Austin is often known as the coolest city in Texas for good reason. It’s home to the University of Texas, thus home to a healthy population of young people, and with tech companies flocking to build headquarters in and around downtown, it’s also being inundated with a modern yuppie crowd (that can be a good or a bad thing, depending on who you ask). The indisputable upshot of all this, though, is that Austin nurtures a world-class live music scene, mouth-watering cuisine, and more affordable costs of living and playing compared to some other large cities. Unsurprisingly, Austin has become a hot spot for transplants and travelers alike.
This hot spot is hot year-round, by the way, in terms of both temperature and culture. The winters are patio perfect — the last few Christmases have been warm enough for bubbles out on the terrace. Spring and fall are blessed with almost zero humidity (sorry, Houston), and while summers may not be for the faint-hearted, there’s nothing an icy beverage and a cooling dip can’t fix. That’s where Austin’s rooftop pool bars come into play.
Bars like these are starting to pop up more and more as the city grows and demand increases. Though they range from party spots to date spots and after-work spots, most of the rooftop pool bars are generally casual chic. In Austin, nobody ever wears a gown or a suit. The vibe is smart but not stuffy — even in five-star hotels. So pack summer gear and swimwear (if you actually want to get in the water) and soak up the rays on one of Austin’s best rooftop pool bars.
1. La Piscina
The atmosphere is always buzzing up on La Piscina, on the fifth floor of the trendy Austin Proper Hotel. The restaurant and bar serve Texas-inspired Mexican cuisine alongside frozen margaritas, small-batch tequila, and mezcal. The large outdoor seating area overlooks the pool and the west downtown area, and heat lamps or blankets are available in the evening for cozy hangouts with lovers or loved ones. Look out for the seasonal Sundown Swim sessions on Saturday nights with funky live DJ sets.
Where: 600 W 2nd Street, Austin, Texas 78701
2. WET Deck
Nobody combines pool and party better than the W. The WET Deck on W Austin’s fourth floor is where to celebrate big — dancing optional. It’s open to both guests and non-guests who purchase a day pass on the website, and cabanas and daybeds can be reserved for a rental fee plus a minimum spend. WET Deck is also LGBTQ+ friendly, so if you love drag parties, mimosas, and rainbow walls, you’re in for a treat.
Where: 200 Lavaca St, Austin, Texas 78701
3. Edge Rooftop
The Edge Rooftop is stylish and laid-back with a fire-pit-dotted lounge area while across the rooftop by the pool, the vibe is more casual and fun. For those visiting between March and November, sit facing the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge at sunset. Underneath it is the largest urban bat colony in North America, and if you’re lucky you’ll enjoy a glimpse of the action as millions of Mexican free-tailed bats soar over Lady Bird Lake to feed at twilight. The bar does a delicious piña colada to accompany the spectacle.
Where: 110 East 2nd Street, Austin, Texas 78701
4. Rules & Regs
Texas isn’t all cacti and cowboys — there are palm trees and beach vibes too. Rules & Regs brings Miami breeze to downtown Austin, with resort-style amenities (including automated contactless sunscreen kiosk) and skyline backdrop. The pool is huge, and there are plenty of sun loungers and cabanas available, even on weekends. The restaurant and bar serve fresh flavors with a taste of the tropics, plus plenty of summer-inspired cocktails. The whirlpool is the best spot to people-watch.
Where: 101 Red River Street, Austin, Texas 78701
Geraldine’s should already be on every foodie’s bucket list, and what makes it even more special is that it sits adjacent to Hotel Van Zandt’s rooftop pool. Ask to be seated outside on the Pool Deck in order to take advantage of the live music, traditional Texas cuisine, cocktails, beers, and drink specials (check out Whiskey Wednesdays). Geraldine’s is upscale luxe blended with local studio charm. Summer pool parties featuring DJs are frequent.
Where: 605 Davis Street, Austin, Texas 78701
6. Azul Rooftop
The Westin Austin Downtown’s rooftop pool bar, Azul, has a fun and playful vibe — and offers a big selection of colorful cocktails to toast the weekend with. The large space is similar to that of the Edge Rooftop, with fire pits, cabanas, and downtown views, so bar-hoppers could choose one or the other without missing out on much.
Where: 310 East 5th Street, Austin, Texas 78701
7. Group Therapy
Hotel ZaZa Austin’s sky bar and restaurant is like medicine after a long day in the office or sightseeing, and it’s aptly named Group Therapy. Up on the seventh floor, overlooking the pool, downtown, and Republic Square Park, the venue offers all-day inside dining, plus bites and drinks outside on the canvas-covered terrace Cabana Bar. The pitchers are large enough for four people to share, and the frozen cocktails of the day can be anything from frosé to frozen cherry limeade. This is more of a classy evening hang-out or a date spot by the glittering pool.
Where: 400 Lavaca Street Austin, Texas 78701
Zanzibar is a world away from the busy streets down below. Concrete jungle transforms into tropical jungle as you ascend seven stories up onto the rooftop terrace and pool. The bar menu features very photogenic modern tiki cocktails and island-inspired small plates such as sushi burritos and duck egg rolls. Many of their concoctions are influenced by spices grown on the island of Zanzibar, which was once the largest exporter of spices in the world. So expect helpings of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and clove.
Where: 304 E Cesar Chavez St Unit 700, Austin, Texas 78701
9. South Congress Hotel Rooftop Pool & Bar
For those exploring outside of downtown, head to the South Congress neighborhood for a hidden oasis up on South Congress Hotel’s rooftop. The pool and bar are surrounded by a flourishing garden, with food and drink provided by the on-site restaurant, Café No Sé. The perfect spot for a catch-up with pals. Non-hotel guests can purchase day passes Monday through Thursday.
Where: 1603 South Congress, Austin, Texas 78704
One for college kids and the younger crowd, Otopia is the only rooftop bar in the Campus District. Golden Hour is its version of happy hour, held Wednesday through Friday 30 minutes before and after sunset. Cocktails are affordable and summer-inspired, and day passes to enjoy the pool with or without cabanas are available. DJ events are usually announced before summer begins, and the parties are legendary.
Where: 1901 San Antonio Street, Unit 1100, Austin, Texas 78705