Los Angeles, the largest city in California, is arguably America's entertainment capital, but it's also known as a fashion, beauty and nightlife mecca. Downtown is the most convention-friendly district. But don’t forget that this is a city of interesting enclaves, such as Hollywood, Beverly Hills, East Los Angeles, Silver Lake, West Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica and Venice Beach, to name a few. If you have a small group, these districts offer much in the way of meeting space, themed activities, dining and accommodations. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the city's largest, but attendees also can fly into Burbank's Bob Hope Airport (BUR), Long Beach Airport (LGB) or LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT).
Despite having the reputation of being the land of blond-haired, blue-eyed people, Los Angeles has an ethnically diverse population of 4 million. And no single ethnicity can claim a majority. The city may be a concrete jungle, but attendees are a shuttle ride away from the Topanga Canyon State Park, the beach or charming marinas that offer a chance to commune with nature (or at least enjoy the view while sipping cocktails). Visitors also may not realize that there's public transportation: Los Angeles Public Transit offers five fast, environmentally sound rail lines with Metro bus lines operating out of each station. DASH offers six quick and easy bus routes through Downtown daily. If renting a car is more your speed, have no fear. More than 40 rental car companies operate out of LAX alone.
L.A. Live, a multifaceted entertainment development downtown, is home to the Staples Center (home of the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers, the NHL’s Kings and the WNBA’s Sparks) and the Nokia Theatre, which has hosted the prime-time Emmy Awards and “American Idol” finales. Other on-site venues include Club Nokia and the Conga Room. Outdoor venues include Nokia Plaza, a tented 42,000-sq. ft. event deck, and the Target Terrace, which has 180-degree views from downtown to the Hollywood sign. Adjacent to L.A. Live are two hotels in one tower — a 123-room Ritz-Carlton and an 878-room JW Marriott. The Los Angeles Convention Center is right there, too? The massive, eco-friendly convention facility offers more than 1 million square feet of space and is LEED-EB certified.
Loews Hollywood Hotel has the address and the panache to accommodate any upscale meeting with 519 guest rooms, 113 suites and 120,000 square feet of space for up to 2,000 attendees. The views of city life and the Hollywood Hills will have attendees talking, while they plan a quick side trip to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is classic Southern California, with its oceanside address and direct access to the famous Santa Monica Pier. It’s only 13 miles from downtown L.A. via I-10. Attendees will want to take care of business so they still have time to breathe in the salty Pacific air. The Loews has 342 rooms, 15 one-bedroom suites, four custom-designed luxury suites and 17,000 square feet of function space that can suit groups of up to 900. If your group wants to team-build, the hotel can hook you up to bikes, beach cruisers and inline skates.
AV Event Solutions, an event-planning company, specializes in equipment rentals and services at reasonable rates. It rents LCD projectors, projector screens, sound systems, microphones, mixers, speakers, audience-response systems, iPads and tablets, kiosks, wireless networks, AV equipment, lighting and more. It serves all of California, with offices in San Francisco and San Diego as well as L.A. If you visit the website and submit a rental request, they promise a same-day response.
Spotlight attendees’ star potential with an event at Universal Studios Hollywood, which has more than 45 venues for groups of 100 to 20,000. Meeting space at the Studios at Paramount includes theaters and a Hollywood dining room. Both studios offer group tours. Book an oceanside cabana for a small group or buy out the entire Pacific Park amusement center on the Santa Monica Pier for a gathering of up to 2,000. On non-game days, Dodger Stadium rents its Dugout Club and an indoor event space (capacity: 500). The entire 56,000-seat ballpark can be reserved if you want to do an infield banquet or produce a massive seminar. Madame Tussauds Hollywood, a branch of the famous wax museum, has rooftop space for up to 400 and an indoor capacity of 1,000. If you’re looking for something really unexpected, The Magic Castle, a magicians’ club and theater in a restored Victorian mansion, offers food service and magic shows for groups of 125 to 360. Even if you decide to meet at a traditional venue, you can plump up your décor and seating arrangements with help from the Cloth Connection.
IFLY Hollywood Indoor Skydiving at Universal Citywalk has meeting space for up to 24 inside and 100 outside. Attendees can discover their inner Marilyn Monroe or Marlon Brando at Stella Adler Los Angeles, where many of the Method acting luminaries who redefined cinema in the 1950s studied. It offers corporate team-building workshops. Want to incorporate a little sightseeing with your scavenger hunt? Sign your group up for the Amazing L.A. Race.
If you’re looking for that coastal seafood experience, Ocean Avenue Seafood & Oyster Bar is the place for ocean views and acclaimed cuisine. A classic, the Palm Restaurant, offers private rooms in a traditional American steakhouse. For fine dining, the Chaya Brasserie serves fusion French/Japanese/Italian cuisine. Campanile, housed in a 1920s-era mixed-use development built for silent film star Charlie Chaplin, is known for its innovative California cuisine. To satisfy Mexicali cravings, try Food Network favorite Border Grill, which has downtown and Santa Monica locations. Tam O’Shanter, in the hip Los Feliz neighborhood, serves Scottish atmosphere and award-winning food. Can’t get close enough to the water? Charter a dinner cruise with Hornblower Cruises & Events.
There’s always something fabulous going on at Chateau Marmont‘s poolside bar. The Crown Bar in West Hollywood is another popular celebrity hangout. And if you have a thing for Jake Gyllenhaal, he likes to hike shirtless through Runyon Canyon. If your group would rather see real stars, events at the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park never disappoint.