The husband and I spent a recent, relaxing overnight at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Los Angeles, right in the heart of the L.A. Live entertainment complex.
With a swanky spa, gorgeous Club Lounge and glittering skyline restaurant, it’s a brilliant place for couples to stay when one partner has business in the area.
In December 2008, the L.A. Live complex sprang up around the Los Angeles Convention Center and Staples Center, bringing bars, restaurants and new performance venues to a part of town where once, you could’ve just about seen tumbleweeds at high noon. Since April 2010, soaring high above the plazas and pedestrian-only lanes (as well as many other downtown skyscrapers), the Ritz-Carlton L.A.‘s uniquely oblong, blue-glass building has been a clear vote of confidence in the area’s impressive commercial boom.
The hotel’s design is certainly luxurious, though its location isn’t typical for its brand: rather than an oceanside bluff or a city’s fanciest neighborhood, it stands tall in an island of Blade Runner-esque neon and concrete. From almost every room, views are of a glowing cityscape and fascinating historical jumble that visitors rarely see in detail from the freeways and surrounding mountains.
While the lobby here is only large enough to get you checked in, it’s actually connected to the huge, gleaming lobby of the adjacent and more casual Marriott. (Here you’ll find an Illy coffee kiosk with stunning desserts, a sexy little cocktail bar and a seasonal/organic restaurant from local celebrity chef Kerry Simon.) The two hotels also connect at the Marriott’s 4th-floor pool and the Ritz-Carlton’s 23rd floor, forming what amounts to a giant game of Tetris.
The Ritz-Carlton itself has five key features: the pool, the spa, WP24, the Club Lounge, and a warm, friendly staff.
The 26th floor pool area looks out at some of the most remarkable downtown buildings, but it’s also possible to feel a world away here; we preferred its sophisticated vibe to the party at Marriott’s 4th-floor pool bar. Large enough for an event, the Ritz-Carlton’s pool has a delightful cocktail bar, a nice lady to bring you refreshments and towels, a series of cozy cabañas, and a big, bubbling hot tub. There are plugs hidden discreetly here and there, but you could just as easily unplug entirely and I don’t know…read something.
Both muted and mirrored, with touches of gold, silver and downy-soft fabrics, the couple-friendly spa is a blend of minimalism and glitz. Every Thursday through Sunday from 3pm-6pm, the co-ed relaxation lounge features “The Happiest Hours,” where you tuck into complimentary Champagne and nibbles like gourmet crackers, aged cheese and olives, then snuggle together in plush, round beds rimmed with silvery beaded curtains. (Let’s keep it tasteful, though, folks — we’re all in bathrobes, here.)
Our treatments were administered in separate rooms by two sisters, and when we reunited afterwards, we both used the same word: amazing. Adam often leaves a massage unimpressed and still feeling tight, but this time he was calm, dreamy and quiet, with that thing finally out of his left shoulder. I was privy to Green Your Body, where, to the strains of New age guitar, I was sloughed smooth, painted in detoxifying seaweed, wrapped up like a warm burrito, petted on the head, gently prodded towards the in-room shower, and then massaged within an inch of my ability to stay awake. I took my newfound bliss to a curving, heated, tiled bed in the ladies’ steam room, which I happily had all to myself.
The whole spa is clean, quiet and inviting, with a magical ability to both hold and hide many human beings. Non-hotel guests are welcome here, and during the Happiest Hours, you can get 20% off retail items (candles, Carita and Eminence products, and more) and a complimentary makeup application. I did consider the latter before our big dinner, but by now we were both feeling like jelly on legs; we decided on a nap, instead.
Soon after, we met two friends in the lounge bar on the 24th floor. On a Saturday night, the place was hopping with casually-dressed 30- and 40-somethings. The enormous room here is carved into cozy nooks with curved partitions and cushy chairs, and a wall of windows lets in the city glitter. The Euro-California wine list? Staggering. But if you ask me, the cocktail to try is the spicy Dragon’s Fire, made with tequila, grapefruit, jalapeño and basil.
The adjacent restaurant, WP24 by Wolfgang Puck is drop-dead elegant, with high ceilings and low lighting to let the city shine. One of L.A.’s most famous chefs, Puck (and his female chef de cuisine, Sara Johannes) has put much of Asia on one menu and given it a California spin. We all went for a four-course tasting menu, and unanimously loved our sexy plates of five different dumplings, as well as an exquisite sea bass baked in a salt crust. The latter was presented to the table pre-filleting, and it was so gorgeous that we almost applauded.
WP24 is no Tuesday-night-dinner haunt, though: the restaurant is special occasion all the way. Tasting menus range from $80-$110 per person, before you’ve had a drop to drink; your bill might require the justification of a milestone celebration.
After a restful night in our small, comfortable 23rd-floor room overlooking the Staples Center, we wandered between reading two newspapers amongst 5 gajillion thread-count sheets and watching snippets of news on a mystifying/exciting flat-screen TV built into the bathroom mirror. Apparently, at the Ritz-Carlton, the future hath arrived.
We whiled away the rest of the morning in the Club Lounge, a brilliant add-on option if one or both of you is in town on business (approximately $60 US per night). Here, the city view stretches from ocean to mountains and the five daily setups of food are delicious (fresh-baked pastries, lobster roll sandwiches, pretty salads, California cheeses and house-made potato chips). Mimosas are hand-delivered with a smile, and fancy glass canisters overflow with colorful macarons. Most importantly, though, the Lounge gives you both a one-stop place to eat and drink, catch up on email, or simply decompress and watch the metropolis unfold from on high.
Yes, you’re surrounded by L.A. Live, but even with a Katsuya Sushi, yet another Wolfgang Puck restaurant, an outpost of L.A. Farm and a Regal Cinemas multiplex, there’s nothing so romantic about the complex that demands you go exploring. In my opinion, aside from the nearby and über-popular diner, The Original Pantry Cafe, the best of downtown L.A. requires either a long walk (in a still-transitioning area) or a subway ride. By all means, leave some time to check out the area together, but if you’ll only have brief breaks from work, it’s a great idea to have the Lounge in which to lounge.
For us, though, the greatest pleasure about this place was the staff. Unlike many hotels in L.A., the Ritz-Carlton‘s done a brilliant job of hiring an accurate representation of L.A.’s multi-ethnic citizenry. In addition, each person we met was more warm and helpful than the last: if you have a question about that building over there, the wine you’re drinking, the history of the city, where to catch the Metro, or just about anything else you can think of, the folks here will either have (or immediately find you) the answer. In staying here, we both felt like we could check all of our weekly cares at the door.
The next time one of you has business in this convention/financial/corporate part of town, stay here and you can turn the trip into a relaxing getaway for two.
Adam and I were invited guests of the Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, and received complimentary/discounted lodging, Club Lounge access, spa treatments and dinner.
What’s to Do in Downtown L.A.