Clear views on Chicago’s best rooftops

IOFrom the Saturday, May 31, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

These days, it seems that rooftops are constantly in the news in Chicago.

But rarely for enjoyable reasons as the tiresome saga at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Cubs and the Wrigleyville rooftop owners continues to play out, with its next venue likely to be inside a courtroom.

However, in spite of the bird’s-eye drama along Sheffield and Waveland, there are rooftops in Chicago where you can actually spread your wings and relax this summer. And here are some of my favorites.

IO Urban Roofscape
127 W. Huron St.

Located on the 4th floor of the Godfrey Hotel in River North, IO Urban Roofscape may not only be the newest of Chicago’s rooftop lounges, it might be the best one, too.

I visited the spot earlier this month for a National Restaurant Association Show event and was surprised the sheer size of IO, with its stylish, laid-back indoor lounge leading to an outdoor deck with a retractable roof that offers a spectacular southward view of Chicago’s muscular skyline. Unlike some cozier rooftops in the city, IO provides plenty of room to roam while sampling the impressive list of cocktails.

ROOF On the Wit
201 N. State St.

Since it opened in 2009, many tourists and locals have come to consider ROOF, Chicago’s highest outdoor rooftop bar, their favorite part of State Street, that great street. And what’s greatest about the chic space on the 27th floor of the Wit Hotel are its views looking down State and across the Chicago River into River North.

Featuring two outdoor patios, an indoor lounge, fireplaces and a small-plates menu that includes delicious fire-baked pizzas, ROOF won’t leave you starving for scenery or food.

Terzo Piano
159 E. Monroe St.

There are few places to better experience the majesty of Chicago’s lakefront skyline than from atop the Art Institute’s Modern Wing – and thanks to Terzo Piano, you don’t even need to be an art buff to enjoy it.

Offering lunch, Sunday brunch and Thursday dinner served up with the incredible backdrop of Millennium Park and Michigan Avenue, Terzo Piano’s bar and lounge area is first-come, first-serve, allowing you to taste of Chicago’s world-class culture along with quick bites and cocktails.

Vertigo Sky Lounge
660 N. State St.

Lording over many of the lower – and lesser – rooftops in River North, Vertigo Sky Lounge atop the Dana Hotel is the second highest outdoor bar in Chicago, soaring 26 stories high above the city.

Not surprisingly, it offers a thrilling view along with a combination of comfort and elegance that makes for a relaxing experience during the day and a lively one at night that’s removed from the heavy downtown bustle.

The Terrace Rooftop
521 N. Rush St.

Located just off the Magnificent Mile, the Terrace Rooftop is nestled atop the fifth floor of the Conrad Hotel and offers such a sense of urban intimacy that it feels as if you could almost reach out and touch the nearby skyscrapers.

Not overly trendy, the Terrace Rooftop is an ideal spot to relax with the family and casually enjoy Chicago’s big-city experience.

J. Parker
1816 N. Clark St.

Perched atop the quirky Hotel Lincoln and named after John Parker, the security guard who snuck out for a drink and left Abe unattended at Ford’s Theatre, the J. Parker does its job much better than its namesake.

Offering a beautiful view of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan that’s unlike any other in Chicago, it would be worth a visit even if the food and drinks were crummy. They aren’t, and neither is the J. Parker.

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