Living the high life in Los Angeles: A journey from Downtown to the people-watching paradise of Venice Beach

Downtown Los Angeles (Getty Images)

LET’S face it, it’s not often you go to a check-in at a hotel and have to take a lift to the lobby on the 70th floor.

But then the Intercontinental Downtown Los Angeles is no ordinary hotel.

It’s the tallest building west of Chicago, 73 stories high and soaring 1,100 feet above street level, all glass and steel, stunningly curved and iconic.

It had taken just 40 seconds to whisk us up to the Sky Lobby and the views over the city were just as eye-catching.

But we didn’t have to linger there to ogle the amazing Los Angeles skyline.

Our room on the 33rd floor – trust me it didn’t feel low – had equally wondrous views from the floor-to-ceiling windows. And being on a corner location, the vistas were even more panoramic.

Everything was shiny, new, classy and efficient.

But one of the biggest attractions is that it sits right in the heart of Downtown and it’s just one of the new attractions amidst the old favourites.

Los Angeles is the home of the car and while you really do need one to see all it has – and to get to some of the fabulous beaches – you can happily hoof it around Downtown.

We were minutes from some of the new attractions, such as the amazing curved, futuristic Walt Disney Concert Hall, famed for its magnificent acoustics.

In fact, it’s so shiny that it initially caused crashes by dazzling drivers. It has been dulled a little, but one section, shielded by trees, shows it in its mirror-like sheen.

There is also the LA Live entertainment sector with the Staples Center and much more for music, sport and film fans, attracting millions each year.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Just minutes away was the fascinating old Avila Adobe. It’s LA’s oldest house, dating back to 1818.

We wandered inside before a stroll down the characterful, market stall-lined street outside and on to the Grand Park, with the courthouse and setting for the city’s whizz-bang July 4th fireworks party.

We found a giddily great place to drink in the views while having one, the Intercontinental Spire 73. It’s an amazing rooftop bar which, we found, was the perfect place to sip while watching the sun set over the Hollywood Hills.

Simply sensational. And there’s a “Countdown to Sunset” treat in Dekkadance, four storeys below, with happy hour beers, wine and freshly made stone-baked pizza for $3, $4 and $5. Yum!

Olvera Street

In recent years the Downtown area has become a desirable place to live and some 70,000 residents now call it home.

That means there is plenty of life and buzz at all times. We found great shopping in some of the malls, built several floors underground, and with designer stores and craft shops side by side in chic settings.

And there are, of course, great places to eat and drink.

The Spring Arcade was just one place we stumbled across that could have seen us dine and drink somewhere different each night.

And just on the corner at 7th was Little Damage, one of the city’s coolest ice cream parlours, where we were offered little samples of their ever-changing daily flavours before settling on a scrummy choice served in a charcoal waffle cone – a meal in itself.

And through everything, it all seemed so familiar, as the city not only plays itself in so many movies and TV series, but the skyscrapers often double for New York too.

But you will want to hop in a car for a beach day, and both Venice Beach and Santa Monica are within an easy half-hour on the freeway.

Venice Beach (Getty Images)

The Venice boardwalk is a people-watcher’s delight with skateboarders, cyclists and pedestrians mingling happily.

Take the time to grab a bite at one of the eateries or sit and watch a competitive basketball game.

The sands are just as golden at Santa Monica, which also has the famous old pier with a rollercoaster and big wheel at the end.

Get there early at weekends and on holidays. Luckily we did – but the horn-hooting queues for the car parks by lunchtime were a sight.

LA provides entertainment in all sorts of ways!


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The Intercontinental Downtown has rooms from $329 per night. See