Add a Little Magic to Your Meal at the Magic Time Machine

When my husband and I moved to San Antonio nine years ago, we didn’t know many people and, therefore, didn’t know of many things to do on the weekends. So one Friday night while out driving, we didn’t think anything of stopping at the brightly colored, mushroom-shaped restaurant at 410 and Nacogdoches and asking for a table for two. Sure, we were a bit confused when we were led down a series of twisty, confusing corridors by a woman dressed as Tinkerbell. But it wasn’t until our waiter, Mario from Super Mario Brothers, informed us that he wouldn’t take our order unless we punched the air and yelled “ba-ding!” that we realized we’d stumbled upon a San Antonio gem.

When our oldest daughter turned three, we took her to the Magic Time Machine for her birthday, and it didn’t disappoint. We asked for a princess waitress, and our daughter, Molly, didn’t seem to mind that Ariel was not a redhead and seemed a bit more, um, well-endowed than the Disney character. Molly was thrilled with every moment: getting her “potion” to drink (some sort of fruity concoction mixed with nitrogen so it bubbles and smokes), taking a trip to the old VW Beetle that doubles as a salad bar, Ariel drawing on her plate with ketchup, and collecting autographs from the strange conglomeration of characters who double as waitstaff. We’ve been back every year for both of my kids’ birthdays. Here’s what you can expect during a trip to the Magic Time Machine.

  • You can request a character or type of character from the hostess. I’d recommend this if your child is frightened by masked characters (my youngest was afraid of Spiderman). Captain Jack Sparrow is, by far, the bestall kids and adults love him! (Bonus tip: he also does birthday parties and is AMAZING!)
We loved Captain Jack so much we invited him to Sadie's birthday party.
We loved Captain Jack so much we invited him to Sadie’s birthday party.
  • You’ll be asked to select your silverware and then led through what is essentially a maze to your table. Try to pay close attention in case someone in your party needs to use the bathroom later. (Don’t ask a character where the bathrooms are unless you want the whole restaurant to know you have to pee.)
  • Your server will be in character during your entire experience. Pocahantas will say “just around the riverbend” 85 times; Spiderman will jump up on your table; Nacho Libre will speak with a bad Mexican accent; and Captain Jack will have you fashion your napkins into pirate bandanas. Just go with it! This is not a place to feel self-conscious or embarrassed.
The girls with their napkin-bandannas.
The girls with their napkin bandanas.
  • Your kids can walk around the restaurant and ask for autographs and pictures while waiting for their dinner. It makes the time go by quickly. Just don’t get lost.
  • The food is actually somewhat decent! The prime rib is especially good. The bar has fun cocktails as well if you need a little something to make you care less about wearing a napkin on your head and yelling “arrrrrrg!” in a restaurant.
  • If you ask for ketchup, the characters will use it to draw a design on your plate. Anna from Frozen squirted ketchup directly into my youngest daughter’s mouth, which she loved!
Obviously this is the method in which my youngest daughter asks for ketchup all the time.
Obviously this is the method by which my youngest daughter prefers her ketchup to be served all the time.
  • On weekends, someone making balloon animals will be walking around. Bring cash or be prepared to tell your child “no.”

I hope you find the time to head to this San Antonio institution. It’s certainly an experience you won’t have anywhere else.

Kristin moved to San Antonio from Baltimore in 2006. Although she had a brief 2 year stay in Fort Worth, the margaritas, breakfast tacos and the kind souls of our residents drew her back for good. She's a third grade teacher and group fitness instructor, and single mom to Molly (2009), Sadie (2011), Daisy (dog) and Charlie (cat). When she has free time, she's either training for a half marathon or on a patio somewhere with a Titos and soda. Favorite Restaurant: Sustenio Favorite Landmark: The Pearl Brewery Favorite San Antonio Tradition: The Elf Movie parties at Alamo Drafthouse