By Susie Reese
Do you believe in magic? At the Magic Castle Hotel, you will. This boutique property in Los Angeles has been number one on TripAdvisor for the last two years due to its infallible commitment to service.
“Two weeks ago, I accepted an award in Washington, D.C. from the America Lodging Association for Best Guest Relations for a Small Property,” explains Darren Ross, general manager of the Magic Castle Hotel. “In 2014, in the second time in four years, we won the Stars of Industry Awards for Best Guest Relations for a Small Property from the California Hotel Lodging Association.”
So what makes the Magic Castle Hotel so…magical for its clients?
Service is paramount, with special touches and enchanting amenities you won’t find at any other hotel.
“We do all sorts of crazy things for our guests that are incredibly unique for hotels,” says Ross. One unique amenity is the Popsicle Hotline by the pool, where guests can pick up a red phone and request a Popsicle. “We come out wearing white gloves with a silver tray full of Popsicle, and then guests get free popsicles out by the pool,” explains Ross.
But like all of the hotel’s surprises, the magic is in the details. Not only does the sign by the red phone say “Popsicle hotline,” it also lists what Popsicle are called in other countries, like “icy poles” and “ice blocks,” so guests from other countries understand what the Popsicle hotline offers.
For the last decade, the Magic Castle Hotel has also offered unlimited snacks. Upon check-in, guests will receive a list of 30 to 35 items, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kit-Kats, Snickers, M&Ms, pretzels, popcorn, peanuts, and a huge variety of sodas. And guests can come to the front desk or call the front desk to have the snacks delivered to their room 24 hours a day, absolutely free of charge.
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Notes Ross, “People are really taken aback by this because they are just not used to it. People traveling for two-three weeks, staying at all these hotels—we’re just such a stand-out. They’re used to be nickeled and dimed at the minibar, so it’s a fun amenity. Parents love it. Kids love it. Business travelers love it.”
Another special amenity: free laundry service (you heard that right). Says Ross, “All you have to do as a guest is call us up and say you have laundry to pick up, or bring it to the front desk — in the morning, preferably — and it doesn’t matter how much you have or how often you want it done.”
The hotel washes and dries the laundry, wraps it up in brown butcher paper with a sprig of lavender, and ties it with twine before delivering it to the room that evening. “And there’s absolutely no charge,” Ross boasts. “It blows people away. There are hotels charging crazy prices for laundry service. What we try to do is give our guests these services that are really relevant to them. We want to do things that really have an impact on our guests, on their experience.”
Other amenities include a welcome drink in a champagne glass and a personalized welcome to the hotel, a continental breakfast with pastries delivered by the famous Los Angeles bakery Susina, and, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, guests are treated to a magician performance.
The hotel offers turndown service every night, and the rooms feature robes and slippers for children as well as for adults.
“We really want the kids at the hotels to feel like grownups, and that — combined with being able to go to the front desk anytime they want, with their parents’ permission, and ask like a grownup to order snacks — creates memories for these kids that they keep forever.”
The hotel’s aim is to continue to add services. “We never take a service away. A service that we offer now will be there a year from now — five years from now — so people don’t say it’s not as good as it used to be. We only add.”
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But perhaps the most impressive amenity is one that isn’t even an amenity. “We listen carefully, and we respond creatively.™ That is our motto,” says Ross. “We listen to our guests, and we want to surprise them. We want to blow them away with service.”
This includes surprising guests with something in their rooms based on something the hotel staff has overheard, and Ross says, “We’re very good at that.”
Ross explains that if the staff overhears that a guest loves Spider-Man, they’ll place something Spider-Man related in the family’s room, so the guest is surprised upon returning from a day out.
Just recently, a young guest asked for spicy, flaming Cheetos, which the front desk did not have as part of their unlimited snack menu. “We have the original ones on our snack list. And I said, ‘No, we don’t. I’m so sorry,’” recalls Ross. “And then of course, we went out and bought the flaming Cheetos and had them in the room for them.”
One of the special amenities of the hotel is ability of guests to make reservations at the Magic Castle Club, which is an exclusive magician’s club in Los Angeles. Only guests who receive passes from club members themselves, and guests of the Magic Castle Hotel, are allowed to make reservations for evening shows and weekday brunch. While weekend day brunch requires resort casual dress, evening performances require cocktail attire, including jackets and ties for male guests. Recently, a male guest forgot his dress shoes at home and didn’t have time to buy a new pair.
“Our front desk agent said, ‘Here. Wear mine,’” says Ross. “And we have a great picture of our front desk agent wearing our slippers for the rest of his shift.”
Ross takes great pride in the Magic Castle Hotel’s status as the number one hotel on TripAdvisor, especially since the Magic Castle Hotel is not a five-star property. It doesn’t have an elevator, a restaurant, or bar, though it is located one block behind the Hollywood and Hyland Center, a comprehensive mall where TCL Chinese Theatres are.
The hotel has 43 guestrooms, and since it used to be an apartment complex, most rooms are suites, complete with full kitchens, a dining area, a living room with a pull-out sofa, and usually one bedroom — though the hotel has a mixture of junior suites and two-bedroom suites as well.
Ross admits the rooms aren’t the fanciest in town, but the hotel is constantly renovating. A bathroom is currently being remodeled with marble tile, and they have several styled like that.
Explains Ross, “We don’t try to be something we’re not, and that’s a key for us. If you go to our website, the rooms are really under-represented online. We do that by design. We would much rather have that people come to the hotel and be pleasantly pleased than put our best room there, and there’s only one room like that.”
Rates at the hotel are also competitive with the standard rooms in the area, never mind the suite categories. Plus, the hotel rooms offer Time Warner on-demand programming, which allows for plenty of children-favorite movies as well as adult-favorite HBO, Showtime, and network TV shows.
All this combined makes for a magical experience at the Magic Castle Hotel, as seen by the numerous awards and its standing on TripAdvisor.
“We don’t ask people on TripAdvisor to write these reviews,” explains Ross. “Our job is to compel them to do so with an amazing experience. When they leave, they want to write about it, tell friends about it, or return themselves. It’s really a unique hotel.”
About Susie Reese
Susie Reese is a copywriter for FC USA Artworks. She loves to travel (you know it!) and has ventured extensively across North America. She enjoys short walks on the beach and comic cons. She writes On the Go: A Magazine for Travelers and on her free-time, comics and short stories.