Built in the gilded Jazz Age, the Millennium Biltmore is a classic hotel that has starred in movies, hosted the Oscars, seen the rise and fall of Downtown Los Angeles, and survived to tell the tale. Staying in this palace of history makes you feel like a star, even as you walk the pedestrian-friendly streets of the neighborhood.
Step into the past
Where can you find a Spanish baroque style tea room, a lobby bar with live jazz and a wall of photos showing Walt Disney, Shirley Temple and Frank Capra sitting in its ballroom? The Biltmore, of course! When you enter the courtyard lobby, complete with Italian frescoes painted behind guest check-in, you’ll find yourself slowly slipping back in time. I always am.
Step into the lobby bar, called the Gallery Bar and Cognac Room, where jazz pianists and quartets play standards of days gone by, several nights a week. Just outside the bar, you’ll see a giant photo from 1923, when the hotel opened, featuring a wall of guests that might as well have walked out of The Shining.
Travel down the “historic corridor” to see who has walked the same halls as you. The Biltmore hosted the Oscars for a handful of years in the 1930s, and the photographic evidence is all right there. You can even walk into the ballroom, sparkling palm frond-shaped chandeliers and all, to remind yourself you’re in the same place. A shoe shine booth completes the scene.
Finally, step down a few layers of cavernous steps to the fitness room and pool. The fitness equipment is modern, but the intricately tiled Art Deco pool and “Roman style” columns, is fit for a Gatsby. And finally, your journey to the past is complete.
Rooms retain the charm of the era, at a slightly old-fashioned price
No two rooms are alike at the Biltmore, which I’ve discovered after several stays. Some are a little cramped, while others give guests the luxury to spread out; all are outfitted with Grandma’s finest wing-back chairs, satellite TVs, fluffy beds and the standard telephone, tea and coffee maker, hairdryer and iron. Room service, Wi-Fi and movie channels are all worth an extra fee. Furniture recalls the decorative style of the couches and chairs in the sitting lounge of the Rendezvous-Court tea room.
Standard room rates start around 200 USD per night. Larger “Club Rooms” and “Club Suites” throw in breakfast at the on-site Smeraldi’s Restaurant, Wi-Fi, a robe and business lounge access, with rates starting from around 300 USD per night. Valet parking, with in/out privileges, is 45 USD per night, regardless of your room rate. Not cheap, but not a luxury buy, either. Online aggregators like Expedia and Priceline often offer rooms at rates cheaper than the hotel website, too.
360 degree neighborhood charm in Downtown Los Angeles
The best thing about the Biltmore, though, is its location among some of Los Angeles’ most vibrant Downtown landmarks. To the north, you’ll find a modern art corridor with MOCA, Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Broad Museum. On the south side, LA Live, the Staples Center and the LA Convention Center are big-time business. To the east, the Historic Core district retains the early 20th century charm you’ve come to appreciate at the Biltmore and on the west are some of the Financial District’s best restaurants.
Best of all, being in the center of all this action means there’s no need to drive: Pershing Square’s Red Line metro stop is a block away and taxis from LAX are about 47 USD. Spending your time in the downtown heartland is a great way to stay on-foot and in-step with what’s happening at this vibrant city center.
Old school hotel in the heart of modern Los Angeles
Stay at the Biltmore for a luxury experience that doesn’t feel tacky or contemporary. Let these comfortable, upscale digs, fit for a Rockefeller, transport you deep into the jazz age while you enjoy the contemporary cool of Downtown.