Outdoor dining experiences in the form of igloos, yurts, greenhouses—even a Hobbit House—are everywhere these days. What started as a socially-distant restaurant trend during the pandemic is still very much alive and well, offering diners weary of eating inside another alternative that dare we say, may be more fun in general?
Restaurants and hotels have gotten so creative with their seasonal dining rooms and al fresco seating arrangements, especially for the holidays. I mean, what says holiday cheer more than a cozy little igloo bedecked in flannel and furs, with mini burners ablaze, ready for roasting s’mores? There’s a reason this wintertime restaurant trend is here to stay and it’s called: Instagram opportunities.
Best Outdoor Dining Experiences
From refurbished Vermont gondolas on the sprawling lawn of Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island to a community of electric greenhouses on a rooftop pier in the middle of Manhattan, the growing trend shows no signs of slowing down. And these bespoke dining rooms aren’t just for cold weather locations either. Even warm weather locales like Miami and Austin are getting in on the fun, with their own activations in the form of teepees and private snow globe villages.
So if you want to eat at a restaurant—but prefer to do so outdoors—look no further than this list of the best outdoor dining experiences that bring the whimsy.
Gondola Village at Ocean House in Westerly, Rhode Island
Trip to French Alps not in the cards right now? How about the next best thing: a Rhode Island getaway to the Grande Dame on the Coast, Ocean House, where their Gondola Village by Veuve Clicquot awaits. From in-gondola breakfast, lunch, afternoon Apéro and dinner menus that check all the boxes (like afternoon crêpe service and decadent four-course meals of French onion soup and boeuf bourguignon alongside Champagne pairings), to a winter wonderland setting, it’s no wonder this chic retreat has garnered so much social attention on the ‘gram. There are vintage ski gondolas from Vermont and Switzerland outfitted in warm woods, cozy heated blankets and fine Alpine textiles, signature Veuve Clicquot Rich Rosé cocktails and plenty of Insta-worthy moments around the fire pits—as well as inside this stately yellow beacon on Watch Hill. And should you make a weekend out of the experience, be sure to inquire about their wine dinners at award-winning restaurant COAST, as well as complimentary Wine & Culinary Arts Classes.
Sugarmaker’s Igloo Brunch at Kettle Ridge Farm in Ontario County, New York
Grab your pod and plan a Sunday Funday at Kettle Ridge Farm! Their Sugarmaker’s Igloo Brunch features a maple-inspired, five-course “chef’s choice” menu and bottle of sparkling wine inside one of four heated igloos on their picturesque farm grounds outside of Rochester, New York. The ultimate tree-to-table experience features locally-sourced ingredients, but don’t expect to find the menu online—the mystery is all part of the fun.
Hobbit Houses at The Preserve Sporting Club & Residences in Richmond, Rhode Island
Not to discount the igloos on this list, but having dinner inside a real-life Hobbit House? Talk about dinner party goals. Situated on 3,500 acres of unspoiled nature preserve, the two Maker’s Mark Hobbit Houses are an experience you’ll never forget—even if you aren’t a J. R. R. Tolkien fan. After entering the tiny Bilbo Baggins-inspired abode, you’ll be treated to a grilled menu with fine bourbon pairings, before unwinding beside a fire pit under the stars. Other reasons to visit The Preserve include accommodations ranging from quaint Laurel Ridge Homes and Cozy Cabins, to a year-round Treehouse Retreat in the sky. Plus, over 50 adventure options in the form of zip lining, clay shooting, ATV’ing, tennis, snowmobiling, golf and more.
The Igloos at The Drake Oak Brook in Oak Brook, Illinois
Just 25 minutes outside of Chicago, newly refurbished The Drake Oak Brook, Autograph Collection is welcoming diners into whimsical igloos surrounded by 10 acres of immaculate white powder. The socially-distant dining experience is available all winter for guests to enjoy, with 2.5 hours of gastronomic delights amidst a snowy backdrop. The experience also includes personal heaters, a special dining menu, full bottle service, comfy throw blankets and arctic-chic décor.
The Greens on the Rooftop of Pier 17 in Manhattan, New York
Live the upstate New York life—downtown. Inspired by the Catskill’s homey cabins, Pier17 has morphed into a magical sanctuary for winter with The Greens. This cluster of outdoor dining dwellings offers seasonal dishes like Creamy Tomato Soup, Truffle Grilled Cheese and Fondue, plus craft cocktails courtesy of the award-winning bartenders at Dante. And if you’re looking to make a socially-distant staycation out of the experience, book a room at the Four Seasons Downtown. It’s the closest (and most convenient) property to The Greens, with 5-star accommodations.
The Igloos at Lookout Rooftop in Boston, Massachusetts
When it comes to The Envoy Hotel, Autograph Collection’s Lookout Rooftop, they’re best known for converting the Boston Seaport into a SNOWPORT decked with neon igloos and plenty of holiday cheer. Small pods of six or fewer can rent these heated bubbles where you’ll be greeted with epic views of Beantown’s skyline, along with specialty cocktails, small plates and a personal speaker system to play the snow tunes of your choosing. Warm up with a Golden Ticket (Van Gogh Dutch Caramel and Hot Chocolate) or a Teeling Frisky (Teeling Whiskey, Honey, Lemon, All Spice Dram) before ‘gramming all of your Eskimo-influenced fun.
The Yurts at Aurum Food + Wine in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
If you happen to live near Denver, then you’re probably familiar with the storybook setting that is Steamboat Springs, CO. This off-the-beaten-path destination is also referred to Ski Town, U.S.A, for its obvious extracurricular offerings—and for producing more Winter Olympians than any other town in North America. It’s also the home of Aurum Food + Wine’s yurts, which are even more adorable in person than they are in photos. Pro tip: Book a reservation for these gems early, since there are only four and they tend to go quickly. In addition to the restaurant’s seasonal, locally-sourced menu of amuse bouche and mignardise, there are also “Au-To-Go” libations perfect for quenching your thirst on the gondola in between runs.
The Igloos at The Wheel in Stamford, Connecticut
Pile in and get cozy at The Wheel this holiday season! Stamford, CT’s premium waterfront Village has transformed into a winter wonderland village complete with igloos, fondue and build-your-own s’mores. Book a 2-hour reservation for you and your crew to sample Christmas cocktails like their Irish Coffee, Apple Spritzes, Winter Mules and Bourbon + Cider, then cuddle up under plaid throws under a canopy of twinkling lights overhead. And if you’re making a weekend trip to Fairfield County, nearby accommodations can be found at the picturesque Delamar Greenwich Harbor Hotel, where a winter weekend package treats you to a complimentary bottle of wine and daily dining credit.
The Igloos at Miner Brewing Co. in Hill City, South Dakota
Day or night, these snow globes are always a good time. Beer enthusiasts looking to explore the Wild West can journey to South Dakota’s Miner Brewing Co., which pays homage to the 19th-century Black Hills Gold Rush miners. Bundle up in an outdoor blanket, grab a pint of local South Dakota beer (such as the Black Currant Maibock, Campfire Cocoa, Chokecherry Brown Ale, or Elderberry Kombucha Berliner) and take in the stunning snowy scenery of the Black Hills. Igloos seat up to six adults and are free of charge Mon-Thurs 11 a.m.-3 p.m., $20 Mon -Thurs 3 p.m.-5 p.m and $25 all day Fri – Sun.
The Greenhouses at Millwrights in Simsbury, Connecticut
Perched atop a rushing waterfall in Simsbury, CT sits Millwrights, a 17th-century mill with a covered bridge—and heated greenhouses. Having dinner here is a nature lover’s dream come true and you’ll be happy to know the all-glass dining rooms cycle a full refresh of air every two minutes and they have a remote that you can push should you need service or a new cocktail. Order the Beer Cheese Fries and Smoked Duck Drumettes for the table, followed by Chicken & Dumplings, Mushroom Bolognese and Veal Osso Bucco with Strogano-spaetzle.
The Igloos at Kimpton Van Zandt in Austin, Texas
For the 2nd annual year, the Kimpton Van Zandt is featuring their holiday pop-up: The South Pole. Tickets gain you access to these Insta-worthy igloos, along with seated cocktail tastings, a roving S’mores cart, over-the-top décor and more. The event is happening every Friday and Saturday evening from December through January. Purchase tickets here and make a weekend out of it by booking the Operation Christmas Presidential Suite, which includes: one night in our Presidential Suite decked out for the season, holiday records to spin while you stay, cocktails and bites in Geraldine’s, a late check-out and valet parking for up to two cars.
Nikki Beach’s Teepees in Miami, Florida
Okay so Miami may have most of New England and the Midwest beat when it comes to gorgeous weather all year long, but because of this, they also have an endless array of al fresco restaurants and beach clubs to choose from. Our favorite? Nikki Beach Miami for their boho aesthetic, toes-in-the-sand mentality and epic sunsets. Book their Teepee Package for a group of six or fewer to lounge in private while indulging in lavish charcuterie and Porto Heli Greek platters, over-the-top sushi boat presentations and all the NB extras—think plush pillows, lanterns and always-flowing rosé.
The Oyster Club Treehouse in Mystic, Connecticut
If you prefer your wintery views from up above, rather than inside a clear dorm, consider the Oyster Club’s Treehouse. Mystic’s HCIC (head chef in charge), Dan Meiser, pretty much runs this idyllic Connecticut seaport with Nana’s Bakery & Pizza, Engine Room, Grass & Bone and the mothership, Oyster Club, but our favorite place to nosh on his foraged fare (and seafood) is in the Treehouse. A few standout dishes are the Stone Acres Mokum Carrots with spiced brown butter, Fried Thai Monkfish and Linguine with Tuna Chorizo and don’t forget the oysters—especially the Rockefeller and roasted 1/2 dozen when you go. Need a place to crash post-food coma? Check into The Whaler’s Inn down the street for nautical charm in spacious quarters.