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Hollywood, Pasadena and the Valleys honor the past

History has its eyes on you,” sings the cast in the hit musical Hamilton, which recently completed an extended run at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. Although they were singing about Alexander Hamilton they could just as easily have been singing about Alexander Pantages, who built the grand Art Deco theater in 1930.

The fully refurbished theater has hosted everything from vaudeville to the Academy Awards and is just one of a number of venues in Hollywood, the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys and Pasadena where groups can experience the rich history of Los Angeles.


“Hollywood is the epitome of the L.A. experience, with glitz and glamour around every corner,” said Darren K. Green, senior vice president of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. “You can truly elevate any meeting or event into a red-carpet affair at real working movie studios, historic theaters and iconic award-show venues.”

While the Pantages hosted the Oscars from 1949 to 1959, the Hollywood Roosevelt was the event’s original host in 1929. The hotel reopened in 2005 following an extensive renovation and still features vintage tiles and ceiling details. Meeting planners will find more than 25,000 square feet of gathering space, including 13 meeting rooms and the Tropical Pool and rooftop for events.

The Oscars are now held just down the street at the Dolby Theatre, part of the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex. While not historic (it opened in 2001), Hollywood & Highland was built in a prime spot along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which recognizes celebrities old and new. Next door, the 20-story Loews Hollywood Hotel features 76,000 square feet of meeting space.

“You’ll discover a mix of treasured and classic properties in Hollywood,” Green said. “The Hollywood Roosevelt, W Hollywood and Loews Hollywood Hotel are all within close proximity to the Hollywood & Highland entertainment district.”

Up in the hills, the Hollywood Bowl was built in 1922 and has hosted everyone from the Rolling Stones to Gustavo Dudamel. Meeting planners can book the Bowl’s picnic and reception areas for events that combine food and music—not to mention some pretty incredible stargazing. For the more serious stargazer (of the celestial sort), the Griffith Observatory offers event space. The Los Angeles icon opened in 1935 and has been featured in films such as Rebel Without a Cause and La La Land.

Next door to Hollywood & Highland, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre originally opened in 1927. Now the TCL Chinese Theatre, the 932-seat venue is often used for movie premieres and can be booked to create a red carpet experience for groups. Nearby, the Hollywood Museum can host events for up to 650 people.

Near the classic intersection of Hollywood & Vine, Avalon Hollywood opened in 1927 and has hosted everyone from Frank Sinatra to Nirvana. The venue can be booked for groups of up to 2,000, offering  state-of-the-art sound and lighting.

The longest operating studio in Hollywood is Paramount. The Studios at Paramount opened in 1912 and offer a variety of unique venues for groups of up to 10,000. They include the New York Street, the Blue Sky Tank and a number of sound stages, theaters and parks.

San Fernando Valley

Just over the hill from Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley is home to more film studios.

“The regions of Hollywood and the Valley both played instrumental roles in L.A.’s history of the entertainment industry,” said Green, who noted that the

Valley has the added bonus of competitive rates. “It offers everything meeting attendees could ask for, at prices that are well below what would be expected.”


In Universal City, Universal Studios was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle, who would invite the public to watch the silent films being made. In 1964, the Universal Studios tour debuted and has grown into the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. Last year, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, adding to the options for meeting planners. The closest hotels are the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City and the Sheraton Universal, which is undergoing a renovation.

Warner Bros., which was founded by the four Warner brothers (Albert, Harry, Jake and Sam) in Burbank in 1918, also offers a studio tour. The Stage 48: Script to Screen tour allows guests to take a seat on the famous couch from Friends and learn the production process. For events, the studio offers venues for groups from 50 to 5,000.

“Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood gives guests an immersive behind-the-scenes experience as they explore the sets, sound stages and iconic locations on Warner Bros.’ legendary studio lot,” Green said.

Nearby hotels include the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, which dates back to the 1880s, and The Garland hotel in North Hollywood, which recently underwent a $20 million redesign.

At the other end of the San Fernando Valley in Simi Valley, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum opened in 1991. The library is perhaps best known for its Air Force One Pavilion, where groups can board, or dine underneath, the aircraft used by Reagan and six other presidents before it was retired in 2001.

Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley

The San Gabriel Valley has a rich history that dates all the way back to the Hahamogna Tribe and the founding of the San Gabriel Mission in 1771. In the city of San Gabriel, the Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel is opening this month with 177 guest rooms and meeting space for groups of up to 1,000 people.

The largest city in the San Gabriel Valley is Pasadena. It’s perhaps best known for its Tournament of Roses Parade, which began back in 1890 when members of the Valley Hunt Club were brainstorming ways to promote the “Mediterranean of the West.”

“History and charm are qualities that really set Pasadena apart,” said Jeanne O’Grady Goldschmidt, executive director of the Pasadena CVB. “Whether planners are hosting an intimate dinner for a handful of VIPs or entertaining thousands, they’ll find a stunning array of locations. For something with a historic feel, we have the Castle Green or Albert Einstein’s inspired Athenaeum at Caltech.”

Goldschmidt also emphasized the city is safe and pedestrian friendly.

“It feels like a small town within the big city of Los Angeles,” said Nancy Nachman, owner and chief connection officer of The Meetings Concierge, based in Scottsdale, Ariz. “The downtown area is full of quaint shops and independent restaurants, not to mention the special Norton Simon Museum and Huntington Library.”

At the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, founded in 1919 on the former estate of railroad baron Henry E. Huntington, groups can hold events in 30 venues ranging from small boardrooms to large terraces. Additional Pasadena area museums include the USC Pacific Asia Museum, located in the Grace Nicholson Mansion; Pasadena Museum of History, situated in the Fenyes Mansion; and the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

One of the most historic properties is the Langham Huntington, which originally opened (and then closed) in 1907 as the Hotel Wentworth. Henry Huntington purchased the property and reopened it as the Huntington Hotel in 1914. The hotel was purchased by Langham Hospitality in 2008. The company renovated the hotel in 2010 and is expected to add a new set of renovations this year.

“Langham Hotels has done an amazing job of keeping the hotel in its grandeur,” Nachman said. “The guest rooms and meeting space are gorgeous, as are the grounds, restaurants and spa.” 

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About the author
Ann Shepphird