The three following suggestions for things to do in Los Angeles all come with their own set of catches, but are more than worth the time and effort needed to make them happen.

Magic Castle

It’s hard to describe a visit to the Magic Castle.  Nestled on a hill just north of Hollywood Blvd the Magic Castle was once a house, but has been expanded and turned into a private Magicians Club.  Inside you’ll find 3 theaters, 4 bars, a piano playing ghost (she takes requests), a restaurant, an eclectic collection of memorabilia from Houdini to Hello Dolly and the best magicians in the country.  Six magicians perform every night in the theaters, and there are also a number of informal spots in the castle where member magicians come to practice new tricks, or just show off for the visitors. With a new set of magicians in the theaters each week, every trip to the castle is different.  With all the nooks are crannies of the castle you’ll make new discoveries with each visit.  It’s probably my favorite place in Los Angeles.

The catches:
1) Ages 21 and up only for evening shows. (Weekend brunch shows are open to all ages.)

2) There’s a strict dress code.  Suit and ties for men, cocktail or evening wear women.  (Weekend brunch shows have a more relaxed dress code, check the website for details.)

3) It’s not cheap:  $8 valet (there’s no other option for parking), $20-25 door charge, Around $20-$30 for dinner (dinner is a required cost, unless you are a member). Drinks run around $8.

4) The biggest difficulty in visiting the castle is getting an invitation for evening shows.  No invites (just reservations) are needed for weekend brunch shows, but evening shows are the way to go if you can get in.  If you don’t “know someone who knows someone”, your best bet is to check the website and see who’s performing when you want to go.  Pick one of the magicians, send them an incredibly polite email and most likely they’ll send you an invite.  Don’t give up if the first magician you try says no.  It is a private club and some magicians and members have been burned by people who they’ve given invites to.  Once you have your invitation be sure to also make reservations!

Taping of a TV Show

Hollywood has the glitzy name, but most of the actual business of show business happens in Studio City, Burbank or Culver City.  Taking a studio tour might give you a quick idea of how it works, but to truly get the behind the scenes it’s more than worth the time to go to a taping.  Many sitcoms, talk shows and game shows are filmed in front of a studio audience.  It’s a fascinating look at another world.  Be warned though. Some of the magic wears off after the 3rd or 4th take of the same joke.  You’ll realize that in show business, the “business” comes first.

A TV studio audience - Something to do in LA

The catches:
1) Be prepared for it to take longer than you think.  Filming a 30 minute sit-com (only 22 minutes without the commercials) can take about 4 hours and you’ll need to show up at least an hour ahead of time.  Don’t worry, they’ll have a comedian working the audience to keep you entertained even while they’re doing boring things like moving the cameras between shots. By the end of the evening you may start wishing they’d stop interrupting the comedian with the filming.

2) Being an audience member is free, but you need to get tickets ahead of time.  TVtix is a good site.  Careful, tickets for popular shows run out quickly, but you may be able to get last-minute tickets for new shows either on the website or by wandering around Hollywood Blvd as studios sometimes send people out to the touristy areas to gather audience members.

The Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl is a fantastic concert hall build in 1922 in the hills of Hollywood.  Just visiting the Bowl is an event in itself, regardless of who’s preforming.  Prices for open-air bench seats are quite reasonable, but you can also spring for some very nice box seats.  To do the Bowl like a local, take public transportation and bring a picnic dinner and wine.

The Bowl has something for everyone.  The schedule is dominated by classical and jazz, but this year’s performers ranged from The Killers to Eric Clapton to Kylie Minogue. KCRW’s World Music series is always popular.

The Hollywood Bowl - Attractions on a LA vacation
Outdoor theatre, the Hollywood Bowl, is an LA favourite

The Catches:
1) The Hollywood Bowl is only open April – October.

3) Bench seating in an open air theatre can get cold.  Yes, even in Los Angeles.  Bring layers and something soft to sit on.

2) Parking is ridiculous.  Stacked parking and a huge audience means that you can end up being stuck in your parking spot an hour after the concert ends.  Luckily there’s easy public transportation to and from the Hollywood Bowl.  Check the website for more details.

Your thoughts on "Three Los Angeles sights to go out of your way for"

  • I go out to L.A. every so often to visit family but I've never even heard of the Magic Castle or the Hollywood Bowl. I have thought about being an audience member, but I've never actually done it. Thanks for the great suggestions!

    on December 30, 2009 at 11:08 am Reply
    • I haven't been there for years; I think the last time I was in LA was 2000 or 2001 ... sometime during University. I remember sitting in a Disneyland breakfast restaurant reading Chekhov for an upcoming exam. Chekhov helps one put Disneyland in context.

      on December 30, 2009 at 7:08 pm Reply
  • Enjoy the vacation spots, weekend trips in la so I have sent one site it's very very helpful for you & your family places see it. Three ideas it's very nice & help full for, just like Taping of a TV Show,Holly wood Bowl, also being an audiences, very good it Thank you

    on February 7, 2010 at 9:20 am Reply
  • Magic Castle appears very interesting though for some reason I suspect it is out of most, but not all, travelers budget. I must admit when living on a strict budget there is nothing better than having the occasional splurge and this venue might just be worth such a splurge.

    on July 16, 2010 at 1:07 am Reply
  • Hi Jean, The Magic Castle is definitely a splurge, and LA certainly has a number of places you can splurge on. If you have any interest in magic it's well worth it.

    on July 19, 2010 at 10:54 am Reply

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