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The City of Angels is Upping the Ante on Hotels & Venues

L.A. Event Industry

Possibly more than any other U.S. city, Los Angeles is in a constant state of reinvention. From its revitalized downtown to its sophisticated west-side enclaves and laid-back beach communities, L.A. presents a vast and diverse menu of meeting options that just keeps on improving all the time. Even its most notorious drawback—freeway traffic—is being tackled with the ongoing expansion of the city’s Metro light-rail service.

Given the recent announcement that Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympic Games, there is even more reason to expect this evolution to continue, according to Joe Marcy, CMP, a longtime Los Angeles resident, regional sales executive for the Monterey County CVB and president of the MPI Southern California Chapter.

“There’s a lot of excitement here about the Olympics and it bodes well for the future of meetings,” he says. “Not only will this showcase our venues, but it’s a great catalyst for further improvements to our transportation system. We’ve made great strides with the expansion of the Metro, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Russell Harris (MPI Southern California Chapter), president of the Russell Harris Event Group, is equally enthused about the Olympics and what the preparations will mean for meetings and events in L.A.

“Even though it’s a bit far off, the Olympics will further movement here in ways that can only benefit event planners,” he says. “The Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board (LATCB) is doing a great job in giving us updates on what is going on.” Harris urges anyone planning a meeting in Greater Los Angeles to work closely with the LATCB, which offers resources for navigating the large and complex metropolitan region. Its many tools include Virtual Discovery L.A., a virtual reality platform created for meeting professionals that provides an immersive look at more than 50 venues and locations.

Downtown Dynamics

Nowhere is L.A.’s reinvention more evident than in its once lackluster downtown, a place long overshadowed by more glamorous neighbors like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. Today, however, downtown has taken a place at the center of the action, starting with the resounding success of L.A. Live. The sports and entertainment complex, which opened a decade ago next to the Los Angeles Convention Center, is home to the co-located JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, the GRAMMY Museum, Microsoft Theater, chef-driven restaurants, clubs and other attractions. Since then, a new wave of hotels, restaurants and attractions continues to enliven the scene throughout downtown.

Thanks to these developments and a booming local economy, especially in the tech sector, Los Angeles is currently enjoying a banner year for city-wide conventions and other meetings, according to Darren K. Green, senior vice president of sales for the LATCB.

“We’re not just about entertainment anymore—L.A. is the fastest-growing tech hub in the country,” he says. “We’ve got a diverse range of groups coming in, including medical, corporate and association. In particular, people are amazed by how much is going on downtown.”

Literally standing above the rest, the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown opened in July as part of the Wilshire Grand Center, a 73-story, mixed-use complex that is the tallest U.S. building west of Chicago. The hotel features 889 rooms and 100,000 square feet of meeting space that includes a Sky Deck on the 73rd floor with jaw-dropping views.

“It’s a beautiful, very modern venue and the views from the Sky Deck of the coast, the [San Fernando] Valley and downtown are amazing,” he says. “New properties like these are really changing our skyline in an exciting way.”

Marcy is also enthused about the Hotel Indigo Los Angeles, a hip, 350-room property that recently debuted at Metropolis, a US$1 billion mixed-use development with three residential towers within walking distance of L.A. Live, the convention center, Staples Center and other attractions. The hotel offers 22,000 square feet of meeting space and design features that pay homage to the 1920s era of speakeasies and the early movie industry.

Just across from L.A. Live, the historic Hotel Figueroa is emerging this fall from a $30 million renovation transforming its Moroccan-inspired décor into a more contemporary aesthetic and adding event spaces that include a rooftop garden. In the coming months, a spate of hip boutique properties located in restored and repurposed 1920s and 1930s buildings are being added to the downtown hotel mix, including the Nomad and Proper hotels.

Among new downtown cultural attractions is The Broad, a contemporary art museum located across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The museum includes over 2,000 works from the Broad Art Foundation and a 2,400-square-foot events plaza.

Downtown’s Exposition Park is poised to be the site of George Lucas’ $1.5 billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. With an opening targeted for 2021, construction is expected to begin by year’s end on a five-story, spaceship-shaped building housing a wide range of art ranging from traditional paintings to digital and cinematic artworks.

Going Hollywood

To the north of downtown, Hollywood beckons with an array of new hotel choices and glamourous offsite venues. What may come as a surprise, according to Green, is that attractions such as the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex and Universal Studios Hollywood are easily accessible on the city’s Metro system.

“If people are staying in downtown L.A., they can easily get to Hollywood on the Metro—there’s no need to use a car, which is a chief concern about visiting L.A.,” he says. “The venues in Hollywood are not only amazing, but are conveniently close together, whether it’s the Hollywood Bowl, Warner Brothers Studio, Universal Studios Hollywood or Paramount Pictures.”

Right along Hollywood Boulevard are a host of group-friendly options that include the Hollywood Museum, which houses more than 10,000 show business treasures and offers intriguing event spaces such as an elegant Art Deco ballroom and the former wig and makeup rooms where stars including Marilyn Monroe and Joan Crawford once got ready for their close-ups. Another classic venue is the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where groups can convene in the historic Blossom Ballroom, site of the first Academy Awards ceremony, or by the Tropicana Pool with its mural painted by David Hockney.

The famous film studios in Hollywood and environs continually launch new attractions, tours and event spaces, among them Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter featuring Hogwarts Castle and other settings from the films and books. At Warner Brothers, a recent addition presents costumes and sets for the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Warner Brothers is a particular favorite of Melissa Moten, national sales manager for AlliedPRA Los Angeles, who says its outdoor backlots such as New York Street and Warner Village make atmospheric settings for events.

“They also give groups a real in-depth view of movie making on their tours—they are very intimate and personalized,” she says.

The area is also a growing hub for chic hotels, including the 179-room Dream Hollywood, which debuted in July with event spaces that include a rooftop garden restaurant and pool deck with 360-degree views of Los Angeles. Just steps away from the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine, the new 216-room Kimpton Beverly Hotel features a pool deck, VIP suites and a glass-enclosed conservatory for events.

Harris is among event planners who welcome the expanding number of rooftop venues in L.A.

“A lot of new hotels are offering pool decks and we love to use them—we’re hoping to use the Dream for holiday parties this year,” he says. “The 360-degree views are fantastic. It provides the kind of outdoor ambience that people come to Los Angeles for—when you’re here, you don’t want to be stuck in a ballroom.”

Westside Wonders

Just west of downtown is Mid City or Mid-Wilshire, an arts and culture hub where event-friendly, world-class museums such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Petersen Automotive Museum, reborn after a recent $125 million renovation, lie along a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard called Miracle Mile. Adjacent to LACMA, construction is under way on the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a Renzo Piano-designed building with a massive glass sphere scheduled to debut in 2019.

Despite its aura of exclusivity, Beverly Hills is a welcoming destination for meetings as large as 2,000 and a place where planners will find an array of services offered by the city-run Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau, according to CEO Julie Wagner.

“We’re not a member organization—we’re just plugged into the best opportunity and the best fit for groups,” she says. “We can facilitate experiences like closing down Rodeo Drive for an elegant dinner party or after-hours shopping experience in the stores. We can take over Neiman Marcus for a private fashion show or arrange for a dinner in a mansion with a celebrity chef. The possibilities are endless.”

Another asset is the city’s relatively compact size, with a concentration of restaurants, stores and hotels such as the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Peninsula Beverly Hills, Beverly Hilton, Beverly Wilshire and Beverly Hills Hotel within close proximity to each other, she adds.

A brand-new addition to the deluxe hotel lineup is the 170-room Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, the first property in Hilton’s luxury brand to open in Greater Los Angeles. Located next to the Beverly Hilton, it offers 6,300 square feet of meeting and event space, including a rooftop deck with panoramic views.

Other meetings-friendly enclaves on L.A.’s west side include Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where a generous hotel inventory includes the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles, which recently wrapped up a renovation of its 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

Convenient to LAX, L.A.’s beach communities, among them Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey, provide numerous options for groups, often with a Pacific view. Along with surf and sand, the area offers a burgeoning number of tech startups, earning it the moniker Silicon Beach.

With more than 3,500 hotel rooms and such iconic attractions as the Santa Monica Pier and its event-friendly amusement park, Santa Monica is a popular choice for small and mid-size meetings in the creative arts, according to Kim Sidoriak, chief marketing officer for Santa Monica Travel and Tourism. She noted that a game-changer is the recent completion of the Metro Expo light-rail line that connects Santa Monica to downtown L.A. and points in between.

“Now if you’re attending a downtown convention, you have the option of staying at the beach,” she says.


About the Author

maria-lenhart-author
Maria Lenhart

Maria Lenhart is a former editor of multiple meeting and event industry publications, and has won numerous awards for travel writing, including a prestigious Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers.