Looking for a unique (and perhaps last minute!) Valentine’s Day gift idea? Or a special place to celebrate a landmark occasion? Skip the wilted roses at your local Walgreens. And don’t even get me started about those heart-shaped Russell Stover chocolate assortments. Trust me, there’s nothing romantic about me eating an entire box!
We recently traveled all the way to downtown Los Angeles — okay, 9 miles from our condo in West Hollywood — where we did a staycation at the LA Athletic Club (LAAC).
For the longest time, I always thought the concept of a staycation was a little lavish. I mean, why pay all that money for a hotel in the same place you live? But after doing it, I can tell you it was the perfect getaway that my husband and I needed. Plus, it doesn’t get any better than the LA Athletic Club with all of its first-class amenities and its walk-ability to just about everything downtown has to offer.
The Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC) was the city’s first private club. Founded in 1880, when Los Angeles was a town of only 11,000 people and the preferred mode of travel was the stagecoach, LAAC joined a downtown core of businesses that included saloons and shooting galleries.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the LAAC was the epicenter for the silver screen’s biggest names including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino. Charlie Chaplin even called the place home for several years. The club has poured a small fortune into renovating its interior to embrace its athletic and historic past. But one thing is for sure, you won’t want to miss the spa-like facilities!
So follow us along as we take you inside this exclusive club — a place where you’ll feel completely pampered and won’t want to go back home. Well, at least the drive won’t take very long. Actually never mind, this is LA!
There is nothing like coming back to a comfortable and spacious room after a day of traveling — even if we didn’t drive more than 10 miles from home. It’s pretty much the first time we ever arrived right at check-in time and enjoyed the room.
All the rooms have been recently redone, and we suggest booking one of the nine suites, all with themes that channel the hotel’s historic roots. We were thrilled to be upgraded to the Bruin Club Suite, which has a luxurious king bed and a decor of UCLA pennants and historic photos. There is a separate living room with an adjoining nook that includes a refrigerator, coffee maker and sink. It really felt like our home away from home.
But my favorite part of the room was the view. The Bruin Club Suite is located high on the 11th floor, giving you a birds-eye view of downtown LA. And if you’re a light sleeper (like me), you’ll be high above the chaotic streets and honking. Not that anyone in LA has road rage, right?
INSIDE THE COMMON AREAS OF THE CLUB
Walking onto the 3rd floor will make your jaw drop. Like much of the club, it was renovated to channel its athletic and Art Deco roots. We could tell how much thought went into authentically re-creating the space.
The floor has plenty of places to relax — the bar, restaurant or hidden speakeasy. Also, be sure to check out the Grand Ballroom with its towering ceiling and crystal chandeliers.
One important item to note is that the bar (including the speakeasy) doesn’t serve on Saturday nights. However, we heard that Friday nights are really hopping. LAAC even hosts “First Friday” events. The latest one advertised live music, stand-up comedy shows, snacks from Veggie Grill and a live DJ from KCRW inside the Blue Room speakeasy. Speaking of the speakeasy, we recommend you ask the bartender for a sneak peek. It is a must-see spot during your stay. And of course if it’s a weekday, we’d recommend stopping by for a drink.
GETTING OUR WORKOUT ON
The rooms are fabulous, but probably our favorite perk about staying at LAAC is access to the club’s 88,000 square foot fitness facility. We did some laps in the indoor Olympic-sized pool, which has been used in countless movies and TV shows like Mad Men.
Or you can shoot some hoops on the court, try your hand at racquetball or take one of their many on-site fitness classes like yoga, Pilates, cardio hip hop or kickboxing. Be sure to ask about their schedule when booking your room. On our next visit, we certainly would love to try out a class.
While it looks like we did plenty of working out, well, it’s all a lie! We pretty much checked out the facilities, swam a few laps, but then spent the next hour lounging around in the recently renovated locker room. These aren’t your regular facilities. It’s more like a spa experience with hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms and comfy lounges and television sets. My hubby and I had a hard time leaving — but we had our complimentary breakfast as the real motivator to break away. Otherwise, we might still be there!
BREAKFAST INSIDE LAAC’S FAMOUS PLAYERS
We were sad that our weekend staycation at LAAC was coming to an end. But the complimentary breakfast (served 8 am-11:30 am on the weekends) certainly cushioned the blow. We also liked how late it was served, which allowed us to really take advantage of the facilities.
The breakfast spread is really impressive and rotates depending on what’s fresh and in season. Our continental breakfast included pancakes, scrambled eggs, cereal, oatmeal, smoked sausage, potatoes, granola and a selection of fruit and yogurt. There were even egg whites available, but hey, we did a few laps in the pool so I’m sure we could eat whatever we wanted, right? Um, that’s at least what we told ourselves as we went up for our 2nd serving.
Before heading out, be sure to look at some of the historic memorabilia inside. My favorite item was the Charlie Chaplin bowler hat, located at the entrance of Famous Players.
Chaplin was only 25 years old when he came to LA to enter the film business and lived on the 12th floor of the club intermittently between 1913 and the early 1920’s for $12 a week. It was during this time that he developed his character, which included the iconic bowler hat. It was hard to believe we were walking the same hallways as him.
All good things must come to an end. But we certainly maximized our time! Be sure to check out the LA Athletic Club, and soon you’ll discover just how relaxing a staycation can really be. Plus, you’ll earn some major brownie points for coming up with something different (and healthy). Seriously, keep those heart-shaped chocolate boxes away from me!
THE LOW DOWN:
- The Los Angeles Athletic Club Hotel is a boutique hotel that occupies the top three floors of a 12-story historic landmark private club building.
- You’ll have access to this exclusive club and all membership fees are included in the first night’s rate.
- Deluxe rooms are cozy, but incredibly nice. But we highly recommend booking 1 of the 9 Club Suites. You won’t regret it!
- Make sure you check out the entire facility and make the most of your time including the Blue Room speakeasy, the Famous Players Lounge and the incredible athletic facilities.
- To book your room, visit the LAAC website or call the reservation line at (213) 486-3813