When the sun goes down, Los Angeles lights up with a variety of off-site group experiences, from private parties at a historic theater in Hollywood to cocktails at one of downtown L.A.’s trendy nightspots. Late-night tours and pub crawls are all part of the mix.
Downtown L.A. spills with evening and late-night venues such as concert halls and a host of bars, nightclubs and live music outlets. At its core is the sports and entertainment district L.A. Live, where groups can host off-site outings, including the VIP Lounge at performance space Club Nokia or the VIP areas at the Conga Room, which features live jazz, salsa and world beat rhythms. The Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE, home to some of the city’s largest concerts and awards shows, also offers a private two-story VIP Club with an outdoor balcony for group functions.
More than 10 years ago, the Walt Disney Concert Hall helped catalyze the social and artistic revitalization of downtown. Today, the venue is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic as well as other performance groups.
“The Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of the most breathtaking venues in all of Los Angeles,” says Darren Green, senior vice president of sales at Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. “The landmark features an array of unique event spaces such as BP Hall, where you’ll be surrounded by striking architecture. The outdoor gardens make for a fantastic setting, too.”
The Theatre at the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles also stands as one of downtown L.A.’s gems. Its restored three-story 1920s movie palace features a 2,300-square-foot lobby and an ornate open balcony and mezzanine. Groups can host prefunctions in its lobby, and following a performance head to the hotel’s rooftop pool, home to the some of the city’s top mixologists, DJs and artist parties.
Downtown also offers unique repurposed venues such as The Edison, a former power plant that showcases its historic artifacts in the club. The underground lounge presents DJs, live music, aerialists and handcrafted cocktails, and can be booked for private events.
Group buyouts are also an option at The Vault, a former bank that now ranks as one of the hottest spots in Downtown L.A. The club features sound, light, laser and video systems and can host 900 people.
Mrs. Fish, an elite underground venue that brings together carefully curated live music, dining and creative cocktails, sits in the basement of the historic Pershing Square Building and offers unique features, such as an aquarium that illuminates the space. Groups can buy out the venue.
Other downtown bars open for group outings include The Rooftop at The Standard, Downtown LA, and Elevate Lounge. Not far from downtown, in Koreatown, groups can also head for cocktails at the Break Room 86 at The Line Hotel, featuring an ’80s theme.
Beer aficionados will find beer tasting options at City Tavern, which also offers special themed pint nights, and Angel City Brewery, or spirits tastings at the Greenbar Craft Distillery.
The Museum of Neon Art, which is relocating from its former home downtown to the city of Glendale in the San Fernando Valley, offers its Neon Cruise bus tours through downtown and other locales.
“It is a great way to see the city by night,” Green says. “Tours are customized for private buyouts. Insider tip: If you request Mike Sokenson as your tour guide you’ll also get treated to his spoken word poetry throughout the tour.”
Another recommendation is LA Beer Hop, which offers private beer tours of local breweries.
Home of the entertainment industry, Hollywood is a hub for performance spaces such as the Hollywood Bowl and Kodak Theatre, where the Oscars are held.
“Hollywood is growing up as a community with respect to nightlife,” says Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, which manages the Hollywood Entertainment District BID. “The turn of the 21st century was the nightclub chapter, from 1999-2009. It is now evolving, partially driven by the fact there are so many more residents.”
Today, Hollywood has a more sophisticated nightlife scene. The Hollywood Palladium, a 3,700-standing-room-capacity concert venue, offers 50-person VIP rooms as well as its main ballroom for group functions, including pre- or post-performance cocktail receptions in its lobby or balconies.
The historic Fonda Theatre offers after-show function space on its rooftop garden, where specialty cocktails can be poured. For some performances, groups can utilize VIP seating in the balcony.
Another option for groups are two comedy clubs in Hollywood, Second City and iO West. Both feature short shows of top-quality improv.
“You could hop into dinner, an improv show and go for a drink after without having to commit the whole evening to a show,” Morrison says.
The Redbury on Hollywood and Vine features a popular group spot, The Library, with an indoor/outdoor lounge on the second floor often used for private events. Groups can buy out the full space or host a semi-exclusive event either in the indoor parlor or outdoor terrace.
Another property, The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, offers its venues, such as The Spare Room, two bowling lanes adjacent to a cocktail lounge. Wood and Vine spotlights its back patio replete with fire pits, wine, specialty cocktails and share plates. Tinhorn Flats, across from the Loews Hotel, is a Southwestern-themed saloon and grill with two separate bars, one specializing in tequila and the other i bourbon. Both can customize tastings for groups.
Some of the old Hollywood bars, such as Boardner’s, which has been open since the 1940s, are also an option for an after-hours group drink. Mousso and Frank is famous for serving martinis with the entire shaker for guests to pour. The location has been around since 1919 and is currently planning a private room for group outings.
For Hollywood tours, Star Track Tours offers night options heading out in open-top vehicles to stars’ homes and other attractions. During the ride, a video screen shows the inside of the stars’ abodes. Star Track can offer groups the option of placing a company message on the DVD during the tour.
The Hollywood Stars & Bars tour is an evening walking tour that explores the hidden bars and restaurants of Old Hollywood, including history, ghost stories and a drink in several different places. Groups can customize tours.
For organized bar hopping, LA Epic Club Crawls and Hollywood Club Crawl offer options for private groups.
Old Pasadena lures visitors with its walkable downtown, arts, culture, restaurants and nightlife.
“Pasadena is a mecca for the brightest minds in the culinary and mixology arts, ready to rival the world’s big cities with a new level of creative energy,” says Christine Susa, director of marketing and communications for the Pasadena CVB.
Susa suggests the USC Pacific Asia Museum for groups, which can create a wine and painting or a wine and Chinese Art of Bonsai event. The museum also hosts Friday Fusions that includes a night of music, art and performance.
There is no shortage of bars, clubs and pubs in Pasadena, including the new beer garden Der Wolfskopf, which is open to groups. The Tap Room at the Langham Huntington Pasadena also offers space for private events.
Wine and Canvas offers groups a unique option for combining art and libations at its studio in Pasadena.
“We’ve hosted events for small businesses and fortune 500 companies at our studio, their offices and numerous five-star resorts, and our goal is always the same: To bring an unforgettable teambuilding event to their business that’s engaging, entertaining and obviously, thoughtfully prepared,” says Marlee Schroll, owner of Wine and Canvas Los Angeles and Orange County.
The San Fernando Valley features a variety of bars and lounges that can cater to groups, such as Bow & Truss in North Hollywood, which opens its patio to group functions. Nearby, Federal Bar offers late-night options and event space.
Universal CityWalk offers a number of group-friendly venues, such as Infusion Lounge, Howl at the Moon and Saddle Ranch Chop House.