Downtown Los Angeles: The Millennium Biltmore Hotel


imageAn easy way to escape your daily life and feel like a temporary traveler is to pay a visit to a nearby classy hotel. Hotels these days make it a point to really entertain their guests. This includes fine dining, sophisticated lounges, and often times live music. For me, it’s a big bonus is if the hotel has a bit of history and intriguing architecture. The Millennium Biltmore in Downtown Los Angeles has all of these components which makes for a fantastic afternoon.

The Biltmore is a gorgeous hotel. Located at 506 South Grand Avenue, it has 683 rooms and suites. Architects Schultze & Weaver crafted the blueprints and they are the very same architects who later penciled The Waldorf Astoria in New York. The structure reflects the French Beaux Arts style of architecture which often includes grand sculptural elements, elaborate murals, and heavy cornices. You will see a variety of European styles inside its walls such as Renaissance, Neoclassical, and Baroque. Regardless of how you define its design, the hotel is beautifully detailed.

“The Host of the Coast” officially opened in October of 1923. Big names like Cecil B. DeMille attended its debut and since then, the hotel has seen many camera-ready faces walk its halls. It is said that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in the Crystal ballroom. According to the rumors, the legendary Oscar statue was even sketched on a Biltmore napkin. The hotel has – and this isn’t heresay- hosted the Academy Awards more than once. Likewise, several movies and televisions shows have used its interiors for filming. Movies like Ghostbusters, True Lies, and Wedding Crashers have the Biltmore in their credits. In fact, the day I was there, William Shatner was filming in the Gallery Bar for what I suspect is a Priceline commercial. Chances are something will be buzzing if you decide to visit this grandiose site. Being such a treasured building, it is no surprise it became a historic monument in 1969.

Now it’s not all just filming fluff – nine U.S. presidents have stayed here. In 1960, the Biltmore became the Democratic headquarters for John F. Kennedy, Jr. So what can you expect if you, too, stay here? Smeraldi’s offers Italian and continental fare. This eatery is named after muralist Giovanni Smeraldi who painted the banquet rooms. Bugis Street Brasserie serves Singaporean Chinese cuisine. There is high tea in the Rendezvous Court on Saturdays and Sundays. I indulged in the high tea with my girlfriends a couple of months ago. It was a lovely and very filling experience. The Rendezvous Court is the location of the original lobby. Even if you don’t dine there, you absolutely must take a peek. The imagehigh arched ceiling with ornate details and the grand staircase to the main level set the scene for Hollywood’s finest. The lobby relocated to the opposite side of the hotel to allow for a more functional motor court where guests can be better welcomed. The Gallery Bar and Cognac Room is their main nighttime spot with live music on the weekends and signature martinis.

A standard room will cost you about $299 a night. The Premium two-story suite will cost you about $4,899 a night which includes complimentary breakfast as well as access to the club lounge facilities. Oh to be wealthy. While the common areas are grandiose, expect a more understated elegance in the rooms. Classy details, of course, but a simpler approach to stylish living.

Other Downtown overnight spots worth mentioning include The Westin Bonaventure and The Standard Hotel. The Bonaventure is located at 404 South Figueroa Street and was built in 1976. Known as the “City within a City”, the Bonaventure is much larger than the Biltmore with triple the number of rooms and several venues in which to entertain. Considered a “postmodern icon”, this contemporary hotel boasts large curved glass towers and very classy digs. A basic king bed will cost around $249. The Standard Hotel was originally a business building for the Standard- Superior Oil Company. Located at 550 South Flower Street, this mid-century modern structure was built in 1955 and is the epitome of minimalist design. The building was converted to a hotel in 2002 and even if you don’t rest your head here, I recommend checking out the fantastic rooftop bar and pool area. They also have a lounge – believe it or not – completely dedicated to ping pong. A medium room will cost around $318.

imageSo there you have it. Three cool hotels to check out with the Biltmore at the top of the list. I should also mention that downtown has some quality nightlife. This includes the aforementioned bar/lounge at The Standard appropriately called The Rooftop, PERCH on Hill Street which also offers killer 15th floor views, and the whiskey Bar called Seven Grand on – wait for it – 7th and Grand. Then there is LA Live on Olympic Boulevard which is an entire complex of restaurants, bars, and event centers. I have eaten great steak at Flemings, watched the Lakers at the Staples Center, and danced at the Conga Room. One thing is for sure – you won’t be bored. Pick your hotel and party away, travel friends.

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