- Rooms are worn and dated; some are too dark.
- No flat-screen TVs
- No room service
- No on-site gym (but free access to nearby L.A. Fitness)
- No elevator to access 2nd floor
A quirky hidden gem with tons of free perks just steps from Hollywood Boulevard
Perched on a steep hill one long block north of Hollywood Boulevard, the Magic Castle -- as in the actual chateau-style mansion next door to the hotel -- has been an architectural Hollywood icon since it was built in 1909 as a private home for a Californian real estate magnate. But it wasn't until 1963, when the building was dubbed the Magic Castle and opened its doors as a private, members-only club, that the architectural icon became a cultural one as well -- as the headquarters of the Academy of Magical Arts. Performers over the years have included the late Dai Vernon, an expert in sleight of hand, Mark Wilson, and Kuda Bux, as well as magic hobbyists like Cary Grant, Steve Martin, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jason Alexander of Seinfeld.
There are only three ways to get into a show at the Castle: be a dues-paying member, the guest of a dues-paying member, or a guest of -- you guessed it -- the Magic Castle Hotel. The 40-room lodging is a two-story, motel-like building adjacent to the castle and tucked away from street view behind some nondescript hedges. Even with the crusty lamppost sign, it's so easy to miss this hotel that many locals don't even know it's here. Turns out this might be a good thing because this is one of the city's best values and hidden gems if you're not looking for pomp, flash, or circumstance, and can tolerate some quirks.
Rooms are large, most are about 500 square feet and come with full kitchens and pullout couches, but they're a little worse for wear. But, alas, the service is exceptional and there's very little nickel-and-diming. Wi-Fi's free, breakfast is free (with delicious scones and croissants from Susina Bakery), postage for letters and postcards is free, laundry detergent is free, DVD rentals are free. Even better, the minibar is free. Guests simply ask for whatever they want from a list of 37 (count them, 37) items, and the hotel provides single-serving bags for free (and as many as you want).
Beyond the free perks and access to one of the most exclusive magic shows in the world, the friendly and inviting atmosphere wins over guests, be they families or B-listers (Stephen Baldwin was a guest during my stay). The exhaustive list of perks just happens to tie it all together. Guests might also consider Le Parc Suites, which has larger rooms, also with full kitchens, and an infinitely nicer pool than Magic Castle, but a much less convenient location.
Exceptional service with great attention to detail
The rooms may lack flash, but the Magic Castle's service is exceptional -- though you'd never guess it based on the no-frills front desk in the small lobby with a two-way mirror. Service is warm, attentive, personable, and unpretentious. From nightly turndowns with mints to poolside popsicles to a birthday cake from Susina Bakery delivered on guests' birthdays, to a staffer's refusal of a tip for help with luggage, it's the little things that stand out. Ask and you shall receive: One guest had an early flight and the staff made sure the fresh scones and pastries from the bakery were delivered early; another needed a slightly later checkout, and wasn't charged extra. I wanted to send a postcard, brought it to the desk, and they mailed it for free.
In Hollywood, steps from Hollywood Boulevard and less than a 10-minute drive to Universal Studios
The location of the Magic Castle doesn't get much better for those wanting to be in the heart of Hollywood. Situated one long block from touristy Hollywood Boulevard and the celebrity footprints of the Walk of Fame at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, it's less than a five-minute walk to several major attractions. Despite its central location, the hotel is magically quiet given it's setting, tucked away on a steep hill overlooking Franklin Avenue, which runs parallel with Hollywood Boulevard.
The rooms are far from posh, but they're not pretending to be anything they're not. Guests may find chips in the paint, light switches that don't work, circa 1970 telephones, "wood" floors in the bathroom that are actually some kind of plastic veneer, and old bathtubs with fixtures requiring a strong arm to shut off the water, but somehow the Magic Castle pulls it off. Despite the quirks and dated furnishings, the rooms are clean, comfortable, and spacious -- though not as spacious at Le Parc Suites. About two-thirds of the rooms are one-bedroom suites with pullout couches and full kitchens, but be sure to request one facing the pool -- it'll be brighter and a little more cheery than my dark room in a corner tucked away in the back. Though Le Parc Suites is a nice alternative -- rooms are bigger and also have full kitchens, plus there's an infinitely nicer pool -- the service at Magic Castle, with all of its free perks, is hard to beat.
No nickel-and-diming: almost everything's free except the low-priced parking
With the exception of the $1.25 guest laundry machines, the $4 bottles of Fiji water in the rooms, and $10-per-day parking (one of the cheapest rates in LA), guests won't have to pay a cent for any of the amenities here.
Exclusive access to the members-only Magic Castle club -- and it's worth every penny.
The Magic Castle, a private clubhouse and performance space for the Academy of Magical Arts, is a Hollywood institution -- and there are only three ways to get in: become a dues-paying member, be the guest of a dues-paying member, or -- yes -- be a guest of the adjacent Magic Castle Hotel. Most guests have dinner in the castle first (pricey, and not great, but worth it for the experience), and then head to a series of magic shows that are so good it's worth staying at the hotel for a night just to view the show.
Great for families -- huge suites with full kitchens, a stellar location, plenty of free perks
The Magic Castle is one of the best values in Hollywood, especially for families. Rooms aren't fancy -- and some need TLC -- but most are a spacious 500 square feet with full kitchens and pullout couches, plus more than enough room for cribs (free) and rollaway beds (also free, but only available in ground-floor rooms). The one downside is that there aren't any elevators in the hotel, so families with lots of gear should request a ground-floor room. Plenty of free perks make up for that slight hassle, however.
Clean rooms that need some TLC
No on-site restaurant, but free continental breakfast and minibar items
The hotel brings in free, fresh pastries from well-regarded Susina Bakery every morning for its continental breakfast, and offers a free, all-you-can-eat minibar, but there's no restaurant affiliated with the hotel. However, guests of the Magic Castle get VIP treatment at Yamashiro, a Japanese restaurant located just behind the hotel. Built almost a century ago as a replica of a Japanese palace near Kyoto, the restaurant offers some of the best views of Hollywood. If $39 is too much to swallow for Wagyu steak, there are infinite restaurant options of all price ranges just a few minutes from the hotel.
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