Downtown Los Angeles has suddenly become the most vibrant part of the city with new hotels and restaurants continually popping up. Sure LA Live and the Staples Center account for a lot of this, but something else is happening. The area has become a mecca for high-tech business, especially app start-ups. An example of this resurgence is the Ace Hotel, which is now one of the best places to stay downtown.
Years ago in another life I actually lived in downtown L.A. It was cutting-edge stuff back then but quite dull after 7 p.m. during the week and on weekends. Instead of leaving the area after work, people are now gravitating to it. The plethora of theater and sporting event options means there is an event going on almost every night of the year. There are scores of brand new condominium buildings, and even a Whole Foods just opened only a couple of blocks from the Ace Hotel.
With all the activity here these days, it might be hard to remember what the real drawing card is. “It’s the weather, stupid,” to play on a political pun. You see, downtown L.A. might just have the best weather in the U.S. Every time I visit, it seems to be hovering between 70-85 degrees. To top it off you would be lying if you did not notice that there is very little smog anymore. Decades of tough emissions controls have restored the beautiful mountain vistas that for a long time only existed on New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl.
Minimalist chic? I struggled for hours to get the feel just right, but that is it. The Ace Hotel chain now has seven locations, all with a distinct character that fits the locale. To be sure they come with all the comforts of a luxury property, such as large flat screen TVs and elegant bathrooms with the finest toiletries. They each have unique work stations fitting the needs of the modern-day business and leisure traveler. The bedding is large and very comfortable with the finest linens in each room.
What sets Ace apart from the crowd is the rest of the room with its minimalist tone yet paying homage to the music industry of past years. Many rooms include an acoustic Martin guitar and/or an Ace x Rega LP1 turntable with a curated selection of vinyl from the hotel’s friends at Amoeba Music. These touches seem to have made the Ace very popular with millennials, whom I noticed in abundance on this stay.
L.A. Chapter is the hotel’s restaurant, located street level and adjacent to the lobby. This chic brasserie specializes in locally sourced vegetables and seafood. At Chef Ricardo’s suggestion, I started with oysters and grilled octopus, both more than satisfying my taste buds. Following with the Ōra King Salmon turned out to be a perfect match. The food and service were equal to the most elegant fine dining to be found in the downtown area.
The restaurant is open breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it provides lite fare for Upstairs, the hotel’s rooftop bar. This is a good place to unwind after your busy day as you take in the downtown skyline from high above.
Anyone staying at the hotel will want to make time to tour The Theatre at Ace Hotel right next door. This opulent 1920s grand movie theater has been lovingly restored to capture the grandeur that made it one of United Artists premier screening houses. A state-of-the-art digital projection and sound system make this facility a bridge from L.A.’s golden past to the fast-paced future being reshaped monthly downtown. The theater seats 1,600 people and includes a three-story 2,300 sqare foot lobby area that is sure to wow.
The Theatre’s calendar is wide ranging with full concerts, movie premieres, as well as countless presentations. On a recent night, Canadian Loreena McKennitt was the headliner. At some point in your life you have heard her mesmerizing song “The Mummer’s Dance,” which has been used often on TV shows and is reminiscent of the work of Enya. Elvis Costello will be appearing in early April.