Greater los angeles

New Perspectives

Los Angeles is a place where you can take your meeting to a whole new level. The city’s magnificent sprawl is best admired from above—whether it’s from the peaks of the Hollywood Hills, atop a downtown skyscraper or a window seat as your flight heads into LAX.

In L.A., everyone wants the view from the top and, fortunately for visiting groups, there are countless award-winning resorts, up-and-coming restaurants and sought-out venues that can set the scene for any event. Visitors will be in good company as hundreds of organizations head here each year including, more recently, the American Heart Association, the School Superintendents Association and California Association of Physician Groups.

Downtown Los Angeles: Touch the Sky

From almost anywhere in the City of Angels, you can see the cluster of downtown’s chrome-colored towers with the California sun beaming off their sides. This L.A. area has recently become quite the destination, and several associations base themselves here for their stay.

Planners bent on impressing delegates can turn to notable downtown hotel properties boasting enviable rooftop event spaces designed with all the luxurious amenities: pools with cabanas, beer gardens, dance floors and live music. The Standard/Downtown, the new Ace/Downtown and the JW Marriott/L.A. Live are excellent options.

Downtown’s largest venue is the gold LEED–certified Los Angeles Convention Center, which is scheduled to begin a $10 million makeover in August while remaining open for events. The convention center has 720,000 square feet of exhibit space and 150,000 square feet of meeting space. Like other major venues in L.A., it has hosted glamorous soirées, such as the Grammy Awards, and many organizations choose the convention center as the site of their meetings, trade shows and expos.

“The feedback from our attendees was that they really enjoyed the city and the convention center,” said Chris Daw of the School Superintendents Association. “As the planner for the meeting, I experienced the same thing. From the hotel community being easy to work with to the convention center making sure all of our needs were met. Our 2013 National Conference on Education was so successful that our board unanimously voted to bring the conference back to L.A. in 2019.”

Another coveted event facility is the Frank Gehry–designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, whose 2,265-seat auditorium is available. The hall is part of the Music Center, a complex of performing arts venues that also includes the 3,189-seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the 2,115-seat Ahmanson Theater and the 747-seat Mark Taper Forum. Other large venues include the Staples Center, which is home to the Lakers, Clippers and Kings, and can seat more than 19,000; a new property in the Arts District called Lot 613, with more than 15,000 square feet of space for up to 1,000; and the Shrine Auditorium, former home of the Academy Awards, with a 6,300-seat theater and a 54,000-square-foot expo hall.

The most significant one-stop-shop complex for visitors is the 4 million-square-foot L.A. Live event and entertainment site. Its major event facilities are the 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre, with 235,000 square feet of flexible space; Club Nokia, with 59,000 square feet of space; and the outdoor, 40,000-square-foot Nokia Plaza. At the Grammy Museum, attendees can enjoy historical music displays and hands-on exhibits, and, planners can arrange events indoors or on its 13,000-square-foot rooftop. And a venue called the Event Deck, located across from the convention center, has 106,000 square feet of customizable event space, with catering by Wolfgang Puck.

The hospitality landscape is constantly shifting and one of the most anticipated new arrivals is the aforementioned Ace Hotel, located in the iconic 1927 United Artists Theatre building. In addition to its rooftop pool, Ace’s event spaces include an ornate, 1,600-seat theater with a 2,300-square-foot lobby and two banquet rooms. And in July, the $172 million Residence Inn & Courtyard by Marriott complex opened near the convention center.

Two ongoing projects will add more guest rooms to downtown’s current inventory. Construction began on The Bloc (formerly known as Macy’s Plaza), which developers plan to turn into a complex with shopping, restaurants, an open-air courtyard and an improved Sheraton/Downtown. Work could be done by as early as next fall. The $1.1 billion Wilshire Grand Center project continues a few blocks from L.A. Live; the 900-room on-site hotel is expected to open in 2017 within the West Coast’s tallest tower (73 stories and constructed with seismic safety design).

The L.A. Hotel Downtown is finishing a $25 million upgrade with plans to become a Hyatt Regency property. In nearby Koreatown, Hotel Normandie has completed a $5 million upgrade and is set to open this fall. Down the street is a new hotel, The Line, which draws on Korean-American culture.

Dodger Stadium, located in the Echo Park neighborhood north of downtown, underwent more than $100 million in upgrades in 2013. Groups can meet at more than a half-dozen places including the stadium itself, which can host as many as 56,000; the Lexus Dugout Club for up to 350; the Loge Terrace, for up to 400; or the baseball field, which can be used for events of up to 2,000. Shuttle-bus service is available between the facility and downtown.

Greater Hollywood: Stellar Visions

Visitors spend a lot of time looking down in Hollywood, especially on the star-spangled pavement of Hollywood Boulevard, packed with names bearing varying degrees of fame. The hand prints at the TCL Chinese Theatre are a must-see, and the venue lends a starry ambiance to any event: It’s been attracting stars and fans since the ‘20s. Last year, the theater debuted a 932-seat IMAX cinema, which offers event space in its ballroom and several smaller spaces.

Just around the block is the Hollywood & Highland Center, home to the 3,400-seat Dolby Theatre, which hosts the biggest stars come Oscar night. Also on site is the Loews/Hollywood (formerly a Renaissance), which recently completed a $26 million renovation.

If you’d rather escape the tourists, tours and Marilyn Monroe look-alikes on the Walk of Fame, head up to Griffith Park. Here, you can hike up to the Hollywood Sign or take a gander through telescopes at the Griffith Observatory (which has event space for up to 1,800).

The legendary Sunset Strip runs right through the city of West Hollywood, and if your group’s a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, the House of Blues has event space for up to 1,500 people. A few blocks south is the Pacific Design Center, which can host events as large as 2,500 people.

In the Miracle Mile neighborhood, attendees can explore 40,000 years of history at La Brea Tar Pits, and special events can be held at its Page Museum after hours. Several other cultural venues in this area include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which offers meeting space for up to 1,000 guests.

The Westside: New & Improved

Century City has plenty of first-class hotels that hit the mark with planners, the largest of which is the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. The National Association of County & City Health Officials, the Music Business Association and the Association of Film Commissioners International are organizations that have recently held events at this property.

A range of top-notch venues and attractions await in nearby Beverly Hills. New on the scene is the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in October with two elegant event sites: the historic 1933 Beverly Hills Post Office and the 500-seat Goldsmith Theater. The iconic Beverly Hilton recently completed a $7 million renovation, which improved its Wilshire Tower and Oasis guest rooms and its International Ballroom, host to the Golden Globes since 1961. Another classic is the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is upgrading all guest rooms and suites.

In Westwood, the University of California–Los Angeles has three conference complexes and, during the summertime, can house up to 6,000. Heading into the hills, you’ll find Hotel Angeleno in Brentwood with newly remodeled meeting spaces. A few miles away is the Getty Center, an arty wonderland filled with both cultured locals and out-of-towners. Farther up the 405 is the Skirball Cultural Center, which opened its Guerin Pavilion late last year; the new meetings and event space adds 17,500 square feet to the facility’s existing capabilities and features a 9,000-square-foot ballroom.

In Culver City, the DoubleTree by Hilton/Los Angeles–Westside has completed renovations. And in West Los Angeles, the Olympic Collection Banquet, Conference & Entertainment Center has 35,000 square feet of space. Another local choice is the Westside Conference Center on Pepperdine University’s West L.A. Graduate Campus, which has 26,500 square feet of space.

Los Angeles International Airport is undergoing significant renovations, including a $229 million project at Terminal 5 expected to finish next year. Last September, the expanded $1.9 billion Tom Bradley International Terminal made its debut with more spacious gates, luxurious lounges and additional shops and restaurants. Near the airport, the recently renovated Sheraton Gateway offers 38 meeting rooms.

Five miles east, in Inglewood, the Forum reopened in January. The legendary concert venue, which has hosted the likes of the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley, was infused with a $100 million makeover and offers 8,000 square feet of new hospitality space, 17,500 red-velvet theater seats, a new Chase Lounge and the renovated VIP Forum Club. Its 40,000-square-foot outdoor terrace has also been upgraded.

marina del rey,Santa Monica & Malibu: The Sea-Level Scene

It’s birthday time in waterfront Marina del Rey: The oceanside community turns 50 this year. Groups can meet at several revamped properties. Topping the list is the historic Marina del Rey Hotel, which is scheduled to reopen late this summer on the heels of a $20 million modernization project. Nearby, the Marina del Rey Marriott has completed a $6 million upgrade and plans to improve the lobby and restaurant were recently announced—that new work should be completed in 2015. Finally, in March, the Ritz-Carlton opened Cast & Plow, a restaurant that can seat up to 80 guests.

Family-friendly Santa Monica is one of the California coast’s most traditional vacation spots. Visiting groups can take free rides on the electrically generated Santa Monica Shuttle—which makes pickups at Shutters on the Beach, the DoubleTree and the Loews—and head to main tourist points: downtown, the pier, Main Street and the upscale Montana Avenue shopping area.

To make the most of the near year-round sunshine, why not meet by the sea? At the famous Santa Monica Pier, the two-acre Pacific Park can host up to 2,000 for events, while its 3,400-square-foot Pavilion can be used for more intimate gatherings. The Annenberg Community Beach House, built by William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s, offers a pool, volleyball courts and spaces for up to 960. And on Main Street at Heritage Square, The Victorian, a former mansion, has 15,000 square feet of space.

Inland, the historic Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport has 97,000 square feet of space, and the 22,000-square-foot Museum of Flying welcomes special events. The Santa Monica Museum of Art has event space in three galleries. Also available is the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, located next to City Hall and two blocks from the beach. The facility currently offers its East Wing and patio for events of up to 250. In local hotel news, the former Sheraton Delfina is undergoing a lobby redesign as part of its transformation into the new Le Méridien Delfina.

The exclusive and largely residential beach town of Malibu, just up the coast, has some of the area’s best sandy spots as well as a more educational side. Pepperdine University offers the Villa Graziadio Executive Center for events.

Venice has all the beach style and boardwalk action you’ve seen on TV. Just blocks from the ocean is Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the self-touted “coolest block in America,” where visitors can enjoy art galleries and trendy eateries. Or groups can gather at Space, a venue with 3,100 square feet of space for functions of up to 250 people.

Catalina, South Bay & Port Cities: Keeping Current

Santa Catalina Island, off the coast, has long been a Pacific playground for vacationing Angelenos. If your group is an active bunch, head up the Garden to Sky Trail, which starts at the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden and ends an hour or so later at the “You Made It” sign on Divide Road atop Avalon Canyon.

But it’s not all play and no work—there are meeting spaces, too. The main community on the island is Avalon, home to the Catalina Casino, which has a ballroom for up to 1,400 and a cinema. The Catalina Visitors Country Club can host up to 100, and the Descanso Beach Club is expected to debut in September after a multimillion-dollar renovation; new facilities include a 13,000-square-foot clubhouse with meeting spaces.

Back on the mainland, the waterfront cities of the South Bay boast many options for event planners. In Redondo Beach, the Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach & Marina Hotel recently completed a renovation. Construction recently began on a boutique hotel, Shade, which is expected to open early next year with 54 guest rooms and a 11,600-square-foot event building. The Sunrise Hotel recently closed to undergo a $13 million renovation but is scheduled to reopen this fall as the Redondo Beach Hotel with 112 guest rooms and 4,633 square feet of indoor-outdoor event space.

Just east, in Torrance, venues include the Torrance Cultural Arts Center, which has space for up to 500, and the 14,000-square-foot Torino Festival Plaza, which can host up to 530. Farther south, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes is a major retreat destination.

In Long Beach, the new Pacific Ballroom at the Long Beach Arena opened last November with 45,000 square feet of event space. The arena is part of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, which has more than 400,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space and has benefited from $40 million in enhancements. The Long Beach Airport also recently underwent a major renovation.

Visitors who bring along their families might visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, which has space for up to 2,500, or the Queen Mary, which was the world’s largest luxury liner when she sailed on her maiden voyage in 1936. The ship has 80,000 square feet of event space. The Courtyard/Long Beach downtown recently completed a redesign. In addition, more than $60 million was spent on renovations at four other local hotels: the Renaissance, Westin, Hyatt Regency and Marriott.

In San Pedro, another port city, one of the draws for visitors is the waterfront: The USS Iowa, a World War II battleship, offers eight event spaces, the largest of which can host up to 1,500. And the newer $32 million Downtown Harbor Plaza & Town Square, which opened in June, can host up to 5,000 people.

Sidled against the marina is the DoubleTree/San Pedro, which recently completed a renovation of its event space and has moved on to upgrades of its lobby and guest rooms. Other meeting venues include the Warner Grand Theatre, with a 1,500-seat auditorium, and a few doors down, the Grand Annex, with 1,500 square feet of space. For larger functions, the 30-acre Wilmington Waterfront Park offers a plaza for performances, lawn space and two small event spaces.

The Valleys & the Inland Empire: Flying High

The farther you move from the ocean, the higher you go. By the time you get to the city of Pasadena, you’re 600 feet higher than downtown Los Angeles, just 11 miles away. Heightened expectations are part of the destination as well, as is evident from the number of groups that meet here each year for meetings. The American Phytopathological Society has scheduled an event next summer; the Garden Writers Association booked its 2015 symposium here; and Great Minds in STEM plans to visit in October 2015. And in 2016, the American Choral Directors Association and the California Association of School Business Officials both have conferences planned in Pasadena.

The gold LEED–certified Pasadena Convention Center is the main place to meet with its 108,000 square feet of space. One of the biggest attractions is the Rose Bowl Stadium, which hosts the annual Rose Bowl football game and, year-round, vintage shopping at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. The venue, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary, is currently undergoing multi-phase improvements scheduled to wrap up in 2018. In the meantime, it still welcomes groups in the media center (for up to 350), the locker room (up to 400), the Court of Champions Courtyard (up to 1,500) or the field itself (up to 10,000). Also celebrating 100 years is the Langham Huntington/Pasadena, which recently opened the new Chuan Spa.

Other venues in Pasadena include the Pacific Asia Museum, with space for up to 300, and the California Institute of Technology, which has a variety of meeting spaces. In peaceful and posh San Marino, one of the main attractions is the Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens. Other green spaces are the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia, with space for up to 2,000, and Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, which has seven event spaces, the largest for up to 225.

The mix of rugged and urban landscapes in the San Fernando Valley provides many high points for groups. Attendees coming from afar often land at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, and a nearby option is the Holiday Inn Burbank Media Center, which just completed a $15 million renovation. Also in Burbank, Warner Bros. Studios is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Batman with a display of iconic costumes, gadgets and vehicles from the films. The studio offers group tours as well as event spaces including the 516-seat Steven J. Ross Theater and the lobby, which can host up to 275. Other venues include the Civic Auditorium in Glendale, which has space for up to 500, and Universal CityWalk in Universal City, where meeting-goers can enjoy movie-themed rides, shops and restaurants. Also in Universal City, the Hilton recently completed a major upgrade that included $7 million of environmentally-friendly retrofitting. The Sheraton/Universal has a newly renovated pool area, which includes a 24-hour pool bar and a new spa pool.

In North Hollywood, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences offers a 600-seat theater and a plaza for up to 2,000. In town, the former Beverly Garland Hotel is scheduled to complete a $20 million renovation this summer and be rebranded as The Garland. In Van Nuys, to the west, there’s 22,000 square feet of event space at the Airtel Plaza Hotel & Conference Center. Farther west, Northridge is home to California State University/Northridge, which can host functions of up to 1,000 people.

Up in the Santa Susana Mountains is Santa Clarita, where the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at the College of the Canyons has event spaces, including a 926-seat theater. In nearby Valencia, the Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor theme parks offer group rates, and the Valencia Country Club can host events of up to 300. Southwest of Santa Clarita, on the other side of the valley, is Thousand Oaks, where the Hyatt Westlake Plaza has completed a $2 million renovation.

The major meetings space in San Bernardino is the 120-acre National Orange Show Events Center, which has 150,000 square feet of space. To the southwest is Riverside, whose convention center recently reopened after a $43 million expansion and upgrade. It now offers more than 66,000 square feet of space for groups as large as 3,000. Also in town, the Riverside Auditorium & Events Center can host up to 2,000, and the historic Fox Performing Arts Center is a 1,600-seat venue that has kept the building’s 1929 grandeur. Another meeting venue is the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, which has indoor and outdoor meeting space.

Home to its own international airport, more than 6,000 guest rooms and the 225,000-square-foot Ontario Convention Center, Ontario is still growing, with the launch of the Ontario Town Square Park expected in the next few months. Six miles farther west is Pomona, where venues include the 487-acre Fairplex and Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center, which can host up to 1,000 people.

New Points of View

In diverse Los Angeles, attendees can draw from all sorts of inspiration. Ideas can strike from anywhere—perhaps while marveling at the glittering stars paving the Walk of Fame or gazing out at the Pacific Ocean. There are infinite ways Los Angeles can work its wonders and help your meeting achieve success.