I slid down the side of a Los Angeles skyscraper and lived to tell the nauseating taleFaced with skyscraper heights, I'm not the type who breaks out in a sweaty, bug-eyed panic à la Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo. Yet peering over the ledge of a tall building never fails to trigger a flurry of stomach butterflies. If forced to brave the thrill rides atop Las Vegas' soaring Stratosphere tower, I'd be starring in "Viva Barf Vegas."
So why am I on downtown Los Angeles' U.S. Bank Tower "Skyspace" observation deck, some 1,000 nauseating feet above terra firma, poised to slide down a clear plexiglass tunnel that hugs the building's exterior? Two words: peer pressure. When announcing I'll be chickening out on the "Skyslide," my friend laughs like De Niro in Cape Fear and calls me a "Wimp!"
Famously annihilated by aliens in the movie Independence Day, the 1,018-foot-high Bank Tower recently relinquished its tallest-building-in-the-West crown to L.A.'s new Wilshire Grand skyscraper. Yet when the 1,100-foot-high Wilshire opens to the public in summer 2017, its observation perch will still fall short of the Bank Tower's loftier 69th- and 70th-floor OUE Skyspace attraction (OUE stands for Overseas Union Enterprise Ltd., the building's Singapore-based owner).
We ride an elevator to the 54th-floor "Interactive Level." Chic, shiny and pulsing with chill electronic music, the enclosed, darkened space feels more like a nightclub than office building. Among a series of museum-type exhibits, video panels display a panoramic view of L.A.'s nighttime skyline. An old elevator shaft lined with trippy, colored lights is named the "Infinity Mirror" and looks like something out of Blade Runner. Back on the lift, shaking off LSD flashbacks, I press the 70th-floor button.
Eli Ellison/The Skyspace "Infinity Mirror"
Top of the world
A bright, crystal clear morning, the view from the top — stretching from the famed HOLLYWOOD sign to the shimmering Pacific — is a knockout. For native Los Angelenos like myself, it's fun to play a Where's Waldo game of spot the landmark — from Dodger Stadium and City Hall to the white-washed walls of Union Station. A couple of British tourists use the in-house, touch-screen panels to get a virtual lay of the land and zero-in on points of interest.
With floor-to-ceiling windows, mod lounge couches and chairs, the indoor observation space offers inviting spots to kick back and soak in the views. Outdoors, I find two separate plexiglass-walled decks. One faces toward Hollywood and West L.A., while the other boasts excellent views of the surrounding downtown office towers. Nose pressed to glass, staring straight down at a gaggle of Trump protestors in Pershing Square far below, I feel queasy.
Eli Ellison/The Skyspace "Skyslide"
The attendant stationed at the top of 45-foot-long Skyslide sees my ghastly, peaked complexion and asks "You alright, bro?" Seated on a carpeted sliding pad, looking down a glass tunnel suspended 70 dizzying stories above L.A., I am pretty far from "alright," bro.
Whoosh! Zooming down, my gaze fixed on the distant San Gabriel Mountains, the slide takes a sharp turn and my shoulder smacks into the plexiglass. In less than 4 seconds — before I can over-dramatically yell "Ouch! S.O.B.!" — the ride is over. Breakfast still firmly in stomach, my bravery is applauded by the tourists milling around the bottom of the slide.
I whine: "That's it?!"
"Yup, that's all she wrote," says the slide assistant. "Next!"
The $25 general adult admission ($19 for kids; $22 for seniors) is money well spent. Unless you board a pricey, scenic helicopter flight, nowhere in L.A. will you get aerial views this awesome. The Skyslide costs an extra $8 bucks, payable at either the first-floor ticket windows or the slide entrance itself. It's a unique, albeit quick, thrill. I didn't puke. And neither will you.
Hours and parking
Skyspace is open daily 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (till 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday). The attraction occasionally closes to the public due to private events, so be sure to check the website for the latest schedule.
Parking is $8 (with validation from the attraction) across the street from the U.S. Bank Tower in the underground garage at 524 South Flower Street.
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, Eli Ellison is a Southern California-based travel writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times and Travel Channel.com. Follow him on Twitter.