Where to Party in L.A.'s Public Places

Host your next event at a world-famous landmark or hidden gem

Mariachi USA at the Hollywood Bowl
Mariachi USA at the Hollywood Bowl | Photo: @MARIACHIUSA, Twitter

With world-class examples of Modernist architecture, Gilded Age mansions, Art Deco buildings, every natural setting you can think of (from beach to forest to snow-capped peaks), Los Angeles is the ideal city to stage your ideal event, party, gathering, shindig or whatever you wanna call your celebration or commemoration of an important personal landmark.

There are many places in the city that advertise their uniqueness and their availability as venues for your gathering, but we thought we would focus on a few hidden gems that should provide the perfect setting for an unforgettable experience. Whichever of these one-of-a-kind locations you choose as most suitable for your taste, we guarantee your guests will be saying “remember that time we had a party at…?” for years to come.

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Los Angeles River Center & Gardens | Photo: MRCA

Los Angeles River Center & Gardens

Many Angelenos are rightfully proud of our historical waterway, the Los Angeles River. But not many people know about the hidden gem that currently houses the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens (570 W Ave 26, Los Angeles 90065). Located in the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles (immediately east of the river, where the 110 and the 5 meet), this compound of stunning buildings in the Midcentury version of “Spanish” or “Colonial” style (both euphemisms that try to conceal the obvious Mexican influences) was built by the Lawry’s spice company in the 1950s. They expanded it in the 1960s) and Lawry’s became a famous collection of restaurants that highlighted the brand’s seasonings. The complex, known as Lawry’s California Center, operated until the early 1990s, when the City prevented its demolition and redevelopment by turning it into the Los Angeles River Center, with a stated mission of serving as "a focal point for the renewal of the Los Angeles River, and a prime location for community gatherings, educational conferences, and special events.” The buildings also serve as a home to several conservancy groups, including the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which manages it.

The combination of open and closed environments that look like a Technicolor, movie-set version of a Spanish-style villa—complete with ivy-covered walls, courtyards, soothing fountains, lawns, and even a working fireplace!—has made the Los Angeles River Center a word-of-mouth success with people planning all manner of events, especially weddings. (The location is reportedly recouping its entire operational costs out of wedding rentals.) Located in an inconspicuous nook of the city, guests are surprised and then thrilled when they arrive to this ideal (and idealized) version of a California-style fantasy only a few minutes away from DTLA and northeastern neighborhoods like Los Feliz and Silver Lake. The complex also features an educational exhibit about the L.A. River, and it’s right next to the River Garden Park.

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Photo courtesy of Brand Library & Art Center, Facebook

Brand Library & Art Center

Up north from Cypress Park, overlooking the city of Glendale, one finds another majestic public building that is available for rental as an event space. The Brand Library and Art Center (1601 W Mountain St, Glendale 91201) opened in 1956 in what used to be Mirador, the stately home of local pioneer developer Leslie C. Brand (after which several Glendale landmarks are named). The library’s focus is visual arts and music and is home to several arts programs, performances and exhibitions. Built in 1904, the library reopened in 2014 after a two-year renovation that restored the Nathaniel Dryden-designed building to its Gilded Age splendor. The building features late-Victorian spaces and East-Indian-influenced details, much in vogue in the imperial/colonial imagination of the age of the great World Fairs. Many of its ceiling murals were restored in 2014.

While the Brands lived there, during Southern California’s early-20th-century oil and real estate boom, their Mirador hosted some wild, Gatsby-worthy ragtime and jazz-era parties. Though Leslie Brand stipulated that the building should be mainly used as a library for the public good, its availability for your private event (which the city of Glendale permits on a case-by-case basis) ensuring that its reputation as a site for luxury whoopee-makin’ will last into the 21st century.

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Luminaria at Campo de Cahuenga | Photo: @alexboss_la

Campo de Cahuenga

If you and your guests are interested in Los Angeles and California history, it really doesn’t get more literally historical than the Campo de Cahuenga (3919 Lankershim Blvd, Studio City 91604) site on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, across from Universal Studios. The park (which houses a historical exhibit) shows examples, replicas and remnants of buildings going back to the Spanish Mission period (1769-1833) all the way up to the Civil War. At the adobe ranch house structure on that site (demolished in 1900 but rebuilt in 1950), Americans and Mexicans signed the 1847 Treaty of Cahuenga that led to the end of the Mexican-American War and the incorporation of California to the United States, an event that is reenacted yearly in January. The Community Room and Exhibit Hall and the outdoor areas and gardens are available to the public for permit rentals.

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Hollywood Bowl Catering Salads | Photo: Hollywood Bowl

Hollywood Bowl

We are sure you have seen shows at the Hollywood Bowl (2301 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles 90068), but did you know that you can rent the restaurants right at the site for events of various sizes with a catering menu by James Beard Award-winning L.A. chef Suzanne Goin? Through a culinary partnership between the LA Phil, Sodexo Sports & Leisure and The Lucques Group, the Bowl has been low-key offering its cafes, bars and restaurants as “the perfect setting for special events.” And few things are more iconically Los Angeles—meaning an experience unique in the world that your guests will never forget—than commandeering part of everyone’s favorite outdoor venue that witnessed the greatest hits of all genres—from the jazz legends to the Beatles to Gustavo Dudamel—for your own gathering.

Greystone Mansion

If your budget allows it, another luxury option that some people are not aware they can rent is the legendary Greystone Mansion (905 Loma Vista Dr, Beverly Hills 90210) in Beverly Hills. Discover Los Angeles has mentioned the palatial building and grounds formerly known as the Doheny State several times, including our articles on David Lynch’s Los Angeles and The Big Lebowski’s Los Angeles, because it is regularly rented by film productions to convey the kind of extravagant wealth that Southern California has known to flaunt to the world. Greystone Mansion offers several event packages that cover from only using the outdoors grounds to different kinds of access to the mansion itself. We won’t deny it: they are quite pricey—but we are talking about impressing your guests with one of the most decadent structures old-school oil money built in Beverly Hills, so if that’s your thing, you’ll most definitely get the big bang you’re paying those big bucks for.

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Santa Monica Pier Carousel | Photo: Frank Fujimoto, Flickr

Santa Monica Pier Carousel

If your party runs on a tighter budget, another hidden gem that is available to the public for a fee is the legendary Santa Monica Pier Carousel (1624 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica 90401), on the Santa Monica Pier and Promenade. The Pier offers full and partial rental of many different spaces (including a charmingly intimate gallery), but what would be more special and original than offering your guests the chance to experience the kind of old-times fun that has been a staple of American beach towns since the 1910s, when the structure that houses the vintage carousel, then known as the Looff Hippodrome, was built? (Bonus fun for film buffs: you can reenact scenes from The Sting and Night Tide on site).