(Originally published in www.yelp.com after many complaints about the place and the experience.)
I'm a professional magician. I have performed at the Magic Castle many times and I'm a member who brings guests as often as I can put a group together.
With its ups and downs, and with most of the reviews having true points in them, I can say that I not only love the place and the experience, but also that it's one of my favourite places in the entire world.
Some things to consider:
- Magicians come from around the world to perform at the place, many times paying money from their own pockets just to have the opportunity to be a part of the history of this one-of-a-kind place on earth.
- Some of the shows are going to be amazing, some others won't.
There are around 500 different shows each year, and it's a fact that there aren't so many GREAT magicians in the world, not to mention that they have to be available, and willing to come.
You will probably like most of the shows very much.
Maybe love one. Maybe hate another.
If you think that magic in general is just lame, stay away from the place. There is nothing else to see there, so do yourself a favor and tell your friends that you will meet them later, when they come out from the Castle.
If you love magic, this is the place for you. Period.
A word of advice about the food: this is not Nobu nor Spago.
But you won't be able to enter the place if you don't dine, so consider it the passport to the entertainment. If the food satisfies your palate, it will add to the experience. If the food is all right, fine. And if you don't like it, it's just another not so good dinner of many.
And of course dinner is kind of expensive for what it is: your are having dinner in a very exclusive place, whether it suits your taste or not, and the price of the food INCLUDES a part of the price for all the magic that you will enjoy.
So, remember that when you go to the Magic Castle, it's not about the food, but about the whole evening.
About the place: I believe it is wonderful.
I never get tired of it, and I keep discovering new details each time I go (and I have been attending the place for more than fifteen years).
And 100% of my guests feel the same way.
Of course it's not a high-end-modernistic-Philippe-Stark-kind of place. It's a 100 years old Victorian Castle, with thousands of posters and photos of magicians and artists of magic and shows and many other things related to the history of magic in its walls.
And of course the owls are fake, and of course you can do the piano thing with a midi software (but you can't answer the questions with it though), and of course some of the woods in the place are not real, and of course the receptionist is a human being and therefore can be bitchy today or tomorrow, and of course you might not like the jacket they give you, and of course you can discover how some tricks are done.
And of course you can give no tips to the waiters, and treat them as if they were slaves, and disregard the fact that there is a person whose name and reputation gets hurt when his guests behave like jerks, giving hard time to everyone, even to their dates.
Believe me: I see it EVERYDAY. Grown ups guys and girls who simply don't know when to stop drinking, stop screaming and being annoying and idiots.
You wouldn't believe how many of these infra-humans dressed in jackets and ties and cocktail dresses give a lame show simply by going down a short set of stairs.
THAT'S THE REAL WORST PART OF THE MAGIC CASTLE EXPERIENCE.
No magician or food plate can be worst than that.
And of course you can also GET IT.
You can feel like a kid when you say "Open Sesame" and the library becomes the door to a wonderland.
A wonderland that is for real, because ALL the magicians in the posters and the photos actually were there, either performing or just hanging around with people who enjoy tremendously when they just hear the word "magic", because they know that life is mostly about finding the magic in everything you see, when otherwise you could just see the dust of the walls and the strings of the puppets.
You can say "of course!" about the mistery of keeping the place SECRET and highly desirable by not allowing to take pictures.
If you BELIEVE that Irma the Ghost actually answers your questions with songs and plays whatever tune you ask for, then you will treasure this experience FOREVER.
I can tell you, after having seen thousands of people go by thru those walls, that the ones who believed the magic were the ones who didn't want to leave the place. And they finally did it with a huge smile on their faces, and an amazing brighness in their eyes.
A fine line separates the real from the fake, the magic from the skepticism. Everyday of your life, inside or outside the Magic Castle.
And it's your call to stand on one side or the other.
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