Business travellers still head to stylish haunts in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, at least until downtown’s development makeover gives them competition.

While Los Angeles is a town where old is out and new is in… what is old in LA is becoming new again.

Anchored by massive new development, the once gritty and forgotten downtown core is coming alive with new hotels, offices, restaurants, entertainment and sports venues. Business travellers, who until recently had no business being downtown except for daytime meetings in skyscrapers or trade shows in the convention centre, are increasingly likely to end up sticking around.

Culture vultures are flocking to the Nokia Theatre or the visually arresting, Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. The LA Live complex is now home to a brand new Ritz-Carlton and a JW Marriott, as well as upscale, showy restaurant brands like Wolfgang Puck. The LA City Council also recently approved Korean Air’s plan to build a flashy $1.2 billion hotel/office development nearby on the site of the Wilshire Grand Hotel (opening 2015). Plans are for the towers to be covered in thousands of tiny lights that will display huge images of butterflies, waterfalls and stars.

But until the dust settles downtown, when it comes time to make deals, do lunch (or dinner) and bed down for the night, business travellers will likely head to stylish west side haunts in Beverly Hills, Century City, Santa Monica and West Hollywood. They should also remember to bring along a GPS-equipped smartphone (and its car charger) to help them find their way across this massive city.

Hotels: Elegant or edgy?

Every grande dame in LA always has something new going on. Hotel Bel Air, nestled in the swanky neighbourhood of the same name, re-opens in late 2011 after a massive two-year facelift with a raft of high-tech accoutrement including a super fast wi-fi network, a dedicated cell phone tower, and Bang and Olufsen HDTVs in every room. Deals are still made behind the famous pink walls of the Beverly Hills Hotel: at the poolside, in the clubby Polo Lounge or in its famous bungalows — the newest of which now have their own private pools. 

Cool gray suede-lined hallways, a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and view of those famous “twinkly-lights” from the verandas of nearly every room, all define California chic at the new London West Hollywood, just steps from the Sunset Strip.  Mid-century modern décor in the 200 oversized guestrooms and a rooftop pool deck ringed by cabanas complete the picture. Nice touch: an elaborate breakfast buffet and high-speed Internet access are included in the nightly rate. A few blocks down Sunset Boulevard is the Andaz West Hollywood, the first-opened of Hyatt’s popular new brand with 238 rooms, free wi-fi, a free non-alcoholic mini bar in each room, a 24 hour fitness centre and the requisite rooftop pool.

Do not do this!
Only outsiders complain about the traffic.  When navigating LA, allow yourself an additional 30 to 45 minutes of drive time and remember: taking surface streets is sometimes faster than the freeway. Also, Los Angeles International Airport is called “LAX” pronounced by calling out the three letters el-ay-eks. By saying LAX, you are distinguishing it from other LA area airports such as Burbank (to the north), Ontario (to the east) or Orange County (to the south), which is also known as “John Wayne”. 

Off the clock
The infamous Hollywood sign is not open to visitors, but you can hike relatively close to it via Runyon Canyon Park. This leafy oasis in the midst of LA’s buzz offers plenty of hiking trails and views of the sign, the skyline, and due to its proximity to Hollywood, the occasional celebrity.   

Go local
Southern California’s ample sunshine and warm weather make doing business outdoors -- or under the cover of your hotel’s poolside cabanas -- a natural. Rent one for a few hours or the day and make it your outdoor office. Most come with phones, wi-fi, flat screen TVs, privacy curtains and bar or restaurant service. Park yourself in the sun and tell your clients to come see you. Do not forget your sunglasses. 

Expense account
takes up where Morton’s left off at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Robertson Boulevard. The clubby atmosphere and simple Venetian-influenced menu have been transported from Cecconi’s in London, but this SoCal outpost brings out Hollywood’s stars. For the best sightings, ask for a table on the front patio.

Craig’s is another new hotspot for deal-making diners. Owner Craig Susser recently departed the old-school Dan Tana’s to start his own place and movie moguls, stars and business travellers followed.

In Beverly Hills, star chefs and celebrity wattage shine at Scarpetta at the Montage Beverly Hills Hotel or Thomas Keller’s Bouchon. For after-work cocktails in hip, mid-century modern surroundings check out the new Renzo Piano-designed open-air Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Boulevard just west of downtown.


Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel