An Honest Review of The Magic Castle in Hollywood, California
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What Is The Magic Castle?
The Magic Castle was first built as a private residence in 1909. Designed by Lyman Farwell and Oliver Dennis, the chateau-style home is like another project of theirs, the Kimberly Crest House and Gardens in Redlands, CA, constructed in 1897. The Magic Castle is a breathtaking building featuring turrets and stained-glass windows, located on the corner of Franklin Avenue and N. Orange Drive in Hollywood, California. The Lane family owned the home until 1955. Can you imagine living in a home like that?
In 1961, the home was leased to the Larsen family by its current owner. William Larsen, Sr. had started something called The Academy of Magical Arts, and his sons helped him incorporate his association of magicians in 1962. The day after New Year’s Day, 1963, The Magic Castle opened its doors for business. Since then, it has been an exclusive, members-only club with a super strict dress code. As a result, every non-member tourist and local wants in. But is it worth it?
Exclusive? Yes. Impossible to get into? No. Ways to get yourself on The Magic Castle’s guest list for an evening (or a weekend brunch) do exist.
Become a Member
In the rare case that you’re a magician, you can audition to become a magician member. If not, you can contact The Magic Castle’s Member Services to discuss purchasing an annual “associate” (aka muggle) membership. Keep in mind that the cost is high enough not to be listed on the “Membership” page on their website. Membership does come with perks, though.
Be a Member’s Guest
This is how I got in and how most non-members have experienced The Magic Castle. Who do you know that knows someone who is a member that has guest passes they’re willing to part with? In my case, the passes were from my husband’s boss.
Be a Performing Magician’s Guest
It takes some effort, but you can get invited to The Magic Castle by a performing magician. On any given night, multiple magicians perform at bars, tables, and stage areas scattered throughout the maze-like interior. Scope out who is performing when you want to attend and follow them on social media. Like, comment, and share their posts. Then, message them and tell them you would love to see a show and ask if they would happen to have guest passes for a performance at The Magic Castle. The worst that can happen is they say no.
Stay at The Magic Castle Hotel
Next to The Magic Castle itself is an apartment-style hotel that shares the same name. Along with access to the private club, guests of the hotel can enjoy a pool that is heated 24/7. This choice is not as expensive as a membership, but not inexpensive either. At the time I wrote this post, the smallest room (single room; one Queen bed) cost $240.00 for a Saturday night before taxes and fees.
5 Things to Know Before You Go
If you do manage to get on the coveted guest list, congrats! Here’s what you should know before you go:
Bring cash and your credit card (valet parking is the only parking, guests and members are required to buy drinks and dinner, and bartenders deserve tips)
No one under 21 (except for weekend brunch)
Strictly enforced evening dress code (look it up before you go, and when in doubt, more is more at The Magic Castle). Underdressed celebrities have been denied entrance. They don’t play around with the dress code. Read all the way to the end to see suggestions for acceptable attire.
Reservations are required, and you might have to book your evening at a strange time or well in advance. Even with a pass, it can be hard to get in.
No Photos and videos once you pass the secret door in the lobby. No exceptions. They will make you leave if you try and sneak some. Cameras and guards are everywhere.
What Is It Like Inside The Magic Castle?
Thanks to L.A. Eater, I can show you, even though I was not allowed to take photos or videos inside the venue. In their articleInside The Magic Castle, the Most Mysterious Restaurant in Los Angeles are beautiful, well-lit photos taken with the permission of The Magic Castle that you should take a peek at. They also tell you far more about the food than I ever could. I can tell you that the prime rib was delicious, as was The Conjurer, one of the specialty cocktails offered.
Make sure to allow at least 3 hours for your visit. The architecture and design are awe-inspiring. Once inside the secret lobby door, you will weave through floor after floor of winding hallways and interconnecting rooms where magic lurks around every corner. The eyes of portraits hanging on the walls follow you as you move. A haunted piano plays any tune requested. A wise old owl answers yes or no questions with ease. Everywhere you look is a magical artifact or some act of magic being performed. The attention to decoration and detail is at the Disney level.
Are The Magicians Any Good?
Folks, these are not some mediocre street performers or someone you hire for a little kid’s birthday. The magicians invited to The Magic Castle are some of the best in the world. Expect to see card tricks that will blow your mind. Bartenders will serve you a drink and then make a solid object that you touched and inspected disappear right in front of your eyes.
The night I was there, I was sitting less than 3 feet away when Mike Pisciotta made 3 silver coins disappear and reappear, one at a time. I could reach out and touch the space he was plucking them from, but nothing was there! We also had our minds blown by mind-readers and The Matrix-like spoon (and fork) benders Philo Kotnik and James Knight. My hubby and I were lucky to get some time alone with James Knight. He read me like a book and managed to read my much more skeptical husband too! Yes, the magicians are good, scary good.
If you prefer pants, opt for something like thesepaired with a dressy blouse
You will be standing A LOT, so opt for comfortable but classy shoes. NO SANDALS! I wore a low black heel like this.
For men, a full suit with a jacket and tie is required. Bolo ties do not count. Also, no tennis shoes, no matter how in style or expensive. They aren’t down with you showing up in Chucks with your Saint Laurent, even if you’re Bruno Mars. It is not too extra to wear a tux, so if your man has one he still fits in, bust it out!
The Magic Castle Experience
I give it 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐. The Magic Castle experience is magical, mysterious, exclusive, and ever so fancy. All performers are top-notch. The food is delicious, and the portions are large. The drinks are tasty, and the bartenders do magic tricks. And you might catch a glimpse of Houdini’s ghost during your visit! It’s worth every hoop jumped through to attend.
Why did a balanced lifestyle blogger write a review about an exclusive club that even Hollywood locals have a hard time getting into? Because I believe in the importance of fun (enough that I wrote a blog post about it), and when I go somewhere exceptionally fun, I share it with you! Life is short; experience the magic while you can!
If you visit The Magic Castle, send me a picture of you in the lobby or outside and tell me what you thought!