Hotel bars have become a regular part of the local nightlife and happy hour scene in Los Angeles. From historic lounges to rooftop bars and intriguing escapes, there's one for every taste, if not for every budget. Hotel bars are notoriously pricey, and even more so in LA, especially when you factor in parking. Here are my choices for the most exceptional hotel bars in Los Angeles that might be worth the price of the drink.
The Rooftop at the Standard
The Rooftop Bar at The Standard in Downtown LA is one of that spots that brought hotel bars into fashion with locals and made it hip to be downtown before there was anything else hip about downtown. The '60s mod lounge pods around the pool, topiary sculptures and 360-degree views of the skyscrapers towering around the building, make this a great venue for a day or nighttime partying. Downstairs, the Lobby Lounge has its own retro cool.
The Bar at the Hotel Figueroa
I am in love with the patio bar around the pool at the Spanish/Moroccan-themed Hotel Figueroa, just north of LA Live. Unlike a lot of the hyper club-type bars, this one is a great place to just relax with one of their huge signature mojitos and take a mini-vacation from city stress.
The Gallery Bar and Cognac Room at the Millennium Biltmore
The Gallery Bar at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel is all old school elegance and grandeur. The ornate décor of carved ceiling and walls is embellished with angels overseeing the pours at the polished granite bar. The adjacent Cognac Room is more of a lounge, with comfy sofas and warm wood paneling.
The Bars at the JW Marriott L.A. Live
gLAnce Lobby Bar and the Mixing Room at the JW Marriott at LA Live are attractive and spacious, but the real draw is the people-watching. As primary pathway for guests of both the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton in the same building, you might see basketball or hockey players in town for games at the Staples Center, or artists performing at the Nokia Theatre. GRAMMY night is an excellent night for celebrity-spotting at gLAnce. The Mixing room is a great space for groups to gather if you can get there early or reserve a designated section. For a more exclusive experience with a view, head up to the lounge at Nest at Wolfgang Puck's WP24.
The Bars at the W Hotel
The rooftop at the W Hollywood Hotel is operated by Marriott. The Living Room Bar with its grand chandelier and spiral staircase and the adjacent outdoor Station Hollywood with its inviting fire pits and DJ nights are both party-central at Hollywood and Vine.
The Bars at the Hollywood Roosevelt
The Hollywood Roosevelt wins the prize for the most different nightlife venues in one LA hotel, including the poolside Tropicana, Teddy's, the book-lined Library Bar, the Spare Room with its own bowling alley, and Public Kitchen and Bar. They're all great spaces, if overpriced. I find it hard to recommend anything at the Hollywood Roosevelt, though, since they have a reputation for being excessively rude to the proletariat.
The Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel
The semi-formal Tower Bar at the Art Deco Sunset Tower Hotel on the Sunset Strip has been an LA favorite since its apartments housed such notable personalities as Truman Capote, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. The bar itself used to be Bugsy Siegel's apartment. Now it's a restaurant and piano bar that still lures celebrities down from their Hollywood Hills homes for the occasional drink.
SkyBar at the Mondrian
SkyBar is another outdoor, poolside bar, this time at the fairytale Mondrian hotel in West Hollywood. It's a popular spot for more intimate celebrity soirees. From its name, you might think SkyBar was on the roof, but it's not really. However, since there's nothing taller behind it to block the view, it does provide expansive views to the south, across West Hollywood to Beverly Hills and beyond, framed by large open windows in a mock wall. In winter, a temporary clear canopy keeps the temperature pleasant. It's a relatively small space and they like to keep the density low for a more enjoyable experience, so there can be a line to get in. Hotel guests have priority.
Palihouse is a hipster haven where the quirky lobby lounge converts to a DJ club at night. This is better for partying locals than visitors trying to get a good night's sleep. It's more like a club with guest rooms than a hotel with a bar. Unfortunately, the hipster factor has made it too busy for their capacity to handle it, so service is spotty on club nights and the door is restrictive. It's much nicer to stop by in the afternoon for a drink or some café grub before the club scene gets going.
Bar 1200 at the Sunset Marquis
Bar 1200 at the Sunset Marquis is just a bar. Small. Leather bench seating and bar stools with rocker photos on the walls. What I love about this bar is the history of all the rockers who have partaken here and continue to stop by while staying at the hotel for gigs on the Sunset Strip or while recording downstairs in the Nightbird Recording Studio. If it's not too busy, you can also grab drinks at the beautiful courtyard restaurant.
The Rooftop on Wilshire at Kimpton's Hotel Wilshire
Another beautiful rooftop pool bar, the Rooftop on Wilshire is part of the Hotel Wilshire, a Kimpton property. It can get quite blustery on a windy day and chilly at night, but the mid-city location gives you a great view of the city from the Hollywood Hills to Downtown LA and across the LA Basin. Since this isn't really a clubby neighborhood, it's usually less crowded than other rooftop pool bars, even though it's on the smaller side.