Los Angeles — where celebrities often mingle with the masses — is certainly accustomed to hosting high-profile guests, but no one receives the red-carpet treatment quite like L.A.’s most famous visitors: U.S. presidents. Although you probably won’t arrive aboard Air Force One or be escorted around the city in a motorcade, you can still take some cues from our nation’s Chief Executives for a glamorous glimpse of presidential L.A.
To get into the spirit, you’ll need some inspiration, so begin with a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. For a vivid look into presidential history, check out the exact replica of Reagan’s Oval Office, complete with a jar of Jelly Belly candies on the desk — the licorice-flavored beans were the 40th president’s signature snack. In the Air Force One Pavilion, climb aboard the actual "Flying White House" (tail number 27000) that flew Reagan and six other presidents around the globe. From Air Force One, President Reagan hand-wrote many of his speeches, signed important legislation, and even officially started a NASCAR race via phone. The pavilion also features a 120-foot mural that represents all 22 aircraft that have ever flown a U.S. president, and an actual Marine One helicopter that flew President Johnson.
Founded in 1919, The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is world renowned as a cultural, research and educational center. Our nation’s first president can be found in numerous works on display throughout the galleries. In the Main Exhibition Hall of the Library, visitors can’t miss a life-size bronze sculpture of George Washington - a copy of the original by Jean-Antoine Houdon, a major French portrait sculptor during the Enlightenment. In the Huntington Art Gallery, look above the mantle in the dining room for a familiar portrait of Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1819. And in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, an entire wall is devoted to portraits of Washington, including one by Charles Willson Peale that was made when Congress, in a jubilant mood, summoned the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army to Philadelphia.
There’s nothing like a smartly tailored outfit to help you feel presidential. Head to The Grove or Americana at Brand, where Nordstrom carries Hart Schaffner Marx off-the-rack and made-to-measure suits. Barack Obama wore specially tailored Hart Schaffner Marx suits for two historic speeches: accepting his party’s nomination at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and his 2009 Inaugural Address. Those who long to channel the First Lady’s impeccable fashion sense should stroll the shops along Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. The upscale district’s Savannah boutique carries White House-worthy labels such as Jason Wu and Narciso Rodriguez.
Los Angeles restaurants have satisfied presidential appetites for decades. President Obama has made frequent visits to Los Angeles and enjoyed the full spectrum of the L.A. dining scene, from exclusive fundraising dinners at Tavern and Fig & Olive to an unscheduled stop at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, where he ordered the #9 Country Boy Combo, subsequently nicknamed “The Obama Special.” Ronald Reagan was a longtime regular at La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills even before he became president, while President Clinton recently stopped by The Churchill at the Orlando Hotel.
Few of us will ever be invited to the White House for an overnight stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sleep under the same roofs as U.S. presidents — or even in the same beds. L.A. hotels have some of the most impressive presidential suites in the nation, with lavish furnishings, breathtaking views, enough square footage to require a map and perks that would make anyone feel like royalty. During the 2012 presidential campaign, President Obama stayed at the Beverly Wilshire. Get lost in the presidential suite at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza, which sprawls over 2,855 square feet and includes breathtaking views of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Need to hire a chef to staff your private gourmet kitchen? The suite at the Four Seasons Los Angeles can accommodate you. And at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, every president since Lyndon Johnson has slept in the presidential suite here. In fact, Ronald Reagan celebrated both of his election-day victory parties at the Century Plaza and spent so much time at the hotel that it was dubbed “The Western White House” during his presidency.
From its early days with Jack Paar in New York, to Johnny Carson’s 30-year run and its 22-year incarnation with Jay Leno in Burbank, The Tonight Show has had a long history with the White House. Of course, this relationship was mostly of a president on the receiving end of a monologue joke or one of Carson’s impeccable impersonations. Then on March 19, 2009, The Tonight Show became the first late-night talk show in history to have the sitting President of the United States as a guest, when President Barack Obama visited with Leno. Obama made several more appearances on The Tonight Show, including one in October 2012. The president got the biggest laugh of the night when the subject of his “feud” with Donald Trump came up, and he joked that it “dates back to when we were growing up together in Kenya.” For Leno's final Tonight Show in February 2014, Obama taped a video message, saying there were no hard feelings about all the jokes the comedian made at his expense over the years. “On a totally unrelated note, I’ve decided to make you my new ambassador to Antarctica. Hope you got a warm coat, funny man.”