Perched on a hill above Franklin Avenue, the castle has become a mecca for magicians and magic lovers everywhere and popular LA attraction. Founded by Milt and Bill Larsen, who grew up in a family of legendary magicians, The Magic Castle first opened its doors in January 1963, and now has more than 5,000 members.
The private club is open to members, guests invited by members and visitors staying at the Magic Castle Hotel.
The current President of the Magic Castle is Emmy winning actor, Neil Patrick Harris, a lifelong magician and magic enthusiast.
“It’s a remarkable feat for any club– for anything–to last 50 years,” Harris said in a statement. “We are all incredibly lucky to have Milt Larsen, not only as cofounder and designer and creative force behind the castle, but because he’s still making improvements, sharing stories and carrying the torch.”
Harris has been working with the staff and the membership to make improvements to the celebrated club and it shows.
During a recent night out at the Magic Castle, my guests and I had a multi-course dinner that was significantly better than meals from previous years.
Under Harris’ guiding hand, the cocktails have also been upgraded. Bartenders, Joshua Lucas (The Writer’s Room) and Jordan Gold, have crafted a brand new cocktail menu in the Castle’s five bars.
The new menu debuted on January 14, with names like Open Sesame, The Lovely Assistant, Magic Word, Rabbit’s Tale and my favorite, Fields of Copper (scotch, Punt e Mes vermouth, honey syrup and Luxardo).
In March, the Castle’s Hat & Hare Pub is actually planning to feature drinks that perform magic tricks—i.e. change color and flavor.
On the weekends, beginning at 5pm, a group of volunteer docents, known as the Castle Knights, give guided tours of the Castle and its unusual history.
When the Magic Castle opened its doors in 1963, it featured one showroom of modest size, but over the years it has expanded to the present labyrinth of opulent Victorian rooms and corridors specifically designed to showcase the three very different sizes of magic performances: Close-up, Parlor and Stage.
Lisa Cousins, a magician who specializes in Parlor Magic, moved from New Mexico to Los Angeles for one reason—to be near the Castle. She was first inspired to enter magic because of Harry Houdini, whose original handcuffs, as well as other memorabilia are housed at the Magic Castle for all to see.
“Houdini was a first step for a lot of people,” Cousins says. “I saw his message as one of liberation, and whatever happens to you, you can get out of it. The more oppressed the country in which he performed, the more popular he was. … It’s incredible to be a part of the Magic Castle, in the shadow of the greats like Houdini, Chung Ling Soo and David Devant.”
To gain entry into the Magic Castle:
-Visitors must be a member (there are about 5,000 total), be invited by a member or a guest at the Magic Castle Hotel.
-Dress in your finest: that means ties, suits and dress shoes for men, gowns or formalwear for ladies.
-Nobody under 21 is admitted, except during weekend brunch.
-Valet is $8 per car.
-There is no smoking inside the Castle.