with incredible panoramic views of San Diego from its elegant 12th-floor perch in Bankers Hill overlooking the iconic Balboa Park.
Owner and famed French restauranteur Bertrand Hug opened Mister A’s to citywide acclaim, including reader’s choice votes for the most scenic restaurant in America.
The stunning plating matches the epic views at Mister A’s, whether you’re there for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
I went with a rich and colorful plate of Maple Leaf duck breast with Montmorency cherries, pinot Noir, and black rice.
7863 Girard Avenue #301 F3, La Jolla, CA 92037
If you’re looking for the best oceanfront views and a romantic Italian dinner, Catania is the ideal spot. Located on the roof of the La Plaza building in La Jolla, Catania is an authentic coastal Italian bistro from culinary director Ryan Johnston and restauranteur Arturo Kassel.
Their seasonal menu of fresh seafood dishes, handmade pasta, and wood-fired pizza is as authentic and luxurious as Italian food is known to be.
Pizza is my favorite food, and their Sicilian Pistachio Pizza with burrata, pistachio pesto, pork mortadella, and pecorino was perfect.
901 Bayfront Ct Suite 1, San Diego, CA 92101
Garibaldi is a modern Italian restaurant on the third floor of the Intercontinental Hotel where downtown hits the beach.
Garibaldi offers an authentic menu of colorful and novel takes on regional Italian cuisine in a modern Mediterranean rooftop setting. They also host speakeasy parties with fun cocktails for private events.
I thought their Grilled Swordfish alla Siciliana with eggplant caponata, winter fennel, capers, and focaccia breadcrumbs was delicious.
Save room for their ricotta gelato with candied fruit!
5041 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
Named for the gorgeous beachside community that it overlooks, Ocean Beach Brewery is a causal microbrewery, taproom, and gastropub with a large pet and family-friendly rooftop.
The cute, boho-chic, multistory building opens out onto a fun tea-light-lit rooftop bar with panoramic ocean views.
The Ocean Beach Brewery offers a rotating tap of beers brewed onsite plus a wide list of draft and bottled beers from microbreweries around the U.S.
They all have goofy names like Couples Therapy and, my personal favorite, the Hidden Gem, a Dunkelweizen beer with notes of corn and agave.
3250 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
If you find yourself in the landlocked San Diego of Normal Heights, you can find a wonderfully abnormal rooftop venue at SKA Bar.
As the name implies, SKA Bar is a ska and reggae bar in a hip, industrial-chic space with aqua-colored walls and furniture.
Their creativity and edginess know no bounds, with a one-of-a-kind menu of cocktails and food to prove it.
I had to go with the Abnormal Heights cocktail, with cognac, cacao, Jägermeister, Thai tea, boba, and cream, an unforgettable drink.
600 F St, San Diego, CA 92101
Located on the roof of the Hyatt Andaz in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, The Rooftop by STK is a glamorous and sleek cocktail bar and fine dining restaurant in an enormous 4,500-square-foot space.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Rooftop has a more casual ambiance in the morning and during the week and fancier ambiances for weekend brunches and dinners.
They have the best boozy brunches in town. I recommend the Makena Mule brunch cocktail with vodka, passion fruit, pineapple, lime, and ginger beer to accompany cream cheese stuffed French toast topped with peach compote.
421 W B St, San Diego, CA 92101
Topside Terrace Kitchen and Bar is a California-style restaurant, bar, and beach-chic terrace on the third floor of the hip and trendy Hotel Republic in downtown San Diego, two blocks from the San Diego Bay coast.
They specialize in bright, refreshing cocktails and food sourced from California’s vast bounty.
The rooftop menu fuses Mexican and Asian cuisine in characteristic Californian fashion. I loved the Baja shrimp street tacos with pickled red onions, slaw, and salsa Quemada to start.
616 J St #101, San Diego, CA 92101
A stylish and exclusive rooftop bar and pool deck. Upper East Bar is on the top of downtown San Diego’s Solamar Hotel.
The bright, old-school, mid-century modern deck furniture atop faux-grass carpets gives you an Old Hollywood feeling.
I loved their lineup of happy hour events like half-priced wine Wednesdays, half-priced margarita on Thirsty Thursdays, and the Yappy Hour, where you get discounts on drinks for bringing your pet.
1909 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Located in the heart of Little Italy, Born and Raised is a stunning, fine-dining steakhouse with an indoor-outdoor tiled-floor rooftop patio with marble tables, a marble bar, and mid-century modern plaid chairs.
Born and Raised is a special occasion restaurant with the utmost standards of food, atmosphere, and service.
Born and Raised offers classic steakhouse dishes, my favorite of which was the bone-in ribeye with butter-poached lobster and bearnaise sauce.
509 Ninth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Level 9 Rooftop Bar is Hotel Indigo’s modern and luxurious rooftop bar, with plush couches, personal fire pits, bar height standing tables, and incredible views of the surrounding downtown skyline.
They offer high-end cocktails, a long wine list, and delicious New American small plates for a fun night out with friends.
They make one of the best burgers in town, known as the Gaslamp Burger, an Angus patty with melted cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onions, and chipotle aioli on a brioche bun.