Yesterday we took you to the beaches of Santa Monica, and now today we take you to the other end of the new Expo Line – the revamped, revitalised and culturally vibrant Downtown LA. At the heart of this is the Ace Hotel, an old United Artists Theatre turned Church (“Los Angeles University Cathedral”) turned 13 Floor Hotel in 2014. But remnants of its former lives remain; they didn’t remove the “JESUS SAVES” sign (pictured below) due to its Historic Status, and they restored the United Artists Theatre – once the motion picture company’s flagship – to its former glory, now using it for concerts, comedy shows and other major events for the Los Angeles calendar.
The renovation and re-opening of the Theatre and subsequent hotel back in 2014 came alongside a new era for Downtown Los Angeles. One that blends old with the new. One that blends culture with industry; living spaces with recreational. The infamous skid row remains, but for the most part the streets are cleaner, safer and beaming with life that was once thought impossible for the once neglected area; now real estate hot spot.
Part of this has come about thanks to a renewed public transport system – something Los Angeles similarly neglected for decades. A work in progress since the early 1990s, the city’s Metro train line now connects Downtown LA to places like Long Beach, Universal City and, as of last month, Santa Monica Beach via the Expo Line. The other influence has been the renewed interest in entertainment in the area, starting with the Staples Center – home of the Lakers – in 1999, and moving onto other venues like L.A. Live, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the recently opened Broad Museum and the gentrification of landmarks like the Grand Central Market.
Something about the Ace Hotel feels like it came about at the exact right time; not just jumping off the back of the resurgence of the area, but helping add to it, making this the thriving area it’s become. Ace Hotel, as it does in its other locations across the United States (and now in London too!), enjoys a culture of “re-imagining” properties – that is taking a run down building and making that its charm. Building into the space rather than trying to make something new; embracing a rustic charm while creating a homely, uniquely “Ace” feel. You can hear the age of the building the pipes, weird noises jump out of the toilet as you hear the mild hum from the city life below; the only evidence that you’re in a space that has been in and out of operation since 1927.
Our room – A “Large Double Queen” – comfortably fits two queen sized beds; one bed directly faces the wall-mounted flat screen TV, while the other faces out onto a stunning view of LA’s downtown district (‘Jesus Saves’ sign illuminating the nighttime darkness off to the right). The retro history of the hotel is in the details; from the desk and the detailed writing pads and alarm clocks, to the relatively untouched physical nature of the room itself.
The windows are large and framed with steel, while chicken-wire like meshing wraps around the outside of the windows. The concept of this hotel being in a still-flourishing urban contemporary city centre is not lost on you as you look out to the many dilapidated looking buildings surrounding the Ace Hotel, with hot new businesses burgeoning inside.
When it comes to the bedding, the queen mattresses provide great support with a decent balance between an enveloping sense of comfort and firmness excellently struck. Modern design has led the beds to be lowered closer to the floor than most hotel beds you may expect, but it adds to the charm of this chic room. It’s far too easy to walk to the wardrobe, don one of the terrycloth dressing gowns and relax in the room, while watching cable from the comfort of bed.
Some rooms include an acoustic Martin Guitar. Ours didn’t, but there was this handy condom hidden amongst things, which I think goes to exemplify the playful nature of the hotel.
Tearing ourselves from the away from the bedroom and all the cool things we were discovering, we headed for the roof, where one of the districts popular bars was situated. The Upstairs Bar has one of the best views of this part of the city; grab a cocktail and enjoy the downtown LA skyline from the warmth the rooftop hot tub. That’s right, a hot tub.
Deck chairs are situated around the outdoors are to chill on, while the hot tub is definitely the main draw card of this rooftop hook up. This level of the hotel is an operational venue for private functions, release parties and live music, while on most nights, it’s a little getaway from the traffic below. DJ’s spin a variety of tunes outside and indoors, where the bar extends throughout the top level. The cocktails are strong and expertly made and while the Upstairs Bar is open to the public, there is a sense of exclusivity that you, as a hotel guest, that comes with the ability to take a dip then dry off and head back to your room.
The on site restaurant, LA Chapter, provides fantastic breakfasts that average around $15 in cost, with indoor and outdoor seating available. I had a stunning scrambled eggs with greens and a pork steak, which combated the hangover from the prior day nicely.
You don’t have to check out until 12pm which is a bonus, especially given how wonderful their rooftop bar and spa is. And though the hotel serves its own brilliant night life, Downtown LA is full of amazing places to eat, drink and party – and stay tuned for our major feature on Downtown LA to learn more about what the city has to offer.
And as for one the hotel’s most well known features, the beautiful gothic theatre remains in use, and if you’re lucky enough there might be a performance on the night you’re in town. Sadly, we weren’t so lucky – but with a multitude of incredible performances lined up for the rest of the year (including a sold out two day festival from David Lynch in October), I may be back sooner rather than later to get a taste of this incredible room in action.
The Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles is located at 929 South Broadway, with rooms starting from $249. For bookings and more information about the hotel, head to the official website.
The writer stayed as a guest of the hotel. Unless otherwise mentioned, the photos are by the author. Additional words by Sosefina Fuamoli.