From sun-drenched bars perched along the East River waterfront or Rockaway beaches, to sprawling backyard beer gardens and sky-high rooftop lounges, Queens doesn’t skimp on its standout selection of outdoor bars offering fun in the sun (or under the stars), where the views, booze and breeze are sure to please. Here are our 10 picks for outdoor bars in Queens worth raising a glass to – just don’t forget your shades.
1. Nowadays (Ridgewood)
Opened last June, the massive, seasonal outdoor space at Nowadays reimagined a once-abandoned Ridgewood lot into a suburban backyard dream, complete with picnic tables, strings of light, grassy hills and diversions like ping-pong and bocce ball. Brought to you by the DJ duo (Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter) behind the hugely popular Mister Saturday Night dance parties (along with their partner, NoLIta bar owner Mark Connell), a slate of laid-back events feature prominently here, including a schedule of DJ-hosted Mister Sunday dance parties, Monday night outdoor films, Wednesday ping-pong tourneys, and professor-led classes on Tuesdays.
On the menu, look for two dozen taps pouring beer from local brewers, wine by the cup or bottle and casual grub like beer-braised bratwurst and grass-fed burgers. Kids and pets are welcome (though you’ll need to keep the pups on a leash).
The 2016 season kicked off May 12 and runs through late October; 56-06 Cooper Ave., Ridgewood; nowadays.nyc
2. Anable Basin Sailing Bar & Grill (LIC)
Only those in the know are lucky enough to frequent this tucked away NYC watering hole, situated on the banks of the East River and accessible via a dead-end, semi-industrial street in Long Island City. Here, a refreshingly unpretentious crowd claims waterside picnic tables, where jaw-dropping views stretch out past a handful of moored boats and onto Roosevelt Island and the Midtown Manhattan skyline.
Put that dropped jaw to good use, thanks to a menu of cocktails (try their signature LIC Cocktail, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, lime juice, simple syrup and bitters), wine by the glass or bottle, locally brewed beers on tap, and a changing chalkboard menu of daily grilled specials, including staples like burgers and hot dogs, mixed in with some Bosnian and Brazilian specialties (influenced by some of the head staff’s nationalities).
Select weekends have live music, and this is the place to be for the Fourth of July fireworks show over the river.
The 2016 season kicked off in April and runs through early November; 4-40 44th Dr., Long Island City; facebook.com
3. Bay 9 at Riis Park Beach Bazaar (The Rockaways)
The Rockaways hip factor soared last summer when the folks behind the super-trendy Brooklyn Night Bazaar moved into the beachfront Jacob Riis Park, reinventing the collection of old art deco concession stands as essential points of beachgoing pilgrimage.
Swing by in beach season, starting on Memorial Day, for a selection of top food and drink vendors and beach-y activities such as volleyball or shuffleboard, along with a robust schedule of live music, DJs and special summer events. For the tippling types, the Bay 9 pavilion has a menu of frozen margaritas, Long Island-sourced wines, craft cocktails and beers.
During the warmer months, enjoy a cold one paired with fare from one of the nearby food vendors (like Fletcher’s Brooklyn BBQ, Ample Hills Creamery or the seafood-centric Wildfeast at Riis), with your feet in the sand at the bar’s alfresco picnic tables, though Bay 9 remains open year-round with indoor seating, too.
16702 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Park; riisparkbeachbazaar.com
4. Z Roof at the Z NYC Hotel (LIC)
This 12th-floor perch atop Long Island City‘s Z NYC Hotel boasts transporting 360-degree views over the Midtown Manhattan and Queens skylines, and onto the Queensboro Bridge. The 5,000-square-foot lounge-style space touts two bars serving wine, beer, champagne and signature cocktails (don’t miss the Ruby Relaxer, made with Malibu, Ketel One vodka, pineapple and cranberry juice, and peach schnapps).
A rooftop menu is designed by the hotel’s downstairs Villa Enrico, an Italian seafood restaurant, or come on select “Sultry Sundays” for brunch paired with DJs spinning tunes; live DJs likewise lend a lounge-y atmosphere to the venue on Friday and Saturday nights. Or, pair your yoga with rooftop views, light bites and skinny cocktails on alternating Tuesday nights, starting June 7. (Tip: Mark your calendars – the Z Roof’s annual Fourth of July party offers a great vantage point over the fireworks.)
The 2016 season kicks off June 3 and runs through September; 11-01 43rd Ave., Long Island City; zhotelny.com/z-roof
5. Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden (Astoria)
An oldie but a goodie, there’s a reason this enormous, old-school Astoria beer garden, which spills over an ample tree-shaded garden bursting with picnic tables, has had staying power for a good century. Founded in 1910 by the Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society of Astoria, a social club for the local Czech and Slovak community, the organization retains its historic mission of cultural preservation and education (for instance, they’ll host a Czech and Slovak Festival over Memorial Day weekend), but they offer plenty of other cross-cultural events of interest, too, with summer 2016 offerings to include showings of the European Championship soccer matches in June, “Quiet Clubbing” parties on alternating Fridays, and live bands (playing everything from jazz to funk to polka) on weekends.
Of course, the inexpensive beer ($6 mugs, $16 pitchers) remains the main lure, with more than a dozen brews on tap (there’s wine, too, if you insist), including favorites like Hofbräu Original and Pilsner Urquell. The brews pair quite nicely with the traditional Czech and Slovak menu items featuring lip-smacking cultural classics like schnitzel, potato pierogies and beef goulash.
Open year-round with indoor/outdoor seating; 29-19 24th Ave., Astoria; bohemianhall.com
6. Bungalow Bar & Restaurant (The Rockaways)
With an expansive deck overlooking Jamaica Bay and the Cross Bay Bridge, the popular Bungalow Bar is The Rockaways’ go-to spot for beachside imbibing and prime sunset views. Open daily (and year-round, indoors), come by all summer long for live acoustic tunes and DJs on deck on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Order up draft beer, wine by the glass or the bottle, or better yet, one of their signature cocktails like frozen pink lemonades or “Cadillac Margaritas,” made with Grand Marnier, Patrón, lime sour and optional strawberry or raspberry purée. The solid seafood-inspired casual fare (Lobster grilled cheese? Yes, please!) is well worth sticking around for, too; brunches on weekends linger till a beach bum-worthy 2 p.m.
377 Beach 92nd St., Rockaway Beach; ingoodcompanyhg.com/bungalow
7. La Playa NYC (Ridgewood)
If brews and beach sound like your perfect summer day recipe, get ready for the upcoming launch of NYC’s most buzzworthy summer newcomer: the pop-up La Playa NYC, brought to you by the craft brew whizzes behind the LIC-based Rockaway Brewing Company.
Given that the popular microbrewery was born of its surf-loving owners’ home-brewing passion, an effort that was kickstarted in their beachside Far Rockaway backyards, it’s little wonder that a beach theme is top of mind for their upcoming expansion. Details are still trickling through, but visitors to their new La Playa NYC outpost in Ridgewood can expect a 5,000-square-foot lot to be transformed into a beach-y oasis with a good dose of imported Long Island sand, beach chairs and umbrellas, volleyball nets, a street art aesthetic, BYO grilling stations (note the bar won’t sell food), and a selection of Rockaways brews and NY State farmhouse beers on tap. Prefer the real-deal beach to the imported kind? The beer-makers are readying for a return to their Rockaways roots, too, with a steps-from-the-beach bar outpost set to likewise open there this summer on Beach 67th Street, along with a nearby tasting room that will eventually become a permanent second brewery for the company.
La Playa NYC is opening in early June, seasonal dates TBD; 176 Woodward Ave., Ridgewood; rockawaybrewco.com
8. Penthouse 808 at the Ravel Hotel (LIC)
Set six stories atop Long Island City‘s Ravel Hotel, Penthouse 808 proposes a 9,500-square-foot, two-level indoor/outdoor lounge touting sweeping panoramas over the East River, Queensboro Bridge and Midtown Manhattan (a retractable roof ensures the views can be enjoyed in any season). Pricey cocktails are sold by the glass ($14) or the pitcher ($68), or if you’re with the whole crew, consider opting in for a “Volcanic Tiki,” which serve libations for three to 12 people from a giant Tiki head (try the Pyrat’s Punch, made from Pyrat rum, banana, blackberry syrup and coconut milk).
There’s wine, champagne, beer and sake, too, the latter of which pairs nicely with the Hawaiian- and Asian-inspired Pacific Rim fare (with entrées like rib eye with grilled pineapple) served in the restaurant here. Come on Wednesdays for the “Maine Squeeze” lobster bakes, or on Sundays for brunch paired with live jazz. Weekends can get club-type late nights with bottle service and techno tunes spun by house DJs.
8-08 Queens Plaza S., Long Island City; penthouse808rooftop.com
9. Bourbon Street (Bayside)
The smaller architectural scale of Queens doesn’t lend to a huge selection of rooftop bars, which is why we’re thrilled to see this newest addition crop up atop Bayside’s buzzing Bell Boulevard at the New Orleans-themed Bourbon Street bar and restaurant. The 1,800-square-foot rooftop deck opened late last fall as the first rooftop bar in town, complete with French Quarter-styled lanterns, wrought-iron fencing, eight large HDTVs, and colorful lounge seating. Order from a selection of draft beer, wine, champagne, sangria, cordials and signature cocktails, like the refreshing Cucumber Crisper (Effen Cucumber Vodka, lime juice, muddled mint leaves and cucumber slices); come on weekdays for happy hour specials. Plus, pair your beverage with selections from the seafood-centric rooftop menu highlighting raw bar items like clams and oysters or mini lobster rolls, as well as French-crust pizzas.
The 2016 season kicked off in early May and runs through New Year’s Eve (thanks to a heated tent); 40-12 Bell Blvd., Bayside; bourbonstreetny.com
10. Studio Square NYC (LIC)
Proposing a massive 30,000 square feet of space, the Studio Square NYC complex boasts more than enough room for you, and, oh, say, 2,000 of your closest friends.
Much of that roominess unfolds in the modern outdoor beer garden, where communal picnic tables and ivy-coated walls afford a cavernous outdoor courtyard oasis. Seven bar stations ensure a steady flow of some two-dozen domestic or imported beers on tap (served by the pint or the pitcher), as well as wine, spirits and sangria.
Swing by on Wednesdays for ladies night specials, or pop in for other events like “quiet clubbing” parties or sporting event screenings. The café menu offers starters, salads and sandwiches to sop up those suds, while an indoor pub ensures the party can continue on all year long.
35-33 36th St., Long Island City; studiosquarebeergarden.com
Elissa Garay is a Queens-born, Brooklyn-based travel writer, whose work has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, Travel + Leisure, and more. She’s also the co-founder of BQE Tours: The Brooklyn Queens Experience, which offers culturally immersive small-group walking tours in Long Island City, DUMBO and beyond. Follow her at @TravelSpiritNYC and @BQEtours.