Possibly more than any other U.S. region, the sun-kissed land stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego is in a constant state of reinvention. From its revitalized downtowns to its laid-back beach communities, Southern California presents a vast and diverse menu of meeting options that just keep improving all the time.
Nowhere is reinvention more evident than in Downtown Los Angeles, a place no longer overshadowed by more glamorous neighbors like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. A renaissance that began a decade ago with the opening of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and L.A. Live—a sports, entertainment and hotel complex next to the Los Angeles Convention Center—continues as a new wave of hotels and restaurants enliven the Downtown scene.
Thanks to these developments and a healthy local economy, particularly in the entertainment and tech sectors, Los Angeles is currently enjoying a banner year for citywide conventions and other meetings, according to Darren K. Green, senior vice president of sales for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.
“People are especially amazed at what’s going on Downtown,” he said. “It’s really taken off, with both new commercial and residential activity. In particular, our dining scene is amazing and rivals anyplace in the country. You can do great dine-arounds right near the convention center without even using a shuttle.”
Ranking high among new developments, 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.
Another newcomer is Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown, a hip 350-room property that recently debuted at Metropolis, a $1 billion mixed-use development with three residential towers within walking distance of L.A. Live. 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.
Also near L.A. Live, the historic Hotel Figueroa recently emerged from a $30 million renovation that transformed its Moroccan-inspired decor into a more contemporary aesthetic, and added event spaces that include a rooftop garden. In the coming months, the Nomad and Proper hotels will be among several new boutique properties located in restored and repurposed 1920s and 1930s buildings in the Downtown area.
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 array of art ranging from traditional paintings to digital and cinematic artworks.
To the north of Downtown, Hollywood 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 Everly Hotel features a pool deck, VIP suites and a glass-enclosed conservatory for events.
West of Downtown, Beverly Hills offers a glamorous lineup of group-friendly properties such as the Four Seasons, Peninsula Beverly Hills, Beverly Hilton, Beverly Wilshire and Beverly Hills Hotel in close proximity to each other. A brand-new addition is the 170-room Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, which has 6,300 square feet of meeting and event space, including a rooftop deck with panoramic views.
Russell Harris, president of Russell Harris Event Group, is among local event planners who welcome the expanding number of rooftop venues in the L.A. area.
“The pool decks and their 360-degree views of the city provide the kind of outdoor ambience that people come to Los Angeles for,” he said. “When you’re here, you don’t want to be stuck in a ballroom.”
Convenient to Los Angeles International Airport, 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 technology start-ups, earning it the moniker Silicon Beach.