With nowhere to go but up, hotels in areas from Louisville to Los Angeles to New York City to Williamsburg, Mich., are greening their rooftops for horticulture-loving guests and chefs alike. As we all know, space is at a premium whether you live in a one-bedroom apartment or operate a hotel and want to create more room for your guests. By utilizing the rooftops, hotels are discovering an additional way to focus on being environmentally friendly and in some cases, bringing something extra to the table.

Chef Michael Paley presides over the dining room at Proof on Main, which is connected to the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, and he enjoys cooking with local foods. At his suggestion, owners Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson hired landscape designer John Carloftis, known for his work with high-profile celebrities including Edward Norton and the Estee Lauder family. With the design, hotel guests staying in the penthouse have access to the rooftop garden that's home to heirloom tomatoes, squash and a variety of herbs that make an appearance on dinner guests' plates.

The West Coast is synonymous with green living, so it’s not a surprise to learn about the verdant space at the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens in Los Angeles. Its “garden in the sky” on the third floor is aimed at Zen types who enjoy the serenity of walking through half an acre of Japanese gardens filled with rocks, plants and water. That’s a suggested respite for anyone seeking tranquility from the city without actually having to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun to find it.

Over on the East Coast in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, Hotel Gansevoort has been recognized for rooftop amenities such as a bar and lounge, garden, pool, cabanas, and fire pit. “We saw rooftop space as incredibly underutilized and wanted to take advantage of it," says Michael Achenbaum, president of the Gansevoort Hotel Group. "The rooftop is the best place for a garden and keeps the space green and environmentally friendly.”

Achenbaum says he sees a trend within the hospitality industry for rooftop gardens because of the unique added space. “There is a trend because the rooftop brings so many great things to the property. Rooftop gardens make use of the outdoor space, and create a green, fresh atmosphere for guests to lounge and relax,” he adds. There is nothing like getting back to nature in the middle of Manhattan.

Perhaps even more incongruous than a midcity Eden, however, is the idea of eco-conscious casinos. But Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel in northern Michigan holds the distinction of having an eco-friendly focus and rooftop garden. The 2,400-square-foot roof above Bourbons 72 Restaurant has an assortment of hostas, ferns and daylilies, with enough room for additional plants in the future, proof that not all casinos are created equal.

Rooftop gardens may eventually become as popular as the ubiquitous crowded hotel bar offering swanky cocktails, but at this read, they're still an emerging trend that will most likely take some time to catch on. Glenn Hasek, publisher and editor of industry magazine Green Lodging News, mentions the incentive for eco-conscious hotels to add rooftop gardens. “It is starting to happen more and more for different reasons: aesthetics, reduces stormwater drainage, provides insulation during the cold weather and reduces the heat-island effect,” he says. 

Travelers hoping for a green getaway will undoubtedly appreciate the rooftop garden's trend for a meal complete with local produce. It’s reassuring to know that instead of your tomatoes spending time on a gas-guzzling plane or truck to reach your salad plate, they simply rode the elevator down from the roof.

Up on the rooftop
With nowhere to go but up, hotels in areas from Louisville to Los Angeles to New York City to Williamsburg, Mich., are greening their rooftops for horticulture-