Millennium Biltmore Los Angeles
The Millennium Biltmore has earned its place in Hollywood history.

By Whit Honea

California vacations have been romanticized in books, screen and song, and the city at the heart of it all is Los Angeles. In the words of Randy Newman, “I love L.A.” — and when I visit the City of Angels, these are the five downtown Los Angeles hotels where I like to stay:

1. Millennium Biltmore Hotel is more than a hotel, it’s a landmark. The architecture and decor harken back to the glory days of Hollywood. The Gallery Bar is considered one the best among the downtown Los Angeles hotels, and the adjacent Cognac Room is a luxurious tribute to the Biltmore’s impressive history.

The Millennium Biltmore offers a variety of dining, including a traditional afternoon tea (Wednesday – Sunday) and live entertainment in the evening. Take the hotel tour and learn about the Millennium Biltmore’s early days as “The Host of the Coast” (the tour is part of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Walking Tour Program).

Standard hotel Los Angeles
Red AstroTurf adds to the retro feel at The Standard’s Rooftop Pool & Bar.

2. The Standard may very well be the coolest hotel ever. It’s hip, chic and full of retro goodness.  The fitness center has wood paneling on the walls and plaid carpet (not to mention posters of the Hulk circa 1978). The rooftop bar, considered one of the hottest nightspots in the city, has red Astroturf and an incredible view of the L.A. skyline.

The rooms have huge beds and mood lighting and are available in 10 sizes, starting at Medium (300 sq. feet) and including Gigantic (480 sq. feet), Humongous (590 sq. feet), Wow! (710 sq. feet) and the Bigger Penthouse (1,000 sq. feet), which is roughly the same size as my last house.

3. The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites is the perfect spot for those that mix their California vacations with business travel. The hotel has a central atrium that houses 42 restaurants and shops.  Yes, I said 42.

Want to enjoy a panoramic view of L.A. and sip a cocktail while doing it? The  BonaVista is a revolving bar with floor-to-ceiling views.  Many of the rooms also have floor-to-ceiling views, minus the spinning.

At the end of the day the best thing about the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites just might be their Heavenly Bed (and Heavenly Bath!). The name says it all.

Hilton Checkers
Hilton Checkers’ rooftop offers amazing skyline views.

4. Hilton Checkers. Nestled among the downtown Los Angeles hotels is the Hilton Checkers Hotel, a European-style boutique in the heart of the city. The hotel has been restored to its 1920s splendor and offers impeccable service.

Checkers Downtown was ranked by Gourmet Magazine as “one of the top 20 restaurants in Los Angeles” but what I really enjoy are their signature martinis — they go quite well with the open-air ambience of the hotel’s rooftop deck. Those are the moments that make great California vacations.

5. The Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza sits on Bunker Hill in downtown L.A. It offers complete spa services, an outdoor heated pool and the popular Noe Restaurant and Bar.

They also have complete convention facilities because, let’s face it, sometimes California vacations are work-related and it’s nice to have a downtown Los Angeles hotel that can pamper you when the workday is done.

All of the downtown Los Angeles hotels listed will provide quick access to the area’s hotspots, including Staples Center and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. But like the song says, Nobody walks in L.A. —  however, they do rent cars.

Whit Honea is a travel writer living in Seattle with his wife and two children. He packs light and travels often to far-away places, exotic lands and more than a few theme parks

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