Experience Presidential Los Angeles

President Barack Obama poses with staff at Canter’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles, July 24, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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Los Angeles - where celebrities often mingle with the masses - is certainly accustomed to hosting high-profile guests, but no one receives the VIP 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 and experience presidential L.A.

Name That President

Barack H. Obama Highway sign
Photo courtesy of Senator Anthony J. Portantino

Numerous streets, schools and buildings across Los Angeles are named after U.S. presidents, from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (named for our 26th president) to John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills and the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.

Some of L.A.'s most-traveled boulevards are also named for presidents: Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln. President Barack Obama joined this list in June 2017, when the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the motion to rename 3.5 miles of Rodeo Road in South L.A. as Obama Boulevard. In December 2018, a stretch of the 134 Freeway between State Route 2 in Glendale and Interstate 210 in Pasadena was renamed "President Barack H. Obama Highway." The renaming came after the passage of SCR 8, authored by California State Senator Anthony J. Portantino and Congressman Jimmy Gomez. 

Step Into History

Battleship IOWA guns
Photo courtesy of Battleship IOWA, Facebook

In July 2012, the Battleship IOWA celebrated its grand opening as a floating museum, now permanently docked at Berth 87 in the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. Visitors can tour the IOWA and learn about life on board the ship and its legacy as one of the fastest and most powerful ships ever to sail the world’s oceans. The famed battleship was designated the "World's Greatest Naval Ship" because of her big guns, heavy armor, fast speed, longevity and modernization flexibility, which allowed her to keep pace with technology. Opened June 2017, Battleship Flight: A Naval Experience honors the great battleship's naval aviation past: get up-close to a Korean War-era Piasecki HUP-2 Retriever Helicopter on the flight deck; fly a helicopter with the Augmented Reality HUP Experience; and choose one of six in-flight experiences in the Virtual Reality Navy Flight Theatre.

Famously known as the “Battleship of Presidents,” the IOWA was outfitted in WWII to be the flagship that carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt across the Atlantic in 1943 for meetings with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. A bathtub was installed on the IOWA as a convenience for FDR, making it the only U.S. Navy warship with a bathtub built for a president. The Battleship IOWA was the flagship for President Reagan for our nation's Celebration of Liberty in New York City on July 4, 1986.

Air Force One Pavilion at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Air Force One Pavilion at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library | Photo courtesy of Derek Cross, Flickr

Be inspired 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.

Bust of George Washington at The Huntington Library
Bust of George Washington | Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library

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. A colossal marble bust of George Washington by French artist Pierre-Jean David, called David d’Angers (1788–1856), is on view in the Huntington Art Gallery. New scientific evidence suggests that the bust is a famous piece once thought lost in a fire in the nation’s Capitol.

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.

Dress to Impress

The Grove | Photo courtesy of prayitno, Flickr

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.

Hail to the Chef

Chicken and waffles at Roscoe's
Chicken and waffles | Photo courtesy of Roscoe’s, Facebook

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.”

President Obama at Canter's Deli in July 2014
President Obama at Canter's Deli | Photo by @petesouza @petesouza

In July 2014, President Obama had lunch at Canter's Deli on Fairfax. Joining him were four people who had written to him about their daily struggles. After he mingled with diners and posed for pictures, the president's visit quickly went viral on social media. It wasn't the first time that Canter's had welcomed a commander in chief - Presidents Kennedy and Nixon have also stopped by the famed deli.

Ronald Reagan was a longtime regular at La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills even before he became president, while Bill Clinton - who eats an almost entirely plant-based diet - has dined at Crossroads Kitchen and The Churchill.

Stay In Style

Presidential Suite East at Four Seasons Los Angeles
Presidential Suite East | Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

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 stay in the same hotels as U.S. presidents — or even sleep in the same beds. Los Angeles hotels have some of the most impressive presidential suites in the country, with lavish furnishings, breathtaking views, enough square footage to require a map, and perks that would make anyone feel like royalty.

Get lost in the presidential suite at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza, which spans more than 2,800 square feet and includes breathtaking views of Walt Disney Concert Hall. Need to hire a chef to staff your private gourmet kitchen? The suite at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills can accommodate you.

Every president since Lyndon Johnson slept in the presidential suite at the Century Plaza, which is currently undergoing a $2.5-billion renovation. 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.

Ritz-Carlton Suite at The Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles
Ritz-Carlton Suite | Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles

Boasting panoramic views of the mountains and ocean, the Ritz-Carlton Suite at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles spans 2,900 square feet with entertainment area, multiple seating areas and powder room; formal dining area with seating for 10; and large master bedroom with luxurious dressing area.

Presidential Suite at The Beverly Hilton
Presidential Suite | Photo courtesy of The Beverly Hilton

Considering the deep political divide that separates Democrats and Republicans these days, it's nice to know that presidents of both parties, from JFK to Obama, have stayed at The Beverly Hilton. The historic three-room Presidential Suite has hosted presidents, dignitaries and royalty from around the world. Celebrity guests include legends like Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.

Presidential Suite at Hotel Bel-Air
Presidential Suite | Photo courtesy of Hotel Bel-Air

At the landmark Hotel Bel-Air, the stunning Presidential Suite is like a private home hidden in one of the most romantic hotels in Los Angeles. Inspired by mid-century Southern California design, the 6,700 square-foot suite features garden views, a piano and a fireplace, and patio complete with dining area and Jacuzzi. Pass through French doors and onto the courtyard with a private swimming pool.

Beverly Presidential Suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel
Beverly Presidential Suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel | Photo courtesy of Beverly Wilshire, Facebook

During the 2012 presidential campaign, President Obama stayed at the Beverly Wilshire. Built in 1928, the historic Beverly Wilshire is known to millions of movie fans as the hotel where Julia Roberts stays in Pretty Woman. As part of its Four Seasons Extraordinary Experiences, the Beverly Wilshire created Pretty Woman for a Day, the ultimate room package that invites you to be the star of your own love story while recreating favorite moments from the film.

During this glamorous weekend getaway for two, your home away from home will be the Pretty Woman Suite (aka the luxurious Wilshire Presidential Suite). Located on the eighth floor of the hotel's original Wilshire Wing, this grand suite has been graced by numerous celebrities over the decades.

Laugh it Up

President Barack Obama and Jimmy Kimmel on the set of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in Hollywood, March 12, 2015
President Barack Obama and Jimmy Kimmel on the set of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in Hollywood, March 12, 2015 | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, Flickr

Generations of TV talk show hosts have gauged the pulse of the nation with their opening monologues, a comedy bit that Johnny Carson perfected on The Tonight Show. 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 Jay Leno. He appeared several more times on The Tonight Show and became a regular on talk shows.

Mean Tweets is one of the most popular sketches on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which tapes in Hollywood. In October 2016, President Obama read a tweet by a certain @realDonaldTrump, who called him the worst president in history. The president fired back a now-classic response to the delight of the studio audience.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which tapes at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, welcomed President Obama in February 2016. DeGeneres praised Obama for “what you’ve done for the gay community.” The president in turn credited DeGeneres for changing hearts and minds: "I don't think anybody has been more influential than you on that," bringing the comedian to tears.

Read All About It

Eso Won Books
Eso Won Books | Photo by Daniel Djang

Dubbed the “Black Greenwich Village” by filmmaker John Singleton, the historic neighborhood of Leimert Park is widely regarded as the cultural hub for African Americans in L.A. President Obama has visited Leimert Park twice, to sign his books at Eso Won Books, a neighborhood staple that specializes in African American titles and authors. The first time was in 1995, for his memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” The second time coincided with the release of his 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Eso Won has also hosted Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison and Walter Mosley among many other authors.

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