Be a star in L.A.'s Westside and South Bay enclaves
There’s something indefinably alluring about celebdom. Beautiful, rich and famous, stars exist in a world that appears to spin on an endless loop of dazzling parties and glitzy premieres. Even mere mortals who consider themselves above the fray tend to get excited when they encounter a big-name star.
For celebrity sightings and connections, there is no other locale in the world that matches the area encompassing L.A.’s Westside and South Bay. In ritzy locales including Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Malibu and Manhattan Beach, celebs buy homes, dine out, shop, film movies and otherwise live their everyday lives. This is enticing on a superficial level—it’s fun to rub shoulders with the glitterati, and better yet to tell friends after—but there’s a tangible meetings upside, too.
Because they’re accustomed to pampering such highly demanding customers, the places where A-listers hang out are particularly gorgeous, luxurious and staffed with the finest in the hospitality business. In other words, it’s not just about meeting a star here, but about making your attendees feel like one.
The cities in and around L.A’s Westside region roll out the red carpet for attendees with their celeb-helmed restaurants, couture shops and luxury hotels.
West Hollywood encapsulates everything that makes L.A. sexy, trendy and fun. There’s upscale dining in of-the-moment restaurants, funky boutiques where style trends are made and yes (this is Hollywood, after all), celebrity connections at seemingly every corner. Star sightings are common along famous Sunset Boulevard, where places like The Viper Room—once owned by Johnny Depp—draw celeb crowds. Melrose Avenue hums with celebrity activity as well; Ago restaurant, featuring Italian cuisine in a stunning setting, is owned by Robert De Niro. (Nobu, a celeb-worshipped sushi joint nearby, is also backed by De Niro.)
Trendiness reaches its zenith inside The Standard, Ian Schrager’s gold standard for hipness, where touches include a pool deck outfitted with cobalt-blue AstroTurf. That pool area and a lounge are the hotel’s largest meeting spaces, offering 5,472 and 1,406 sq. ft., respectively.
Or go for something a bit more classic-cool—think George Clooney, not Adam Levine—at Mondrian Los Angeles, where glowing glass walls and white curtains are among the ethereally stylish design features. SkyBar, a sleek ivy-colored pavilion, was renovated in May and remains a draw for get-togethers both business- and pleasure-oriented; the swank pool area also just saw a makeover. Many of the property’s 237 guest rooms feature views of the Los Angeles skyline, glittering by night.
Effortless style and 13,000 sq. ft. of space—including a rooftop ballroom—make Andaz West Hollywood another fave among meeting planners. The 257-room hotel boasts a local menu at RH, where an open kitchen sets a vibrant scene.
Beverly Hills & Bel Air
Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills,
There are certain locales that immediately evoke images of luxury sedans, haute-label styles and coffee-toting celebs. There’s the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Miami Beach. And, of course, Beverly Hills and Bel Air.
If attendees want to rub shoulders with the stars, there’s a good chance of it happening in one of the pricey boutiques on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, or in one of several restaurants helmed by a Hollywood name. The Moroccan-themed Tagine is co-owned by heartthrob-of-the-moment Ryan Gosling, while Milky Way, serving a Jewish fusion menu, is overseen by Steven Spielberg’s mom and features family photos of the director in his youth.
Star-spotting chances are heightened during industry events like the Golden Globes, held every year at The Beverly Hilton. When not hosting big names during that event, the hotel can accommodate meeting attendees in 569 rooms and 60,000 sq. ft. of space, including Stardust, overlooking the city and featuring a private rooftop balcony for mingling on never-chilly evenings.
Attendees may also encounter a celebrity or two at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills; according to Kim Kessler, director of public relations for the property, 80% of all film press junkets in the nation are held here. The property, with 285 rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of space, recently completed a $38 million renovation.
One of the area’s most notable venues is Hotel Bel-Air. Surrounded by 11 acres of tropical gardens, it’s the kind of secluded, upscale retreat stars love. It also just welcomed its very own celebrity chef: Wolfgang Puck, who, as of October 2011, manages the hotel restaurant. His introduction was part of a revamp that also included the addition of 12 new hillside rooms and a new spa and fitness center. The property, featuring 58 guest rooms and 45 suites, offers 12,000 sq. ft. of space.
Century City area
Just outside Beverly Hills and Bel Air, Century City, Westwood and Brentwood offer their own Hollywood connections at a lower price point. Westwood is famously home to UCLA and its distinguished School of Theater, Film and Television, which counts Nicolas Cage, Francis Ford Coppola and Tim Robbins among its alumni. The area also houses Fox Studios, the MGM Tower and Creative Artists Agency.
A-listers can be found at the elegant InterContinental Los Angeles Century City, with 509 guest rooms and 14,936 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Brentwood is where you’ll find the famed Getty Center Los Angeles, featuring a collection that encompasses European paintings, illuminated manuscripts and decorative arts. The venue’s outdoor spaces and gardens, highlighted by an oft-photographed pool with a floating maze of azaleas, can accommodate groups of up to 2,000.
The Getty Center Los Angeles, courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention
UCLA is also a meetings draw and features a dedicated conference services team. Meet in Sunset Village’s Covel Commons, home to the 5,965-square-foot Grand Horizon Ballroom and its dramatically high, vaulted ceilings and sweeping windows. Or enjoy the sunny SoCal outdoors on the adjoining terrace, spanning 3,700 sq. ft.
“The Bu,” as lucky locals call it, is the very symbol of celebrity decadence, with the most megawatt of stars residing in its cliffside manses. (To wit: Last year, Ellen DeGeneres purchased Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s home here, and Barbra Streisand owns an entire Malibu compound estimated to be worth $100 million.)
While there aren’t many meetings properties in town, your attendees can feel like Barbras and Brads by enjoying a glitzy off-site at one of several gorgeous special event venues. Carol Martinez, vice president of communications for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board (formerly LA Inc.) suggests Malibu and Vine, a beer- and wine-tasting establishment that opened at the Malibu Golf Club last summer, where the most popular setting for events is (not surprisingly) an outdoor wine-tasting room and bar that can accommodate up to 300.
The Getty Villa, the original location for the Getty art collection, can also host groups. Roman-inspired architecture and grounds house a collection centered around Greece, Rome and Etruria. The Founders Room, with views of the villa and ocean, can accommodate 54 attendees.
Santa Monica & Marina del Rey
Santa Monica is Westside L.A. at its most laid-back and California-cool, with bikini-clad locals roller skating along the boardwalk and long-haired surfers in wetsuits hitting the waves. There’s a definite celeb presence—Jane Fonda and Tom Selleck are among those with homes in the area—but that presence is a little less blinded by paparazzi lights and more inclined to low-key artsy haunts. Jeff Bridges, for instance, has displayed his photography at Rose Gallery at Bergamot Station, while Gallery 319 sells computer art by Ringo Starr.
Hollywood royalty has been retreating to the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows since it opened in 1921; with 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, it has been popular with hotshot groups for a long time as well. New to the scene is Shore Hotel, which opened last October as the only newly built LEED Gold-certified hotel in the area. The 164-room property has 800 sq. ft. of indoor space and 1,150 sq. ft. of outdoor space.
For a true-to-Santa Monica experience, book the 3,300-square-foot Pacific Park Seaside Pavilion at the pier. Attendees can mix and mingle, then let loose at one of the country’s most famous seaside amusement parks. Martinez also suggests L3 Santa Monica Place, located steps from the beach and inside the massive open-air Santa Monica Place mall, with 42,000 sq. ft. of space.
Just five miles outside Santa Monica, Marina del Rey is known for its 19 boat-lined marinas and Fisherman’s Village, featuring a lighthouse, promenade, dining and funky shops along the waterfront. Local stars flock to the swank Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey, a Five-Diamond property with 304 rooms, 16,000 sq. ft. of indoor space and 19,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space. Another meetings-friendly hotel in town is the 322-room Marina del Rey Marriott, with 18,000 sq. ft.
Los Angeles International Airport, courtesy of Westin LAX
Want to catch a celebrity going incognito in giant sunglasses and Juicy sweats? You may just have your chance flying in or out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), perhaps the only airport in the nation that’s frequented by paparazzi.
But seeing a baggage-dragging star isn’t the main appeal of meeting in the LAX area; convenience to the country’s third-busiest airport and nearby beaches—not to mention affordability—is. The massive Hilton Los Angeles Airport boasts 1,234 guest rooms and 55,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including the 13,585-square-foot Plaza Ballroom. Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel adds another 802 rooms and 55,000 sq. ft. of space to the mix.
Stretching along Santa Monica Bay, South Bay encompasses towns ranging from beachy to budget-friendly to posh. All the offerings, though, boast meeting-friendly venues and celebrity connections.
This is L.A. we’re talking about; a beach experience likely tops your meeting to-do list, and it doesn’t get any more beachy than the adjacent trio of Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches. Redondo is the bustling one—there’s a boardwalk, pier, harbor and lots of dining and shops. Hermosa is young, active and trendy. And Manhattan is ritzy, low-key and—not coincidentally—home to most of the area celebrities.
Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach & Marina Hotel is one of the area’s largest hotels, with 339 rooms and 25,000 sq. ft. of space, including the 7,250-square-foot Coral Ballroom. Also in Redondo Beach, an aesthetic inspired by classic luxury and the ocean distinguishes The Portofino Hotel & Marina. All 161 guest rooms feature marina or ocean views via private balconies or patios, and there’s more than 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Beach House Hotel Hermosa Beach puts ocean views front and center as well. Located on the strand, it boasts 96 suites, each with a private balcony and full or partial view of the Pacific. The property offers more than 2,600 sq. ft. of space. Hermosa Beach’s main celeb connection is the Comedy and Magic Club, where Jay Leno has famously performed most Sundays for years. Attendees can yuk it up in the 225-seat main showroom, which can also be used for conference presentations.
An extensive 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space makes the 373-room Manhattan Beach Marriott a top draw for groups. So does the property’s scenic 26-acre setting just two miles from the beach and its nine-hole golf course.
Safe, budget-friendly and filled with 275 acres of pristine parks, Torrance is making a name for itself as an enticing counterpoint to some of the area’s glitzier, busier and more pricey locales. Yet the town’s unpretentious demeanor belies a long history with Hollywood glamour. You may recognize Torrance High School, one of the state’s oldest, from the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Beverly Hills 90210. And the Del Amo Fashion Center—the fifth-largest mall in the U.S.—was a location in Jackie Brown and Bad Santa.
Stars of the automotive industry also call Torrance home; it is where the American headquarters for Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc. and American Honda Motor Co. are based. This lends an Asian influence to properties such as Miyako Hybrid Hotel, where Relaken Spa includes a waterless bedrock bath called ganban’yoku with natural stones from the mountains of Kyushu. The hotel offers 220 rooms and 4,600-plus sq. ft. of space.
Auto buffs will appreciate a visit to the Toyota USA Automobile Museum and its collection of 100 vehicles, including the sexy red 1967 2000GT that had a leading role in the James Bond flick You Only Live Twice. More than 4,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and a 33,000-square-foot exhibit hall are available for groups.
Forget Los Angeles freeways and high-rises. In Palos Verdes, the setting encompasses meandering horse trails, eucalyptus trees and stark cliffs set against the blue sea. It’s the kind of awe-inducing landscape that celebrities swoon over, and local residents include tennis legend Pete Sampras and football coach Pete Carroll.
Don’t expect a lot of celeb-owned hot spots or frenzied star sightings, however. The appeal of this peninsula is that it’s very much not attuned to the click-and-flash Hollywood lifestyle.
To make attendees feel pampered, book Terranea Resort, spanning 102 breathtaking acres at the tip of the ocean-hugging peninsula. Accommodations include bungalows, casitas and villas; there’s a nine-hole golf course; and the spa spans 50,000 sq. ft. Plan an opening or closing reception at one of nine oceanfront terraces and lawns, including The Meadows, offering 16,000 sq. ft. of space.
Event space is also available at Trump National Golf Club. An elegant, 45,000-square-foot clubhouse at the 18-hole, Pete Dye-designed course includes a grand ballroom that can accommodate up to 300.
Here, as in the rest of ever-posh West L.A., your attendees will feel like glamorous VIPs. Which is, of course, precisely what they are.
Main image: Santa Monica Pier, courtesy of Santa Monica CVB
Online Exclusive: Read about where the stars used to meet in "Honoring Hollywood's Golden Era."
–Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau: lovebeverlyhills.com
–Discover Torrance: discovertorrance.com
–Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board: discoverlosangeles.com
–Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau: visitmarinadelrey.com
–Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau: redondochamber.org
–Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau: santamonica.com
–West Hollywood Marketing & Visitors Bureau: visitwesthollywood.com
–Who: American Film Institute; 15 members and guests
–What: Inaugural National Council Summit
–When: June 6–8, 2012
–Where: Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
–Why: “We held a farewell reception on the pool terrace. There was a live band, spectacular food, we watched the sunset—it was like the credits rolling after my meeting.” –Beth Reynolds, senior manager, national advancement