The perfect day in LA. That’s all I wanted and all we really had time for. We were adding on a quick two-night trip to LA to see a friend after a lovely wedding we attended on the west coast. With such a short trip, you really only get one completely full day to soak in a city. I wanted to make our day count. I wanted the perfect day in LA.
Now, when I say the perfect day in LA, you are probably picturing time on a beach, eating seafood on a pier (learn more about this from my blog post, A Charming, Self-Guided Los Angeles Pier Tour), putting my hands and feet in celebrity prints, shopping at the Grove or maybe a day trip to Malibu (more about that here). This isn’t that. If you want that, there are plenty of blogs online that cover these things.
Those are all fun and great things to do, but I have been to LA several times before and I wanted to do something different with my perfect day in LA. I didn’t know what that looked like, until…
I happened to be watching CBS Sunday Morning a few weeks before we left and they did a segment on a theater called, Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, CA. My ears perked up; this is where my friend who we were visiting lives! It was meant to be, we had to visit Old Town Music Hall!
To give you an idea of where El Segundo is located. Picture Los Angeles’ airport LAX. Then picture four blocks to the south. You have now pictured El Segundo. So conveniently located near the airport! No one wants to land in LAX and then battle LA rush hour traffic to get to their destination. A for sure way to ruin the perfect day in LA. Why not take a detour to the Old Town Music Hall while you wait for the traffic to die down? Just a thought….
Stop #1 Old Town Music Hall – El Segundo, CA
On this wonderful, perfect day in LA we decided to sleep in, catch brunch and then head to the 2:30pm showing at Old Town Music Hall. Because of time constraints and not a deep enough interest in spending our perfect day in LA inside watching a movie, we decided to stay for the first part of the show to see the Mighty Wurltizer and head out before the feature film.
This worked out perfectly because every show begins with music played on the Wurlitzer and an audience sing-along. Then there is a 15-minute intermission, followed by the feature film.
We arrived, purchased our tickets (cash or check only), went to the concession stand and my husband proceeded to spend over $20 on the most inexpensive and fair priced concessions of any movie theater I have ever been at. No idea how he managed to spend that much! We had popcorn, I think an assortment of little Debbie snacks, lots of soda. We were covered.
Once we found seats, the lights went down. A man came down the aisle, making his way to the Mighty Wurlitzer. I immediately recognized him as the gentlemen from the CBS Sunday Morning segment!
To my excitement, every piece of this massive, amazing organ is painted in black light glow paint. Now this may seem strange that an antique like this is painted, but it allows us as an audience to see each piece of this instrument. Which I so appreciate.
What is a Wurlitzer Organ?
A little more about the Wurlitzer Organ or as it is often referred to as, the Mighty Wurlitzer. It became popular during the silent movie era. Movies in this time period may have not had sound, but they were intended to be enjoyed with music as a way to help tell the story on the screen. Going to the theater was an event. Movie goers would dress up, the theater itself was beautiful with ornate ceilings and walls and a full orchestra to accompany the movie. It was also very expensive.
The Mighty Wurlitzer was developed to replace the live orchestras, to bring down the costs. The Mighty Wurlitzer is one instrument, but it encompasses dozens of others- sirens, bells, horns, drums, cymbals, castanets and more. It was a site to see and hear. And that’s why the owner of Old Town Music hall has played every weekend for the Past 47 years.
After we got done watching the short and participating in a delightful sing-along with an audience which really gave its all, the intermission started. We quietly slipped out before the feature film and headed to our next stop of our perfect day in LA…
Stop #2 The Automobile Driving Museum – El Segundo, CA
I would never describe myself as a car person. I was once asked what my dream car and I could literally not think of one to name. So, you can trust me when I say, you don’t have to be a car person to enjoy The Automobile Driving Museum.
Some info about the museum.
It is almost entirely run by volunteers. These people like cars, know cars, and love to talk about cars. Every single car in the museum runs. They have cars ranging from the early 1900’s to the 90’s and everything in between AND you can sit in (almost) all of them. Take your picture and imagine what it would have been like to drive one of these cars and live way back then. There is also a wonderful exhibit on women and cars. It covers how cars played a role in the suffragette movement and the first women to drive across the country, Alice Huyler Ramsey.
It even gets better!
There is a kids Hot Wheels area, an ice cream parlor and the absolute best part is on Sundays they pick three cars and give rides! I wish I could list off what we rode. Again, I’m not a car person, so I can’t remember the year, make and model, but I do know two of them were convertibles that looked like they were straight out of the movie Annie. The part where she lived with a millionaire. It was so cool! Such a great addition to my perfect day in LA.
Stop #3 The Academy of Magical Arts, “Magic Castle” – Hollywood, CA
How to end the perfect day in Los Angeles? I will tell you, Magic Castle! Magic Castle is a private club for magicians. Which means, you can’t just show up and go. You have to be a guest of a member. That member doesn’t have to go with you, but they must put you on the list. I do not know any members, but I was in luck- my cousin did! She and her magician friend were nice enough to give us the hookup!
But what about me? I want to go to Magic Castle!
If you are not lucky enough to have a cousin who can connect you with a magician, here are some other ways to get on the list according to Mommy Poppins and their Secret LA: How To Visit Hollywood’s Famous Magic Castle article you can:
- Stay at the Magic Castle Hotel
- Send a really nice email to a magician member who’s work you admire
- Take a magic class (please note that most classes last 6 to 8 weeks, there is tuition and your short-term pass to the Magic Castle is only good certain days. Not the best option if you are just visiting for a few days).
- Visit a local magic shop and see if the employees are members and again, ask really nicely
- Ask around. A friend of a friend’s cousin may have the hookup for you!
Next step, a dinner reservation!
Okay, let’s say you got on the list! Hooray! Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you are in. Now you need to secure a dinner reservation. You can’t actually go to the castle without them even if you are on the list. Call early, especially if you have specific dates and times you need to attend. We only had one specific date we could go (as I said, this was a short trip). I was so excited when we got on the list, so you can imagine my utter disappointment when I called and they didn’t have any reservations left.
When the very nice person on the other end of the phone broke this news to me, I just sort of sat on the phone repeating what she said. It went like this:
Magic Castle Employee: “I’m sorry, we have no availability on this day.”
Me: “You have no availability on this day…”
Magic Castle Employee: “That’s correct.”
*Very long silence*
Me: “You have no availability…”
I was just hoping if I stalled something magical would happen…and it did! After going back and forth like this for a while, the Magic Castle employee said, “Well, on X date they release all the tables held just in case one of our members wants to attend dinner. Call back on that date and see if there are any openings.” Pro tip: If you call and they don’t have any reservations, ask to find out what date they release the reserved tables that are held back for members.
There was hope! I put a reminder on my calendar and was ready! I called the moment before they opened (who knows, maybe someone would answer the phones early? They didn’t.) and then again right when they opened. And sure enough, they had reservations available. The person actually commented, “Great timing! You’re in luck, some tables just opened up.”
I was feeling pretty good. Name on the list. Check! Dinner reservation. Check! What next?
Magic Castle Rules
Dress code! Magic Castle has a strict dress code which you can find here. Essentially, dress to impress.
There is also a no cell phone use rule while inside. Which is why I have a lack of pictures of the interior, but you can check out this article in Eater Los Angeles to see some.
There is a door charge. Which may seem silly, since once you get in you are paying for drinks and dinner, but you get to watch magic shows! So many magic shows by great magicians!! Worth it!
To set the scene, we roll up to the Magic Castle which looks like an actual castle! We valet our car and step out. We take our picture in front of a fun step and repeat because why not and these are going to be our only pictures since again, none are allowed inside. Then we step inside.
It is like stepping back in time.
There is an amazing bar right when you walk in and behind the bar is a little sitting area with a player piano. Legend has it that the ghost of Irma haunts the player piano and if you ask nicely, she will play you your favorite tune.
My friends got drinks (I was pregnant at the time so I skipped that part), and I headed over to the piano to stake a spot. We had fun talking to Irma requesting songs.
I also browsed the shows coming up. When I go somewhere, I want to do everything. Now seeing every show at Magic Castle is very difficult, but we managed to see a lot. I saw that we had time to see a show before our dinner reservation.
We headed into a nearby theater within the castle to watch the first show. It was so much fun, and I got chosen to come down to the stage! Which added even more excitement! When the show was finished, it was time to eat.
We headed upstairs for our dinner reservation. The food was very good. My husband ordered a giant lobster and he still talks about it until this day!
After dinner we headed to a large, wide hallway that had several tables set up with people doing card tricks. We saw some open seats and sat down. It was a more intimate performance and so much fun to interact with the magician. After, one of the magicians gave us his card and said if we ever want to return, he would be happy to put us on the list! Yay!
The rest of the night we hopped between shows and getting drinks at the bar (mine non-alcoholic of course because of the pregnancy). We went to a magic performance which was as much magic as it was art.
Each show is different. They do a great job of scheduling a variety of magicians. I got called up on stage two more times! We decided it was because I was pregnant so I stuck out. If you want to be chosen to go on stage, get pregnant (kidding!) OR you could go the much easier, less expensive route and try wearing something that will make you stand out.
We headed home about 1am wrapping up our perfect day in LA feeling so happy and content! I had heard of Magic Castle in so many pop culture references. I mean Neal Patrick Harris for a time period held the position of, “The Ambassador of Magic” at Magic Castle. It is referenced in shows like Arrested Development, The Netflix series Love even filmed an episode there. I feel so lucky to have gotten to experience it!
I didn’t see a beach that day (we managed to fit in some beach time the next day 😊), nor did I spot any celebrities, or do any shopping, but it was the LA I wanted to visit. That’s the great thing about LA. There are so many different types to fit what everyone wants!