My fabulous stay at the tallest hotel in the West: The InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown
When I was growing up in California, everyone knew that downtown Los Angeles wasn't a great place to spend time. That's why a recent stay at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown was such a revelation. I had a great stay at the supertall hotel, and the whole area has sure changed since I was a kid.
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Read on for our full review.
I decided to spend a few days in Los Angeles as part of a trip to review the startup carrier Avelo, which at the time was offering direct service from Bozeman, Montana (my current home base), to Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR). We figured it was a perfect time to get a review of the IHG LA flagship hotel, which opened in July of 2017.
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I found rates were reasonable for the two nights I needed. I booked via the IHG website, paying about $235 a night with a "member-exclusive rate." Unfortunately, that didn't include a ridiculous $30 per night plus tax as a "hotel facility fee." (That's a resort fee by another name).
That "facility fee" includes "complimentary bottled water, 24-hour access to Attitude Fitness center, priority access to Spire 73, discount card and special offers for local restaurants and merchants, access to digital newsstand with publications from around the world, complimentary premium internet access. Domestic and International calling* (International calling up to 30 minutes daily). Complimentary package receiving (up to 5 packages per stay, bulky items not included)."
You tell me if you'd pay that if it wasn't required. I wouldn't.
Still, the rate I got wasn't bad considering the hotel normally charges $246 to as much as $440 a night.
It also doesn't include the hefty local taxes that came to $73.54 over two nights. The total came to $611.40 for two nights.
If you want to book this hotel with points, you can usually find it for anywhere between 49,000 and 75,000 IHG points (that doesn't include the $30 plus tax per night for the "hotel facility fee"). Unfortunately, IHG no longer has standard award charts, so you see dynamic pricing in full effect here.
Related: Automatic Platinum status with the IHG Premier Card
Fortunately, I remembered there was an American Express offer for InterContinental and Kimpton properties at the time to get $60 as a statement credit if you spent $300 or more. Perfect.
I earned a total of 11,712 IHG points including 4,685 points as part of an IHG promotion at the time. I also got 600 points as a welcome bonus for being an IHG Platinum member courtesy of my Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card (no longer available for sign-ups). It comes with free IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite status as a perk, and also gives a 50% bonus on base points and an annual free night certificate (good at properties costing up to 40,000 points per night).
Related: What is IHG Rewards elite status worth?
TPG values IHG points at 0.5 cents each, so I got about $61.56 worth of IHG points.
I used The Platinum Card® from American Express for the bill and earned 611 American Express Membership Rewards points, which TPG values at about $12.22. It would have been better to use my IHG card, but then I wouldn't have gotten that $60 statement credit, which is more valuable.
Lobby and check-in
You actually enter a dramatic street-level lobby, and then take an elevator up to check-in.
You check in on the 70th floor of what they call the Sky Lobby. The building is a total of 73 stories. It's the tallest building on the West Coast at 1,100 feet, and the tallest hotel west of the Mississippi River. I was very impressed with the views.
I arrived at around 3 p.m. on Aug. 4. There was a short line for check-in, but it moved quickly. In fact, the front desk never seemed overwhelmed while I was there despite the hotel having nearly 890 rooms.
Related: Review of the Conrad New York Downtown
I really love the lobby at the InterContinental. It's modern and airy with sweeping views of Los Angeles. I could have spent hours hanging out there.
The friendly front-desk agent named Steve greeted me warmly and thanked me for being a Platinum member. He said he had a room with a king-sized bed ready for me on the 55th floor. He told me it didn't have a tub, and when I said it didn't matter to me, he told me it was a great corner room with a view.
I thanked him for the upgrade (even if it wasn't a suite).
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At 4:15 p.m. I called the concierge, who was able to make reservations for me for 6:45 p.m. that night at the hotel's restaurant. That was nice since the hotel warns in a welcome letter they advise making advance reservations for their 73rd-floor restaurant, called Spire 73. The man who answered the phone was friendly. I asked him to also ask housekeeping to bring several more coffee pods, creamers and sweeteners for the Keurig coffee maker. Those arrived quickly.
I bothered housekeeping the next day for more coffee, and it was handed over with a smile.
I also had very friendly interactions with the bartender at the pool bar. In fact, I found all my interactions with the staff were friendly and efficient.
I loved the rooms at the InterContinental.
Here's how the hotel describes them:
"Each of our 889 rooms and suites embraces the modern simplicity L.A. is known for. Each guest room exudes peace and quiet for a quality night's sleep while still offering floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking bustling downtown and beyond."
The rooms feel clean and they've got a laid-back California cool about them. I really loved the art above the bed, which reminded me of Edward Ruscha's work. He's a well-known pop artist who lives and works not far from the hotel in Culver City, California.
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All the rooms are between the 31st and 66th floors. That means everyone gets a view. The beds feature pillow-top mattresses and high-end sheets. I slept very well.
There are coffee pods and a Keurig machine. I don't know why IHG uses giant triangular boxes that only hold a few creamers and sweeteners. It's such a waste and drives me crazy although I guess it looks nice.
Bathroom amenities are by Agraria, which is a San Francisco-based scent company. The smell is of citrus and flowers.
There was also an iron and ironing board, and a decent-sized closet that fit everything just fine.
The best thing about the room was obviously the killer views. I had sweeping views of Beverly Hills and even got to see the Hollywood sign (there was pretty good air quality that day).
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, downtown LA has changed quite a bit. Don't get me wrong, it's still really gritty in places. I took a walk to MacArthur Park from the hotel and it was a bit sketchy still, but downtown LA has come a long way in the past few decades.
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The giant Wilshire Grand Center that the hotel is the heart of is in the Financial District pretty much on top of the famous Wilshire Boulevard. There's lots of shopping, banks and restaurants nearby too.
It's a great hotel for business travelers. If you are in town to head for the Staples Center or to attend L.A. Live, it could be a decent location.
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In fact, it's a good spot for getting pretty much anywhere in Southern California close to freeways and not a long drive (in LA terms) to neighborhoods like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. It's a half-hour drive to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
One note on families: I didn't see many while I was there, and while there's no reason a family wouldn't be welcome, the hotel gave off more of a "Sex and the City" vibe than a "Paw Patrol" vibe.
Every great hotel in Los Angeles needs a pool and the InterContinental didn't disappoint. It was by far my favorite amenity.
The outdoor pool is on the seventh floor, and has sweeping views of downtown and the beautiful building itself.
The gym, called Attitude Fitness, was awesome. It was large with all the weights and machines you could want and brand-new equipment — complete with with city views from the seventh floor. All you had to do as a guest was sign in and tell them your name and room number.
Food and dining
The InterContinental has fabulous dining options. Pre-pandemic they had six on-site restaurants, though several are closed at the moment and have been since the height of the pandemic. The hotel says, "Club Lounge, Sora and La Boucherie are temporarily closed."
Related: A review of the Hotel Figueroa Los Angeles
Fortunately, the most famous restaurant is open. Spire 73 is one of the highest outdoor dining experiences in the world. In fact, the hotel calls it the tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere. There are fire pits galore and fun seating, drinking and eating areas. It is so cool to eat on top of the world and see sweeping 360-degree views of Southern California.
You'll pay for the experience though — the price tag for my meal with Eye of the Flyer travel writer Chris Carley came to $181. The food was just OK. Also, note that you'll be required to spend at least $60 a person for dinner.
I had a better meal at Dekkadance the next morning on the 69th floor, which featured amazing views and lots of options for breakfast. This restaurant is where you go for breakfast or lunch and there are several chef stations where you can get your choice of eggs cooked to order. There is a smoothie station, a barista bar and you can order from a cool bar as well. Lines can be long at breakfast so keep that in mind.
There is also the Lobby Lounge bar with limited hours (Thursday to Sunday).
The No Dive Bar is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the pool area.
The InterContinental was wheelchair-friendly, with flat entryways and wide doors and hallways. I was told that 30 of the rooms are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, including eight suites.
There were also chair lifts in the hot tub and pool, but they were covered with tarps during my stay. There was also a wheelchair-friendly outdoor shower at the pool.
It did seem that folks in wheelchairs should be able to enjoy their stays, too.
I'm still glowing over my fabulous two nights in Los Angeles at the tallest hotel in the West. I really enjoyed my experience at the InterContinental and would happily book it again the next time I need to spend some time in Southern California. In fact, I'm already trying to figure out an excuse to go back and visit my colleagues Eric Rosen and Leezel Tanglao, who call the area home.
I can highly recommend the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, especially if you can find a reasonable rate (or points redemption). Once the lounge and all the restaurants are back open, it will make a decision to stay here even more compelling.