The American Express Platinum card and the Business Platinum Card are probably one of the best cards if it comes to lounge access. Besides giving you a Priority Pass Select Membership, which allows you access to many lounges worldwide, you also get access to a ton of other lounges. For example, you can access Delta Airlines Skyclub Lounges if you fly Delta on the same day. Some of the best airport lounges are the American Express Centurion Lounges. They just top all other domestic lounges in the United States.
Another lounge you can access with your Platinum Card is the Access VIP Suite. This one is not located in an airport like most other lounges, this lounge actually is located within a shopping mall, the South Coast Plaza.
The South Coast Plaza Shopping Mall is one of the most high-end malls in Southern-California. It is located just of the 405 freeway between the exits Bristol St and Harbor Blvd. Even tho, I drove this part of the 405 a lot in the past, I never really noticed the shopping mall. Even less did I know that it is such a high-end mall.
One of the easiest ways to get to the South Coast Plaza is by exiting I-405 at Bristal St and head north. The next three left turns will all lead to the parking areas around the mall. You can take either one. To park close to the Access VIP Suite, enter the parking lot and drive around to the other side of the building. Park near Macy’s. Macy’s is split in Men and Women store and in between, you can find the entrance to the mall itself.
If you enter between the two Macy’s stores, you are already on the right level of the mall. Once inside you only have to hang a right and you will see the doors to the lounge on your left. It’s just before Saks Fifth Avenue. In case you enter the mall at any other point, make your way to the second floor and search for Saks Fifth Avenue.
Above the door, you read only “Access” and if you don’t know what it is, you will certainly miss it. It looks more like a closed store than the entrance to a lounge. Who would even expect a lounge here?
The easiest way to enter the lounge is by holding an American Express Platinum Card. Personal or Business version of the card will both work. Of course, the Centurion Card gets you in as well.
You can bring up to three guests, for a total of four persons. Children don’t count towards the guest limit.
Visa Infinite Card
Visa Infinite cardholders get access to the lounge as well. By showing their card at one of the concierge desks throughout the mall, they receive a discounted shopping passport. If you happen to spend more than $500 during your same-day visit, go back to one of the concierges and you will receive a special gift. Don’t forget to keep your receipts. More info on Visa’s website. This perk is good until midnight on December 31, 2020. It was also a perk last year and I am sure it will get extended in the years to come as well. I assume you get the same guest limit of 3, just as with the American Express.
Besides having one of the mentioned credit cards above, you can also get an invite from one of the shops, if you spend enough money. Surrounding hotels also tend to hand out lounge access cards. Altogether, the $550 annual fee of the American Express Platinum card seems to cheap, compared to the other ways to get access.
The opening hours of the Access VIP Suite are different from the South Coast Plaza. The last call in the lounge is 30 minutes prior to closing.
South Coast Plaza Hours
Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Access VIP Suite Hours
Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Once you enter the lounge there is a big seating area on the right, in front of a TV screen which has two couches and two chairs. More seating is next to the concierge desk and there are an L-shaped sofa and chairs in the other corner of the room.
Directly connected to this main area of the lounge are two rooms that offer a bit more privacy. One is small and perfect if you are no more than two people. The other one is more spacious and has seating for up to four people.
Down the left hallway, you find two unisex bathrooms and a private family room that comes complete with a changing table.
Going down the right hallway brings you past the concierge galley and two stylist rooms, as well as a prayer room. The stylist rooms are reserved for customers hiring a stylist for all their shopping needs. There are about 25 stylists available at the South Coast Plaza. You can book one by contacting the Access VIP Suite directly via phone (714-435-2033). The prayer room is just an empty room with a carpeted floor.
Food and Drinks
Food and Drink service is different from other lounges. There is no bar or buffet to grab your drinks or snacks. Everything is handled by the staff.
There is a pretty wide selection of beers. Everything from domestic to import beers is available. Besides beer, you can also have wine, champagne, coffee, tea, sodas, and water. Just ask the person taking care of you what they have available. In my case, they had a Corona Light but no regular Corona. On the other side, they had Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer available, which I ordered. Officially there is a limit of two drinks per person. If you are hungry, this is the wrong spot. For snacks, you have a choice between a bowl of chips or pretzels.
The service was great and outstanding. Right after signing in, my concierge gave me the choice between the L-shaped couch in the corner or the bar-stools next to her counter. I went for the couch, which I later on shared with another couple as I was just by myself and it would be a waste of space if only I would sit there. My concierge gave me a quick overview of what they have available for drinks and food. She came promptly back with my order and was overall very professional. A little bit later one of the private rooms opened up and I asked if I could sit in there. She helped me move my beer and bowl of chips to the room, which I could have done myself as well. Overall a great experience and especially if you here for a long day of shopping. This place allows you to take a break and relax. On the other side, the lounge is relatively small but as access is very limited, I don’t see a huge overcrowding issue here.
Besides the lounge, the shopping mall is worth visiting. Even if it’s just for window shopping. Don’t forget to visit the Bridge of Gardens, which is on the same level but on the other side of the mall.
Extra Tip for American Express Card Holders
If you haven’t used your semi-annual statement credit for Saks yet, this is a good chance as it is right next door. If you don’t shop at Saks or think it’s too expensive, just buy some socks or underwear. 😉
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
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