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Harry Potter: Magic at Play brings The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Chicago 

by Brooke Geiger McDonald
Harry Potter great hall
Photo courtesy of Harry Potter: Magic at Play

Calling all wizards and witches — grab your wands and don your robes because The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has come to Chicago. Harry Potter: Magic at Play has made its worldwide debut at Chicago’s Water Tower Place. A collaboration between Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment and Original X Productions (OGX), the 30,000-square-foot, three-floor experience takes guests on an interactive adventure that follows Harry’s journey from Privet Drive to Hogwarts.  

Harry Potter kings cross photo app
Photo by Brooke McDonald

“From the moment guests arrive, they are immersed in Harry’s story and are an active participant in their own journey through innovative play, experiential sets, games, and more,” said Peter van Roden, senior vice president, Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment.

The experience begins, just as it does in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” at 4 Privet Drive. Step inside the Dursleys’ home, where there’s — ahem — quite a bit of mail piling up, and peek under the stairs at a very special bedroom.

In King’s Cross St. Pancras Station, stop for a photo opp at Platform 9 ¾ before passing the revving Hogwarts Express with steam billowing from its engine. 

Harry Potter hogwarts express train

Guests can step into a boat in the first-ever boathouse recreation — and imagine they are floating across the Great Lake to Hogwart’s Castle, before stepping into the Great Hall, where floating candles twinkle and house banners hang. Then, sit beneath the Sorting Hat for another of many phenomenal photo ops.

Harry Potter seal
Photo courtesy of Harry Potter: Magic at Play

Engaging the next generation through the power of play

Unlike many of the attractions and experiences at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood that are best suited to older children (most rides have minimum height requirements of 42” and up), Magic at Play is a true all-ages experience. The creative team wanted to design an experience that would be appeal to both the youngest Harry Potter fans and their parents — and might even be a way for parents to first introduce their children to their most beloved stories.

“We were thinking about this next generation,” said Kathleen Wallis, vice president of Global Themed Entertainment for Warner Bros. Discovery. “The generation that grew up with the books and the movies as they were being released — they’re now becoming parents and they want to share these stories and these characters with their kids.” 

Harry Potter sorting hat
Photo by Brooke McDonald

Magic at Play taps into the power of play and its benefits, giving guests a sprawling space to roll up their robes and explore.

“A lot of our experiences [outside of Magic at Play] aren’t as friendly to the youngest kids, so that’s one of the things we focused on in this experience — and that’s how we came up with the name Magic at Play — because there’s a lot of play here. It’s more interactive, hands-on,” Wallis said. 

Interactive it is indeed— guests can visit several of Hogwarts’ most iconic classrooms and try their hands — and noses — at sniffing ingredients and mixing potions, levitating a feather with their wand in Charms (be sure to practice your best “Wingardium Leviosa”), and facing off against a pesky pack of Cornish Pixies in Defense Against the Dark Arts. 

Harry Potter feather
Photo by Brooke McDonald

On the sprawling Quidditch pitch, kids (and adults!) can get physical by playing a series of games that test their skills in every position to see how they fare as chasers, seekers, beaters,and keepers. 

Harry Potter quidditch
Photo by Brooke McDonald

“This three-story space gives us a lot of room to play in,” Wallis said. “We knew we wanted the Quidditch pitch to have some scale to it — and give kids space to really run around and really bring some of those skills to life with the different games.”

Visitors can also pick up a lantern and explore the Forbidden Forest, where amongst some formidable foes, they may see a Patronus revealed. Guests can also explore Hagrid’s pumpkin patch and might even hear him rustling around in his hut. 

Harry Potter ghost deer
Photo by Brooke McDonald

Closing out the experience, a first-ever maze is packed with surprises, including a few “fantastic beasts.” Kids can squeeze out any last bits of energy before heading back into Chicago’s chill by crawling through the roots of the Whomping Willow or climbing up and sliding around the Weasley homestead, The Burrow, as parents look on from an adjacent seating area. 

An interactive Lego experience

Masters of play, Lego, who have shown an ongoing commitment to encouraging play and, through the Lego Foundation, delivering access to materials and resources to help bring play to children in need globally, has also contributed an experience — The Lego Mirror of Erised. 

“Lego is a sponsor of Magic at Play and a very important partner to the Wizarding World franchise,” Wallis said. “We were delighted they wanted to partner and they brought us a terrific activation.”

Harry Potter lego interactive station
Photo by Brooke McDonald

Aspiring wizards can digitally design their own minifigure, choosing the hair, skin, and facial features, plus house, wand, and backdrop of their choosing, then step up to the Lego Mirror of Erised to discover their inner wizard or witch and watch their minifigure mimic their movements. Speak the spells to see the LEGO self doing their best “Lumos!” or “Immobulus!”

There will be Butterbeer

It’s not a trip to the Wizarding World without a frothy mug of Butterbeer, and for first time ever in the Midwest, Butterbeer will be served in bottles and on draft at the Butterbeer Bar. The bar, as well as the merchandise shop and an Owl Post stop where visitors can purchase and mail a postcard, will all be open to guests, who can walk in right off Michigan Ave. — no ticket required.

 

Harry Potter Butterbeer
Photo by Brooke McDonald

“What’s so great about this space is even if you don’t or can’t get a ticket to the experience, you can still come and have a great time shopping and enjoying Butterbeer and the Owl Post,” Wallis said. Some of the merchandise will be bespoke and unique to Magic at Play.  “The fans like to be able to commemorate visiting different experiences and being able to buy that unique product that they can’t get anywhere else,” Wallis said.

Harry Potter shirts
Photo by Brooke McDonald

Tickets start at $37.50 for adults and $29.50 for children nine and under. They are on sale now at Harry Potter: Magic at Play. Themed party rooms and a variety of private celebrations options are also available, including full venue rentals for holiday parties, corporate events, and other celebrations. For more information, contact [email protected]  

This article was originally published by Better.

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