Every major city has its posh hotels. But in the latest California Now Podcast, Jacqui Gifford, editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure, says that the luxury hotel scene in the Los Angeles area is different than what you would find in New York or Rome.
“L.A. seems to have this groundswell of amazing places to stay and I think it’s one of the most special cities for hotels in the entire country,” Gifford tells podcast host Soterios Johnson.
While hotels in other cities primarily cater to visitors, the bars, lobbies, and restaurants at exclusive Los Angeles spots also double as social hubs for locals—especially people in the entertainment industry. From a tourist’s perspective, these hotels give you an inside look at a rarefied world that might otherwise remain hidden. “You just feel like you’re part of the scene,” says Gifford. “When you go, you’re just soaking in this glamor, this history.”
In addition to recommendations for the best places to experience, Gifford also offers some dos-and-don’ts when visiting the city’s upscale hotels.
Sure, it’s exciting to suddenly spot a celebrity. But the stars you see at a hotel are either there to conduct business or are guests themselves. So no gawking and respect their privacy, just like you would want someone to respect yours. Gifford says that the recently renovated art deco Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood is especially protective of its guests, including a no-phone policy.
“People who live in the spotlight, they’re normal people too and they just want to go and have a cocktail or a glass of wine and not be bothered,” she says.
High fashion is not a requirement, according to Gifford. You don’t worry about dressing up in order to feel comfortable in one of L.A.’s luxury hotels as the city is refreshingly relaxed. “You could be in in jeans and a t-shirt and no one’s really going to bat an eye,” she says.
As tempting as it is to hang out for hours in a hotel lobby and watch the comings and goings, Gifford says that you really should buy something while you’re there. Leading hotels invest a lot into maintaining their public spaces and also employ large staffs of professionals dedicated to providing a high level of service.
For example, she describes her family’s stay at the Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills, where the staff was especially attentive to her son’s dining needs. “You don’t have to order a bottle of Dom Perignon or something like that,” she says. “You could get a tea or Diet Coke. I think it’s kind of the right thing to do.”
Visit the Classics
Iconic may be an overused word but the Beverly Hills Hotel, home to the famous watering hole the Polo Lounge and the retro-style Fountain Coffee Room, definitely qualifies. “Yeah, I so love that property,” says Gifford. It really captures the old school, glamorous vibe of Beverly Hills…It’s all about that Hollywood magic.”
She’s also a fan of the lush, secluded Hotel Bel-Air, which is tucked into an exclusive hillside neighborhood and “feels like little chic club in a way. Not exclusionary because it’s a hotel, and obviously everybody is welcome. But it just has a bit of hushed glamor to it.”