As the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles rolls out the red carpet for meetings and events, from intimate gatherings to large-scale conventions. Los Angeles is a major hub for international trade and commerce, and also a cultural icon for arts, fashion, and literature – with more museums and theaters than any other city in the U.S. Over 18 million people live in LA or in its immediate vicinity. From entertainment palaces to theme parks and studio backlots, the extraordinary variety of Los Angeles event venues is unlikely can’t be found anywhere else.
The city has an established history with hosting world-class events. With top-notch accommodations and facilities, a year-round sunny, mild climate and fun-loving people who know how to entertain, Los Angeles welcomes over 45 million visitors each year, making Los Angeles event planning a pretty serious business.
In addition to the general information in this guide, meeting planners should also reach out to Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, the city's official destination marketing organization, for specific LA meeting planning requests. They are LA destination experts with the inside scoop and a host of free services to help meeting planners get the best of their Los Angeles experience.
By plane, train, or automobile, visitors to LA will have no trouble arriving in style. Fewer than five hours by car from large cities like San Diego, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, the city is easily reached from farther distances through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which processes almost 75 million people every year. The seventh-busiest airport on the planet, it serves 251 destinations domestic and abroad on more than 64 airlines, and the city's accessibility is further heightened by several additional airports, all of which are fewer than 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles – John Wayne (Anaheim); Hollywood Burbank Airport (formerly Bob Hope Airport); Long Beach Airport, and Palmdale. LA/Ontario International, in Ontario, approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, is the area's other international airport, serving Guadalajara, Mexico, as well as mainly West Coast destinations. A farther stretch, but doable, is Palm Springs International, which is approximately 100 miles east of downtown Los Angeles and whose international tag is possible thanks to Canadian airline WestJet.
Being such a large city, keeping event attendee travel logistics in mind for Los Angeles meeting planning professionals is clearly important. Thanks to LA's well-maintained elaborate system of freeways, traveling by car is one of the most viable options for traversing the city. Under a recent program that has expanded pick-up services, visitors can easily flag down one of more than 2,300 taxis operating in the downtown area. Transportation around Los Angeles is easy, putting paid to the myth that you need a car here. The county's Metro system of 200 bus lines and eight rail lines connects visitors to the large majority of neighborhoods in the area, while the quick, affordable DASH Downtown buses offer service to points of interest such as Chinatown, Union Station, and LA LIVE. With the opening of the Metro Expo Line extension, visitors can travel from Downtown LA to sunny Santa Monica Beach in 45 minutes.
Entering downtown, planners can enjoy a wealth of meeting facilities suited for groups of all types and sizes. The stunning glass-and-steel Los Angeles Convention Center, the city's principal events center, boasts the sought-after Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) designation from the United States Green Building Council. Within walking distance to a number of world-class LA meeting hotels, the LA Convention Center boasts 770,000 square feet of exhibit hall space, 102,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 299-seat theater. Amenities at the convention center are equally impressive, from the three food courts to onsite parking for more than 5,500 vehicles.
The convention center, along with the Staples Center and the Microsoft Square, are part of the LA LIVE entertainment complex, a 5.6-million-square-foot entertainment campus that first launched in 2007. This 27-acre mixed-use development boasts more than six blocks of entertainment facilities, restaurants, cinemas, bowling lanes, music clubs, and museums, including the 7,100-seat Microsoft Theatre, the 15,000-square-foot pan-Latin Conga Room, the GRAMMY Museum, and more. LA LIVE also contains four hotels, the 878-room JW Marriott Los Angeles, 123-room The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles Hotel & Residences, the 169-room Courtyard Los Angeles LA Live, and the 219-all-suite Residence Inn LA Live.
Meeting sites in Los Angeles are spread throughout this city of nearly 500 square miles. Need something cutting edge? The stainless steel Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry, can seat 2,265 people and is home to the city's philharmonic orchestra.
What about a taste of Old Hollywood? Host to countless premieres and three Academy Award ceremonies, TCL Chinese Theatre is one of the most sought-after locations for private events and screenings since 1927.
Groups can soak up the California sun by hosting an event among the 18,000 plants at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Or wait until the sun goes down to make the most of LA's vibrant nightlife. Restaurants and clubs such as Koi, Spago (Wolfgang Puck presides over two Michelin stars), La Boheme, and Sky Bar at the Mondrian Hotel offer fine food and trendy music to liven up events of all sizes. One of the most sought after event spaces is High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach, where the view over the beach and ocean will make attendees forget they're in the second-most crowded urban landscape in North America.
As of late, it's become much easier to "go green" with Los Angeles event planning, No matter the specific site, events and meetings in Los Angeles benefit from the city's many eco-friendly initiatives. LA was the first city to require city-owned buildings to be built according to LEED specifications. Plus, more than 20 percent of the city's power is generated from renewable resources, a fact of which the city is rightly proud and made a big splash about earlier this year. Hybrid vehicles are available from rental-car agencies such as Advantage, Enterprise and Midway, while public transportation features several clean-burning, natural-gas buses. Hotels, restaurants, and unique event spaces are all adopting green policies as well.
International trade, entertainment, aerospace, technology, petroleum, fashion, and tourism dominate LA's economy. The contiguous ports of LA and Long Beach also comprise one of the busiest ports in the world. Los Angeles has 23 of the 57 California companies in the Fortune 500 list and is home to 200 colleges and universities, including the University of Southern California, UCLA and Pepperdine University.